A little history
The historical roots of this strip of land that lies uncontaminated in the heart of Tuscany can be traced back to the Bronze Age, testified to by fossils, fragments of buccheri, cut stones but also various arms and utensils, whereas the archeological discoveries of settlements and burial grounds testify to the life of the Etruscans that dominated here until the Roman conquests. Enough to think of the very famous burial ground of Montecalvario near Castellina and Radda to understand the important presence in Chianti of the Etruscan population.
But it was the Romans, according to the notable eighteenth century geographer Emanuele Repetti, who gave the name to the zone deriving from the latin verb clango which means “resound” and indicates the clamour of the baronial hunts that made the woods roar in this land.
Excluding the great guiding Roman roads, from Via Cassia that goes through the Valdarno and also from Via Francigena (which through Siena and Lucca join Rome to central-western Europe) that passed the nearby Valdelsa, the land of Chianti even in medieval times remained isolated, but not for this did it become less coveted by the three Tuscan cities that disputed the predominance over Tuscany: Arezzo, Florence and Siena.
The politics of the predominance of Florence was, above all, against the governor of Siena with whom there was a long dispute about the confines of the territory between the two cities. To resolve this quarrel legends says, was set in the first years of the XII century, they would decide it with a race: the main characters - two knights. «The meeting place of the two knights leaving from the gates of the two cities when the cock crows, will indicate the confines between Florence and Siena». This was how it was established by parliamentary agreement between the governors of the two cities. «It is narrated however that the Florentines had a black cockerel (galletto nero) which was stopped from eating for days and days, and so hungry as it was, crowed well before dawn. So the Florentines had an advantage because their knight left first and rode many miles more in respect to his rival, reached Fonterutoli, a territory of Castellina». And so the confine was established at Castellina, a few kilometres from Siena, in a place then named Croce fiorentina.
Legends apart (that certainly put forward the famous “gallo nero”), was awarded (arbitrator’s sentence) to Poggibonsi in 1203 that ratified the Florentine supremacy and was made concrete with the creation, in the boundary lands, of a series of independent jurisdictions with an administrative character, the law. Also the land of Chianti was one, subdivided into three “thirds” corresponding roughly to the actual territories of the Council of Radda, Castellina and Gaiole (historic Chianti); until the Medici absorbed them into their domain - after the fall of the Republic of Siena.
Notwithstanding its ancient Etruscan and Roman origins, Chianti that today we know from the urbanistic, landscape and architectural point of view (with its villages and farms, mills and ovens, cottages, towers and castles, monasteries, churches, oratories and chapels) is medieval: frontier lands rich in fortifications and fortified villages. A land that has preserved intact its fascinating history, a land in which the vines are imposing more on other cultivations (cereals, vegetables, fruit), in which the ancient white olives producers of percious oil, a sharp and bitterish oil coming from small olives, an oil already appreciated by the Romans who used it, other than as a condiment, but also to illuminate, to massage the muscles of the athletes and to make women’s skin soft.
Wine and oil that characterise the genuine and tasty Chiantian cooking (that appears to have given birth to the “bruschetta” - garlic bread - still widely used everywhere above all at the time when the oil is first pressed) in which pigs and other courtyard animals dominate uncontested even today; Chiantian cooking that preserves the traces of the old ways of the farms, when every farm holding was self-sufficient: cooking bread in their own ovens, and in their own oil mills pressing the olives; the courtyards had their own chickens and rabbits and the stables with the horses, cows, the sheep and the pigs that were slaughtered for a grand feast in the autumn when the woods offered the searchers the best porcini mushrooms hidden between the chestnuts.
The Chiantian sausage is also famous flavoured with fennel and other spices; the neck of stuffed chicken that, rarely found in other parts of Tuscany, is in Chianti still widely eaten and particularly tasty; the stracotto is also very famous in wine that needs a cooking time in olden days of about six hours; or the free-range cockerel this is also cooked in wine or rabbit with the Chiantian black olives.