Thanks for All the Fish, or La Sagra Del Pesce

May 14, 2019

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Living in Liguria as I do, I have so many opportunities to participate in Festivals. That means I can help you to find the best ones around. La Sagra Del Pesce, The Festival of the Fish, has taken place in beautiful Camogli on the second Sunday in May since 1952. Filippo DeGregori, an attorney in Camogli, initiated the fish cookout hoping to encourage tourism for his city. Six women cooked fish all day on the beach and gave it away to all who attended. Since then, the city and their tourist board have managed the event that just keeps growing.

So do the pans.

Today’s pan has been in use since 2002. It is stainless steel and weighs 28 TONS, cooks on a specially constructed platform in Piazza Colombo, right alongside the boats.

The incredible cookout of freshly caught fish is the culmination of a weekend celebration. On Saturday, all afternoon you can taste Ligurian specialties for sale. In the evening you can watch the traditional procession with of the saint of fishermen, San Fortunato and, of course, the Crucified Christ.  In the evening there are fireworks and bonfires. This is a good reason the stay overnight to enjoy the Sagra to its fullest.

My friends and I did not arrive until Sunday morning. As we strolled to the waterside,

Passed beautiful views and colorful buildings,

We walked along the street market that began at the train station. You could find anything there. I bought a blouse myself.

We came down some steep streets, some narrow back streets, until we reached the sea.

It was a cloudy morning and we were early. There weren’t that many people around at that time. The vista was beautiful as usual.

The colors were a bit muted by the cloud cover, but the color of the sea was incredible.

We found a ticket stand where, for 6 Euros, we received our ticket for our fresh fish meal and a commemorative plate.

Some of the local men were crowd watching while sitting below a shrine.

All the blessed Madonna shrines in Camogli seem to be surrounded by seashells which is quite pertinent for a town of fishermen and their waiting wives.

Before the fish can be served, the pan, cooking items and the fish must be blessed—this was at about 1030am.

Next the lines began, and a bit of my American side came into play. We were early. And yet the queue was already almost filled up. We attempted to get in line and the volunteers asked us to move back, under the archway(portico), so they could leave an open area for people to cross. We did as they asked.

And then we watched older Italians ignore instructions and move in front of us. No excuses but I am not so good in the morning. My foot was hurting, and I was still getting over bronchitis.  I asked why they were letting others through and asking us to wait. Was it because they were older?  “Io sono vecchia anche. Sono anziata. Perche no per me?” I said I am old too, I am older. Why not me?

The poor young guys trying to get their elders to OBEY were floundering. It did not help that I fell into Angry American mode. I am sorry for that and began to joke with the security guard. It wasn’t his fault. It is just Italy.

Soon most of the people were going behind us and eventually our turn to move forward came. I did stop a couple people from cutting into the line. Hey, I am Italian too.

It took us nearly 45 minutes to get up to the giant pan. And it was worth the wait.

Each of us received a very good amount of tasty fish. I loved the fried calamari even better than the fish.

We moved out of the area, closer to the beach and sat on the wall, gleefully eating with our fingers as did others.

We then moved to a table and ordered drinks. The line was now three times as long as it had been when we were waiting under the portico. The photo below shows the further side of the portico and the line went as far as the photo could capture.

The fresh fish was served from 10:30am to 1:00pm. Next was a two-hour pausa followed by more frying and serving from 3:00pm to 7:00pm.  I cannot imagine how long that line extended.

After enjoying our beverages of choice, we meandered up the lungomare and back to the train station. We were gone before the second incursion of guests of the event began to line up.

Here is my take on the Sagra Del Pesce.

Camogli is worth a visit any time. For a special event like this one, if you are traveling, I would strongly urge you to sleep over if only for one night. That way you can easily be there for the Saturday festivities until late into the night.

Do NOT drive. There are no parking places. Take trains or busses.

If you cannot stay overnight, and only want to experience the fish fry, go early as we did. We did eat our lunch rather early. However, our wait was short in comparison to those who came later. We also enjoyed the huge market in the morning before going down to the sea.  Stay overnight or go early. I can help you arrange either. Email me at with questions for your planned vacation in Italy. I can help you add special events to your adventures.

A dopo.

Ciao for now!

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