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Food and tradition: eating out like the locals do

English
sagra
"Slow Food" is an organization that promote the culture of quality food and values in contrapposition to the standardisation and poor quality of fast food chains that quickly opened in Italy many years ago and became immediately popular. But traditions are alive and slow is still the best adjective to describe an Italian meal with friends: people take their time to enjoy what they are eating and drinking. If food is an important element of your holiday in Verona and you want to try to enjoy it as locals do, why not having dinner at one of the many "sagre"?

They can be described as annual local festivals or fairs of each town or neighbourhood. They can last from two days to two weeks, attract a small number of local residents or hundreds of visitors from nearby towns (and in some cases even not so nearby). Most of them have a particular theme, and you can bet it's a culinary one: a particular ingredient or recipe to which the fair is dedicated, thus meaning the menu is centred around the fair theme. Some examples? Sagra della castagna (chestnut), dell'uva (grape), del Vino Soave e Durello DOC (Soave and Durello Doc wine), del formaggio Monte Veronese dop (Monte Veronese Dop cheese), dell'asparago (asparagus). If a sagra does not have a culinary theme, it usually takes its name from the local saint; in this case the menu includes the typical regional dishes. One of the most popular is poenta e ossetti or salsiccia: polenta (poenta in Venetian dialect) is a typical Northern Italy dish, ossetti means grilled ribs and salsiccia is the Italian sausage (it tastes very different from a Northern Europe sausage, so don't miss it!).

A typical Sagra

"Sagre" are popular in all Northern Italy, and in Verona too. The mentioned sagre are all organized in the Verona province. Sagre can take place in every season, but most of them are in summer. If you wish to know if you have the chance to eat at one of them before arriving in Verona, you can check the tourist website of your destination as they always promote those events. There are specific websites that list all the sagre in Italy, such as Giraitalia.it: they are an excellent resource but unfortunately most of them are in Italian only. If you already in Verona the easiest way to find out whether there's a sagra nearby is to ask your hotel receptionist.
Just to avoid disappointment here are some warnings. "Sagre" are usually crowded and long queues for ordering food can be expected. Being a family-friendly event, there might be plenty of children, shouting and running all over the place: if you are looking for a romantic or zen atmosphere, you are much far from that. Also, avoid "sagre" if you are looking for a luxury experience: they are precisely the opposite, cheap and informal. They are run by volunteers so while politeness and hygiene are guaranteed, don't expect a professional service like in a restaurant. They do not take place in the city centre, more likely in a pitch or near the main church. Do not expect a public transportation service to be available to get you there: in most cases you will need a car.

 

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