If you want to truly experience life in Italy, head out into the more rural areas of the country, and then find a community festival, or sagra. The sagra is a festival organized by the town or by a smaller subdivision of the town, and the entire affair is designed to honor various Italian foods. Umbrian specialties range from wild boar to truffles, but you can find a sagra dedicated to all of the local items if you search hard enough and have a bit of luck.
Enjoying a Sagra
To fully appreciate a sagra, you have to understand how the Italians behave and the expectations of the event. A sagra can be one of the most enjoyable evenings you spend in Umbria, but to appreciate the time you spend in such a special setting, you’ll need to behave as the locals do.
The Sagra Festival
A typical sagra might last for ten days and involve thousands of people. A large tent will be set up to serve food and tables will be placed end to end to provide a place for eating. There will be a handful of carnival style tents around the area holding simple games and lotteries, and best of all – there will be a large dance floor that is put heavily to use every night.
The entire scene is one of carefully orchestrated chaos. Hundreds of people run the show and orders are barked above conversation and laughter of guests. The best festivals are small and held locally in the city square or market. Ones held in large fields lose their appeal as they aren’t as authentic in feeling or as intimate. A sagra focuses on food items, so the better the food, the more popular the sagra. Local residents can direct you to the best ones in the area where you’re staying.
Dining and Dancing at the Sagra
The main appeal of a sagra is the dancing. Arrive early to eat in the relative calm before the storm. Then, once you’ve enjoyed your meal, prepare yourself for some serious entertainment. Italian bands at these events are loud and they focus heavily on ballroom music. It’s amazing the grace and style with which Italians of every age can take to the dance floor. Weekends are the most crowded with many people coming to dance, and the week days might be calmer if you choose a night without dancing. All in all, however, any night of a sagra will be the most memorable evening of your trip.