home of Chianina Cattle, Classic Scenery and Old Age Traditions
di Chiana or
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
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
which boasts many important examples of Etruscan
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
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.
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.
Best Routes to Explore The Valdichiana
One of the best routes to explore this area is that between Arezzo
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
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
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
been sanctioned by the Vetrina
body as serving traditional food using traditional ingredients of high