Arcidosso’s Festa della Castagna

November 20, 2015 / Events
Arcidosso, Tuscany

In late fall, chestnuts pop in the night in the medieval backstreets of Arcidosso, Tuscan mountain village on Mount Amiata. Teams of men twirl the handle on huge perforated metal bins full of chestnuts rolling over the coals under the bellies of the bins. When the husks slip loose on the roasted chestnuts, the men shovel them into white paper bags, passing them out to those in line, awaiting the pungent goodness. “Locals” and visitors line up for the roasted chestnuts at this southern Tuscany Festa della Castagna (“Festival of the Chestnuts”). Munching hot chestnuts festival-goers wander the booths filling Arcidosso’s main piazza and winding down into the labyrinthine medieval backstreets.

Arcidosso winding backstreet charm
Arcidosso medieval alleyway
Turning the wheel on the bin

Artisans from all over central Italy sell their wares at the Festa but the chestnut reigns in a rich program of festival events. Book presentations on the cultivation and harvesting of chestnuts and an array of lectures on the “noble chestnut” draw some and the stands offering food specialties of central Italy draw everyone.

At many a culinary stand, the chestnut stars: chestnut creams, cakes, pastas, flours, liqueurs at one stand, artisanal chestnut beers at another.

STand of chestnut goodies
Chestnuts for sale all over in crates
Chestnuts are for sale all over
Chestnut liqueurs, etc

And in the Arcidosso bakeries, chestnut pies, cakes and pastries fill display cases; across the street, crates of chestnuts are for sale in front of the local fruit shop for those opting to roast chestnuts at home on the wood stove. At one booth, groups of local women offer their tempting homemade sweets, chestnuts the theme in each one.

Chestnut cakes in the bakery
Chestnut wonders..more!
Chestnut WONDERS
CHestnuts goodies

Medieval crossbowers, bands, street musicians, choral concerts animate the chestnut celebration. And as day gives up to night, groups of families and friends fill the vaulted medieval cellars to feast on wild boar, soups with chickpeas, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts, pork roast with chestnut/apple sauce and chestnut/pear flans. Local volunteers cook up the goodness, with chestnuts starring in many a dish… but not only.

Menu - Arcidosso - foods with chestnuts
Pasta all'amatriciana, vino rosso
IMG_3118
Taverna group
Grilled lamb tidbits teams
Friends'group, ready to dine

We chose a taverna where parents of the children in the local ski school cook together, their eager children serving at table and the ski teacher seating all diners, handling reservations. Part of the income will be contributed to the FESTA but part finances the ski school up on Monte Amiata… where snow will soon blanket the chestnut trees.

Arcidosso cooking team of all ages
Asia shows us her ski photo

As we left, we passed a card-reader crouched at a small table in the vaulted alleyway, shuffling the cards he would read for a client. I wonder if he’s predicting a bountiful chestnut harvest?

Card-reader too
Rotating the bins
Arcidosso in the mist

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

25 Responses to “Arcidosso’s Festa della Castagna”

  1. Peggy Corrao

    We remember the gathering of the chestnuts. It’s a beautiful time of year in a beautiful place.

    Reply
  2. Sally Walters

    How much more enriching an experience than purchasing a small bag on the streets of NYC when I lived there. I remember the aroma. To be there with you would probably blow my socks off! Thank you for this article. Filing this in my “what to do in Italy in autumn”!

    Reply
  3. Rosemary Johnson

    Great article! Wish I could be there; your descriptions are so appealing!

    Reply
  4. Bev Oliveri

    Roasting castagnas at Christmas is a tradition in my family. I would love to attend the festa sometime.! Thank you, Anne for sharing this!
    Bev

    Reply
  5. Joan baccino

    Oh Annie, wish I was there continuing to experience more of italy with you as my guide and friend! The experiences you have to share seem listless! Happy trails , until next we meet!

    Reply
  6. Anne, this looks like so much fun! When is the best time to arrive, and where do you recommend staying?

    Reply
  7. Kathy Kelsey

    Great photos Anne! Wish we were there with you. The food looks amazing!

    Reply
  8. Anne – I enoyed your castagna story immensely. My father had a small gas stove in his barber shop, where I shined shoes and swept the floor. In the winter he would roast chestnuts on top of the stove. Customers loved them, and the smell was unforgettable. Fond memories. Gracie.

    Reply
  9. Janine Belveal

    One of the few great pleasures left in life: eating warm chestnuts on a cold day or evening as you stroll about. Thanks, Anne, for this descriptive article and photos.

    Reply
  10. Marianna Raccuglia

    Goodness, another wonderful story and photos by Anne Robichaud. When I was young chestnuts were a winter, after dinner staple. Thank you, dear Anne

    Reply
  11. David fleming

    What a delightful window into a little known Tuscan Festa! Anne’s pictures bring it all to life!

    Reply
  12. Ginny Siggia

    I discovered castagna honey in Spello. It was served with cheese after lunch. This is not your average clover honey in cute plastic bear dispensers. It is honey with an attitude, and pairs beautifully with strong cheeses.

    Reply
  13. Suzanne and Jack

    Another fabulously descriptive article. Thank you Annie, You make your experiences jump off the screen when I read them. Can’t wait to be in Italy again in Autumn 2017.

    Reply
  14. Deborah Salae

    Mille grazie for sharing yet another wonderfully evocative and rich word/photo glimpse into one of the innumerable corners of the Italy you love so much.

    Reply
  15. Brilliant article Anne! My wife and I just love the chestnuts! We would love to attend the Tuscan Festa someday. Are you still an Umbrian tour guide?

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Deborah Salae

Click here to cancel reply.