Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chestnut Festival in San Martino al Cimino, town of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini

selling  flowers  in front of   San Martino abbey
 Olimpia Maidalchini was  one of the most powerful women  of the 1600s  for as sister–in-law and reputed mistress  of Pope Innocent  X Pamphili, she held the purse strings of  the Vatican, appointed cardinals and negotiated with foreign ambassadors .
 Eleanor Herman, author of a fascinating  biography of  Olimpia, "Mistress of  the Vatican,  tells the story her life as  "the secret  female pope".
portrait  bust  of  Olimpia by  A. Algardi, circa 1650

interior of   Abbey church
  To escape  the plague  devastating Rome, Olimpia   retired  to  her hilltop town of San Martino (today a suburb of Viterbo)  in 1656 . 

row houses  of  San Martino al Cimino
There she restructured  the village making  it the first example of  town planning, built the magnificent  abbey church and acted  as benefactor  to dowry less  girls.
series of  photo-paintings  by local artist

 Her wealth and power   did not keep  the plague   away,   and  today her  tomb  can be admired  in the apse of the  huge  church.
tomb of Olimpia Maidalchini 

A perfect  weekend outing just outside Viterbo, San Martino is  known  for  its  chestnuts  and  each  October  a festival  is held  to honor  this  local crop. 
roasting chestnuts in huge  "swing" 

The festival , now  in its  24th year, sees   market  stalls  in the historic center  of San Martino   which has been denoted a natural  shopping center .

vigili urbani  and panorama of the Sagra 
colorful  bags  by B. Coluccia

Barbara Coluccia's  handknitted hats and scarves 
 There are several handicrafts  dealers  selling jewellery, leather,textiles  as well as   gastronomic products  of the area.  
entrance to the Cantinone, Palazzo Doria Pamphili 

 The local restaurants  offer   special  menus at a set price ( 25 euro)  and   in the Cantinone, once the stables of  Donna Olimpia’s palace,   tables  are set up offering  an abundant  lunch  (at 20 euro) for  hundreds of   visitors.
Alessandro's leather  bags 

Gioia Carpino  makes jewelery 

antipasto misto, mushroom soup, polenta, beans and steak
followed  by   roast chestnuts and  biscott

Autumn dishes served  during the Sagra  include   zuppa di ceci e castagne (soup of chickpeas and chestnuts), porcini mushrooms, sausages , grilled  meats and  suckling pig (maialino).

For  those  who are   still hungry   after   the abundant  5-course meal, there are sweets such as  castagne al rum con fonduta di cioccolato (chestnuts with rum and  chocolate fondue), tozzetti with vinsanto, Montblanc and crostate with ricotta and chestnut puree.  

  The  Sagra   continues  on   29, 30,31 October  and  l November. ..rain   or  shine....


  1. I never knew of this secret female pope. So contradictory to Scripture; God would be angry at such a thing, the Vatican should be ashamed.

    1. Dear Anonymous,glad you learned something new from my article. That's what its for, to reveal the really interesting bits of history and travel.

      I think the Vatican has much more to be ashamed of, not this gutsy woman who took life by the horns and made things happen.