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Sagra del bico: Paying tribute to an ancient bread

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Mamma and nonna are always on the lookout for a local sagra (sa-gra) food festival when they are searching for a new experience in Italia. Many small towns across Italy celebrate sagre, an event which is dedicated to a local delicacy, ingredient or agricultural activity and allows visitors to experience a taste of local life.

One year, on the last weekend of June, they decided to drive to la regione di Toscana (la ray-gee-oh-nay d Toe-sca-na) the region of Tuscany to attend La Sagra del Bico in the town of Cetona. They had no clue as to what a bico was but told me we would all go together and find out.

To get there we took a beautiful drive from Frosinone over mountains and countryside until we arrived nel pomeriggio (nel po-mair-ree-joe) in the afternoon. Cetona is a comune (town) in the southern province of Siena, Tuscany, in an area where Umbria and Lazio meet. When we arrived, we parked in the main piazza, and walked towards the sagra grounds to explore.

Bico (Bee-ko) is a local, traditional flat bread, a mix of Umbrian testo (tes-toe) consistency and thex(pea-ah-dee-no rome-an-yola) from Emilia-Romagna, which splits naturally when baked. A pane povero (pah-nay po-vair-oh) poor bread made of water and flour; it was originally baked under a bed of ashes inside the oven. Nowadays, it is cooked like a pizza, yet still retains is mouthwatering aroma from baking in wood fired ovens.

As a pane povero it is unlikely that it traditionally received the fillings that were available on the sagra menu, but we certainly did not complain. We ordered one with verdure e rigatino (vair-door-a a ree-ga-tee-no) greens and little striped slices of pancetta (pan-chet-ah), and another with prosciutto e stracchino (pro-shoot-o a stra-key-no) a runny, soft cheese, both delicious. The sagra took place over two weekends, the last in June and the following at the beginning of July. There are activities for all the days, music, and dancing and of course vendors selling their wares. There was a dance floor for dancing later that evening and concerts each night.

Era molto affollato (Air-a mole-to ah-foe-lato) It was very crowded, so Mamma carried me. She didn’t want to stay overnight so we missed the concert, but we did walk around the piazza and best of all had some gelato before we headed out. I wasn’t allowed to eat any formaggio (for-ma-joe) cheese or verdure, but I did get some of the outer crust. It was delicious! IAH

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