Tag Archives: August 15

Sagra della Bistecca

18 Aug

Each year, same time, same place, Cortona offers up the same wonderful steak-lover’s paradise. Cortona’s Ferragosto is an Italian chiana beef steak fest filled with celebration, amazing aromas, seasoned chefs and smiles galore.

As reported  in a similar blog one year ago, the Latin “Feriae Augusti” denoted the “August Rest” which was a month-long holiday period proclaimed in the 18th century by Emperor Augustus. It was a time when people could relax after all the hard work associated with the harvest and the end of the year’s main agricultural work. It was also a time when nobility mixed with the workers.

Over time, the festival shortened to a few weeks and eventually became a one-day event, celebrated on August 15 each year. For Italians, this bank holiday combines elements of both ancient and Christian worlds, as August 15 also commemorates the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Cities throughout Italy celebrate this day with great festivals. If you happened to be in Cortona, you no doubt enjoyed the annual Sagra della Bistecca, or beef steak festival, held in the normally quiet parterre, or public garden pictured here. A beautiful and moving war memorial graces the park’s entrance.



Beyond the statue lies this fountain,  providing a quiet place to reflect or toss a penny.


And beyond the fountain is the expansive parterre, often silent beyond belief.


Of course, you might encounter the occasional dog walker.


Or the many cats who call the parterre home. But generally, count on a peaceful and mostly tourist free passeggiata, or Italian stroll.

For the festival, however, the quiet setting is completely transformed. An enormous grill, some 14-meters long, is erected. Locals don chef’s aprons, and with extra long forks, lovingly go about the work of grilling mouth-watering T-bone steaks, Italian sausages, and spareribs for the locals who have crowded the park to enjoy the celebration with family and friends.

Local wines and cheeses compliment the grilled meats and make for a perfect feast and day of relaxation.  If interested, I’ve included a wonderful 2011 time lapsed You Tube clip of the Cortona event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anpiFhse558

Hmmm… grilled steaks for dinner tonight? Definitely worth the calories.



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