Chianti is a hilly district located in Tuscany. It boasts a strong enological identity.
Chianti Classico district, the historical heart of the bigger Chianti region, is bordered to the north by the Florentine countryside, to the south by the city of Siena, to the east by the Chianti mountains and to the west by the Pesa and Elsa valleys.
The district belongs to the provinces of Florence and Siena and it is mainly hilly, covered with a still large amount of forests that are home to boars, deer and hares.
Chianti mountains, that border the district to the west, are a short chain part of the so called Tuscan Anti-Apennines, irregular mountainous chains completely indipendent from the nearby Apennines.
Chianti’s climate is continental, with severe winters, when temperatures can fall to -5° C (23° F), and hot summers that can exceed 35° C (95° F).
Daily temperature range is remarkable, especially on the Chianti Mountains’ highes peaks, that go past 800 m (2,600 ft). This is good for the scent of the grapefruits.
Rainfalls concentrate especially in spring and late fall.
Like every other Italian hilly and agriculural region, Chianti’s history has been linked with the nearby cities’ destiny and has often be a battlefield for which big powers condended.
The first settlements date back to the 3rd millennium B.C., but only from the 7th century on civilization appeared, thanks to the development of the Etrurian culture. Etrurians indeed introduced the grapevine growing into Chianti, and many place-names derive from Etrurian language. The actual world Chianti seems to derive from the family name of an Etrurian family, Clante.
After the Etrurians came the Romans, who chased the Tarquinians (of Etrurian origin) away in 510 B.C.
Romans did not excel in Chianti, there are very few archeological finds coming from that time, but founded the nearby cities of Florentia (Florence) and Saena Giulia (Siena).
After the barbaric invasions Chianti underwent a period of governamental instability, always contended between powers: first by the diocese of Arezzo and Siena, then by the cities of Florence and Siena.
In 1174 a peace treaty between the two cities brought the Chianti into the Florentine orbit, and in 1250 Florence founded the League of Chianti, a province divided in three parts, Castellina, Radda and Gaiole.
Siena tried more fiercely to conquer Chianti during and after the second half of the 15th century, when Florence was flourishing thanks to the government of Lorenzo de Medici, patron of artists who patronized Michelangelo’s and Botticelli’s art.
From 1555 on Medici dinasty controlled the entire Tuscan territory and this was a warranty of peace and prosperity in Chianti: during this period castles, former military fortress, became elegant mansions and the grapevine growing flourished.
Chianti, under the Florentine influence, was briefly dominated by the Austrians in the second half of the 18th century, from 1799 on.
In 1860 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy, of which Florence was the capital until 1870.
Chianti hills are crossed by the Via Chiantigiana, that links the territories to the south of Florence to the city of Siena, passing through the villages of the Chianti Classico region that are located on the route or are linked with it through secondary roads.
The visitor, wandering among wine cellars and shops, all around will see many curches and medieval castles of great artistic and historical interest and linked with the history of Italy’s most famous wine. Every village deserves a visit. Travelling southwards, the first stop should be Greve in Chianti, whose square is surrounded by food and wine shops full of delicious products. The village was a market place in the Middle Ages, because it is strategically located in between the cities of Florence and Siena.
Next stop is Radda in Chianti, beating heart of the Chianti Classico region, base of the Consorzio del Gallo Nero, the Consortium aimed to the protection and valorization of Chianti Classico wine and its trademark. The hamlet of Volpaia is an ancient medieval village, temple of Chianti’s art and taste.
Do not miss Castellina in Chianti, of Etrurian origins, where you can visit the burial mound of Montecalvario and a museum fully dedicated to Sienese Chianti. Gaiola in Chianti is home to the ancient Abbey of San Lorenzo a Coltibuono and to the castle of Brolio, where the “formula Chianti” was born.
Chianti district is tourist friendly, every tourist facility suggests with enthousiasm and cordiality many itineraries for wine and food tasting, cooking lessons, and natural routes.
Golf lovers should relax in the Circolo dell’Ugolino, in Impruneta, first Italian golf association, which came into being to entertain the English colony of Florence.
Chianti’s strategical location allows the tourist to go for unforgettable excursions. Florence is within an hour drive. This is were Rinascimento was born, the city is a UNESCO world heritage, temple of Michelangelo’s and Botticelli’s art. This is also where the Negroni, famous aperitif, was born.
Siena is also very close. The city is famous for the palio, Italy’s most popular historical festival where the ancient medieval quarters compete in a horse race.
Siena’s historical centre has a suggested medieval structure and is part of the UNESCO world heritage.