Near Perugia, Pila’s Picantissimo Cuisine
Many scholars maintain that the late Etruscan life-sized bronze sculptural masterpiece, “the Orator” (now in the Museo Nazionale Aracaelogico di Firenze) was found near Tuoro on Lake Trasimeno. But you can’t convince anyone in Pila (near Perugia) of that: as you enter the Parco dell’Arringatore (“Park of the Orator”), a sign adjacent to the wrought iron gate affirms that a farmer, Costanzo, unearthed the massive bronze Arringatore when plowing the vineyards of the Mansuetti villa in Pila in 1566. The Etruscan presence in the area is confirmed in the village name, “Pila” from “pilae”, the Latin word for stone mounds, i.e., the shape of Etriuscan burial sites. The Parco is part of the lands and gardens surrounding Villa Umbra built on the ruins of a 14th-c castle and shaded by the towering Mediterranean pines, popularly called “umbrella pines.” What a site for one of Umbria’s most delightful sagras, Picantissima, Festival del Peperoncino.
We were there last year about this time and the sagra highlighted with hot red pepper dishes now livens up quiet Pila. While most of the area sagre feste local Umbrian specialties, Pila’s festival offers Umbrian specialties every night of the ten-day festival – and last year, also dishes from southern Italy regions where peperoncino reigns, each region starring for two nights of the festival. Sicilian spicy dishes lead off for the first two nights, followed by Calabria, then Puglia with Basilicata next and then Campania wrapping up. We caught one of the two Campania nights with Pino opting for a mild dish – the famous campana mozzarella di bufala – while I chose fusilli tricolori di Amalfi all’ortolana con limone e peperoncino, a buonissimo medley of summer vegetables, Amalfi coast lemons and peperoncino made this pasta dish a festival favorite. How to resist those fagioli al peperoncino? We shared a portion…
At an adjacent table, a more “conservative” (culinarily speaking) Perugia couple opted for a local dish, stinco di maiale con patate (pork shank with roasted potatoes).
Animated groups of families and chatting young couples filled the tables around us and a magician wandered about entertaining open-mouthed children (and their astounded parents).
As at any sagra, ballroom dancing draws diners towards the music of a live band after dinner. At this sagra last year exhibitions from local dance schools preceded the dancing: first belly-dancers and then a hip-hop group. The local dancing teacher closed her students’ performances with a dance pertinent to the Picantissima Festival: she writhed and leaped her way across the dance floor to the music of a pugliese folk dance, la pizzica (“the bite”) – a dance of the group known as “tarantelle” – rooted in the therapeutic rituals for the cure of bites of scorpions or tarantulas.
And speaking of bites: at Pila, savor the bite of peperoncino in countless tasty dishes. Picantissimo! And this year, that bite won’t be lacking: the menu stars dishes with habanero bianco, habanero rosso, moruga scorpion red ,Buth Jolokia (ghost chili). Dessert? A local cheesecake with chocolate sauce spiced up with habanero rosso. Picantissimo, all the way…
Read here about another favorite sagra
Read about a chili pepper celebration in Rieti (in Latium)<
Read about another sagra near Perugia
Read about a late-April sagra near Perugia
Click here to read about a fall sagra near Assisi
Read about another festival where la porchetta is a headliner
Click here to read about a January legume festival
Read about an April wild asparagus sagra
Read about a festival where wines star
Click here to read about a June cheeses festival
Click here to read about a pici pasta sagra
Click here to read about an a local bean sagra in October
Click here for news on an October mushroom sagra
Click here for news on a November hazelnuts sagra
Click here for news on a November honey festival
Click here for news on an October saffron festival
Click here for news on a November chestnuts sagra
Click here for news on a November white truffles festival
Click here for news on a November chestnuts black truffles festival
Click here for the menu
Read about another winner of a sagra near Perugia
Click here to read about another June sagra – but near Assisi
Read about a favorite place to eat snails near Bevagna