Val di Chiana, home of Chianina Cattle, Classic Scenery and Old Age Traditions

The Val di Chiana or Valdichiana as it is also known was once considered Europe's granary. It continues to be an important agricultural center, now given over to cattle farming of the famous Chianina cattle , that are raised for the equally famous bistecca. The flat garden plains that spread out around Lake Trasimene can be admired from various hilltop towns and villages.

The Val di Chiana is an important cultural crossroads between
Arezzo , Siena and Perugia. Each town in the valley has its roots in Etruscan or Roman history, whilst also offering items of great interest from the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. However this fertile valley wasn't always like this. It used to be a mosquito-infested quagmire of bog and marshlands before extensive reclamation works managed to drain this land to what it is today. Nowadays there are just two remnants of the original large lake, the Lago di Chiusi and the very small lake at Montepulciano.

Interesting Towns in The Val di Chiana

There are a number of interesting towns in the Val di Chiana which deserve being mentioned. Castiglion Fiorentino , with the tower of Cassero; Cortona , which boasts many important examples of Etruscan art, as well as works of art by Beato Angelico and Luca Signorelli; Foiano with small artistic treasures by Andrea Della Robbia; Civitella or Lucignano , one of the few Tuscan Medieval towns that still retains the typical circular layout of its streets.

Valiano too  should not be forgotten either as this was the little village that existed at the head of the ford of the large lake that was used to cross from one side to the other.

Another of my favorites is the unusual town of
Bagno Vignoni . Where you would usually expect to find the central piazza there is none. Instead there is a large squared off area that is filled with water. This is an ancient spa of sulfur springs with Roman origins. During the winter nights and mornings, the water is shrouded in mists that rise up due to the differences in temperatures between the water and the air, and creates a mystical atmosphere.

One of the main attractions in this valley is
Montepulciano . Famous for its well-preserved Medieval architecture and its wonderful wine! Montepulciano is a mere 30 minutes away from Lucignano, and is a good place to base yourself for sightseeing in this area.

Montepulciano Italy

Montepulciano Italy

Best Routes to Explore The Valdichiana

One of the best routes to explore this area is that between Arezzo and the Val d'Orcia. This is the route that stretches from the Val di Chiana to the Etruscan Town of Cortona , and from Montepulciano towards Pienza is the main road through the heart of Central Italy.

No other region in Italy has such classical views; stone villages, hilltop towns, cypresses, and undulating valleys covered with olive groves, vineyards and sunflowers. This is your quintessential Tuscany that you see displayed in magazines tourist photos and calendars everywhere.

Specialties of the Val di Chiana

There are several specialties of the region. Look out for the specialties of Senese cuisine, the pici ( hand-made spaghetti), ribollita (a typical local vegetable soup that has been boiled twice), mixed roasts and game, cacio pecorino cheese, 'minestraccia' (black cabbage and sour cream) from Val di Merse , porcini mushrooms, tripe from Val d'Elsa and wild boar from Monticiano .

Traditional Recipe of Tuscany

I leave you with a traditional recipe of Tuscany.

Zuppa di Farro (Serves 2)

100 g pearl spelt
200 g zolfini beans
100 g peeled tomatoes
1 sprig sage
1 stick celery
1 carrot
1 shallot

Spelt is an ancient grain still used today in this region that was not only known during the Roman times and the Medieval era, but can also be traced back to the Bronze Age.

Cook the spelt in a large saucepan of boiling water, for about 30 minutes. In a separate pan fry in a small amount of olive oil, the finely chopped shallot, celery and carrot for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt to taste, 2 glasses of water, and the sage. Then add the beans (previously cooked) and cook for 1 hour. Blend and add the drained spelt. Bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add some more oil just before serving.

Recommended Restaurants in the Val di Chiana

See our page on Tuscany food recommending restaurants in Arezzo. These restaurants have been sanctioned by the Vetrina Toscana body as serving traditional food using traditional ingredients of high quality.