If you’re in Umbria in October, you won’t want to miss the sagra of a small village between Assisi and Perugia, Pianello. Pianello only has about five-hundred inhabitants and there’s just one coffee bar in the tiny main piazza. But drive out towards the soccer field and look for all the cars parked under an illuminated “Benvenuti” sign (with the last letters burnt out). You’ve arrived at the Rassegna Gastronomica delle Sagre or “The gastronomical Expo of the Sagras.”
In villages all over Umbria, the locals come together to share home-cooking and enjoy ballroom dancing from spring to late fall. Income earned is limited: sagras are aimed at bringing villagers together, above all, and the home-cooking is done by volunteers with exquisite dishes costing very little. But many sagras are fund-raisers, too, to some degree, and the late October one in Pianello supports the junior soccer team of Pianello and nearby villages, Sant’Egidio, Civitella d’Arna and Ripa. Each village has its own sagra during the year but the late October one is a joint effort – and highlights the foods of each of their sagras.
In Pianello, the culinary stars of four Umbrian sagras unite. You won’t find it easy to decide which enticing dishes you wish to taste.
Sant’Egidio’s torta, an Umbrian flat bread, stuffed with grilled sausages or prosciutto or steamed wild greens?
Ready for truffles, the Ripa sagra specialty? At this sagra, the gnocchi with black truffles tempt – but carnivores opt for the bocconcini al tartufo, beef tidbits in a black truffle sauce. Mushroom lovers know that Pianello fetes funghi at their sagra: strangozzi con funghi (thick spaghetti with mushrooms) and polenta con funghi were enjoyed by those sitting near us. We tried the fried mushrooms – buonissimi!
And Civietella d’Arna’s star dish, la civitellina, won over Pino and a group of men sitting at our table: grilled steak topped with a savory sauce of apples marinated in balsamic vinegar.
All around us, tables filled with families and friends enjoying the goodness – and each other’s company. Many of the children were the young soccer players on the four-village team supported by this sagra.
And since this is Italy, what better way to fund-raise than through cooking and sharing local culinary goodness?
Read more about the sagras
Read about Pino making torta on our wood stove
Read about a Tuscan fund-raising sagra
Read about a spicy Rieti food festival
Read more on sagra pleasures
Read about a sagra near Perugia starring peperoncino