Chestnuts are Back in Fashion in Italy

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Discover the pleasures of this local product celebrated in October with festivals and fairs in medieval towns of Garfagnana, in Tuscany.

Gastronomy has its historical vogues and "comebacks" like everything else. Foods and drinks once considered "humble" are now enjoying a new respect in Italy, and are featured in menus of trendy restaurants, as well as being utilized by celebrated chefs in creative combinations, such as scampi and lobster. This is the case with the chestnut, recently rediscovered and appreciated for its versatility, making it a good accompaniment for both sweet and savoury dishes.

The Albergo Villa Marta is very close to Lucca, and ideal for visiting the Garfagnana, one of the areas in Tuscany where the ancient art of chestnut cultivation is most widespread. In October, numerous fairs and festivals featuring the chestnut are held in various towns and villages in the region, sometimes combined with other fine products from the area, such as chocolate, honey, mushrooms, truffles and wine. To honour this delicious nut, the Botton d'Oro restaurant in the Hotel Villa Marta offers Crespelle (crêpes) made with chestnut flour and filled with fresh ricotta cheese as a starter on its October menu, with Castagnaccio (chestnut cake) and persimmon sauce as a dessert.

The typical local products of the Garfagnana area are famous throughout the world. Tradition and respect for the old way of doing things feature strongly in this area, even among young people who have gone back to the ancient cultivating activities; in addition to chestnuts, these include the famous PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) Garfagnana emmer (a type of wild wheat) and "granturco formenton" (a type of maize). Special mention should be made of the mushroom experts who, at various times of year, bring the best Garfagnini porcini mushrooms that a dedicated gourmet could wish for to restaurant tables and homes in the area!

Recipe: Tortellacci di Marroni (pasta with chestnut filling)
Ingredients for six people:
Sheet of pasta made with three eggs (300g flour)
For the stuffing: 200g freshly boiled, puréed chestnuts, 100g chopped mortadella sausage, 100g grated parmesan, pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.
For the sauce: parsley, chives, summer savory, marjoram, porcini mushrooms, half a clove of garlic finely chopped.

The history of chestnut dates back to medieval times
Population increases in the Middle Ages in Tuscany led to the need for peasant farmers to make use of woodland areas where they grew chestnut trees to feed the people. From the end of the 1950s, the chestnut suffered a marked decline as the mountainous areas gradually became depopulated and changes began to take place in eating habits. But since the early 1990s there has been a revival, particularly as regards the production of chestnut flour, known in this area as "Farina di neccio".

In Garfagnana, in autumn the chestnuts are gathered by hand and dried for forty days in "metati" (structures made of wood and stone) where the fire is fuelled exclusively with chestnut wood. After careful sorting by hand, the dried chestnuts are ground using stone mills to produce the flour with its soft, delicate fragrance, used to make the traditional polenta, or cakes such as castagnaccio or "necci".

The charm of the Hotel Villa Marta
The Hotel Villa Marta, just a few kilometres from Lucca, is a very elegant 4-star country resort managed by Andrea and Alessia Martinelli, a husband and wife team. It is a former hunting lodge, set in the midst of the Lucca countryside in the heart of Tuscany, with a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere created largely by the thoughtful, welcoming and attentive hospitality which Andrea and Alessia provide to their guests. The hotel is in a strategic position, just ten minutes by car from Lucca's historic centre, 20 minutes from Pisa and about an hour from Florence. The hotel has Classic, Superior and Deluxe double rooms and a pool where guests can cool off during the summer. The elegant Botton d'Oro restaurant offers traditional Lucca cuisine, with Tuscan antipasti, Florentine T-bone steaks, and aubergine ravioli.

The hotel has bicycles available which guests can use to explore the surrounding hills.

Prices for a classic double room at the Albergo Villa Marta range from 110 to 160 euros per night, depending on the season, including breakfast.

Albergo Villa Marta - Via del Ponte Guasperini 873 - Loc. San Lorenzo a Vaccoli - 55100 Lucca
Tel +39.0583.370101 - Fax +39.0583.379999
E-mail -

Press office Marina Tavolato, Travel Marketing, Rome
Telephone +39.06.822940 - Mobile +39.333.1299646 - e-mail

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