Sagra Success Near Perugia
If you’re eager to taste the best in Umbrian local cuisine, head to a sagra, a ten-day village festival where local volunteers team up to cook up buonissimi regional specialties. From late spring to late fall, our “eating out” is practically speaking only at sagras. And I suggest two rules for paramount sagra enjoyment: get there early (food tents open at 7 30 pm) and order the sagra specialties.
If I’m heading to a sagra with my husband, Pino, I resign myself to foregoing the first rule (i.e.,early arrival). But consolation arrives with that first bite of the sagra main draw, always well worth the wait in the food lines (for the tardy arrivals – like us). And so it was one June night at the Sagra del Piccione in Carrozza” in the olive groves outside the tiny village (pop. 1000….maybe) of San Fortunato in Collina, south of Perugia. Best translated, “Squab in the Carriage,” the roasted squab sits not in a “carriage” but on a thick crust of toasted bread – and the meat of local doves stars in this food festival.
The sun was setting behind a row of Mediterranean pines, spreading out like silhouetted umbrellas on the hills off in the distance, as we headed for the food lines, passing the local church and a few stands near the sagra entrance: homemade bijoux on sale at one stand, tastes of local olive oil offered at another and the third was a truck stand offering every type of croccanti (“crunches” or crispy nibbles, e.g., nut brittles, nuts and seeds, candies), ubiquitous at every sagra . But this one had an original sign hanging on it which brought a smile: “Addormenta-Suocere” (“to get mothers-in-law drowsy”).
As squab starred in this festival, I ordered it, though not in carrozza: for a first course, homemade tagliatelle al sugo di piccione, followed by piccione ripieno con patate arrosto with wild chicory on the side.
Not sure which was tastier: the pasta with squab sauce or the stuffed squab surrounded by potatoes roasted in the meat juices.
Pino headed over to the grill to order the specialty of that night: steak of the famed Chianina beef. The stand nearby of olive ascolane and all kinds of summer vegetables in pastella (fried in a flour, egg batter), served in brown paper cones, detoured Pino: he brought a cone of fritti to our table, too.
We offered i fritti to the two couples from Perugia at our table under the olive trees – “we never miss this sagra, one of the best” – but they were about to leave, satiated by the goodness.
We soon were, too: no room at all for the arvoltoli, typical of the Perugia are, a fried pizza which is served as a sweet if sprinkled with sugar. The arvoltoli stand was near the exit and elderly village women – beads of sweat on foreheads – chatted as they rolled them out, fried them in boiling oil, sprinkled them up with sugar and passed them to sagra-goers.
Before we left, I stopped outside the tent kitchen to chat with the volunteers resting on benches after a night of serving up the goodness (older ones in the tent kitchen, younger ones relaying the good foods to the wooden plank tables). They smiled at my “Complimenti.” I certainly meant it: what food…and what a charming setting. We’ll be back next year – and we might even arrive before the long food lines start next time.
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
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Read about another winner of a sagra near Perugia
Click here to read about another June sagra – but near Assisi
Read about a sagra near Perugia starring peperoncino