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History of Castellina in Chianti

When the opportunity presented itself in 2001 to exhibit in Castellina in Chianti (SI) in a street called Via delle Volte, I had a moment of hesitation.

Although I knew the town, I had never walked down Via delle Volte.

The available space was in an old, remodelled cellar, which is part of the beautiful Palazzo Bianciardi, purchased by the Bianciardi family in the 15th century.

The experience made such a vivid impression that I’ve never left and still today I feel privileged to be in such a special place steeped in history.

Castellina in Chianti is situated on a hillock at a crossroads for travellers from Arbia, Elsa and Pesa valleys. Located on the Chiantigiana SR222 highway connecting Florence and Siena, it is among the main travel destinations in Chianti.

Castellina is of Etruscan origin, and came under the jurisdiction of Florence during the 12th century, becoming an important outpost thanks to its strategic location on the road between Florence and Siena. Following the town’s raid and destruction in 1397 at the hands of Alberico da Barbiano, a soldier of fortune enlisted by the Viscounts of Milano, the decision was made by Florence to fortify this important outpost between 1401 and 1450.
It is said that even Brunelleschi was called to ensure that the fortification was built according to a standard of excellence.

Via delle Volte testifies to the medieval structure of Castellina’s old town centre: it is a covered street with the old city wall standing on its east side.

This wondrously evocative route traces the boundary line of the ancient ‘pomoerium’, a public area archaic in origin, used for sacred and military purposes.

The discovery of this suggestive path soon led to the construction of patricians’ homes here, overlooking the village’s high street.

Windows open on the grandeur of the Chanti valley on one side, while the other side reveals little cellar doors and hidden passageways.

When this fortified village became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1559, its strategic military character was lost and it became an agricultural hub; its hills began to be populated by farms and farmhouses, many of which in modern times have been converted to meet demands for agrotourism.

In the heart of the town centre is via Ferruccio, crowded with shops, craftsmen’s boutiques, restaurants and historic buildings like Palazzo Banciardi and Palazzo Squarcialupi, both of which once belonged to the noble families of the village. Palazzo Squarcialupi is home to the Enoteca Antiquaria, which has collected wines for over 100 years and represents an important historical archive for preservation of the original characteristics of Chianti Classico.

Another attraction is the San Salvatore Church, which was rebuilt in 1945 and holds two precious works of art: a fresco from the 15th century, attributed to the Master of Signa and depicting the Virgin and Child, and a Renaissance wooden statue of Saint Barnabas. A stone’s throw away, in the centre of the village stands the Fortress with its crenelated tower, offering visitors a splendid view of the surroundings. Inside the Fortress is the Archaeological Museum of the Sienese Chianti, a place where archaeological finds from the surrounding area testify to Chianti’s ancient origins.

Located just outside of the village is the Etruscan tomb of Montecalvario, a prime example of Etruscan funeral architecture from the orientalising period.

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