Tuscany’s chestnut festivals are a sweet taste of autumn
Chestnuts have been growing in Tuscany for centuries and have long been a cucina povera staple here and in other mountainous regions across Italy. Their low moisture levels and dense carbohydrate count make them an excellent survival food, and along with other simple staples like polenta, chestnuts were essential to residents in the Apennines of central Italy through WWII and the early post-war years.
Abundantly growing chestnuts also help make the area’s heritage pork products taste so distinctive, as the piggies graze on the chestnuts that fall to the forest floor where they roam. Today, what was once a symbol of collective struggle is a local delicacy, and you’ll find chestnuts made into pasta, candied confections, jams, and even gelato. In some pockets of Tuscany, chestnuts are ground into castagnaccio, flat cakes baked with raisins and rosemary, or rich necci, chestnut-flour crepes stuffed with sheep’s milk ricotta. Chestnuts have a mild natural sweetness that lends itself well to dessert preparations but also adds luxurious dimension to pastas and other savory dishes.
As the chestnuts begin to fall in autumn, many villages across Tuscany celebrate this treasured culinary icon with a sagra (a local festival usually involving food, pageantry, and sports) or festa. Here are 5 can’t-miss chestnut events in the region to keep on your radar. Can’t make it to Tuscany for the festivities? Check out the decadent Italian chestnut products in the Giadzy shop!
The Mugello region, located north of Florence on the border of Emilia-Romagna, is a hidden culinary gem of Tuscany. Mugello is known for potato-stuffed pasta called tortelli, and this sagra celebrates their carb-on-carb dumplings with local foraged porcini mushrooms and chestnuts, locally referred to as marroni. Events take place every weekend from September 29–November 19, 2023.
In addition to the chestnut harvest, fall in Tuscany also brings another culinary delight: vino novello, the just-fermented new wine that comes soon after the grape harvest. At this aptly named festival in Firenzuola that takes place over two weekends in October, drink local fruity, inky red wine while you snack on cones filled with roasted chestnuts. (In the local dialect, the name refers to enjoying chestnuts and wine.)
At this truffle-focused festival in Montaione that usually takes place toward the end of October, you can enjoy a two-for-one fall experience with fragrant truffle dishes and rich chestnuts. A highlight is educational tasting events involving responsible open-fire roasting sponsored by one of the region’s forest conservation nonprofits.
The chestnut is joined by some delectable sidekicks like patisserie and dessert wine at this sweets-focused sagra celebrating chocolate and chestnuts in the Prato province on October 13. If that wasn’t appealing enough, local wine producers set up tasting stands where you can sample the lesser-known rich red, Bordeaux-like wines of the nearby Carmignano wine zone.
This is the ultimate chestnut event, taking place Sundays in October in the town of Marradi. Here, you’ll be able to taste chestnuts in every possible form, from roasted to candied marrons glacé, marmalades, honey, cakes, ravioli, and castagnaccio. It’s a carb-loaders paradise, complete with local folk bands and activities for the kids.