The Italians love food and they love wine. They also love to celebrate. So the seasonal harvest of any food is a great reason to hold a festival. From the smallest village to the biggest city, you’ll find people getting excited about tomatoes, fish, pumpkins, chocolate, and grapes. It’s one of the reasons we love Italy so much.
When you’re travelling the country keep an eye out for signs advertising a Festa or a Sagra—a festival or a fair. Very often this will be food based and you’ll be in for a treat. The main food and wine festival season begins in April or May, and reaches a peak around October with mushrooms, chestnuts, chocolate, and truffles.
Here is a sample of a few but really there are hundreds, all over the country:
CioccolaTÒ, Turin, Piedmont
Held over two weeks in March each year in the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the town’s elegant heart, this is a celebration that goes beyond tasting, drinking, and cooking chocolate, to the history and culture of the sweet treat, attracting many of the world’s major chocolate producers. Turin loves its chocolate so much you can buy a Choco-pass from the tourist office all year around that gives you ten tastings and discounts from local chocolate shops.
Sagra del Risotto, Sessame, Piedmont
On the first Sunday of May the people of Sessame celebrate that great Italian dish risotto which they’ve been cooking since the 13th century. There’s a street market and music, and you can bet there’ll be a lot of rice.
Sagra del Pesce, Camogli, Genoa
Anyone that lives anywhere near the coast in Italy values the humble fish and the noble fishermen. In Camogli near Portofino they celebrate on the second Sunday of May each year for the festival of Saint Fortunato, the patron saint of fish. Naturally there is fried fish but also fireworks and bonfires.
Mostra del Chianti, Montespertoli, Tuscany
What would Tuscany be without its wines? The area of Montespertoli holds a wine festival in late May–early June each year.
Sagra del Pomodoro, Zeddiania, Sardinia
And what would Italy be without its tomatoes? The people of Zeddiania celebrate this humble fruit—or is it a vegetable?—by cooking it in all the traditional ways of their ancestors during July and August.
Festa del Lambrusco, Albinea, Emilia-Romagna
The fizzy, light red wine is particularly delicious during summer so that’s when the Italians celebrate it, during July, accompanying it with gnocco fritto (fried puffs of pasta dough) together with prosciutto, salami, and erbazzone, a kind of herb and cheese sandwich or tart.
Sagra delle Melanzane Ripiene, Montanesi, Genoa
To celebrate the feast of Saint Rocco during August, stuffed eggplant is the food of choice, along with wine and cheese.
Sagra del Cinghiale, Palazzuolo sul Senio, Tuscany
In August in Tuscany in the small village near Florence called Palazzuolo sul Senio they celebrate that traditional meat, wild boar.
Eurochocolate, Perugia, Umbria
This is the annual international chocolate exhibition held each October. Tastings, demonstrations, celebrations.
Sagra della Nocciola, Castellero, Piedmont
Everything to do with hazelnuts is cooked and consumed during this October festival: cakes, sweets, roasted nuts, but the best thing is the footrace through the abundant hazelnuts.
Sagra del Tartufo Bianco, San Miniato, Tuscany
October and November is when the white truffles famed in northern Italy are harvested. In San Miniato there is a truffle fair every November with food and craft stalls, entertainment, and truffles on every menu in town.
Festa dell’Olivo, Spello, Umbria
Olive oil is another thing that makes Italy what it is, in regards to culinary, and during December in Spello, Umbrian farmer’s decorate their tractors and gather to dance and eat in thanks for their local olive groves and oils.
And finally, for some reason the one I find most surprising:
Campionato Nazionale dei Mangiatori d’Anguria, Sissa, Emilia-Romagna
The national watermelon eating contest held in July. I’m not sure if it’s really a festival but it’s certainly fun.
For more on food in Italy, check out our Italy food tours.