Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Autumn in Stresa: Foodies Paradise!

I always know that Autumn is here when you see signs along the lake for "Castagnata" (Roast Chestnuts). Local associations in every town or village share equipment and take it in turns to host the local castagnata over two or three weekends in October.

Strolling through the market to the Castagnata
Stresa is no excpetion and on Sunday 7th October Luca and I strolled along the lakefront to one of the two castagnate taking place.

This week it was the turn of Stresa's volunteer fire fighters. There was an artisan market too and as we strolled past the stalls a smoky chestnut and bbq aroma was in the air! Luca quickened his step so that I wouldn't be distracted by the handicraft stalls and local produce.

Everyone enjoying their sausage, polenta and roast chestnuts!
It was a warm and sunny Autumn day and the square was buzzing with activity. The trestle tables were already full and there was a good queue at the "Cassa" (cash desk). As with other local food festivals you choose what you'd like at the cassa and then take your tickets to the various food and drink stations.

Queuing up for roast chestnuts
We went for our usual of a sausage sandwich and a couple of bags of roast chestnuts and took a seat on the edge of the port. That's when I knew it was Autumn. We always sit in the same place and have the same food on the same weekend at the end of season every year. I think it's become a our tradition .... and I love it! The grilled sausage was juicy, the bread roll light and floury and the chestnuts roasted to perfection! The ducks and birds were loving it too, as there were plenty of crumbs and burnt bits of chestnut to be had. Our eyes are always bigger than our bellies so left over chestnuts went in with squash and rosemary to make a very yummy risotto last night!

Stresa's Volunteer Fire Fighters cooking up a storm!
As I said above, the event was run by Stresa's volunteer fire fighters as a fund-raising activity and proceeds go towards new equipment. The Stresa branch of volunteer fire fighters was founded in 1924 when volunteers used to hear about incidents via a loud siren that could be heard all across town. There are about 20 volunteers but at events such as Sunday everyone pulls together and retired members pitch in. They respond to approximately 400 incidents a year including fires, road traffic accidents, search and rescue and even getting rid of hornets nests! 

Roasting the chestnuts
Next weekend (October 14th) it will be the turn of Stresa's Alpine Troops Assocation and I hope to be sat in the same place with my sausage sandwich then too!

If you weren't/aren't able to be in Stresa for either of the castagnate then don't despair  There are more foodie events coming up: Stresa Chocolate Festival 3-4 November, Car Rally with local produce and artisan market 11 November and Stresa Gorgonzola Festival 18 November!

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci


  1. the chestnut and squash risotto sounds delicious! sounds like you had a great time and always fun to create new Italian traditions like this...

    1. Hi Anna - it was! One of those throw it together and hope it works moments :)