San Martino, Castagne e Vino II

November 16, 2011 / Local Interest

(cont’d from here..)

Umbria welcomes in the Feast of St. Martin with the saying “San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino” (”St. Martin, St. Martin, chestnuts and wine”). On the eve of la festa di San Martino, farm families gather around wood-burning stove in the kitchen to roast chestnuts on the cast-iron stove top. Carrrying a couple of clean bottles, the father in the family heads down to the wine cellar to draw the vino novello, (new wine) from the huge wooden casks. “A San Martino spilla la botte e assaggia il vino“, goes the saying. “For San Martino, put the spigot in the cask and taste the wine.”

Any visit to farm friends these days means a stop in their cantina for a taste of the vino novello. On the eve of San Martino, we always join farm friend Peppa for castagne e vino (novello). Before putting the chestnuts on the stovetop, Peppa washes them and slits the peels in brisk downward strokes so that the stove heat penetrates each chestnut. As they roast, the chestnuts swell and blacken. Now and then, one will burst with a “pop” At just the right moment, with what I call “asbestos hands”, Peppa scoops the scorching chestnuts right off the stove top and drops them into a towel laid out on the table. She rolls them in the towel, crushing them with force. Then she proudly pours out a glass of her new wine, waiting for our opinion on its quality. Her new wine was superb this year. And how well the frizzante spark of the novello marries with the rich, full taste of the roasted chestnuts. As always, Peppa put a handful of the roasted chestnuts right into her glass. “Squisito!”, she exclaimed.

These days, the San Martino celebration of vino novello and roasted chestnuts is enjoyed in town piazzas as well as in farmhouses. At mid-November culinary festivals, there’ll usually be a food stand offering chestnut flour, chestnut spreads, chestnut honey and roasted chestnuts with the novello. If you’re lucky, chestnut-stuffed ravioli and roast goose encrusted with chestnuts might accompany the vino novello, with chocolate-dipped chestnuts for dessert. Nowadays, San Martino, San Martino is feted with more than just castagne e vino!

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 for more on her Umbria tours. Do see 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.

22 Responses to “San Martino, Castagne e Vino II”

  1. Rosemary

    I love the rich culinary cultures of Italy that are so closely tied to the land and its treasures. Thank you for this insiders look!

  2. Growing up, my Italian born and raised nonna always served castines (castagne)this time of the year. I continue this tradition to some degree as I always have roasted castagne with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners …and of course vino!!! Thank you for sharing the experiences and culture of real Italia. It makes me appreciate that much more, the traditions mia familglia attempt to retain, brought to the US by our parents and grandparents years ago. So often the comparisons are brought alive through your glipse of life in Italy. Grazie mille!

  3. Patricia Cardellio

    such wonderful history my italian husband and his family followed this routine also the tradition continues wish we could be there to celebrate thanks for taking us there.

  4. Suzanne and Jack

    The bond between the fruits of the seasons and the food and cultural traditions are so wonderfully described by Anne. It is so nice to be reminded of the people we met when we visited Umbria.

  5. Karen Kotoske

    Peppa, wish we were back sitting on your beautiful verandah enjoying castagne and novello with you, Annie and Pino. We’ll never forget going into your cellar to see your garden produce neatly prepared in glass jars for winter meals, and then you drew off some of your superb casked wine for us to serve with cake fresh from the oven. Delicious! This we all enjoyed on your verandah overlooking the vines as they were turning fall colors. A memorable afternoon. Grazie. Karen Kotoske

  6. Gian Banchero

    Ahh, memories… “Memories” because I’ve experienced castagne fests with non-homoginized family wines many, many times in Italian kitchens heated by wood stoves, most times going from vino to grappa (“Gioia, gioia!!”), always it looking like the last photo above… What a wonderful experience!! How much I long for those good honest wines of my families in Piemonte and Sicilia, good wines with a lot of character that reflect the local topography, weather and artistry of the vintner, as such those were true wine tastings where several vintners would gather to compare i vini, “Oh, this bottle is from near the apple orchard, can you taste the apples?” or “This bottle is from near the river, can you taste how ‘wet’ it is?”, etc. etc., this cannot be said about the (homogenized) wines found on store shelves… CASTAGNE E VINO, the glory of it all!!! Grazie, grazie, gioia, gioia!!

  7. umberto levrini

    how well i remember my father and how he would cut the castagne-he was a shoe maker and he had a knife with a curved blade for cutting leather and he would cut a cross on each chestnut before placing them on the iron stove top,it chokes me up when i think of those happy times -now they are all gone and i sit here with my memories-those were the times my friends!!!

  8. Anne Robichaud

    Umberto, yes, yes, Peppa and other farm friends slit the top of the chestnut with small knife, making a cross! Where was your father from? Where did he head in the U.S.?

  9. My father and grandfather also always slit chestnuts with a small knife, making a cross.
    Umberto, don’t be sad, at least you have all the rich wonderful memories. Imagine so many other people sitting alone, sad, and no memories to comfort them.
    Nice article.

  10. Frank and Brit

    Hi Annie,
    Thanks for the stories about San Martino. They brought to mind the November when you brought us to the sagra on top of a hill outside Assisi. Peppa and her neighbors were cooking for about a hundred people. We still remember the dinner: salumi and cheese bread, polenta with sausages and spuntatura, clementines, and roasted chestnuts. All the food you could eat and all the wine you could drink. Thanks again for the memories.

    Frank and Brit

  11. Your article brought back wonderful memories of my father slitting the castagne, soaking them for awhile, some would get a little too crispy, but I loved the crunch! Thank you.

  12. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, Marianna, for your note!
    We always celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday following – and this year, adding some chestnuts to the stuffing – roasted ones which we had leftover from San Martino, soaked in wine (the “Peppa way”!)

  13. The process to making and growing these foods is true labor! But the folks are willing to do it for the good of their family! And the good of their people.

  14. Anne Robichaud

    Aeriel, yes, and as Nadia a culinary historian said to me recently at a white truffle fair, “Food is a
    language, a way of communicating and enthusiasm must be added to its
    preparation and the serving to friends. You have to put your soul into
    food. Let us communicate over food. Smells, flavors, colors all
    transmit messages …. ”

    Buon appetito!


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