Winter Food Festivals:
Feast of the Star: A large star lights up a presepio, or creche, placed on a cart and carried in procession through the streets of Sabbio Chiesa near Brescia in Lombardy. Everyone brings food gifts for the Three Kings, mostly cheese, wine, and salami, which are consumed at a lavish dinner that follows.
Epiphany: There are many feasts and special foods for the Epiphany. In the Veneto, everyone eats la Pinza de Marantega, a sweet bread made with cornmeal, white wheat flour, dried figs, anise seeds, and candied fruits. The town of Andreis near Pordenone in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia celebrates with a sagra of bread and wine. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a particular fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven.
Sagra delle Luganighe: At Cannobio near Novara in Piedmont, January brings the feast of luganiga, a type of sausage, celebrated with heaps of boiled sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut.
Festa di San Antonio: At Volongo near Cremona in Lombardy, young people collect wood to build a pyre sixty feet high to burn an old witch made of straw who represents winter. Everyone eats torta dura, or hard cake, made with cornmeal and spices.
Spring Food Festivals:
Feast of the Cherry Trees in Flower: Held in Vignola near Modena in Emilia-Romagna in early April.
Sagra dei Garagoi: At Marotta near Pesaro in The Marches, you will find this sagra dedicated to the garagoi or sea snails. They are cooked in tomato sauce with lots of pepper. The locals say the best way to eat them is to sip wine for every seven snails. So naturally, only the local wines such as Bianchello and Verdicchio from the Colli Pesaresi will do.
Sagra dei Gnocchi: More than fourteen hundred pounds of potatoes are cooked for this feast at Teolo near Padua, and everyone eats potato gnocchi.
Sagra della Pie Fritta: This fair honoring a small fried flatbread is held at Fontanelice near Bologna.
Sagra dello Stoccafisso: The stockfish fair is held at Melazzo near Alessandria in Piedmont. Five chefs cook vast quantities of the dried fish with tomato sauce, olives, anchovies, tuna, and garlic. The day’s events include stockfish hurling contests.
Sagra del Biscottofisso: This fair is held at Bomarzo near Viterbo in Latium. Ring-shaped cookies flavored with aniseed are dedicated to Saint Anselm, the patron saint of Bomarzo.
Sagra delle Uova Sode: To celebrate Easter, a hard-cooked egg-eating contest is the highlight of this feast held at Tredozio near Forli in Emilia-Romagna.
Sagra del Carciofo: Held at Ladispoli in Rome, this sagra features a mountain of mammola artichokes, the round, spineless variety for which the region is renowned. The piazza is surrounded by stands offering them cooked in different ways. At night there is a fireworks display.
Sagra del Pesce is held at Camogli near Genoa in honor of the feast of San Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen. The townspeople fry up fresh fish in an enormous pan and distribute it to all. The locals say the best way to eat them is to sip wine for every seven snails.
Summer Food Festivals:
Festa del Lambrusco: Held in July at Albinea in Emilia-Romagna. Fizzy, red wine is sampled with gnocco fritto, or fried puffs of pasta dough, accompanied by prosciutto and salami and erbazzone, a savory tart stuffed with greens, eggs, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Festa di Noiantri is held in Rome along the banks of the Tiber. Noiantri means “we others,” which is how the residents of the bohemian Trastevere neighborhood think of themselves as a breed apart. Booths offer tastes of bruschetta and sell local crafts and foodstuffs.
Campionato Nazionale dei Mangiatori d’Anguria: National watermelon eating championship held at Sissa near Parma.
Sagra delle Melanzane Ripiene is held in Montanesi near Genoa for the feast of Saint Rocco. Wine and cheese accompany the stuffed eggplant.
Sagra del Pecorino: At San Godenzo near Florence, fresh and aged sheep’s milk cheese is tasted in the town square.
Sagra dell’Anguilla: Orbetello in Tuscany celebrates with eels either fried, marinated, or stuffed.
Autumn Food Festivals:
The harvest season brings a wealth of gastronomic festivals throughout Italy. You could probably find one for every day of September. For example, the Festa of the Duck is held at Desenzano on Lake Garda, of the Wild Boar at Capalbio in Tuscany, of the Octopus at Portovenere, of the Mushrooms at Budoia in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Lucca in Tuscany.
Among the many Grape festivals, the most famous is Marino in the Castelli Romani in Latium, where a vast fountain spouts white wine instead of water.
La Vendemmia della Nonna is held each year at Castagnole Monferrato near Asti in Piedmont, with the harvesting and stomping of the grapes in the old manner. Afterward, there is a big dinner featuring polenta with anchovy sauce.
Sagra della Nocciola: Held in Castellero in Piedmont. The highlight is a footrace through the hazelnuts. Homemade tortes, cakes, and sweets are handed out, and prizes are given for the best nuts.
Sagra della Lepre: Held at Selvatelle near Pisa. Cooks prepare potted hare, roasted hare, and pappardelle with hare sauce. For those who don’t like the hare, there are grilled steaks and roast pork.
Sarga degli Stacchioddi: Held at Latiano in Puglia, this fair celebrated a type of homemade pasta shaped into little curved disks and served with a tomato sauce and sour ricotta cheese.
From: “A Fresh Taste of Italy” by Michele Scicolone.