Sweet chestnut flour of Villa Basilica

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 12:32

Products
Mountain
Fruits and Vegetables

The chestnut flour of Villa Basilica, called neccio flour or sweet flour in these parts, was the so-called bread of the poor, or rather, of those who lived in the mountains. It has a hazelnut colour and a sweet taste, very aromatic thanks to the varieties of chestnuts used (carpinese and pastinese). Sometimes the Lucignana and Silvana varieties are also used; the latter is characterised by its marked sweetness.

The first historical information about chestnut cultivation in Villa Basilica dates back to before the year 1000. Since a large part of the population fed on chestnut flour, around 1500 the Duchy of Lucca was forced to issue a special ban on cutting chestnut groves, whose wood was used as fuel for local forges dedicated to iron smelting and the production of swords, an art that made several families from Villa Basilica famous throughout Europe.

Nowadays flour is used almost exclusively for confectionery production, but in the past, until the 1930s and 1940s, it was one of the basic foods for the diet and sustenance of the rural populations. For this reason it is a product strongly rooted in the local culture, so much so that from its processing we obtain various typical local products, such as the classic necci, the neccio or chestnut cake, the neccio fritters, the vinata (chestnut flour polenta with wine) and others.

The production of the flour is the classic one with the drying of the chestnuts in the metato (a rural construction, in stone and lime, on two floors, of variable dimensions), the cleaning and the milling in the mills with stone grinders. The mills still present in the territory, all working with hydraulic power and unfortunately for the most part abandoned, date back to before 1500; one of these, the "Mulino delle Fredi", which is located near the village of Pariana, is instead still working and its restructuring dates back to 1917.