In the Santerno Valley, not far from Imola, every year the chestnut groves in the towns of Castel del Rio, Fontanelice, Casalfiumanese, and Borgo Tossignano yield an age-old fruit with a sweet, crunchy flesh: the PGI Marrone di Castel del Rio chestnut.
Produced by the Castanea Sativa Mill. species, this fruit has fed generations of local families for centuries.
The chestnut tree first began growing on the Apennines around the year 1000 through the efforts of the monastic orders, and has since taken on a key role in sustaining the inhabitants of the area, so much so that it has come to be known as albero del pane, the bread tree.
Unlike other varieties of chestnuts, the PGI Marrone di Castel del Rio chestnut and marroni chestnuts in general are characterised by certain specific attributes: they are sweeter and more fragrant, and encapsulate all the aromas of the woods they grow in; they are larger in size and unlike other chestnuts, their brown skin and thin, inner film are very easy to remove.
The Museo del Castagno museum in Castel del Rio recounts all the details of this little fruit, from the land on which the trees grow to a description of the natural properties of chestnut trees.
PGI Marroni di Castel del Rio chestnuts are the main ingredients of preserves and typical desserts, first and foremost the castagnaccio, a cake made from chestnut flour. They can also be found in pasta dishes, such as in the filling for capaltaz stuffed pasta, which are similar in shape to cappelletti pasta from Romagna, and in meat-based main courses, such as pheasant with chestnuts.
At the Sagra del Marrone di Castel del Rio harvest festival, not only can you sample many other dishes, but you can also buy chestnuts at the market too.