Choosing a sagra

Hare stew in Palaie
Palaie, in Florence province. Hare festival (Sagra della Lepre). Hare stew (lepre in umido), a wonderful second course dish once rather common in hunting season, but now way less easy to find.

A good reason to choose a sagra is the season. Sagra is about traditional food and this kind of dishes in the ancient times were prepared following a strict calendar, depending on the agriculture harvesting, hunting season, plants or mushrooms growing and so on. Refrigerators and other modern machines today often changed these habits, but still most of the products give their best at the perfect ripening seasons, like for instance, mushrooms. So clearly there's still a strict calendar for sagras dedicated to some specialties: like for example, if you are in Tuscany in October, it's a good idea to take advantage of chestnuts, which are harvested in this period, in the chestnuts' sagra or "Sagra della Castagna".

Fried Porcini mushrooms with grilled meat in Pievescola
Pievescola, near Siena. Fried porcini mushrooms are a wonderful deli in the local Sagra del Fungo Porcino (porcini mushrooms festival). Many mushrooms' festivals are scheduled on September. Pievescola's festival is usually held on first half of September. In this photo, with porcini, also grilled meat, a costoleccio (pork rib) and a salsiccia (sausage).

This conducts to what is probably the most important matter of choosing a sagra, the greatness of the dish which is there prepared. Some sagras are about cooking and preparing wonderful dishes, difficult to find today because of the long time taken to prepare them, or the rarity of an ingredient, or because today the cooking secrets and maybe the recipes themselves are lost in quite every family. Some of the Tuscan food, although marvelous, are unobtainable today, like roasted thrushes or snails. These for instance should be sagras not to be missed, if you find yourself in the area.

Snails stew in Bacchereto
Snail stew from the Frog & snail festival in Bacchereto, Montespertoli, Province of Florence..

In some sagras, you'll find the "heavy weight" of traditional Tuscan cuisine, at their best, made as one or two centuries ago. This is exactly the reason why these sagra were born in last decades, just to preserve the tradition of the ancient recipes. The list of these wonderful dishes is long, and you'll find information in our website about them. So, the sagra which have the most important local dishes, are not to be missed too; in many cases, the main specialty or dish gives the name to the sagra itself like, "Sagra della lumaca" (snail's sagra), "Sagra del papero" (gander's sagra), "Sagra dell'acquacotta" (vegetable's soup).

Veal snout in Monte Sopra Rondine, Arezzo
Monte Sopra Rondine, near Arezzo. Ancient Arezzo's recipes festival (Antica Festa del Tegame). Veal snout (grifi all'aretina). All the knowledge and the cooking tradition of centuries in a dish!

Every Tuscan province or area has its own local specialties. Mountains and high hills for instance, precisely chestnuts; truffle sagra, you'll find in few areas, where truffles are abundant; some for porcini mushrooms; fish and seafood near the Tyrrenian sea… a great dish, with a tradition of centuries, come logically from the area where its ingredients were available.

Polenta with wild boar sauce in Capannuccia
Capannuccia, Florence province. Wild boar festival (Sagra del Cinghiale). Polenta with wild boar sauce (polenta al sugo di cinghiale). The polenta food kept alive generations of Italians, preventing them from starving.

Tuscany has a great cuisine and a huge and renowned tradition of delicious dishes and food products, so another reason to choose a sagra would be avoiding all these "sagra" where the main specialty is not a local, Tuscan dish. Like for example "Sagra della pizza". You'll probably find a good pizza there, but in Tuscany you can find and discover more authentic and genuine dishes if you choose the truly local specialties, cooked and prepared at their best, as nowhere in Italy, while "pizzerias" are virtually everywhere, in Italy and abroad, so there's no reason to go to a sagra taking a pizza.

The length of a sagra it can be a good way to choose a good sagra; a sagra settled some 20, 30 or more years ago, usually it's an assurance.

Finally, being in the area, or not so far from where you have your accommodation, can be a good idea Driving for many kms overnight, after a long dinner, to return to your hotel with a rental car, can be challenging. Not to mention the police checks with alcohol tests for the drivers, now quite frequent especially during weekends.