In a world of bustling cities and modern conveniences, it’s easy to forget the deep-rooted traditions and communal bonds that have sustained small villages for generations. Last year, I had the privilege of connecting with the Cooperativa Torrano Domani and embarked on a remarkable journey in the picturesque mountain village of Torrano, nestled in the heart of Lunigiana in northern Tuscany. This journey not only opened our eyes to the rich Italian culture but also allowed us to uncover a unique tradition hidden in the castagneto forest. Torrano is a small, mountainous village that captures the essence of rural Italy. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, and the community thrives on the values of togetherness and tradition. The cooperativa Torrano Domani, a local cooperative committed to preserving the village’s heritage and fostering sustainable development, invited us to partake in a special project that would immerse us in Torrano’s way of life.
Our journey began with a three-week coliving and coworking experience, an opportunity to collaborate with both locals and fellow travelers while experiencing the authentic culture of Lunigiana. It was during this time that we were introduced to the true spirit of the village. One Sunday afternoon, Maurizio from Torrano Domani guided our little group of Digital Nomads and Remote Workers on a journey through the castagneto forest. “Castagneto” translates to chestnut, and this place held a special significance in the history of Torrano. As we ventured deeper into the forest, we were captivated by the magical play of sunlight filtering through the leaves, the twisted trunks of ancient trees, and the forest floor adorned with lush ferns.
Chestnut Cultivation and Harvest - Community and Tradition
Maurizio shared with us the age-old tradition of chestnut cultivation and harvest that had sustained the village for generations. In Torrano, chestnuts were more than just a food source; they were a way of life. In autumn, families and villagers would come together to collect chestnuts from the towering trees. These chestnuts were then taken to small stone huts in the forest, called “gradile”. Inside the gradile, a fire was kindled on the ground floor. The chestnuts, placed on the first floor of the hut, would slowly dry due to the heat rising from below through a thin layer of wooden sticks. This process took nearly a month, and the fire had to be vigilantly tended to throughout. The gradile became the central gathering points for families and villagers during this time. The evenings spent around these fires were nothing short of magical. Villagers would come together to make music, dance, and share stories. In an age of constant connectivity, this tradition offered a profound reminder of the importance of human connection. So, what became of these dried chestnuts? They were transformed into chestnut flour, a precious ingredient used in many traditional Italian dishes, including bread and pasta. This flour not only sustains the local cuisine but also carries the flavors of tradition and history in every bite.
Preserving the Past for the Future
Today, the Cooperativa Torrano Domani is working tirelessly to rebuild one of the gradiles and restore it to its former state. The goal is not just to preserve tradition but also to re-establish the space for community gatherings, reigniting the spirit of togetherness that once thrived around the chestnut fires. In a rapidly changing world, it’s vital to preserve the stories and traditions that have shaped communities like Torrano for centuries. By sharing this enchanting tale of the castagneto forest and the heartwarming traditions of Torrano, we hope to contribute to the preservation of Italian culture and encourage others to explore the hidden gems in small villages like Torrano.
Our journey into the heart of Torranos castagneto forest was a transformative experience that reminded us of the beauty and value of tradition and community. We hope that by sharing this story, we can help ensure that the regional traditions are remembered and recognised.