Banners adorn the entrances to every tiny town this time of year advertising the local festivals. In our commune alone during the summer season we can expect to see dozens of events dotting the countryside.
It’s not that the Berici hills, or our area, the valley of Lake Fimon, is especially festival prone. Everyone here just really likes to eat delicious local delicacies, drink great sfuso wine, see exhibitions of local arts and crafts, enjoy the music, dance, and party late into the night! Who wouldn’t? Whatever your prefered party style, you’ll find something to do at an Italian Sagra.
Alicia and I being self confessed foodies, this post will centre around the food and wine side of the Sagra. Our limited experience by no means makes us sagra experts, but you certainly don’t have to be an expert in order to appreciate this local cultural phenomenon. It can be a bit intimidating for an outsider to visit one of these events, but once you know how it works, attending a Sagra can be an unforgettable experience!
In our commune, Arcugnano, all these festivals are aggregated and promoted through a kind of local tourist board known as a “Pro Loco”, literally, per site, locally known as Pro loco Arcugnano. Through membership fees and community support they work to promote seasonal festivals, events, theater, and educational endeavors in the area, and help event organizers navigate the bureaucracy of securing permits. Pro loco Arcugnano is responsible for the villages or “frazione” within the commune, as well as Arcugnano proper: Fimon, Lapio, Perarolo, Pianezze, Sant’Agostino, Torri, and Villabalzana.
Our latest adventure was to the “Sagra di Fimon”, where we enjoyed the gastronomic specialties of the “fiori di zucca” or pumpkin flowers. Here’s the step by step process that gets you a tray of the good stuff, varying only slightly from sagra to sagra:
1) Find the “Casa” and make sure you study the menu before you make it up the register. Some sagras, including the Sagra di Fimon, actually print out hundreds of little menu tally sheets available at a table near the entrance. Simply use one of the provided pens, and tally up what gastronomic specialties you’d like to partake. Take the sheet to the cash register, pay (cash only please), and receive a number and itemized receipt.
2) Take your number, and proceed to the food distribution counter. There waiting are at least half a dozen volunteers running all over the place gathering trays of food and beverages. There will be a digital number display in plain sight, and numbers will be called out as they are displayed. Don’t miss your number! When it is your turn, take the ticket and receipt up to the counter, and be sure to know how to answer some simple questions about your ticket, such as – if you want formaggio (cheese) with your pasta, what type of wine (cabernet, prosecco, bianco, etc.), and what type of water (natural/naturale, or with-gas/frizzante).
3) Volunteer will depart, and return shortly with your tray (or trays) full of food and carafes of wine! Take the tray and make your way to the seating area, which depending on the time and/or popularity of the sagra, may well be FULL of people! Don’t be shy, find a place at any number of long tables, and enjoy! Plastic silverware will be provided already individually wrapped on your tray with napkins, and you should also already have been given plastic cups.
4) After you’ve finished, and even as you finish individual items, you’ll likely have dozens of volunteer children from the town making the rounds collecting your empty plates and carafes of wine. Don’t worry about disposing of your tray after you’ve done. They’ll come out of nowhere and make sure the place is ready for the next people to sit down and enjoy their meal.
So it’s a pretty straightforward process. There isn’t too much to be worried about in the language department, because food is universally appreciated. If in doubt, point to the menu posted at the register, or if worse comes to worse, shrug your shoulders, and enjoy whatever you think you may have ordered. It WILL be an amazing food experience regardless.
One of the reasons we enjoy attending our local Sagra is that it provides us an opportunity to connect with our community. We love chatting with our neighbors in the courtyard of our housing complex, but it means much more to us and to them to interact on the outside. We’re always tickled at how happy they are to see us taking advantage of everything the community has to offer, and appreciating the everyday delights that make this such a great place to live.
While Pianezze only has one sagra every year, our cluster of houses has its own gatherings periodically that allow us to share in food and fellowship. We hosted the whole neighborhood for a Christmas gathering back in December, and we’ll look forward to a harvest gathering as well come September/October.
Meanwhile, the Sagra season continues, and we plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to experience everything our corner of Italy has to offer.