I'm on a secret mission. After a sleepless night I mustered the courage to do something I'm not supposed to do. At least according to my Tuscan native. I'm going to blog about MONTICELLO's FESTA DELLA CASTAGNA (the local chestnut festival). But shhhhh, don't you dare telling my better half! If you insist in reading this blog certain things will just have to stay between you and me.
Never heard of the notorious Tuscan Campanilismo? If you want to experience it for real come to Cinigiano. Part of the council's territory includes Monticello. A miserable and cold little village on top of an unwelcoming mountain, populated by a bunch of half-wits.
Which is my Tuscan native's description of the town, who - it goes without saying - is not from Monticello. He is from Cinigiano, pure blood. And his statement is in line with the view of the rest of the Cinigianesi - the 500 people who were fortunate enough to have been born and raised a full 10 kilometers further down the road. And NOT in shabby Monticello where all they have to eat (or at least used to have to it) are/were chestnuts. This explains the theme of the festival.
But as you know we Swiss are neutral. We never take sides. Therefore, as long as my Tuscan native is out of ear shot I'm happy to tell you this: Monticello is quite amazingly beautiful. Look at it, how it's majestically towering over the surrounding chestnut groves. Add the medieval town center and incredible views over some of Southern Tuscany's finest landscapes, and one is tempted to call it (even) more beautiful than Cinigiano - shhhh!
So quite apart from any Campanilismo: if you want to learn about Italian chestnuts in general, about the chestnut varieties found around Mount Amiata in particular and about the 101 ways of preparing them - the Festa della Castagna in Monticello is just your place.
And if you like the way the Monticellesi prepare their chestnuts, don't feel shy. Tell them. Remember, poor souls, it's all they have.
FESTA DELLA CASTAGNA, MONTICELLO AMIATA
Saturday and Sunday 8th - 9th of October 2011 (the festival is a yearly evento always taking place on the second weekend of October).
It's all go from 10am - till late at night. Different chestnut varieties, local food, a local produce market, live music and street artists. Plus lovely signed out walks that lead through the beautiful surrounding chestnut groves.
If you want to meet the Italian chestnut culture, October is the perfect month to do so. Tuscany is throwing one chestnut festival after the other. In Southern Tuscany the ones in Monticello, Arcidosso, Vivo d'Orcia and Abbadia San Salvatore are the most popular. A few of them celebrate mushrooms (porcini) season in the same go.
For the chestnut festivals further North check out Tuscanicious' article about the Italian chestnut frenzy.