A WALK IN THE WOODS IS A GREAT WAY TO SAVOR THE AUTUMN AND REDISCOVER TRADITIONS, LIKE THE CASTAGNEA CHESTNUT FESTIVAL ON 18 OCTOBER, WITH TASTINGS AND OTHER LOCAL INITIATIVES
Sometimes even a simple task can be a good excuse for organizing a nice day out. Gathering the fruits of the season in the woods, for example, is a perfect “mission” if you want a good walk. And doing it in autumn is a wonderful experience, because the mountains are in a generous mood, beckoning us to rediscover old traditions and recipes at tastings and other events dedicated to the flavors of autumn, such as the festival at Castagnea on 18 October (see below for info).
AUTUMN MAGIC: CHESTNUTS and FOLIAGE In Oasi Zegna – little more than an hour away from Turin and Milan by car – there’s certainly no lack of paths and itineraries for autumn walks. This is one of the most enchanting times of the year here, thanks to the warm hues of the autumnfoliage that give a magical air to the landscape. CASTAGNEA FESTIVAL This is a keenly awaited event in our territory. On Sunday 18 October, the Oro di Berta, a farmstay at Castagnea (Portula), is organizing a sweet chestnut and cakes tasting, with a menu celebrating the flavors of autumn. There will also be guided tours of the woods, between 10.00 e 15.00. If you decide to explore the area on your own, don’t forget that the “chestnutting” event, where sweet chestnuts, freshly pressed apple juice and cakes will be distributed, is from 12.00 to 16.00. The lunch menu (by reservation only) includes a starter, minestra ciornia (a soup of chestnuts, rice and milk), polenta with stewed meat or toma (cheese) and a dessert. You can do the whole menu or choose just one dish, or even opt for a takeaway (this too is by reservation only). There’s also a special menu for kids. For info and booking, contact Oro di Berta: tel. 015.756501, email@example.com. CHESTNUT GATHERING: WHEN AND WHERE Mid-October to mid-November is the ideal period for going chestnutting. And Oasi Zegna is rich in sweet chestnuts that will give you great satisfaction. We recommend three main areas: along the Brughiera path, the zone between Castagnea and Santuario della Novareia and around Cascina Caruccia. THE "CASTAGNA BIELLESE” BRAND Don’t forget though that the “crop” varies from year to year, often appreciably so. This is a characteristic of the sweet chestnut that doesn’t depend on environmental factors: the trees alternate between abundant and leaner years. Once a staple in the economy of our mountain communities, the sweet chestnuts in the Biella and Valsessera area have been enjoying something of a revival in recent years: first with the founding of the association "lj maron and l'arbo", then the creation of a single sweet chestnut cultivation chain and, in 2011, the registering of the “Castagna biellese” trademark, which identifies and valorizes the quality chestnut varieties of the area. A WORD OF ADVICE: WATCH OUT FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY Ripe chestnuts fall to the ground, but be careful: some trees are on private property, where it is forbidden to gather chestnuts. THE SWEET CHESTNUT: AUTUMN QUEEN OF THE KITCHEN In addition to splendid landscapes, autumn invites us to rediscover the flavors of the past and its traditional recipes. Sweet chestnuts, along with mushrooms, are the big attractions at table, being key ingredients in numerous recipes such as those in “I menù dell’Oasi Zegna” by Mina Novello, who explains in this recipe, for example, how to make an excellent chestnut pudding.