During my college years in New York City, I spent a lot of time in beautiful Central Park. Unfortunately, I had to share the park with a huge pigeon population that covered its many sculptures and landmarks. These pigeons were dirty, garbage eating creatures that I abhorred.
Thirty two years later, I find myself at the Sagra del Piccione in Cortona where pigeons are the featured main course. I guess time changes everything or maybe I just feel the pigeons in Tuscany feed on discarded food from local restaurants, where as the pigeons in New York feed on dumpsters.
Sagra del Piccione, the Pigeon Festival in Montecchio, Cortona
A 'Sagra' is about something to eat, such as olive oil, steak, frogs, duck, snails or mushrooms. Every summer in Tuscany, each village puts on a Sagra featuring a local specialty. The Sagra is the most important festival of the year in the village, as it celebrates the village's traditions, food and community.
Some sagras are huge, like the Sagra della Bistecca, the Steak Festival, in Cortona and some are small, with just few people attending. The organizers are usually volunteers, and the money collected goes to the local community, sports associations or to charity.
The food is usually prepared by the village's older women and men, who know the local recipes well.
So it's like going to dinner at the home of a local family.
But first you must get over the fact that you are being served a pigeon on your plate ...
and with a few glasses of wine ...it tastes better and you forget you are eating a pigeon...
and before you know it , your friends are all eating pigeon...
and with even more wine you can enjoy the rides, the local people and the dancing...
and come midnight, the kids are still playing ...
and others refuse to call it a night...or maybe they are still here from last year.
The following day I visited the Arezzo Antique Fair. I had my eye on a cow painting from last month's fair and was excited to see it was still for sale. While negotiating the price with the salesman, a pigeon let loose on his head.
He declared out loud "Buona Fortuna ", since being hit with bird poop is good luck universally. Though I think it's because the thought of poop in your hair is too awful to think otherwise.
He gave me the painting at the price I was asking...thank you my pigeon friend.
After doing some research, I discovered pigeons are highly intelligent and can recognize all 26 letters of the English language. In Roman times the pigeon was used to carry results of sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, and this is why white doves are released at the start of the Olympic Games today. One of the world’s most famous news agencies, Reuters, started its European business by using trained homing pigeons. The service was started in 1850 with 45 pigeons carrying the latest news and stock prices from Aachen in Germany to Brussels in Belgium.
So if they are so intelligent, why didn't they hightail it out of Cortona before the Sagra season ?