Benevolent Chestnut Woods
Chestnut woods, present in the province in “islands”, createdelightful settings for walks in October, although picking chestnuts is notespecially easy as the weather is not particularly mild at the time and they often grow clinging to craggy slopes.
Chestnut picking however is popular with young and old alike, especially in the upper Marecchia Valley near Talamello, Uffogliano, Perticara, San Leo and Casteldelci and in the Conca Valley in Montefiore Conca and Gemmano.
In October in bothvalleys, in Talamello and Montefiore Conca, fairs and fetes are held to honour chestnuts with guided visits for picking organized. The locations are easy to find and in some cases it is possible to reach an agreement with the owners of the land for a day’s picking.
On Mount Faggeto in Montefiore is one of the province’s most important woods, thanks to the presence of very old trees and particularly rare flora set in an environment of particular significance. Other chestnut woods that form the nucleus of Montefiore are those of Case Suore, Mount Maggiore and Mount Auro.
Uffogliano near Novafeltria is home to the best-knownchestnut wood in the Marecchia Valley, called the Chestnut Tree Jungle,where the ancient castle or “castellaccio” once stood on a rocky spur. The entire ridge is covered in dense woods and the ruins of the castle are overgrown with vegetation in places.
Some even larger chestnut woods can be found on Mount Pincio in Talamello, on Mount Ercole and on Mount Benedetto popular years ago with gunpowder smugglers who sheltered there with the Pope’sgendarmes first and then those of the Reign of Italy on their heels.
Lastly,the chestnut woods of Casteldelci are characteristic of mountain life anda source of subsistence. The introduction of the cultivation of chestnuts can probablybe traced to monks who settled in the valleys during the Middle Ages, although it may date to as early as the Roman era. Sustenance was not the only benefit the local population obtained from chestnut trees.
Expansion of their cultivation was favoured by other key activities including the extraction of sulphur in the Marecchia Valley. To support the galleries that were a few hundred metres deep, chestnut wood props and beams wereused as it is one of the most durable woods found in Europe.
With the arrival of the industrial era, chestnut wood lost muchof its importance. The fruit-bearing trees, often struck down by seriousdiseases, were abandoned and in the years following the Second World War gradual well-being reduced the age-old link that existed between man and chestnuts.
Their cultivation was thus relegated to an increasinglylimited area and carried on by just a few enthusiasts.