The Chianti castles of the Sienese territory
By the hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles you will experience the exciting discovery of a magical territory, known and appreciated all over the world for its wine and its rustic buildings and which owes its charm to an important component that still distinguishes its landscape: fortifications.
In fact, being an obligatory place of passage for travellers who passed inland from the Valdarno, Chianti has been defined over the centuries in its territorial borders, disputed above all by Florence and Siena, and therefore characterised by a military architecture that still today marks its profile.
Since reaching the places of war and the guard did not happen by fast means – as happens when you come here only to visit the cellars or villages – it is through the slow path that you can see all the passages, every view that therefore makes us understand how the territory was guarded and crossed by the men of the past. What better thing then than discovering Chianti through an hiking crossing its castles?!?
The starting point of our Hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles is Gaiole in Chianti, an ancient market place located in the valley of the Massellone stream, forty minutes from Siena. The first kilometres of our journey is one of the most difficult stretches of the entire route, since we will have to face 320 metres of altitude difference over a distance of 5 kilometres. Going towards Montegrossi, one of the oldest castles in the whole area of which today only one tower remains, you will be surprised by the dizzying view of an ancient stone quarry that is located on the way. Valdarno, which now, after the many curves and gorges you have faced – even if only to reach the starting point of the trek – you can see that it opens up in all its grandeur, crowned by the majestic Pratomagno.
Reaching Coltibuono Abbey
Leaving an area exposed to the sun, we embark on our Hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles on a shady road, covered in the shade by oaks and firs to reach, after climbing a few meters, the Badia a Coltibuono.
Monastery of Vallombrosan foundation, the Abbey today presents itself with its Romanesque church and the bell tower which is really massive and more reminiscent of the shape of a fortified structure, as indeed it must have been since this valley is one of the most exposed to raids that could come from the nearby Valdarno.
We will visit the interior of the church and you will have the opportunity to discover the fascinating history of the Benedictine reform carried out by a great local figure, San Giovanni Gualberto, who lived in the twelfth century.
After visiting the church it will be possible to stop for a lunch break. We will start again with our Hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles to take a beautiful path in the woods, where the fact that a Vallombrosan monastery has existed here for centuries is tangible thanks to the fir still present in an important extension, mixed with the oaks that show themselves with a much more varied colours than conifers, thanks also to lichens. Climbing the path we will reach the highest point of our route, where we will touch 700 metres of altitude.
We will then descend quickly to cross only the asphalt for one point – it is the road to Radda – and then continue along the CAI path. After a few hundred metres we come across the site of an important archaeological find: Cetamura has returned interesting finds dating back to the Etruscan era that testify to the commercial and archaeological liveliness of this area. After a path in the woods we find ourselves in front of the view of the ancient castle of San Donato in Perano, already documented in medieval times. Today a very beautiful villa that dominates the landscape, we will have the view of it by crossing a wide road where the landscape will have changed, where the forest has given way to symmetrical rows of vineyards hundreds of metres long and which develop along the spectacular valley. We will now be close to almost sunset and it will be nice to savour the atmosphere of this long walk.
Continuing with our Hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles, suddenly the fortified village of Vertine will appear in front of you behind a curve.
A place already attested in the Middle Ages, of this pretty village, cared for down to the smallest detail by its few inhabitants, you will love its amenities and it will make you want to not want to leave this place.
We will conclude our Hiking throughout Sienese Chianti Castles and reestablish towards Gaiole, thus returning to the starting point. On the downhill road there are numerous glimpses for beautiful photos, from the Pieve di Spaltenna – one of the oldest in the area – to the small village of Barbischio, perched in a small cove behind Gaiole.
Once back in the village, it may be time for an aperitivo enjoying the fresh evening air, when the sun has already set behind the mountains and even the last blushes of the sky have faded. A drink is possible in one of the historic cafes of the place, with a characteristic country style that is due to the celebration of the Eroica, a very famous historic cycling competitions.
The day is drawing to a close and the memory that you will take home, once you feel your legs heavy when you get into the car, is the unknown story of a Chianti that is not that of its cellars but that of castles and knights who competed for the control of this middle earth.