Castellina in Chianti
by Raffaello Sali
We're in the heart of Chianti, with its by now famous hills that reveal the Tuscan landscape in all its most characteristic components: the vines, the cypresses, the oaks, the beautiful old farmhouses.
Together with Greve, Gaiole and Radda, Castellina is a harmonious part of this enchanting panorama with its long-standing history of small villages.
With its Etruscan origins, the history of this region inevitably intertwines with the events that the land of Chianti and its populace have played host to through the centuries. Already from the 12th century this zone has experienced the bitter fighting that through three centuries had opposed Florence to Siena, embroiling many noble Tuscan families in a continual alternation of victories and defeats.
The defensive structure of the land with its walls and the fortress ( today residence of the municipality) with its 14th century turret and its imposing 15th century Cassero restored in the early part of this century pays homage to this violent past. Inside one can visit the exhibition of Etruscan artifacts ( from Monday to Friday at 9-13). The "via delle volte" ( the winding road) pays testament to the low trench around the walls.
The centre of
Walking along the main road of the village one comes across the Ugolini-Squarcialupi palazzo of the 15th century. In the neighbourhood it's possible to visit the village of S. Leonino with its 12th century parish church, the castles of Meleto ( only by booking - telephone 0577-749496 and Brolio (In winter months 10-12, 14.30-16.30; in summer months 10-12, 15-18) both of which are to be found in the region of Gaiole. Nowadays Castellina boasts a population of about 3000 inhabitants and subsists principally by its agriculture and tourism.
The lovely hilly position (at an altitude of 578 metres) and the notoriety of its wine has provided this zone with a decisive boost to its economy. The oenological tradition has roots so ancient that the name Chianti associated with wine appears in documents as far back as 1400.
The area of classic Chianti was defined by ministerial decree in 1932 but it's only in the last twenty years that it has become a favourite tourist spot and almost the inspiration for a way of life. Many foreigners in fact live in "Chiantishire".