Castellina in Chianti: Where time stands still
Only by the name of this small and interesting citadel you know that we are in the territory of Chianti, which in itself is a feast for the eyes.
The origins of the citadel date back from the time of the Etrusan civilization (as most of the region of Tuscany). In fact, among the many valuable relics of the civilization found here stands the Necropolis of the 7th Century BC, found in the neighboring hill Montecalvario – that, from an archaeological point of view, is of interest. It is now known as “Il Tumulo di Montecalvario” and it deserves a careful visit in my opinion. You will be shocked!
Moreover, Glenda and I, whilst visiting him, learnt that the Etruscans were the first wine producers in the area. So, between one thing and another, Castellina should occupy a front row seat in the splendid audience of Chianti.
Castellina, on top of a beautiful hill, is surrounded by an unusual hexagon of walls from the early fifteenth century. After suffering a devastating attack by the allied army of Milan and Siena, the Florentines, who then ruled the entire area, needed to rebuild the town and fortify itself behind these walls in order to avoid being stripped of its coveted property, something that failed because many of their enemies were equally as powerful. To understand, let’s say Castellina was a sort of Elizabeth Taylor of the time, from what I have heard, is now in pursuit of her eighth or ninth marriage.
As I said, the allied army of Milan and Siena were at that time in command of the condottiere (captain of fortune) Alberico da Barbiano (1344-1409) founder of the then formidable as it was famous “Company of St George”, made up exclusively of Italian mercenaries trained from head to toe in the so-called “art of war”, that if they had taken the lead on Mont Blanc it would have been done for.
The large hexagon of houses were built literally attached to the tape of the walls forming a curious slope that has given rise to an underground passage known as “Via delle Volte”. Respectfully locals fill this passage and marvel in the wonderful and unique architecture, many find it unusual as it is fascinating. The truth is that time has stood still in Castellina.
Glenda and I, looking at the other, we discussed that in places like this it seems absurd and irrelevant to wander around in jeans, wellies and an anorak, but what can we do! This is the typical style in these prosaic times in which we live.
After, we visited the medieval fortress (La Rocca), which is an impressive building and consists of two adjoining structures. Although the Second World War left it serious damaged today it is in perfect condition and retains a poignant dedication to its past. The interior is magnificent and is home to many marvelous antiques. One thing anecdotal and friendly that perhaps may surprise you is that in the “Sala del Capitano”, which retains its original medieval walls, is where the locals get married civilly.
From La Rocca, even on a day as rainy as yesterday, you can see spectacular panorama that includes the fertile meadows and the idyllic hills of the area. We stopped for lunch near the Fortress in the “Antica Trattoria La Torre”. The choice was purely intuitive since in Castellina there are several restaurants where they say you eat very well, but we opted for this one. The interior is very nice and traditional of the area.
After hesitating between several dishes, the headwaiter advised us to start with a “pappardelle cinghiale” (wide flat pastry with wild boar sauce), that they were making, which showed that the pasta was homemade and very fresh. For our main course we had roast beef garnished with artichokes. The veal was very juicy and delicious, but the highlight was the artichokes (which were huge and instead of green were shades of purple). They had such flavor of the vegetable garden confirming that they were happily unaware of the cold storage cupboards. We washed the meal down with a wonderful red “Chianti Classico Castello di Volpaia” that enhanced the stews that we had asked for. For dessert we were offered a “ricciarelli” (a kind of marzipan cake with orange flavor) which was delicate and exquisite. Coffee included we paid about 35 euros each. It certainly was not cheap but in all honesty the price is a very good fit to the category of the trattoria.
If it had been good weather we could have eaten in the lovely garden terrace they have, but you can’t have everything in life. I further believe that the dreary rainy day gave Castellina in Chianti a nostalgic air that made it even more beautiful and endearing.