What does autumn mean for you?
When I think about autumn, there are some images that always come to my mind: the fire burning for the first time in the season, walking on a carpet of crunchy leaves, going into the woods to hunt for some mushrooms, and eating the first roasted chestnuts.
I was born and raised in the countryside, I have lived in the city for a brief period of my life and then I returned to the place where I was born. This means that I have always been in very close contact with nature and that the changing of the seasons is really important for me.
There is no place like the countryside to really feel the wheel of the year roll by. This is even truer if you have a dog, like I do, and are forced to spend time outside way more than you sometimes would like to. Moreover, I have had a vegetable garden for all my life basically, so the changing of the seasons is deeply rooted in my life.
Living in the countryside and having a vegetable garden means that you perfectly know the seasonality of food. As I always say, I would never eat strawberries or tomatoes in December nor oranges or kiwis in July. This is something that my mother has taught me and I think I would never behave differently.
After all, isn’t it more pleasant to wait for a certain season to eat a specific type of food?
It’s the same enthusiasm we feel for the coming of pumpkin spice latte, isn’t it? (With the only difference that I don’t get to be excited because I live in Italy and there is no pumpkin spice latte here). As I said, the changing of the season is associated with many things for me but food is probably the most important of them all. Autumn means pumpkins, mushrooms, and chestnuts, obviously.
Chestnuts, le castagne in Italian, are definitely one of the most beloved foods of the season. So much so that, come October, some sort of frenzy starts taking place, here in Italy. It’s time for the castagnata and every town begins to prepare for this celebration.
Don’t get me wrong, la castagnata is nothing fancy, it is a very low-key celebration, una festa alla buona, as we say in Italian, but all Italians love it very much and never miss it. In the area where I live, every single town has its own castagnata, most of them take place in October, which means that every Sunday afternoon you have at least a couple of places you can choose to go and eat roasted chestnuts.
In fact, as you may have guessed, the main food served at la castagnata is roasted chestnuts. The event is usually organized by non-profit local associations that take care of preparing chestnuts and selling them. Chestnuts are roasted in big pans over an open fire and this is usually done by some retired guys – it’s a man’s job, you know.
Chestnuts are then sold in small bags for a few euros and you can eat them directly in the square where the castagnata is held, drinking red wine. Sometimes you can also have other types of food, like salty and sweet fritters and some traditional sweets – depending on the area where you are. La castagnata usually takes place around 4 pm and this makes it a perfect merenda!
Sometimes there is music, sometimes there are dances, sometimes it is just a time to be together and enjoy the food of the season. It’s a very simple way of celebrating but I love it dearly because it is a way to eat good, local food and just be part of your community.
What are the autumn traditions in your country? Do you have celebrations of this kind?
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!