CULTURE

HISTORICAL NOTES

Chianti Storico is that territory, between Siena and Florence, currently constituted by Radda, Gaiole and Castellina, which became part of the district of Siena at the beginning of 800, during the French dominion. In the Middle Age the ghibellina Siena and the guelfa Florence fight several times in this territory to enlarge their dominions.
The war between the two cities had a break at the beginning of 200 and, with the 'Lodo di Poggibonsi' (1203) the landlines between Florence and Siene were established, giving to Florence the dominion of the Chianti. In the middle of 1200 Florence created the 'Lega del Chianti'.
This was a militar and politic organization with the purpose of administer a large territory which was divided in 'terzieri' of Radda, Gaiole and Castellina.
This institute rappresented the power of Florence in these lands. The leader of the Lega was the Podest, whose settlement was in Radda. Even if all the three towns were autonomous, they were submitted to the Podest. The spirit of the organization included the reciprocal aid.
The origin of the name 'Chianti' is not sure. Some historical documents indicate an Etrscan origin: 'Clanis' seems to be the Etruscan name for a stream near Montegrossi (the current Massellone). Otherside in several inscriptions has been found the name 'Clante', an ancient Etruscan family living in this area. Chianti hills have always been inhabited. The mild and healthy climate, the rich woods and the fertile ground attracted men since the second millennium b.C., but Etruscan civilization was the first to modify the Chianti landscape. They began the the grapevine cultivation. Everywere in the Chianti area Etrscan ruins, graves and other finds have been discovered.
After the Etruscan, the Romans enhanced the agricultural developing, especially the olive, since they thought oil was usefull also for house-lightening.
During the barbarian invasions we have few notices about Chianti, which had a period of decadence. First the Longobardi and then the Franchi occupied this area.
The present Chianti reflects most of all The Middle Age, most of all in its artistic and architectonic aspect. Rural villages, composed by poor houses around a church, were the most common settling in this period. Usually the patron saint gave the name to the inhabitants of the village.
During the feudal period and with the war between Siena and Florence the villages were fortified and many castles were built. In the center of these settlements there was the cassero, the most fortified building. After the end of the feudal system a new kind of agricultural approach arose: the 'mezzadria'. The mezzadria was based on the 'podere' (farm), which was the production unit.
The farm was composed by some cultived terrain and wood, in which the whole family worked, and by the house of the worher. Sometimes there was the hoise of the lord ( the owner of the land). In the mezzadria the owner of the land developed the cultivation upon the mezzadro (or colono).
With the mezzadria the agricultural system improved from an autosubsistence level to the achievement of some gains for the owners.
During the Age of the 'comuni' the politic and militar rivalries between Siena and Florence got worse and the Chianti area became the main theatre of the battles.
The 500 as well was not a good period for the Chianti area, because of the plague and the sieges of the imperial troops and of the Charles V's Lanzichenecchi.
Only in 1555 with the final defeat of Siena, Chianti had a quiet period. Thnks to the peace the agricultural system of the poderi established itself on a permanent basis, the most craggy lands became cultivable thanks to the terrace-cultivation. The events about wine and food have always been a very important element in the history of Chianti Area. Chianti's wine became famous also outside this area. A very important man for Italian Risorgimento, Bettino Ricasoli, is knownn as the father of the modern Chianti, thanks to his efforts and support in improving the wine, also with its oenologic searches.
The official landlinea of the Chianti area was in 1924 with the legal institution, in Radda, of the Consorzio del Vino del Chianti Classico, to protect the name of thw ine produced in this area. The choosen symbol was the same of the one of the ancient Lega del Chianti: a black rooster in a golden background.
After the Second world war also in the Chianti began the defection from the country and the quality level of the life was not good: streets were bad, drinking water and electricty were lacking in most of the houses. The depulation of the area ceased in the Seventies thanks to the wine and specialized vineyards increased the value of this area. progressively the Chianti became also an important tourist center attracting people from England, Swiss, Holland and Germays, later also from France, USA, Japan, being famous and appreciated all over the world.