Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What is a Sagra?

What is a Sagra?
A sagra is a local fair, usually a Food Festival specifically for a particular dish (Sagra di Torta di Erbe), or a raw ingredient (Sagra di Pesce [Fish]).

You'll probably need a car to go to a sagra, as most of them are held in small towns, usually in the main piazza. When you drive through the Italian countryside, you'll see colourful posters at intersections indicating the Sagra di ____, with the dates and times large enough to be read from a passing car. They're in Italian, but are easy to understand.

What can you expect to find when you arrive? Attending a sagra is a way to get a taste of Italian country life. You’ll order food from a menu with a theme which is cooked by locals with a passion for the local cuisine, then you’ll sit at communal tables to eat. The money earned in these
events is dedicated to buying things for the community or setting up parks and play areas for children.

So what does this mean for a tourist? Who knows what you will find when you actually walk into the town. For starters, if it is well known Sagra on the regional level, you are very likely to compete with the locals for a place at a table. Tourists don't usually venture in these areas - and they definitely miss out on a good meal at excellent prices all for a good cause. Not to mention the opportunity to have a peak at a part of the "real" Tuscany.

Also commonly defined as a local festival, larger sagras may feature musical bands and frequently a historical pageant and sporting events. The sporting event is often also a historical recreation, such as a joust or a horse race in costume or armour.

In most cases there is a lunch and a dinner menu - but it helps if you can read the poster for the times. When you arrive you will find a menu on the wall. Place your order at the cash register, then pay, and they give you a ticket. You are then ushered into a large general eating area where everyone shares the tables – and then the food starts to arrive!

A sagra is charactized by the friendly environment with home cooked food. You will often see children and young adults serving and cleaning tables while their Parents and Grandparents are in the kitchen washing, peeling, frying and dishing up.

You will normally find menus which highlight either a special ingredient or a special recipe from that area - like truffles, frittelle, olive oil, tortelli and much more. Buon Appetito!

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