As a child I cheered summer as it meant school was over, I could spend endless hours running free at my grandparents’ in the countryside. It was also the time for summer festivals that we call sagra. I just loved them and the one organized in my village was absolutely the highlight of my summer with the usual travelling funfair! Sagre are usually organized by local volunteering groups operating within the parish and the local community to bring the community altogether and to raise some funds through food stand and lotteries for the yearly activities of the community. They are always named after a local saint whom the parish in dedicated to or after some typical local food product.
Italy is known for a plethora of sagre throughout the year as every occasion is just good to meet in the local square, have food, attend music events and just enjoy the summer time, so why not? Venice has its own sagre too and they are concentrated during the summer time. I think it is one of the few occasions visitors have to get an authentic glimpse of local life in a city which is left with less residents every year and that it is getting far too tourist for my taste. So take note of these most popular Venice summer festivals and make sure you stop and check them out.
Sagra San’Antonio – San Francesco della Vigna
Kicking off Venice’s summer festival season, Sagra Sant’ Antonio takes place on the 2nd week of July and has a rich calendar of music events every night. The church, showing off a facade by Palladio, and the cloisters, housing the Annunciation by Giovanni Bellini, can usually be visited even at night. There are food stands with fish based specialties, like mixed fried fish and squeed ink pasta. You can also order grilled meat.
Festa della Madonna della Marina – Malamocco, Lido
Malamocco is located in Lido and can be reached by bus from Santa Maria Elisabetta vaporetto stop. This sagra takes place between the 1st and 2nd week of July since the 1970s and it is popular for its spaghetti alla malamocchina, with mussels, tomatoes sauce, oregano.
Sagra San Pietro di Castello
The Sagra in San Pietro di Castello is by far my favorite one; taking place on the last week of June, it’s a piece of real Venice, very much looked forward to by locals and residents and hosted in Venice’s most authentic sestriere, Castello. It’s always crowded and expect a long queue before you can order. Food stands don’t do grilled meat but have a massive choice of fish based dishes, like fried fish with polenta (corn flour mixed with hot water until it gets creamy and solid) and spaghetti with mussel sauce.
Festa della Madonna dell’Apparizione – Pellestrina
Pellestrina is one of those stretched islands dividing Venice Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea; it’s a nice village of fishermen, ideal for boat trips, dinner in restaurant fish restaurants and romantic sunsets. This sagra takes place is mid-August.
Sagra San Giacomo dell’Orio
The 3rd week of July is fully dedicated to the Sagra San Giacomo dell’Orio; it’s ideal to pair it to the Redentore since they fall in the same week and have a pre firework party here. What I like about this sagra is the local lottery: this year I was so lucky to win a cork screwer and a funnel….. The highlight of the food stands is grilled meat with a wide choice of side plates. You should also dare and order a portion of bovoeti, small snails dressed with oil, garlic and parsley…. I don’t mind them every now and then.
That’s a pretty recent one, taking place only for a couple of years in Campo dei Sechi and it looks more like a block party than a sagra; it’s quite intimate, food stands are small, they don’t serve big things but quick food like sandwiches with sausages, cereal salads, tofu sauce or mince meat pasta, cheese and salami and have crafted beers available. You can attend craft workshops teaching how to sew and even build a boat.