Tuscan summer nights are beautiful in themselves, but add a village festival in the cool shade of a Church or in an olive grove with a band playing music from 9 to midnight and the outdour of food coking – this is a recipe for magic. Go with friends and enjoy the camaraderie; go alone and you might meet a new acquaintance. Anything can happen.
“Sagra” can be translated as a “church supper” – sponsored by the Church or local charitable association such as the Croce Rossa or Misericordia.
They engage the Energy of the entire community so if you are already a resident you can offer a helping hand. Jobs range from ticket-taking, settin g up chairs and tents, serving food or working at the food tables.
If you are a tourist or simply want to relax, you can partecipate by bringing friends and family and eating under the stars at the long tables set up in the fields.
The local specialità, and inevitably a plate of pasta or grilled meats, are available for purchase.
Dinner is served usually from 7.30 onward, typically on friday, saturday and sunday evenings.
My first sagra this year came early, in april at Torricchio, a village between Pescia and Uzzano.
It had a unique extra feauture, a spicy crime story that anhanced the pleasure of carciofi fritti (fried artichokes, Torricchio’s speciality). At first all seemed calm – too calm.
While my friend waited in line to order food, i photographed the mosaics on the church facade. These (from 1972) portray 7 sinners on the lower half of the church facade.
According to my interpretation they represent the evils os smoking, drinking, terrorism, robbing, killing, laziness and complicity.
According to biblical tradition, the capital sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride.
This seemed to foretell something ominous lurking beneath the apparent calm.
As our meal was winding down, we noticed commotion at the nearby tables. A father with daughter about 7 years old was arguing with some of young adults while the water acted as mediators. The man’s Rayban sunglasses has disappeared and he was “interrogating the suspects” in other words, yelling at them.
My friend’s daughter had witnessed the crime. She told me the perpetrator had already fled scene. At this point there was, in italian terms, a colpo di scena, the purpoted criminal returned to the scene of the crime, while the water and Sagra organizers were in the midst of trying to calm rising tempers.
“That’s him!” our intrepid young lady shouted as she pointed in the thief’s direction.
“Lower your arm and come quickly”. I urged. At a safe distance we followed the man.
I encouraged a waiter to join us.
“That’s the man, there in the white sweatshirt”, i said warning my friends’ daughter to maintain a low profile.
The waiter had the quickness of spirit to call out, “hey you, come back here!” And the rayban thief did return.
At that point we chose the safest route, departure, having done what we could to resolve the crime.
Hopefully the father received his Raybans and the evening could continue with music, singing and lighter spirits.
I know there will be other sagras ahead this summer.
Who knows what these will bring?
The best way to find out which sagras are upcoming i sto read the signs along the roads. Or better yet, ask the neighbors, who are sure to know. Here are a few:
Paganico (east town) Sagra del Taglierino ( a kind off lat spaghetti)
Molazzana (Cascio, north town) Sagra della Ranocchiocciola (chiocciole and ranocchie- snails and frogs)
You can find more, and tastier ones, by searching the web under “Lucca Sagras”.
Visit also this page.
Enjoy your summer evenings!
( Norma Jean Bishop)