With the arrival of Autumn, the Monte Amiata fills with colours, and chestnut dishes starts to fill the tables.
Every village dedicates to chestnut a festival and the one in Piancastagnaio is the most ancient and even the biggest one.
During the weekend around the 1st of November, the «Crastatone» is an event for both inhabitants and tourists.
I have never experienced it exactly as an inhabitant or as a tourist, but my experience was more between both, so I could enjoy the festival on one side and I have seen, on the other side, the hard work, the effort and especially the great care people put into it.
To reach Piancastagnaio during the «Crastatone» days is like being in another reality: the village is dressed in a new way, more country-style and friendly; preparations have already started a month before and the old village is completely decorated with chestnut tree branches and leaves, burs and bales of hay, and, sometimes, even some scarecrows appear.
During the day there are medieval shows – flag-wavers, pipers or other medieval musicians – and markets with handicrafts.
However, in this background, the main attractions are always the «cantine». Placed in the old village streets and alleys, the «cantine» are cozy places where you can find refreshment just with a glass of wine or a bag with «crastate» (roast chestnuts – that’s the origin of the festival name-). But the «cantine» are also the perfect place where to have lunch or dinner with old friends.
The «cantine» are managed by «Contrade» (districts) – Borgo, Castello, Coro and Voltaia- that, every year, take care of the organization and the menu, which is based on chestnut dishes and typical products that I think are very tasty.
The «Contrade» are always a bit competitive to each other, so they always try to improve themselves in everything.
Since 2009, to make challenges more interesting, there is a competition to see who achieves the best dish: to the winning «Contrada» is assigned the culinary prize «Monna Castagna».
Anyway, the «Crastatone» is also beautiful at night, because if you walk around you can smell the baked chestnuts and feel the warmth of the cantine and on every corner you can listen to many different kinds of music: local bands, more famous musicians, traditional songs and folk music, there is a big choice of variety for everyone.
Surely it is amusing every year, but especially in 2016 it’s the 50th anniversary of this chestnut festival and so, maybe, it is going to be extraordinary, but you should give it a try and find out on your own.
Meanwhile let’s hear the opinion of someone who knows how it feels to be part of a «Contrada»: “An inhabitant always realizes when it’s Crastatone time, because the village changes, it wears a new face, the air has a different smell made of crastate and grilled sausages. Each of us recognizes that smell: it’s party time, it’s the smell that lets you say: -Guys, it’s Crastatone!- ”