Wild Tuscany: Sagra del Cinghiale

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 10:38
Chianni Sagra del Cinghiale

There are certain places you like to go back to many times because of their historical heritage, others because of their relaxed atmosphere or their buzz or for their natural beauty and others just for the food.

In November a visit to Chianni, a small village 45 km south from Pisa, and its “Sagra del Cinghiale” is a real must. Between the 10th and the 20th November you can have the opportunity to taste one of the most ancient dishes of the traditional Italian cuisine, dating back from the Etruscan time: the wild boar.

Aelian reports, in his “De Natura Animalium” in the III century BC, that the Etruscans used to flush out the boar with the help of a flute. The boar hunt was an important moment of youth training and the iconographic evidence relating to this activity is numerous. The boar was hunted by groups of hunters, the precursors of current teams, through the use of nets to which the animals were driven with the aid of dogs and beaters. Once the boar was caught in the net it was killed with a "spike", a sort of well-sharpened spear with an added block under the knife to prevent the wounded boar to get close to the men and hurt them.

Nowadays the only things that have changed are the kinds of weapons used - rifles instead of spears and nets - but it is still a group hunting. In Chianni there are three different teams, each assigned to specific areas for the hunt. Every area has a fascinating name like: Meletro, i Poggi, la Buca di Bernardo, il Pozzo, la Torre, le Scope.

The oldest team is named “gli Indiani” because they always light a fire and it is said they can hear the boars coming by putting their ears to the ground like the American Indians. The “Fedayn – Settembre Nero” team call themselves in this way because they like to think they are revolutionaries. The youngest team is teasingly called “gli Spengicamini” by the other groups because it is said they are only capable of using their weapons to put out the fire. Every group has more than 50 members and the hunt needs at least 20 of them in order to be successful and safe. The wild boars can be very dangerous.

Sagra del Chinghiale, Chianni

The area around the village is a perfect habitat for the wild boar and because this animal has a high rate of reproduction the hunt is the only way to keep the woods alive. This is the main reason why, 35 years ago, the people of Chianni started the Feast of the Wild Boar. They wanted to regulate the animal population and prevent poachers to wander around the village putting in danger both the inhabitants of the woods and the village.

During these ten days among the stalls market and the street performers coming from all over Italy the main attraction of the event is the restaurant – long tables with benches but in very nice locations – where is possible to taste the wild boar in many different ways: sausages, salami, roast, stew with new olives or like a sauce with homemade pasta. Everything at very popular prices and accompanied with high quality local wines.

If you are lucky, while queuing for you meal you can see the city band marching around the narrow streets, opening the way to the hunters that carry – like in the past – the trophies of their efforts to the kitchen. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if you would start clapping and cheering to them like they were your heroes. In the end they are feeding you!