Chestnuts are one of the main products hailing from the mountainous, forested areas in Northern Tuscany, including the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana (the two areas share similar customs and traditions, and a similar cultural heritage that differs from that of the rest of Tuscany.)
Historically, the presence of chestnut trees has been traced back to the Roman Empire. As the local population grew, so did the number of trees, which reached their peak in the early 1800s. Because of their key role in feeding the local population, they were referred to as “the bread tree”.
Indeed, for centuries chestnuts represented a staple food and a source of readily-available energy. Inexpensive and abundant, their high digestibility, substantial sugar content and ability to be dried and stored made them the main way of sustenance for the area – not unlike rice or wheat elsewhere. So much so that, in time, the people of the Garfagnana developed a series of devices, techniques, customs and traditions that gave way to what many call the “civilization of the chestnut”.