If you like necci, castagnaccio, fritelle and castagne be in Benabbio on 5th November.
The feasting begins at 2.00pm.
Lucchio is the village that clings to an almost vertical mountain side. At the top is La Rocca, the ruins of an old fort.
La Rocca was our first destination before seeking out the roasting chestnuts.
It is a steep climb to the top along a rocky path.
We passed an enthusiastic gardener digging his rich looking soil.
Onwards and upwards…
There are some steep steps to the very top.
There isn’t much of the fort left, just a few crumbling walls.
The views are stunning even on a misty, wet day.
A family found a great spot for a picnic.
We had lunch in the local restaurant, which had drawn a large crowd. Our 3 course lunch was delicious. I forgot to photograph the pasta course and the roast meat, but here is the antipasti.
The chestnuts were being roasted down by the church, so this time we headed down towards the bottom of the village. Not many people live in Lucchio these days, but the village is well loved by those who do live there. The streets are well maintained and clean. There are a few houses for sale, just in case you are looking for a quiet life with great views.
The church was open and later there was to be a concert.
The chestnut roasting was well underway by the time we got there. I have acquired a taste for necci with ricotta, and this was the best I have had.
The road down offers glimpses of Lucchio through the trees.
We recently attended the chestnut festival in Castelnuovo. It was a beautiful day and we were the first on the bus to take us from the town to the fortified area above the town where chestnuts were being roasted and crowds were beginning to gather.
We were eager to try the roasted chestnuts and the fritelle made from both regular flour and chestnut flour. A little bonus was the warm spiced wine that came with them.
Inside the main building was a display of local mushrooms, separated into edible, edible, but they taste awful and dangerous…don’t ever eat!
Here are some of the edible ones.
These may not hurt you, but they won’t be delicious.
Don’t pick and eat anything from the next group.
It was a great display. I would never be brave enough to gather mushrooms myself. I would only go with an expert, but it was really interesting to see the collection which had been put together with much care.
There was a sculpture display as well. This one left me feeling a bit twisted.
Don’t miss these local festivals. Each one is different and lot of fun.
Chestnuts have been an important part of the lives of the people of Italy for centuries. In times of famine they saved people from starvation. The trees provide wood for building, furniture and to burn for fuel.
There are approximately 850,000 hectares of chestnut forests in Italy, and around 39,500 hectares in the Lucca province alone.
So it is alarming that there is a disease attacking chestnut trees. Chestnut blight, or Endothia parasitica first appeared in 1938, but it the last few years the problem seems to be growing.
The disease appears a a lump at the base of the leaves.
The leaves die and the tree is then unable to produce chestnuts.
Let’s hope scientists can come up with a cure for this destructive disease. Apart from anything else, chestnut trees are beautiful. It is a delight to drive through chestnut forests in the mountains around Bagni di Lucca.
Autumn is chestnut gathering time in the Garfagnana. I went with Heather from Sapori-e-Saperi to visit the chestnut forest and metato (drying hut) belonging to Bruno Bertoncini in the Garfagnana, the mountain area near Bagni di Lucca.
Bruno’s chestnut forest is beautiful, and it shows what the cultivated chestnut forest looked like. These days they are mostly wild and not cleared as they used to be. Obviously if the trees are cared for they will give better chestnuts.
It has been a difficult growing season this year. Some of Bruno’s trees have blossomed 3 times instead of just once, as they should.
This tree has new growth and flowers at a time when the fruit should be ripe….strange.
There are many types of chestnuts, some are better for flour, some have better keeping qualities and some are good for roasting.
Before chestnuts can be ground to make flour they need to be dried. Bruno has a gorgeous metato which was busy drying chestnuts when we arrived. The nuts are dried for about 40 days. The fire has to be kept burning at just the right temperature for all this time.
The fire burns on the ground floor of the hut and the chestnuts are above the fire on a slatted floor.
The delightful Bruno told us lots of interesting things about chestnuts. He is a man who clearly enjoys his work.
The trees are pruned regularly. Here is a tree which has been pruned and has regrown.
I think Bruno has a delightful office. I’m sure the work is not easy, but imagine going to work here each day.
Bruno has a wonderful agriturismo called Collettino, near his chestnut forest where guests can stay in comfort and immerse themselves in this beautiful area.
And now for a few more chestnut photos.
The annual chestnut festival hosted by the Gruppo Alpini and the Borgo Artisti was held on Sunday in the lovely park beside Villa Fiori. It was a gorgeous autumn day and the chestnuts were roasting.
In times of famine and in the lean years after WWII chestnuts formed an important part of the local diet……they deserve to be celebrated.
As well as roasted chestnuts, necci (chestnut pancakes) were served with ricotta, sausage or nutella. The pancakes are cooked between 2 flat pans over a flame.
There was also pasta fritta….pasta dough deep fried and salted…..too delicious for words.
There was a small collection of chestnut memorabilia, including a wonderful old photo of men dehusking chestnuts.
And the stomping shoes.
There was a tiny chestnut cottage made by one of the local artists.
There was art in the park.
And some very concentrated pumpkin painting.
It was a fun day……don’t miss these local events.