'EXVALSE', 'Operation/Project co-financed by the Tuscan Por Fesr 2014-2020'

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Local ambassador stories: Stefania Gori, Celle sul Rigo (San Casciano dei Bagni)

The strength of the Cellese community for a world-renowned excellence, pici

Water and flour are the ingredients for preparing one of the typical dishes of the Valdichiana Senese, pici, which in Celle sul Rigo, a small hamlet of San Casciano dei Bagni, are truly the symbol of a community. It is no coincidence that the famous "Sagra dei Pici" (Pici Festival), which has been repeated for more than 50 years in May and is organized by the local Philharmonic Society, originated here.

"If there had not been the community, pici in Celle would not have existed," began Stefania Gori, now former president of the Philharmonic Society of Celle sul Rigo. "We are proud of the general interest that has been created around pici and of which we are advocates. We do not say that we invented pici, but we claim with great pride that we have made them a product known everywhere and appreciated. Pici are a 'precious' product and represent a continuation of a local tradition."

The successful path of the pici that Stefania talks about has distant origins, to more than fifty years ago, when the Philharmonic found itself in need of cash to implement actions of interest to the community, such as being able to pay for the theater lights, and those who were part of it at the time thought of the "Sagra dei pici di Celle" as a way to be able to make a living: "They were forerunners, forward-thinking gourmets because in those days there were not many festivals like there are today. It was really a gamble because it was one of the first festivals to be organized! Fifty-two years ago no one wanted to eat pici, which was considered a simple, peasant dish, but thanks to Celle and the Sagra, this pasta format became famous enough to be known all over the world."

Celle's pici were awarded the Marchio Collettivo in 2022 and the Touring Award in 2013: a long way to go for a product about which Stefania speaks passionately, calling it the "Celle's Pride": "Getting all these awards is a satisfaction, both for us at the Philharmonic and for the many women who have always made and cooked pici at home, who see this dish of theirs appreciated. Last year's official recognition means a lot because it emphasizes the importance of the area; the pici dish eaten in Celle is impossible to eat anywhere else."

The pici in question, those that can be enjoyed in Celle sul Rigo, are made strictly by hand and with very specific characteristics: "They are thin, soft, and have a good dough. A quality that is recognized by everyone, which is why we have never given up and we continue to make them by hand even if on the days of the Sagra we find ourselves laying down quintals and quintals of flour."

In addition to a top-quality raw material, Celle's pici needs another key component: community. "Our pici can only be made with the involvement of so many people who dedicate their free time to making pici. Women, men, and even children all contribute, and many learn pici right in the Philharmonic group. Without the community, I firmly believe that it would not have been possible to get as far as we have, and because we are increasingly in need of labor, both because the May Festival attracts more patrons each year and because we enjoy doing so many other small pici events at other times, as soon as a new person comes to Celle, of any nationality, we immediately involve them in making pici. Ours is an open, inclusive community in the name of a tradition that is our pride."

Stefania's place of the heart: the landscape between Celle sul Rigo and San Casciano dei Bagni

"When you drive along the road that connects Celle to San Casciano, and turn toward the Amiata, it is a place of the heart that always amazes me with its immense beauty that everyone can enjoy."

The place the local recommends: the squares of the San Casciano die Bagni area

"Piazza Matteotti in San Casciano is the best known and those in the hamlets less well known but just as beautiful, just think of the one in Celle sul Rigo. They all offer great views, I recommend taking a nice tour of all the squares in the St. Casciano area and casting your eyes beyond the square itself to enjoy the breathtaking scenery."

Stefania Gori, former president and now vice president of the Philharmonic Society of Celle sul Rigo

Photo credits cover image: Gabriele Forti