The sagra food festival is a relatively unknown feature of Italian culture. It usually revolves around one particular dish or ingredient, but its recipe also includes music, folklore and local hospitality.
Food is one of the main attractions when travelling around Italy. Surprisingly, however, the food festivals cherished by locals are still relatively unknown to tourists. The typical sagra is a yearly event with a distinctive rural character, offering no-frills hospitality as it celebrates a dish or ingredient particularly dear to the local community. Folklore and market stalls add to the atmosphere, while musical entertainment varies widely from old-school liscio to unlikely cover bands. An excellent activity to get off the beaten track, sagra hunting is possible throughout the year. Our list includes some of the best spring sagre festivals across the country.
Sagra della Cipolla Rossa di Breme – LOMBARDY
Red onions take centre stage at Breme, a medieval village in western Lombardy. Typically sweet, crunchy and slightly flattened, the local onion is grown artisanally, and its unique properties have been officially certified in recent years. The sagra features a whole starters-to-dessert menu revolving around onions, including the signature cipolle alla bremese (served raw with tuna and beans). Other dishes such as tripe, polenta, mixed grill and donkey stew are also available. An artisan market runs alongside the event, while bikes can be rented for free to explore the area. Landmarks in the ancient village include a 10th-century abbey.
Breme PV / 10 to 19 June
Sagra del Pesce – LIGURIA
Pastel-coloured houses overlooking the harbour signal a typical Ligurian setting. The fishing town of Camogli adds its own quirky touch to the scene: a giant frying pan, with a four-metre diameter. Every second Sunday of May, tons of fish cooked in the giant padella are handed out for free to locals and visitors, in what has been known since the 1950s as one of the most famous sagre in Italy. The Saint Fortunate procession is held the night before, culminating in fireworks and spectacular bonfires. While fish inevitably takes centre stage, other regional specialities to try out include pesto and focaccia, as well as the very local Camogliesi pastries (originally rum-flavoured but also available in other versions).
Piazza Colombo, Camogli GE / 08 May 2022 / public transport recommended
Sagra della Ciliegia Ferrovia – PUGLIA
The story goes that the first Ferrovia cherry tree was spotted in 1935 near a railway level crossing, where it was looked after by the attendant (‘ferrovia‘ meaning railway in Italian). The species then spread rapidly across the region, and is today the main crop in this part of southeastern Puglia. Bright-red, sweet and crunchy, the Ferrovia is particularly popular in Turi, where over 100,000 visitors flocked to attend the latest editions of the sagra. Parades, marching bands and art shows usually form part of the programme.
Turi BA / normally held in the first half of June / info at www.sagraciliegiaferrovia.it
Porchettiamo – UMBRIA
Porchettiamo brings together porchetta lovers and producers from across Italy. Originally typical of the central regions, this traditional way of cooking pork on the spit has since made fans all over the country. Today, it is often regarded as the king of Italian cibo da strada. Expect different types of herb-flavoured pork rolls, served alongside other street food classics, local wines and selected craft beers. Music, hikes and food events bring a festive tone to the hamlet of San Terenziano, right at the centre of the Umbria region.
San Terenziano PG / 17 to 19 June / full programme at www.porchettiamo.com
Sagra del Carciofo IGP di Paestum – CAMPANIA
Along with some of the world’s best-preserved Greek temples, Paestum is also home to a yearly food festival devoted to artichokes. The local variety has distinctively short leaves and a round shape, which make it tender and delicate when cooked. For seven consecutive days, visitors can try around ten different dishes in a large food area, surrounded by live music, folklore and market stalls. An excellent culinary detour while visiting the archaeological treasures of Campania.
Area espositiva ‘Piazza Borgo Gromola’, Capaccio Paestum SA / 22 April to 01 May (evenings every day; lunch on 24 April and 01 May)
Sagra del Carciofo di Sezze – LAZIO
Speaking of artichokes from central Italy, the Lazio region too deserves a mention. Sezze has been holding its sagra since 1970, celebrating a centuries-old product while also promoting a debate around its endangered future. The must-try recipe for this ‘Roman’ variety is alla giudia (deep-fried according to a traditional method), but other dishes are also served. Theatre, folklore and entertainment provide the festive vibes, while market stands sell wine, oil and fresh produce from local growers. For a change of scenery, the pretty landscapes of Monti Lepini offer many hiking options nearby.
Sezze LT / 24 April
Festa di San Marco – VENETO
This local celebration at Fossalta Maggiore (a forty-minute drive from Venice) offers typical dishes of Veneto cuisine. Donkey stew, spare ribs, codfish and polenta are traditionally served during the week-long event, as well as assorted cheese and other regional specialities. An excellent selection of local wines is also featured, promoting the winemaking culture of this region. Hikes, artisan stands, children’s entertainment and cultural events add a typical sagra atmosphere to the festival, which has been running for nearly fifty years.
Fossalta Maggiore TV / 23 April to 01 May / food stand closed on 27, 28, 29 April; open at lunch on on 24 April
Festa della Saresa – LOMBARDY
Cherry trees have long been gracing the landscape around Ceresara, a short drive south from Lake Garda. In fact, it might have been the Latin word for cherry, cerausm, to name the town. Today, the heart-shaped fruit is celebrated every year in June, when market stalls brimming with bright to deep hues of red adorn the historic centre. While securing your supply of sweet drupes, don’t forget to sit near the Gonzaga Tower and try the local dishes. These include cake and salame, as well as a tempting cherry-filled tortello.
Ceresara, MN / 02 to 05 June
Festa della Fragola – SICILY
Another springtime fruit, strawberries are a traditional crop in Siracusa. The local variety takes its name from the hamlet of Cassibile, where it has been grown since Phoenician times. The festival is hosted by the Mediterranean Hippodrome, with horse races running in the background as visitors roam around a vast food area. While strawberries are the main attraction, the three-day event showcases delicacies from all over Sicily, accompanied by a rich programme of folklore, music, parades, comedy and entertainment. The proximity to many archaeological sites and tourist attractions makes this festival very popular, and so does the impressive 600kg strawberry cake traditionally offered on the last day.
Str. Spinagallo, 50, Siracusa SR / 29 April to 01 May
Sapori e Proloco – FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA
A scenic, 17th-century palace is the setting for Sapori e Proloco, a two-weekend event showcasing the regional food of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Montasio cheese and San Daniele ham are two of the local flagship products. Many other specialities are also featured, making this a one-of-a-kind occasion for a culinary tour across a whole region. The events accompanying the past editions have included beer and wine tastings, cooking classes and children’s workshops. Don’t forget to try frico while roaming around the stands, a cheese-and-potato masterpiece of rural cuisine.
Piazza Manin, Passariano UD / 14 to 15 May and 20 to 22 May
Sagra del Risotto – PIEDMONT
The hamlet of Sessame is surrounded by the slopes of Langhe, a region known to tourists as a major wine destination. While hopping from cellar to cellar, this risotto sagra offers a glimpse of the local food attractions. The festival marks its hundredth anniversary in 2022, promoting its traditional (and apparently secret) risotto recipe. Typical sagra vibes play in the background as the food is served, accompanied by the famed wines of this region.
Piazza Cavour, Sessame AT / 30 April (evening only), 01 May / the traditional risotto is served on 01 May starting from noon
Festa delle Cozze – EMILIA ROMAGNA
Cervia is a seaside resort on the Romagna Riviera, whose locally-harvested mussels have gained international fame in recent years. The sagra is an excellent occasion for seafood lovers to discover the precious ingredient, just in time before the summer crowds take over. Mussels are served in a variety of ways at the festival stands lining the canal harbour, as well as dished out by the local restaurants. A market livens up the fishing hamlet during the event, showcasing crafts and products from the Romagna region.
Via Nazario Sauro, Cervia RA / 31 May to 05 June
Sagra dei Garagoi – MARCHE
A lesser-known treat of the Adriatic shoreline, sea snails are known as ‘garagoi‘ in the stretch of coast north of Ancona. The seaside town of Marotta has been holding this sagra since 1948, when a group of local fishermen decided to celebrate the unsung shellfish. Garagoi are typically boiled and plunged in a tomato, wine and herb sauce, but they can also serve as a base for a delicious fish soup (brodetto). Stuffed and pan-fried are two other ways of cooking them. All these variations are up for grabs at the sagra, which runs for five days at the end of April.
Piazza dell’Unificazione, Marotta PU / 23 to 25 and 30 April, and 01 May
Sagra degli Agrumi – SARDINIA
Usually held in early spring, this citrus fruits festival has been pushed back to the end of May this year. It opens the tourist season in southeastern Sardinia, bringing folk displays from across the island to the town of Muravera. The bright hues of rich tapestries and costumes blend in with the colourful fruit crates provided by local producers, while dances and parades take place across town. The previous editions included exhibitions, talks, tasting sessions and a murals contest.
Muravera SU / 29 May
Corti e Sapori – LOMBARDY
Slightly different from a classic sagra, Corti e Sapori is better defined as an itinerant dinner across four historic courtyards of Cogliate (30 km north of Milan). Each of them hosts a different course from starters to dessert, accompanied by specific wine pairings. Having stopped for two consecutive years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event marks its 10th anniversary this spring. The previous editions also hosted vintage cars and motorbikes, a market, live music and children’s entertainment alongside the culinary event.
Cogliate MI / 10 June / booking recommended
Asparisagra – PIEDMONT
Renowned for the local asparagus, the Piedmont town of Santena has been holding a dedicated sagra for nearly 100 years. The forthcoming edition will be running for 10 consecutive days, featuring the springtime vegetable in a variety of dishes such as ravioli, risotto, salads, pies and more. Among folk parades and music events, one night will be themed around bicycles and the Giro d’Italia, set to pass through Santena on May 21. While in town, history buffs might pay a visit to the tomb of Camillo Benso, a key figure in the 19th-century movement for Italian unity.
Piazza Martiri della Libertà, Santena TO / 06 to 15 May / lunch available only on weekends; full programme on www.asparisagra.it
Sagra dei Pici – TUSCANY
The most famous pasta from Tuscany, pici are celebrated every year in Celle sul Rigo. This medieval hamlet has hosted the event long enough to establish itself as the standard-bearer of this regional staple, which is rigorously handmade by the locals. In the main square, visitors can try authentic pici dressed with ragù or with the signature aglione sauce (local garlic, chillies, olive oil and tomato). Along with wineries and medieval landmarks, local attractions also include the nearby thermal baths of San Casciano.
Celle sul Rigo SI / usually held on the last weekend of May / info at www.sagradeipici.it
Girotonno – SARDINIA
Rather than just a sagra, Girotonno is one of the most important festivals worldwide dedicated to tuna. It’s hosted by the islet of San Pietro, in southwestern Sardinia, where tuna-fishing culture goes back centuries. International chefs challenge each other to a ‘Tuna Competition’, the main event awarding the most creative recipes of the year. Talks and live-cooking shows are also part of the programme, while visitors get hands-on in the shopping and food areas. The historic town of Carloforte and its rich heritage lend their charm to the festival.
Carloforte SU / 02 to 05 June
Prosciuttiamo – VALLE D’AOSTA
Surrounded by the Alpine setting of Valle d’Aosta, Prosciuttiamo is particularly recommended for mountain lovers who are also partial to cured meat. The town of Saint-Marcel promotes its famous, herb-flavoured ham through an 18km route, aptly called ‘La Via del Prosciutto’ (The Ham Way). Concerts, activities, artisan workshops and wellness treatments are scheduled all along the itinerary, which ascends from 500 to over 1,800 meters. Other regional delights to keep an eye out for include Fontina cheese, fried gnocchi and Valle d’Aosta-style BBQ.
Saint-Marcel AO / 17 to 19 June / full programme on www.prosciuttiamo.it / booking recommended for accommodation and to visit the Saint-Marcel mines
Sagra delle Rane – PIEDMONT
Reputation precedes the sagra in San Ponso, where the locals have long been known as ranër, roughly translated as ‘those of the frogs’. A hyper-local event launched 20 years ago, the festival today brings a few thousand visitors to this small village in northern Piedmont. Batter-fried frogs are the menu highlight, served alongside other dishes at both lunch and dinner. Vintage cars, motorbikes and tractors attend the event, as well as live music and entertainment. The things to see in the village include an octagon baptistery dating back to the 10th century.
San Ponso TO / 22 to 26 April / booking recommended