Anne's Blog

La Sagra: Something Sacred?

Date: June 9, 2011 - categories: , , , - 2 Comments

There certainly is something sacred about the sagra: a local village festival offering the best in local cuisine at minimal prices, top (and free!) dance band music outdoors til the wee hours and entertainment for all from pre-schoolers to the elderly. At some sagras, there are mini-soccer tournaments, others offer a performance of a local dancing school on one night, and others fill the food tent walls with artwork of the village school children.

All on the dance floor for the fox trot!


The term “sagra” derives from “sacra festa,” and at one time, the village sagra celebrated the feast day of the local patron saint. About thirty years ago, though, most of the sagre evolved into secular events, and today the focal point of most sagre is a culinary specialty: Sagra degli Asparagi, Sagra dei Porcini, Sagra del Castagno (chestnut), Sagra della Ciliegia (cherries in everything…and the risotto alle ciliege is a winner!), Sagra della Cipolla (onions in every dish, from focaccia to the dessert!), Sagra dell’Oca Arrosto (roast goose), Sagra dell’Anguilla (eel – a favorite of my husband, Pino!), Sagra della Porchetta (roasted suckling pig), Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar), and what more perfect way to wind up the sagra season in late November than with the Sagra del Tartufo (truffles)?!

Not every sagra centers on a single food specialty and the recent Festa della Primavera, the “spring festa” sagra of Cipresso (Bastia), near Assisi offered a varied menu of Umbria rural specialties for each of the eleven nights of their sagra, as well as a menu del giorno, featuring Umbrian culinary highlights.. Fettuccine with porcini and black truffle starred one night and polenta con salsicce won the crowds on another.

As at almost any sagra, volunteer older women and men cooked in a fully-equipped mobile kitchen and the middle-aged and younger people served the family groups at picnic tables under the huge tent – and took over clean.-up. As retired police captain Antonio served me grilled lamb and cooked greens, I asked him why he would be running tables from 7 pm to 1 a.m for eleven straight nights at this sagra. With a smile, he answered matter-of-factly, “Because this is my village”. Yet another example of Italian passione….

Retired police captain, Antonio, serves antipasto


After putting in our food order selected from a tempting menu, our group had headed to the drinks stand to order beverages. Only at a sagra can you savor a generous plate of grilled local lamb chops (at 7 Euro!) with a litre of a great Umbrian grechetto (our best white wine) at 5 Euro! For dessert, huge luscious strawberries mounded with whipped cream at 2. 5 Euro?!

We had arrived at the sagra at just after 7 pm hoping to beat the food lines. By 9 pm, when the dance band started playing, the food tents were full with happily- feasting, chattering families backdropped by posters made by the local schoolchildren emulating their nonni (grandparents). The play area for the little ones stocked with inflatable play equipment was in full swing. Stands selling bijoux, candies, sunflower seeds and other semenze (edible “seeds”) attracted a few browsers but most everyone was heading to the open-air dance floor. As at all sagras, elderly couples had come early to find places in the plastic armchairs surrounding the cement dance space. Though some are there just to enjoy the scene, most will dance – and many, non-stop for hours!

Waltz, fox trot, tango, mazurka, polka and later in the evening, group dancing. You’ll often see little children paired together right in the midst, learning to ballroom dance by shadowing their parents. Smaller children catch the rhythms at an early age in the arms of mothers, fathers or grandparents who waltz them around the dance floor. The best dance bands attract larger crowds – and ballroom-dancing couples know all the best bands. There is a sagra somewhere in Umbria from early spring to fall, and many rural people and working class people attend them every weekend just for the dancing – free social activities for all for months!

Dance band at sagra of Cipresso


Yes, the sagra certainly still has something of the “sacred”: a sacred tradition of the sharing of the best in good healthy food with family and friends followed by open-air excercise, uniting those of all ages.

Is there anything more “sacred”?

Read more May, June sagras in Umbria.
Read about a favorite sagra celebrating asparagus.
Read about other examples of Italian passione.














Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)