Sunday, October 22, 2017

Two free necci, wine, a fox and a new moon at a chestnut sagra in Vellano

I wouldn’t recommend arriving late to a sagra on its final day and on the only day it has really rained all month. Yet somehow it worked out well for us. After church today, we drove to Cerreto Guidi to see a museum that Google lists as open from 4-7 p.m. on Sunday. It was not open, with very different hours posted on its door, and so we decided to go instead to the Sagra Delle Frugiate in Vellano, near Pescia. We didn’t know what Frugiate were, and Google failed us on that one as well. No translation was listed, but we could see from the poster that it was something made with chestnuts.

A large geode at a mining
museum in Vellano.
The poster said the distribution of frugiate began at 2 p.m., and we arrived a little after 5:30 p.m. It started raining as soon as we left the car, so we went first to the museum of miners and quarrymen, if for no other reason than to get out of the rain but also because it was free on the day of the sagra. We saw an interesting display of mining tools and minerals, and when we went to leave, the rain stopped. The museum curator told us that there were two piazzas selling chestnut snacks, but he warned that they might be closing early because of the weather.

We hiked up the hill to the necci stand, but the group of about 15 people who had been running the concession said they had just closed. Now they were in a community hall listening to music, chatting and drinking wine. Sensing we were disappointed, one of the men checked with a lady named Giorgia, who said there was one neccio left and we were welcome to it. The man invited us inside and we were served not only the neccio but also given two plastic cups of wine. A neccio (the plural is necci) is kind of like a pancake made with chestnut flour and spread with either ricotta or nutella and then rolled up like a crêpe. Since the stand has closed and the volunteers were all just socializing at the end of the day, we weren’t changed anything. Of course, we offered our hearty thanks, telling everyone they were molto gentile, very kind.

When we found our way to the other piazza, it was still open, but just barely. We bought two sugar-coated bambole, which were a lot like doughnuts, and then we looked at the other offerings and asked to buy a castagnaccio, something we had never had before. Sold out. So was the frugiate. All they had left was the necci. We declined, since we had already had one. We did ask what frugiate were, and the lady explained that they were basically roasted chestnuts. We walked over to finish our bambole and look at the huge kettle that had been used for roasting the chestnuts. It still had a small fire going under it, but no more chestnuts.

Then the lady who had explained what frugiate meant walked up to us with a warm neccio filled with ricotta. It was closing time, and she wanted us to have the last one. We sat down and shared another neccio and drank the last of our wine. It was getting dark, but the sky had cleared up and the evening was mild.

As we drove home, we still had two more special moments. Driving on a rough and curvy detour, we saw a fox, peeking out at us from some brush. Moments later, we saw the new moon hanging just over a little hilltop town that I think is Medicina. We stopped the car and Lucy took a timed exposure that came out well, though naturally seeing it in person was even better. All in all, it was a great day, even if we missed seeing the museum. It actually would have been good enough even if we had arrived too late for the sagra, because just driving on the back roads of Tuscany is still a treat for us.

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