Guide to Sagras
In Tuscany, and in other Italian regions too, a "sagra" is a traditional food and cuisine festival, in a village, sometimes a very small one, a hamlet, rarely a medium city. It takes one or many days and it's a feast, a holiday.
Some sagras are on Sunday, some on Saturday and Sunday, or on many days, one or two weekends nearby. Sometimes, a sagra can last more than a week, two weeks for instance, rarely even more. Some sagras are planned only in the afternoon, some others only for lunch: this happens more often during cold months like February, March, April, October, November and December. During the warm months usually a sagra is planned on dinner, or lunch and dinner, because the weather makes it possible, and it's a pleasure to eat outside; it happens especially from May to September.
What you can find in a sagra
A sagra is normally organized this way. There's a kitchen where local important dishes are cooked and prepared. These are dishes from local peasant tradition, sometimes dishes and specialties common to all Tuscans, sometimes common to a smaller area, as a Province, a Municipality or just the hamlet where the sagra is held. Generally, in a sagra the cooks are the "old" people of the village, especially old women, who keep alive the secrets of the tradition.
These specialties are served in a dining area, which is very simple, nothing to do with the comfort of a restaurant. You'll seat at some long tables, with mostly villagers and inhabitants of villages around. Often the table cloth is made by paper, spoons, forks and knives are in plastic, or something similar.
Tourists are a minority: there can be some, but usually not in the same great number you usually find in a traditional restaurant in central Florence, for instance. And most tourists are Italian which know very well sagras and other food festivals, while foreign tourists usually do not share this knowledge. That's why the menu is in Italian only quite in every sagra, and servants and the other volunteer workers will be mostly be unable to speak and understand English or another foreign language. This tends to scare many tourists. but don't worry: we are here to help!
Sagras are very popular among us Tuscans, and clearly among all Italians. It is possible that, for the biggest sagre and the biggest festivals, visitors arrive from distant places, for instance from Florence or Pisa. Tuscans usually love the idea to move for a day, especially during weekends, to visit a faraway sagra, driving for 50 or more km just to enjoy some local dishes, which are unknown in the cities where they live, or even if well known dishes, not so easy to find in restaurants. This thing happens especially in summer: from June to September is normal for us Florentines to organize such expeditions with one or more cars, and coming back home after dinner.