There is nothing Italians love more than eating. If you want to try a new culinary experience in Tuscany, do what locals do, eat traditional food at a sagra. You will find these food festivals all over Tuscany, particularly in summer or early autumn since they are mostly outdoors.
Sagras are usually centered around one seasonal ingredient or recipe. There are food festivals for every type of food imaginable according to the season. Fish and seafood sagre rule the summer. But steak, one of Tuscany’s most prided ingredient, has food festivals held in its honour almost all year round.
So take a chance, have a stroll in a beautiful city while you enjoy a true Italian tradition.
For wine aficionados, Calici di Stelle (literally, wine glass of stars) is the perfect event. It takes place for a week around the time of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence, 10th of August). Mid-August is the perfect time to see shooting stars in Italy. Wine producers all over Tuscany open their doors to the public for wine tasting and food. If you are interested in the Carmignano wines (one of the Tuscan red wines), the town organizes its own take on Calici di Stelle. Go to the picturesque Rocca di Carmignano to taste most local wine productions in one place. You can pair your glass of red with a variety of traditional dishes as you enjoy the panoramic views of the Tuscan hills or gaze at the stars.
Bistecca alla fiorentina or Florentine Steak is different from what is considered steak abroad. The meat is cut thicker and includes the bone. Make sure to ask for your steak cooked rare, or al sangue in Italian. Some Florentine chefs refuse to serve this delicacy any other way! For a more casual experience, try a Sagra della bistecca.
The medieval town of Cortona, near Arezzo, organises one of the most famous steak festivals in Tuscany for the day of Ferragosto (15th of August, a national holiday). The sagra takes place in a garden with an amazing view of the surrounding Val di Chiana landscape.The grill is a record size of 14 meters so you’ll be sure to be fed promptly! The meat used is of the Chianina race, one of the best quality for steak. And after a couple of glasses of local wine, why not let the music of the band propel you to the dancefloor?
There are many fish and seafood festivals along the Tuscan coast in the summer. You will find posters on roadsides and in town squares, inviting you to taste local delicacies.
The port town of Orbetello, also known as the lagoon town, organizes a Sagra del Pesce from the 16 to 22 of August (dates can vary from year to year). The fish served is caught locally. Service start at 7.30 pm.
The town of Capoliveri on Elba island also organizes a fish festival at the end of July. Following an ancient culinary tradition, the fish used in the festival is what Italians call pesce povero or ‘poor fish’. Fishermen would eat this type of fish themselves because they considered it unsellable. Anchovy, herring and sardine, now recognized as the healthiest fish for their high omega 3 content, are the stars of the show.
In order to have a well rounded culinary experience in Italy, a visitor should seize every opportunity: from the local pizzeria or ice cream shop to the high-end restaurant. But if you really want to go local and rub elbows with Italians away from the crowded touristic centres, head for a sagra. You won’t find an English menu, you’ll even have a hard time finding an English speaker, but the food will be genuine and the people welcoming and friendly.