Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall in Tuscany

chestnut.jpgAutumn is one of my favorite times in Tuscany. The leaves are changing color in the hills, also on the trees lining the city boulevards. The air is becoming cool and crisp, and the days shorter. It is time to prepare for the upcoming winter months.
Grapes are harvested in September, and olives are plucked from the trees in late October. Chestnuts are in season.

The grape harvest brings an array of sights and smells at local wineries. Once the grapes are harvested, fermentation begins. 

The smell of grapes fills the air. Large tanks are pumping and churning the new grapes to turn them into wine...

The olive harvest starts in late October in Tuscany. Their oil is considered an early harvest extra virgin, because they pick the olives while they are still young and firm. The early harvest results in a fruity, peppery olive oil.

The chestnuts. Oh, the chestnuts. There are entire festivals to celebrate these rich, healthy little guys. My favorite food festival, or sagra, is in a town called Marradi, toward the end of October. A steam train leaves from the central station of Florence, and takes you north toward the region of Emiglia Romagna, weaving through tunnels, in and out of valleys…and arriving in adorable Marradi.

At the festival, you can try all kinds of foods made with chestnuts. Castagnaccio, a dessert made with chestnut flour and often raisins, pine nuts… it depends, as every family has their own recipe and claims theirs to be the recipe…

Purists can have roasted chestnuts, my personal favorite. When roasted, the chestnuts become sweet and almost meaty.

Shop Window Showing off Autumn Treats
A great combination is roasted chestnuts and new wine, called vin(o) novello in Italy. The new wine is literally brand new, no aging has ocured, so it is not going to last long- sip it with the roasted chestnuts to cleanse your mouth.

Another occasion not to miss in Tuscany during the fall:
A walk on the walls of Lucca. The wall circles the historic part of Lucca, and has a tree lined path where you can walk, ride a bike (rentals available near tourist office), or bring a picnic and watch the locals talking and playing cards at picnic tables. I love walking under the trees as they lose their leaves this time of year.

Lucca's pizza shops often serve castagniaccio and cecina, which are both great sources of protein and fiber and fantastic to eat on a cool day after a walk or bike ride on the wall.

If you have access to a car or are staying with a friend, be sure to visit a sagra (see the video below). There are sagre in small towns all over Italy, usually celebrating truffles, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, cherries, wild boar, duck, crostini and several other seasonal and regional specialties.

Sagra Video:

Enjoy this special time of year.

Happy Trails to All,

(Originally published on, Slightly updated for today's blog entry).
 Original published By Toni Mazzaglia from Florence, on October 11th, 2007 Watch GeoBeats videos of Toni

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