Caprese Michelangelo

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Situated in the green of the God’s Little Valley – as they call it, Caprese Michelangelo with its remote beauty is where the Renaissance God Michelangelo Buonarroti was born.

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There’s something emotional about this atmosphere that welcomed the artist more than 500 years ago. Beech, chestnut and oak woods make the uncontaminated area particularly healthy, decidedly far from the busy city.

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After having acquired the county of Arezzo in 1384, the Republic of Florence sent its nobility, the podestà (judicial administrators), to act as representatives in its new land. The areas of Caprese and Chiusi used to be under the same jurisdiction, so that the podestà in office had to reside alternatively six months in the Palazzo Pretotio in Caprese, and six months in the Rocca di Chiusi. Nearly a century later, in 1474, the nobleman Ludovico Leonardo Buonarroti was awarded the office of Podestà, and it was in this very period that the Renaissance genius Michelangelo Buonarroti was born, in Caprese on 6th March 1475.

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Palazzo del Podestà, the birthplace of Michelangelo. Here the life of the most famous artist of all times began.  The Museum in his childhood home now houses a documentation centre and a collection of photographic reproductions and plaster casts of the artist’s works.

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The building with the double sloped roof, the masonry in irregularly shaped ashlars and the bell-gable with bells dating back to 1297 is the Church of St. John the Baptist. Michelangelo was baptized here. The church also houses a 15th century tabernacle by Cristofano di Landuccio.

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If you like an autumn sagra, you should pay a visit to the chestnut festival held in October and try the famous Caprese chestnut, as well as lots of other delicious produce: mushrooms, honey, gorgeous cheeses, and even chestnut beer!

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Castagnaccio, My Way

I was introduced to Castagnaccio by a Tuscan friend. Like most traditional recipes, this was originally a peasant’s dish. Chestnuts (Castagne) are the main ingredient here. At the beginning of the 19th century, when Castagnaccio was exported from Tuscany to the rest of Italy, raisins, pine nuts and rosemary were added to the recipe.

It’s made from chestnut flour and olive oil and has no raising agents. It’s not one of the cakes you are probably used to, it is rather a savoury bread. The sweetness comes from the nuts and dried fruit added to it.

Here’s my own way of making Castagnaccio, replacing some traditional ingredients like walnuts and rosemary with apples, and adding some apricot jam. It has worked really well for me. But you can also try making and decorating it with marrons glacés, hazelnuts or even chocolate chips.



  • 200g chestnut flour
  • 30g sugar
  • 300g water
  • a handful of raisins
  • a handful of pine-nuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250g apricot jam
  • 1 apple, cored, thinly sliced
  • 10g butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar,
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 18-cm springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Put the flour in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, then the sugar, whisk in the water very slowly till you get a rather liquid mixture without lumps. Now add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the raisins and the pine nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The castagnaccio is not ready if there are no cracks on the surface.

Take it out, let it cool, and cut into 2 layers. Spread the apricot jam between the layers, then stack and cover the cake, too. Arrange some apple slices on top, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon combined in a bowl. Set the oven to grill and cook the cake for 5 more minutes.

As you can see, Castagnaccio is very easy to make, and offers lots of room for experimentation. It perfectly goes with a November afternoon espresso. You can serve it with a drizzle of honey, maple syrup, cashew cream… Or with some caramel panna cotta, like I usually do.

The chestnut flour I’ve been using


Buon appetito!

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, The Autumn Feast

Just a short drive out of Città di Castello, Monte Santa Maria Tiberina welcomes you with beautiful vistas and great food, where chestnut and oak forests spread out over the hillsides, and where truffles, porcini mushrooms, excellent olive oil and local wine dominate the menus!

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La Festa d’Autunno is the biggest festival of the fall season here, celebrating the chestnut harvest in the most delicious way!

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Feel free to take in the spectacular views during the fall foliage…

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Framing the festival, as usual, is the picturesque piazza, with live music and performances.

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An interesting  re-enactment of knights in combat by the Lupi di Ventura, the knights armament group from Città di Castello

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Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is really full of charm! The former Prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, has his summer retreat here. The town sits right at the border where Umbria meets Tuscany. It’s quite small, but there are several restaurants and cafes.

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You can visit Palazzo Bourbon, built in the 1500s, the castle and the lovely Church of Santa Maria (La Pieve), with an interesting baptismal fount and the Bourbon family chapel.

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You can savour the abundant chestnuts, gourmet food, artisan beer (including chestnut beer!), and sample a mouth-watering variety of chestnut foods.

Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views
Lunch at local taverna with gorgeous views

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Treat yourselves to the local flavours: traditionally-made cheeses and salamis, porchetta, chocolate, honey and more. Local restaurants and food stalls are packed with nothing but life’s little pleasures 100% made in Umbria.

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There’s always something for everyone to enjoy!

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