TOURISM IN THE CHIANTI
Featured villages of Chianti
Barberino Val d'Elsa * San Donato in Poggio * Castellina in Chianti * Radda in Chianti * Gaiole in Chianti * Greve in Chianti *
Featured historic places
Petrognano Chaphel * San Gimignano the towered village * Meleto Castle * Brolio Castle * Certaldo * Monteriggioni fortress
Chianti is a vast geographic area from the hilly
landscape placed at the center of the Tuscan region, between Siena
and Florence, whose limits are distinguished at the
North in the Ombrone river; at the East in the Monti of
the Chianti, at the South in the Arno and at the West in the valley of
Its hills, crossed by a rich network of short rivers, those of the Pesa, the Elsa, the Greve, the Ombrone and the Arbia, are everywhere famous for the incomparable naturalistic beauty and as an example of harmonious union between environment and human activity, which is reftected by the orderly cultivation of vines and olive trees and by the golden expanse of grain. The rural reality of the Chianti region is not however monotonous, it also presents, in fact, woodland areas composed essentially of oak and chestnut trees of coppices that cover the slopes of the surfaces. The fascination of this territory lies in the perfect equilibrium between the soft forms of slopes and the thousand nuances of color and crowded woods, populated by ancient castles, secular parishes, pleasant villas and large Jarms, in which the tradition well mixes with the most modern criteria of organization and production.
A region, so to say, with a primarily agrarian vocation, whose roots go back to a very remote past, as it is shown by it's name, "Chianti, " that according to some scholars would derive from the Latin clangor which stands far "sound of the trumpet": referring to the noise produced by the instrument anciently used during the hunting parties in this territory; according to others, from
Clante, the name of etruscan families who lived here between the VII and the VIII centuries BC and to whom the introduction of the vine and it cultivation in Thscany is attributed.
The term appears far the first time in 790 in a manuscript drafted by a monk in the Badia of San Bartolomeo a Ripoli, even though the description that he gave of the territory does not seem to correspond, since
the monk describes it as a very humid zone as opposed to
the mountainous and dry characteristics of the Chianti
region. Later, in documents of the XIII century, the term comes to refer to the
Monti of the Chianti (which in reality, in spire of their name, are little more
than high hills).
Already around the year 1000, these lands began to appear among the possessions of the marquis Ugo of Tuscany and of his successor Bonifacio, who donated ampie portions of them to the Fiorentine abbey. An approximate division of the territory between rural earldoms and the great abbeys of Passignano, Montemurlo and Coltibuono dates back to the same age: an equaI partition between civil and religious power.
This is the period of maximum expansion of a demolished domain that covers the region with a great number of castles spread for the most part on little hills, in militarily strategic positions. Among them are those of Cintoia, Lamole, Montefili, Montefioralle, Panzano, Verrazzano, Uzzano, Vicchiomaggio, Cacchiano, Brolio, Meleto, Tornano, Vertine, and Aiola.
In this time originates the long easting contrast between
Guelph Florence and Ghibelline Siena for the supremacy
on a such a vast and rich area. A curious legend narrates an episode which
illuminates us on the grade of existing rivalry, at the beginning of the
thirteenth century, between the two republics for the attribution of their
boundaries. The argument was centered on a competition of speed between two
horsemen, who were to depart, one from Florence and the other from Siena, and
meet at a point which would then delineate the limits of their respective
territories. The hour of departure was fixed at the first calI of the rooster:
The Florentines, astutely would use as an alarm clock a young black rooster
which, kept without food, launched his calI much earlier than dawn. It was in
this way that the florentine horseman, departing earlier could cover a greater distance than his rival, conquering more land
republic. The place in which the two horsemen met stilI carries the name of
the Salone dei Cinquecento in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.
In 1250, within an administrative adjustment of its territories, the Florentine govemment formed the so-called "Lega del Chianti (League of the Chianti)", which comprises Radda, Castellina and Gaiole. The mayor resides in its leading city, Radda.
During the sixteenth century, a century that saw the affirmation of the strong and peaceful central power of the Medicean signoria over all of the Thscan territory, the Chianti region progressively changes tace.
Its castles gradually abandon the small fortress structure to become great and elegant villas and farms, like Brolio and Meleto, to give two examples. The major centers afe finally able to flourish: it is in this way that the great markets of Greve in Chianti, Mercatale val di Pesa and Gaiole in Chianti, where one can exchange the most diverse merchandise, develop. The agriculture thoroughly develops, favored by a generous and varied land, becoming the major economic force in the territory.
It is a band of Cosimo III, Granduke of Tuscany, that in 1716 estabilishes the Chianti region, for the first rime, as an area of esteemed viticultural production which, in addition to the historic ones, includes the lands of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Greve, Barberino Val d'Elsa, Tavamelle and San Casciano Vai di Pesa.
In the second half of the twentieth century the area goes through an extraordinary transformation, thanks above all, to the strong govemment contributions which have permitted the reconstruction of its viticultural patrimony. One is thus able to witness the radical restoration of this agrarian landscape: from the share-cropping estate system it passes, rather rapidly, to the organization of specialized vineyards of great dimensions no longer dispersed among a great number of families, but managed by modem agencies that have contributed to the great success, not only of the wine but of the entire territory.
In this viewpoint of valuation old habitations are, in a growing rhythm, restored and those which at one time were the houses of the share-cropping system are transformed, with respect to the traditional Tuscan style, into tourist based residences of particular value, in which friendly hospitality and agricultural activity successfully join, attracting visitors from all over the world. By a recent estimate, 302 farms equipped for "agriturismo" appear in Tuscany: the greatest concentration of these is found precisely in this area; the American, Dutch, German and English are its most devoted patrons.
The English, in particulal; were already present in Tuscany some centuries ago: in the eighteenth century many nobles had inaugurated villas and palaces here, and later; during the high Romantic age, writers and poets like Byron, Shelley and Dickens elected this region as a privileged stopping place of their «grand tour».
The first to return here were the ex-officers, who had
leaded their armies through this land and who remained fascinated by it. They
would acquire farm houses, at times in shambles, restructure them with taste and
refinement and would establish themselves here. They would also gradually begin
to put a hand to the surrounding vines, so much that today some of them produce
a wine of the best quality.
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