Exploring Umbria...Italian Festivals, Sagre & Celebrations
Umbrian traditions die hard ... and Umbrians are fiercely proud people, parrochial (in a good sense) regarding their history culture & passion for food...they love nothing more than a party. Combine all of the above & what do you have? Those wonderful exhuberant local food festivals called Sagre featuring seasonal regional produce.
Hosted in various towns & villages all over Italy, they are heralded by the long awaited arrival of Spring bringing with it fertilitiy & abundance of the land. Italians are renowned the world over for their ospitalita & after the long bitter months of winter, eager to cast off the winter "blues" in favour of tending their vegetable gardens & leading an "outdoor" life as hunters & gatherers once more. Indeed, in Umbria, each stagione -- season revolves around food.
Thanks to the warmer weather, the country landscape brings forth local regional delicacies the villagers and townsfolk have eagerly anticipated...the locals go crazy at the first sight of wild asparagus & naturalised herbs in March.. The asparagi selvatici is an aquired taste....bitter & medicinal but the tender tips are quite delicious added to a fritatta. Wild rocket, sage, thyme & borrage are growing prolifically (& conveniently) along the country lanes. Cars are parked at the most dangerous bends in the roads...their owners in hot pursuit of delicious funghi .
During the course of Spring, Summer & Autumn, each village celebrates the produce pertinent to its locality. Produce ranging from lenticchie -- lentils, the tiniest of sweet onions (the size of a button) to what is labeled the "black gold" of this region...the heavenly tartuffo nero or black truffle. These Sagre (food celebrations) provide locals & visitors alike a buon divertimento, -- a pleasant diversion & indeed, not in the least, a magnificent feast of gastronomical gourmet delights. After dinner -- let the dancing begin!
Besides celebrating seasonal food, the more "serious" historical cultural festivals take place. These festivities have a far reaching reputation & are extremely well patronised, emulating life as it was during medieval times & feature the proud townsfolk dressed in medieval costume parading through the streets. Flag-throwing, jousts & cross-bow competitions; all this action makes for a spetacolo! After the sombre parade festivities are over, everyone takes their place at the long table, for a decadent feast of local produce featuring naturally, a medieval menu....Roasted songbirds anyone? For a visitor this is an incredibly novel & memorable experience & one not to be missed. An intimate glimpse into Italian life - past & present.
UMBRIA SPRING EVENTS FESTIVAL Calendar 2010
Casteligione del Lago Coloriamo i Cieli - International Kyte Meet April 29 - May 2 (attracts afficionados from all over the world..fun for all the family!)
Bevagna Arte in Tavola - Classic Local Traditions April 30, May 1-2 ( savouring local culinary & artistic traditions)
Eggi Sagra degli Asparagi Asparagus Fair in the Centro Storico April 22 - May 2
Assisi Calendimaggio Celebrating Medieval history, traditions & culture May 6 - 8 (costume parades, medieval games, dance, music & food) *highly recommended
Gubbio Festa dei Ceri Festival of the patron Saint Ubaldo May 15 (an important & well patronised event on the Umbrian calendar)
Spoleto Spring Music Festival May 15 - 23 (one of the many music festivals hosted by this town showing the emerging talent in the classical field)
Vini nel Mondo May 21 - 24 (over 4 days the town plays host to the most renowned vitners of Italy 250 products/1500 representatives) *If you love wine, this is a must!
Feste Lucreziane May 30 - June 6 ("La Vaite di Spoleto in Centro Storico - medieval costume parade through the streets in honor of Lucrezia Borgia. A week of festivities)
Perugia Perugia Flower Show May 21 - 23 (celebrating spring with amazing exhibits of plants & gardens featuring many rare specimens)
Montefalco Cantine Aperte in Umbria May 29 & 30 (local Cantinas open their cellar doors to showcase the best wines of the region *a most enjoyable day
Spello Infioriate del Corpus Domini June 5 & 6 (the arrangement of flower petals in detailed religious motifs along the cobblestone streets) *not to be missed
Foligno Giostra della Quintana di Foligno June 11 & 12 (a medieval joust in the centro storico)
Castelluccio Manifestazione della Fioritura June 13 till the end of the month (the blooming of plants native to the Piano Grande) *an absolute spectacle
These are what I consider the highlights of the Spring Festivals -- there are many more hosted by the smaller hilltowns & villages throughout the region. My advice is to check online at the link below & choose the ones that you find appealing - wild asparagus is not everyone's cup of tea! Please note you will need a car to reach some of the destinations but it will be worth it! There is always a cause for celebration in Italia Bella.
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