Umbria in many ways the most rural of Italy’s regions. It may be less visited and less-touristed than some other parts of Italy (such as Tuscany) but there is no shortage of excitement with year-round festivals and special events. Food really matters in Umbria and festivals are held all year round celebrating the unique tastes and delights of Umbrian produce and cuisine.
A food festival is known as Sagra (plural Sagre) and the best ones are small and celebrating a single dish. You will often see brightly coloured posters advertising them by the roadside.
Here we offer a roundup of just some of the region’s year-round festivals devoted to food and wine.
Black Truffle Fair at Norcia – (about 22 – 24 February)
More truffles are found in Umbria than anywhere else in Italy and Umbria is especially famous for black truffles. Gourmets consider them inferior to the white variety but they are nonetheless expensive and delicious. The annual truffle fair is held in the village of Norcia in South-eastern Umbria. Norcia is also famous for its meat products including prosciutto that compares well with that of Milan.
Cantine Aperte – 25th May
For the so-called Open Wine Cellars some of the Umbria’s wine producers big and small throw open their cellars to visitors. In its 15th year this important event offers visitors the opportunity to taste Umbrian wines including some that the Umbrians like to keep to themselves!
Mussel Festival Citta di Castello – 3rd week of July
Tressle tables are set up outside the city walls and open-air cooking stands prepare the shellfish. At least a ton of mussels will be consumed during the festival.
Fish Fry Passignano sul Trasimeno – last Sunday of July
The festival with the biggest pan in the world offered on the scenic shores of Umbria’s largest lake. There is also a boat race.
Celebration of ‘Made in Italy’ – 4th–12th October
This nine-day event held in Orvieto each year, celebrates the wine and gastronomic tradition of the ‘Made in Italy’ marque. The prestigious event has been held since 1996 when the “Slow Food” Movement had its first big meeting in the Umbrian city. The event features conferences inside the beautiful museums and historic monuments, food tasting, art exhibitions and themed dinners.
Chestnut Festival Preggio – 18-19 October All the basement rooms of the old houses of the village open up as tiny botteghe and restaurants, featuring varied menus that include roasted chestnuts and dishes made with chestnuts. Local artisans display their crafts.
Eurochocolate – 18th – 26th October
When in Perugia you can visit the Perugina chocolate factory at any time, but in late October the whole town becomes chocolate heaven for 8 days with tastings, cookery demonstrations and other chocolate themed events. In recent years there has been a reconstruction of the Berlin wall (made of chocolate) and a chocolate trial.
Frantoi Aperti – 1st – 2nd November
The Frantoi Aperti festival, taking place during the first weekend of November, sees the doors open to several olive oil presses around Umbria offering visitors the chance to talk to producers, see how olive oil is extracted and attend seminars and guided tastings as well as learning the secrets of a Mediterranean diet! Numerous farms and restaurants also take part in the festival by incorporating quality olive oil with traditional dishes.
Trade Fair of the Truffle Citta di Castello – 10/31-11/2 Celebrates the white truffle (see above for the black truffle festival!)
National Truffle Show and Market Gubbio – Last weekend of October through the 1st of November Stands are set up in the historic center of this ancient town and the famous truffle is presented in every possible fashion. Also cheeses, marmalades, honey and local liquors.