Sunday was the first roast chestnut event this Autumn held outside Aristo’s bar in Piazza Salvo Salvi – and once again, a perfect example of the community in action, and why we are so lucky to be able to live here.
Seemingly out of nowhere, without a huge amount of organisation, wood for the fire was brought into the piazza. Two specially prepared metal drums to contain the fires were transported in and a sack containing 25 kg of the finest local chestnuts, was opened up and people of all ages sat outside the bar started to prepare the chestnuts ready for roasting.
Four long handled chestnut roasting pans were brought in by various people, the fires were lit* and roasting started in earnest.
The Aristodemo’s arrived one by one, set up their gear, their brand of Italian swing started to fill the piazza, flasks of red wine were handed round, and the festa was off and running.
Incredible how these things happen, nobody really is in charge of organising, but somehow, almost organically, these festas take off.
As darkness descended on the piazza, the chestnuts were replaced by a grill and the smell of fragrant sausages gently cooking filled the piazza.
Somebody appeared with a large plate of castagnaccio, a local sweet delicacy made from chestnut flour (a recipe for castagnaccio can be found here) , somebody else walked into the piazza bearing a freshly baked cake and the musicians played on.
Inside Aristo’s bar people could be found preparing ingredients for Necci …. sweet chestnut flour, water and salt mixed into a thick paste and cooked between two hot plates over a flame. Two metal plates, the testi or cotte, are oiled and heated and the chestnut paste is poured onto one of the plates, the other is placed over the top so that the necci can be cooked from both sides. A stick to press down on the top plate and in seconds you have one of the tastiest foods in this area (add some ricotta and you have quite simply the Food of Gods)
Only at 10 o’clock in the evening after the piazza was swept clean, the tables rearranged and the glasses taken inside did the participants of Sunday’s social event reluctantly, very reluctantly finally relinquish the piazza – until the next time
* the fires were lit at least three times before they finally started to do the job they were designed for and then only because of the professional work by some members of the Gatti Randagi group (their site can be seen here ) – thanks boys !
painter and photographer - started barganews.com, the first on line news site in Tuscany, Italy back in 1996