The gentle hills of Chianti, Tuscany's Famous Wine Region
Tuscany is located in the center of Italy and, in the center of Tuscany, between Florence, Siena and Arezzo is Chianti, a charming hill-covered region surrounded by the main "art" cities in the region.
The name "Chianti", synonymous of excellent wine all around the world, is currently used to identify several different areas of the territory so it is better to clarify what the term means.
Geographically speaking Chianti is a hilly land that stretches for about 20 km (from North-South-Southeast).
The highest point is Monte San Michele, Mount St. Michael, at 893 mt. There are 5 rivers that cross and define the area with: the Pesa, Greve, Ombrone, Staggia and Arbia rivers.
Under the historical point of view, the name should be given only to the municipalities of Gaiole, Raddaand Castellina (justly called "in Chianti") that were part of the ancient "Florentine Military League of Chianti" whose symbol was a black rooster.
More recently, due to the regulation of the wine's designation, with the word "Chianti" we mean the area within the three municipalities of the Chianti League stated above in addition to San Casciano and Tavarnelle in Val di Pesa, Greve and part of Barberino Val D'Elsa, as well as the Sienese areas of Castelnuovo Berardenga and Poggibonsi. Only wines produced within these municipalities can be named "Chianti Classico" and are certified with the famous Black Rooster symbol.
The Chianti Area
As you stand upon a hill, the view of the silver of the olive trees, the green geometry of the vineyards, the roads lined with tall green cypresses and the borders of the woods lined with yellow broom combine in a palette of colors that seem to create a unique painting.
This is enough to tempt anyone to visit this land, maybe as the ideal place to start discovering Tuscany, since it is the heart of Tuscany and then move towards other destinations with a better understanding of what to expect.
Roads in Chianti are good even though they are famously winding; but that is their charm since you can admire the beautiful landscape around you.
From Florence take the SR222 to enter into Chianti, known as the new Chiantigiana road, from Ponte a Ema. From Siena you take the old Chiantigiana road avoiding the Firenze-Siena highway.
Minor roads, connecting small villages to big towns, encourage tourists to discover and stop in various Tuscan treasures. This is the reason for the name "Chiantishire" given to this area because of the many foreigners living here.
Mentioning just one place in Chianti doesn't do justice to the thousands of other places to visit. However, Badia a Passignano needs to be mentioned since it was the beautiful, ancient headquarters of the Chianti League (easily reachable from the Firenze-Siena highway), the tiny medieval village of Volpaia, so charming as to be chosen as a movie set, and the massive historical Castle of Brolio, the residence of the Grand Baron Ricasoli who invented modern wine-making.
A brief history
The ancient Chianti region, first Etruscan and then Roman, rich of woods, water and game looked more as an highland than a hill land with mild mountain tops. Except from the main roads, Chianti was not accessible, preserving it from ruinous barbarian invasions after the decline of the Roman Empire.
From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, it was a continuous battle field for the fights between Siena and Florence that wanted control over these lands. Castles and fortresses that lie on top of many hills overlooking the countryside bear testimony to this glorious and tormented past.
Castles, towns and villages, farms, parish churches, Renaissance villas, often covered by woods and valleys, built in stone standing out as natural elements of the landscape: these are the treasures that can be discovered by a more curious tourist in Chianti.
When medieval fights ended, some valleys were cleared and cultivated: chestnut woods and oaks, as well as olive groves and vineyards then started to take over. All of these specific cultivations continue to contribute to enrich the Chianti region today.