From ancient ages the high Santerno Valley territory has been an important crossroad for terrestrial transport of goods from Central Europe and from Asia to Florence and Rome. Around year 1000 A.D. in Tuscan-Romagnolian Apennins the cultivation of chestnut trees took the place of the oak woods.
While trading caravans crossed these lands, they could meet and estimate the quality and the taste of this typical local fruit. Such extraordinary fruits have been at the base of the local diet since Middle Age, when chestnut trees were called “bread trees”. The spreading of such a fruit in the area of Castel del Rio dates then from High Middle Age; it acquired a fundamental importance for the local economy and it nourished huge exportations.
In 1559 Santerno Valley offered as a gift to the Romagna Governor: “Twelve pairs of capons, a hundred pounds of ‘Mazzola’ cheese, a hundred rose apples called paradise apples, forty thrushes, two hares and SIX BIG WICKER BASKETS OF MARONS”.
An essay registered at the State Archives of Florence, dating 1618, names Castel del Rio saying: “And there is a market every Wednesday, where people from the surrounding places go (.) and where marrons use to be sent outside in huge numbers and for the most part they dry them, and husk them, and sell them with a good reputation and with a higher price than wheat”.
Marrons were also a precious trading good and they could be found in markets of very far countries such as Paris or Cairo. Being a source of wealth and of alimentation for the population, chestnut trees cultivation was ruled by specific laws. As a matter of fact, in an edict of 1694 there’s written: “The most part of the income of Castel del Rio territory consists of the fruit of chestnut trees” and in the same act it was imposed to plant a number of new chestnut trees for all the knocked down ones, that that to assure the safeguard of the main product of local economy.
Now adays the cultivating techniques are still the same, there’s respect for nature and the environment. As a matter of fact, chemical products or substances are not used, nor any productive forcing acceleration is imposed to the trees.
Trees feed exclusively in a spontaneous manner of what the ground and the micro-climate conditions provide them. Among the many historical sources the edict of 1694, by the Governor Antonio Maria Manzoni marks out. It is about the carving of chestnut trees.
At the beginning, again, it stresses the fundamental role of the chestnut trees cultivation as the major economical income of these lands. Such edict settled strong rules dealing the cuts to be done in the chestnut woods and very high fines for the transgressors.
The production increased when in 1829 it was built the “Montanara” road along the valley and in 1882 the railways allowed huge quantities of marrons to be sent abroad. With the industrialisation of the ’60s the production diminished dramatically and the chestnut woods were decimated by diseases (in 100 years the chestnut woods surface diminished of more than 1000 hectares), until the slow but constant growth of the last two decades.
The chestnut woods recognised as suitable are located in an area between 200 and 800 metres above the sea level and are sited on grounds with specific pedological features (light grounds, deep, fresh, scarcely calcareous, with a crumbly underground of sandy origin).
The implantations must follow the traditional rules, respecting a thickness between 75 and 125 trees pro-hectare. Traditional uses are followed even for what concerns the trimming and the picking also in the new generation chestnut woods.
Every kind of chemical forcing and feeding are forbidden both in the productive phase and in the product working and preservation ones.
The average production, according to the climate conditions, to the different woods sites and to the wood ground, is set in 15 kilograms of fruits pro-hectare; such limits have to be respected even in very rich and productive years. Every kind of operation of choice, calibration and treatment of the fruits with water care must be done in the production territory settled by the disciplinary measures and also in the near Imola district. Fresh marrons are sold starting from October 5th of the producing year, and solely packed in 1/5/10 kilograms bags indicating the weight, the dappling and the year.
The production area includes the whole territory of Fontanelice, part of the territory of castel del Rio, Casalfiumanese and Borgo Tossignano, which are the mountain lands of Imola (in the Bologna Province). In its whole the production area is about 600 hectares wide.