During most months of the year, you can hardly move around Tuscany without running into some kind of sagra or festival celebrating, in most cases, rustic and regional products and dishes.
From wild boar to fava beans, snails to Sangiovese, small towns and cities become bustling, outdoor eateries where the curious foodie can enjoy authentic Italian specialties in an informal context.
One of these sagre, however, stands apart from the rest: every summer, the small city of Barga hosts a two-week festival dedicated to fish and chips (also known as pesce e patate).
What’s the Scottish speciality of battered, fried haddock (or cod, as is sometimes used) doing against the backdrop of the Apuan Alps? The truth is, there is a real, tangible connection between Barga and Scotland: cities like Glasgow, Ayr and Largs are full of long-time residents with last names like Nardini, Conti and Marchetti.
Beginning in the late 1800s, many families from Barga emigrated to Scotland in search of work and better living conditions. Generations later, this diaspora has resulted in an unlikely connection between Scots and the Barghese: a connection that is celebrated each summer with a fish & chips festival that attracts thousands of visitors –including, when his busy touring schedule permits, Barga’s most famous “native son”, the Scottish singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini, whose great-grandparents moved to Paisley from Barga and opened a fish & chips shop, which his parents still run today.
From long tables spread out on the city’s sports field, covered with tents to shade diners from the Tuscan sun, Italians and foreigners alike enjoy plates of fish & chips (served with fresh tomato salad to help cut the grease and lemon instead of traditional malt vinegar). Proceeds from the festival go to help fund the local football team – which, along with pesce e patate, is another shared passion between the two nations.
The exact dates change each year, but the sagra di pesce e patate is always towards the end of July and beginning of August. Check the Barga's site for more information.