Petrignano d’Assisi, Where Pork Shank Takes the Stage
“Because there’s no better way to eat the goodness of Umbria than at a sagra,” Renato replied with a smile when I asked why he and his wife, Graziella, were eating here at the Sagra della Birra e dello Stinco (“food festival of beer and pork shank”). This Roman couple had headed to Umbria for the weekend to take in Spello’s glorious Infiorate festival. And since they’re Italian, an integral element of the week-end would also (inevitably) be the search for the best in local cuisine.
Over this sagra’s specialty, roasted pork shank (Renato chose a side of potatoes roasted in the juice of the meat, I chose a side of sauerkraut), the dinner discussion centered on which local sagra for the following night!
From late April to late November, ten-day sagras rotating around a variety of culinary themes – from prosciutto to snails to hazelnuts to pecorino cheeses to hot chili peppers – animate small villages all over Umbria.
And common elements characterize every sagra: food tents where the local volunteers cook up the goodness, the beverages stand (where volunteers sell bottles of water, wines, limoncello, grappa – and at this sagra, beer…), and large plank tables where all join to feast. At most sagras – like this one in Petrignano – young people dash back and forth from food tent to tables balancing trays loaded with food orders. Older volunteers – like Franco – push the carts ballooning with huge plastic bags, clearing tables, doing the clean-up.
And here, too – as at most sagras – you’’ll find a play area for children, the stand selling nuts and sweets, other food stands (crepes with nutella at this sagra) and above all, the dance floor.
Often the village tennis court or playground becomes the dance floor and the elderly take the plastic seats on the dance floor borders early – to have the best seating for the evening.
At about 9 pm, the band members in glittery suits climb the steps to the brightly-lit stage and as accordion and trumpet notes blare out like a call to arms, couples head to the dance floor center for hours of waltz, fox trot, mazurka, polka – and later in the evening, group dances. Some little ones stand right below the band, chin in hands, gazing up at the band, swaying to the music. Other little ones pair up on the dance floor, following their parents around the dance floor and you’ll often see a father leading a young daughter in the steps or a grandfather twirling around with baby granddaughter in arms.
…such is the ballroom “dancing school” for the little ones: la sagra.
But not for all: at the Petrignano sagra, a grade-school couple whisked around the older couples like a miniature, Italian Ginger Rodgers-Fred Astaire duo. I asked the long-haired boy sweeping his partner around how he’d learned. “My brother teaches ballroom dancing,” he smiled.
I’ll bet that young couple follows the schedule of Umbrian sagre from late spring to late fall. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday night for the young ones? (And the elderly…)
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
Read about an August chili peppers festival
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
Read about a sagra near Perugia starring peperoncino