by Melinda Gallo

Weekend delle sagre

Surprisingly, I had never been to a sagra (festival) before in Italy. I have seen the manifesti (posters) up all over town in the summer announcing them throughout Tuscany. I've noticed that a sagra is for a specific type of food, like the one I went to on Saturday that was a sagra del cinghiale (wild boar festival). So, most of the dishes served were made with cinghiale.

My friends Debora and Paolo invited a few other couples to the sagra in Santa Brigida, which is about 20 kilometers outside of Florence. In all there were about fourteen of us. It's rare for people to mix their friends and I know that Debora and Paolo were a bit nervous about it because it can only go one of two ways: good or bad.

We waited in line and had to order food with one woman sitting behind a computer. She printed out the receipt and we stepped over to the cassa to pay. Afterwards, we found a table out on the terrazza (terrace) to fit us all. When the cameriere (waiter) came around, he gathered all of our orders and went to the kitchen to get things rolling.

I ended up ordering a lot of food, more than I could've eaten, but it was rather late and I was afraid that I couldn't easily order more later. I ended up getting an antipasto (appetizer), primo (pasta dish), secondo (main course), contorno (side dish) and dolce (dessert): crostini, tagliatelle al ragł, cinghiale in umido (wild boar stew), patatine fritte (French fries), and crema di mascarpone. My friends weren't surprised by how much I ordered, but I was. I eat a lot, but I didn't think I could realistically eat all that food. In the end, I finished everything but a few pieces of cinghiale. I even had some funghi fritti (fried mushrooms), which were exceptional.

There was a dance floor and a stage filled with instruments and microphones below the terrazza. Before we got our desserts, a group began playing eighties music and people were dancing on the dance floor. We walked downstairs after we finished our dolci when a cameriere asked us if we could leave since there was a large group that wanted our table.

A few of us got coffees at the bar downstairs and the girls and I looked at the small bancarelle (stands) where they were selling a few items like hand-painted pottery, jewelry, and honey.

I met two girls from Brazil who moved to Florence about five years ago after meeting their respective husbands. They asked me, "Sei venuta qui per l'amore?" (Did you come here for love?) and I responded, "No, ma amo Firenze." (No, but I love Florence.)

I enjoyed the sagra a lot and was hoping to go to another one this summer. And then on Sunday, my friend Sarah called me and invited me to another one along the Arno river. I couldn't say no, especially when she told me that they had a good fritto misto (mixed fried food).

Again, the sagra was quite similar in that we had to order our food, pay for it, find a table, hand the orders to the waiter, and wait for the food to arrive. There was also a dance floor and band too. It was rather pleasant being near the river even though the overhead freeway off ramp wasn't far from us.

What I like about these sagre is that there aren't many interruptions by the waiters and it's much less complicated to pay the bill since we each paid separately at the beginning.

After talking with a few of my friends, I found out that they go to these sagre almost every weekend. I love them too, but I think I'm going to hold out for the sagra della bistecca (steak festival), which I heard is fantastic!

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