Summer is the season for open-air food festivals (“sagre”) in Tuscany: there are tons of gastronomic festivals running from July to September, ready to liven up little towns, from the seaside to the mountains. Sample local specialties in good company and at inexpensive prices. Here are 20 options for a summer worth savoring!
In San Giuliano Terme, principal tastes of Pisan tradition will take center stage at the Sagra degli Schiaffoni: this is a type of thick pasta dressed with ragù, porcini mushroom sauce or pesto, strictly handmade by women of the village. The festival also brings the chance to sample “frati,” a delicious type of bombolone (filled Italian donut) covered with powdered sugar.
Info and dates here.
Not to be missed in the Siena province, in the small town of Celle sul Rigo – a hamlet of San Cascianodei Bagni – is the Sagra dei Pici, the oldest festival dedicated to this Sienese specialty. Throughout the town numerous stands will be set up where you can try pici (similar to thick spaghetti) in all its forms, and the homemakers of the area will give live demonstrations of how to best knead and prepare this tasty fresh pasta.
The centuries-old traditions of the Tuscan countryside will take center stage in Ruscello, in the Arezzo province, where the historical reenactment of grain harvesting and beating runs in conjunction with the Sagra dell’Ocio. “Ocio” is another way of saying “oca” – goose – and is prepared in a variety of recipes, from stuffed goose neck to sauce for macaroni.
Fish is the star at the Sagra del Polpo (octopus fest), which takes place in the Parco Santa Costanza of San Vicenzo, in the Livorno province. In the Etruscan Coast town, you’ll be able to sample all the traditional seaside dishes, from octopus to sanvincenzina alla palamita, the blue fish rich with Omega3, served in oil, in a paper cone or as a carpaccio.
Offshore flavors can also be found in Capannori, in the province of Lucca, at the Sagra del Fungo Porcino con Polenta (Porcino mushroom and Polenta festival). The Garfagnana mushrooms get served here in every way imaginable, from penne pasta to crostini. Also up for sampling are other Lucchesi specialties such as the Zuppa alla Frantoiana (regional herb and vegetable soup) or the Torta coi Becchi (vegetable pie), which you can pair with a nice glass of wine from Montecarlo.
For those who love the classics, Borgo San Lorenzo’s Foro Boario hosts the Sagra del Cinghiale (Wild Boar Festival), one of the strongest tastes of Tuscany, with a menu that will delight carnivores. Apart from grilled meats, visitors can try Mugello tortelli (similar to ravioli) and pappardelle al ragù.
In Colonnata, "quarryman’s land", set against the Apuan Alps, the Festa del Lardo (cured pigback fat fest) takes place. This is a unique occasion, not only to sample this traditional salume and the specialties of the Apuan town, such as tordelli al ragù and lardo-based taglierini pasta with beans, but also to admire the magnificent views of the white marble quarries.
We stick around Apuan Alps territory to not skip out on Panigacci sotto le stelle, a Podenanza festival dedicated to traditional tastes of the Lunigiana region including testaroli with pesto (almost like a pancake pasta). The main stars, though, are panigacci, a type of unleavened focaccia cooked in terracotta and filled with cold cuts and cheeses.
Next we move to Elba Island to sample seafood during the Festa del Pesce povero in Capoliveri, which takes place on Thursday, July 10. It is a unique chance to indulge in super-fresh, fish-based dishes, from cacciucco (Livornese fish stew) to palamita in oil, or dried codfish with potatoes to stuffed squid.
Particularly original is the Sagra della Ficamaschia Dorata which takes place in Porto Ercole and is dedicated to this traditional blue fish that is fished and cooked in the towns of Monte Argentario. You can enjoy it in stew with potatoes, boiled or fried.
Raise your glasses to the Tuscan return of Calici di Stelle: countless wineries open their doors to wine lovers to celebrate the night of San Lorenzo. For an entire week, wineries will host tastings of Tuscan wines paired with street food from all over Italy, from the classic panino with lampredotto or porchetta to oranges and panelle, a type of Sicilian fritter, to fried goods from Marche and bombette di Alberobello, a cheese-wrapped pork ball and classic Pugliese street food.
In Monte San Savino, in the province of Arezzo, don’t miss the Sagra dello Gnocco Dolce: here you’ll be able to try a type of gnocchi made with sweet cream. It’s highly unusual and nearly unknown in other parts of the Valdichiana.
In Sorano, the magnificent Maremma town, “Tra Tufo e Birra” makes its return, highlighting specialties of local cuisine, along with a large selection of craft beers and street music spread throughout the town.
In Pieve Fosciana, in the mountains of the Garfagnana region, the Festa della Bistecca takes place, with a menu based on grilled meats and appetizers with farro, cold cuts and traditional Lucchesia cheeses. Do not miss the Sfida dei 2 kg (2 kg challenge), which each year pits foodie daredevils against each other as they attempt to eat an entire 2-kilo steak in 60 minutes: those who finish it off need not pay the bill!
Next we head into the Garfagnana woods for the Festa del Farro, which in piazza al Serchio presents dishes made with this flavorful, centuries-old grain typical of the Lucchesia. Farro is exceptional in soups with beans, but also in savory pies with ricotta or mushrooms.
In Bozzano in the province of Lucca, one of the oldest gastronomic festivals of Versilia returnsç the Sagra della Pupporina e del Tordello. You’ll be able to taste pasta filled with meat and dressed with ragù, as well as the town’s traditional sweet, which the local women prepare to honor Saint Bartholomew.
Next we move to San Piero a Grado, just a short distance from Pisa, for the historic Sagra del Pinolo: here you can try local specialties such as pasta made with organic pine nuts from the Nature Park of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli, bruschetta with tomatoes and pine nuts, torta coi bischeri (a traditional sweet) and pinolata, a pine nut dessert.
To start wrapping up the summer in a beautiful setting, head to Buonconvento, between the Crete Senesi and the Val d’Orcia, where the town will host the Villaggio della Birra, a festival of microbreweries from Italy, Belgium and around the world, where you can try a wide-ranging, fine selection of craft beers.
Not to be missed in Vaiano, a small town near Montepulciano, is the Festa dell’Estate e della Trebbiatura: here, the historical re-enactment of threshing will take place and you’ll be able to sample traditional dishes from the Valdichiana, such as tagliatelle all’ocio (goose pasta), or goose neck stuffed with crushed meat, finished off with Vin Santo paired with biscotti.
Finally, give summer its proper sendoff in Pitigliano in Maremma. Historic wineries set against the tuff will open their doors for the Festa delle Cantinelle, where you’ll be able to try good local wines and traditional products of the territory, set in the unique atmosphere of the medieval town, with music and live street performances.