The Sagra is a proud celebrating of local food, traditions and community. It’s often run by a local association over a short period, a weekend or two, and it’s a whole family (from nonna to grandchild) and neighbour effort. Food is the main theme, be it a local ingredient (cherried, bonito, wild boar, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts) or a special dish (polenta, zuppadi funghi, tortilli maremmani). Quite often there’s live music or other entertainment, too.
Sometimes it’s just a place to eat, elbow to elbow with others at communal tables - quite like a temporary, no-frills, outdoor restaurant. Sometimes it involves little stalls of fresh or prepared food along with knickknacks and souvenirs. Some even have historical events tied to their sagre, so that food and tradition come together in unusual ways. In Paganico, near the Ombre river, they not only have the sagra della granocchia (dedicated to the frog), where the grastranomic delights of this traditional speciality of Maremma are enjoyed, but there’s also a palio, where the quarters of the medieval town race each other while dressed in historic costumes and with live frogs on their wheelbarrows. Whoever gets to the end with the healthiest amphibian still clinging on is the winner.
Between spring and autumn, it seems nearly every little village or town in the Maremma is holding a sagra, many of them overlapping each other. In summer, when most of them take place, a visit to a Maremman saga is an obligatory outing. It may not always be perfect food - I’ve had some of the best and some of the worst meals at age - and there may be plastic plates, fluorescent lights, but its a symbol of summer holidays. There’s that festive atmosphere, you can eat outdoors, you can meet up with a group of friends or family and no-one has to spend a fortune on a restaurant or washing up afterwards.
Capalbio has a Sagra di Cingarle, held in September every year. It’s one of the best known around and is over fifty years old. Wild boar is the main feature and you’ll find specialities such as ammazzafegati (‘liver killers’ - charmingly named spicy, wild boar and liver sausages), wild boar all cacciatore, polenta with wild boar stew, and aquacotta.