Saturday, September 10, 2005


We went to another sagra last night. During the summer and fall sagras (festivals) are a way of life at least in this part of Italy. Most often they’re held in small villages and feature a particular food item, usually one that’s in abundance at the time. Of course we also have the sagra della Tequila, held in Madonna del Piano near Monte Castello di Vibio, and the Sagra della Nutella, held in Collazzone I think. For the most part the sagas celebrate grapes, cinghiale and torta del testo, chestnuts, blueberries, watermelon and yesterday, Arvoltlo. So what the heck is arvoltlo? 

As usual Wendy was our source of information and she told us that Olmeto is famous for their arvoltlo, which is pizza dough, fried then sprinkled with sugar or salt. I guess it’s the Italian equivalent of an elephant ear, but because it has only granulated sugar it’s much less messy, and definitely delicious!

I guess you could generalize these sagras as the equivalent of a Catholic church picnic without the booths. Basically just an excuse to get together, eat lots of good food, drink some wine, maybe listen to some music and dance.

Activities seem to vary greatly….some sagras have only food, so it’s just a social event. The problem is that we rarely know ahead of time just what a sagra will be. We were really surprised when we went to the strawberry festa last spring and found not only many booths set up selling everything from soup to nuts, but also a demonstration of marital arts, complete with huge swords. 
Some sagras run for only a few days – typically Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other sagras run for up to eleven days, encompassing two weekends. Generally the longer the sagra, the better the chance for entertainment of some sort. Often the entertainment is simply a karaoke machine and a single person. If there is music you can bet there will be dancing….Italians love to dance. If you know where to look you can often find a program….a small booklet filled with ads from local businesses listing who will be performing that night and what the daily food specials will be. Last night the music and dancing were the primary reasons we went and we weren’t disappointed.

We went on Wednesday night specifically to see Gioberto’s’ daughters perform. We had seen them in San Venanzo in June and they were very talented. The two backup singers are his daughters, and one of them, Erika, plays the accordion. The lead singer has a fantastic voice and is so comfortable on stage.

We arrived around nine and Gioberto told us that they were having some sort of technical problems. We took that opportunity to check out the menu and decided to try the famous arvoltlo….accompanied by a quarter liter of fizzy white wine. And people wonder why we love living here so much!!!

Fortunately the technical problem was solved quickly and the band started to play around 9:30. The dance floor was a huge paved area surrounded by plastic chairs. We pulled two chairs off the stack, found a good spot and sat back to listen and enjoy. 
When we had seen Erika and her group perform in San Venanzo the dancers were slow to start. For the first hour the only ones dancing were the little girls, then gradually a few couples took the floor. Not so in Olmeto! From the first note there were at least ten couples on the dance floor, and that number was often tripled. 

There were no kids dancing in Olmeto….these people were serious dancers, swirling around the dance floor at often dizzying speeds. The main step seemed to be a waltz, but we did see some tango and something closer to a polka….and for a short time a group line dance was being performed too. It was just so much fun to watch! While most of the dancers were over sixty, there were also younger dancers. I would estimate that 60% were over 60, 20% between 40 and 60, and the remaining 20% under 40. 

It’s times like this that both Art and I wish we could join in. I’m sure that with a few lessons Art could be out there with the best of them, but I’m sure I’d trip, stumble or somehow manage to embarrass myself and be a danger to everyone on the dance floor. I’m not known for my coordination, and my daughter still can’t understand how I managed to do step aerobics once upon a time. 

We left around eleven…of course the party was still going strong but we needed to get up early the next morning. We were so disappointed that Bob, Rosemary and Nedra had been unable to join us. It’s times like this when we really feel that we know the secret to the good life.


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