“La Notte di San Giovanni”, Saint John’s Eve, is a special night – believed to be a time to read the future (hence the Italian saying “San Giovanni non vuole inganni” – which translates as “Saint John wants no tricks”) and to gather herbs which, during the summer solstice, are richer than ever in vitality and aroma.
Legend has it that on this night, beneath a walnut tree, witches gather to perform magical rituals. To make the Nocino, it is said that the walnuts must be gathered by the woman most skilled at preparing the drink. This woman must climb barefooted into the tree and pick only the finest nuts by hand without damaging the skin.
The walnuts are then left in the evening dew throughout the night and infused the next day. Their preparation ends on the night of 31 October, the eve of All Saints’ Day.
When Saint John’s day comes around on 24 June, at Agricorti, in our walnut grove here in Pontecurone, we too wait for the sun’s kiss to dry our young husks so that we can select the very finest nuts for use in our distillery. This is not just part of the production process: it’s a ritual, which is performed with almost religious scrupulousness.