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The Chianti Effect

Travel in the Footsteps of Da Vinci & other Famous Italians

By: Sabrin Hasbun Writer & Journalist | Specialist Food & History

Chianti doesn't need an introduction: a land of undulating hills that stretch out between Florence and Siena, prestigious wineries, stone farmhouses and ancient abbeys that evoke a rich history — it’s no wonder this region is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. 

It's with a bit of wit, and affection, that Chianti was renamed “Chiantishire” by upper-class British travellers. Chianti can count among its greatest admirers: Prince Charles, Tony Blair, and Sting — who even has his own vineyard here. Mind you, even Hannibal Lecter chose to drink Chianti wine with his meals!

This fascination with Chianti is not a recent trend. As a matter of fact, this region of Tuscany has bewitched many historical figures and celebrities in the past. Discover the famous lineage of visitors that were charmed by Chianti — you will be surprised to see whose steps you are following. 

The Chianti effect: How six great Italian visitors fell in love  

The Tuscan polymath inspired by Chianti: Leonardo Da Vinci

Born in a small Tuscan hamlet (not Vinci as his name suggests, but Anchiano), Leonardo Da Vinci was a lover of nature, food and wine.

Anchiano

Anchiano


Leonardo discovered the secret to happiness when he wrote: “Et però credo che molta felicità sia agli homini che nascono dove si trovano i vini buoni”. Translated it means: “And I think that there will be much happiness for those men who are born where good wines are found”. 

It’s no wonder that Chianti was his favourite stomping ground for inspiration, so much that sources confirm this area as the home of the Mona Lisa. One of our exquisite stone farmhouses, Lamore di Carla, sits in a hamlet next door to Villa Vignamaggio thought to be the birthplace of the young lady subject of Leonardo’s masterpiece. 

The Florentine exiled to Chianti: Niccolò Machiavelli

If you’ve read (and appreciated!) his unscrupulous politics in the 16th-century Realpolitik manual “The Prince”, you will be thrilled to discover that you can visit the very house where this Machiavellian masterpiece was written. 

Exiled from Florence in 1513, Machiavelli went to live in a house in the wider Florentine Chianti, in Sant'Andrea in Percussina, San Casciano Val di Pesa. Originally named L’Albergaccio, the house is now a winery and a restaurant, where you can enjoy culture, food and wine in one go. 

The painter who produced divine Chianti wine: Michelangelo Buonarroti

Michelangelo couldn’t resist the lure of Chianti and its wine. In the 16th century he bought a farm between Castellina and Panzano in Chianti, and with the help of his nephew Lionardo, began producing wine. 


To this day, Michelangelo’s estate, Tenuta Nittardi, is still an excellence of Chianti Classico and IGT Maremma Toscana. The estate produces the very same wine variety and blend that Michelangelo gifted to Pope Julius II and Leo X during the works on the Sistine Chapel, Nectar Dei. 

Art and wine continue to exist in synergy in this winery, as each year a different artist is invited to paint the label and wrapping paper used for the Casanuova di Nittardi Chianti Classico wine bottles. Previous collaborations include renowned artists such as Yoko Ono, Dario Fo and Karlo Otto Götz.

The scientist who taught in Chianti: Galileo Galilei

The Pisan astronomer, physicist and engineer, Galileo had his own farm near Grignano. His pupil and biographer Vincenzo Viviani, wrote about his master’s passion for wine: “Such was the delight that he took in the quality of his wine and the tending of the grapes, that he used to prune and bind them himself.” 

Even if his main residency was in Northern Italy, Galileo Galilei had a soft spot for Chianti and taught mathematics to the monks of Badia a Passignano, in Tavarnelle. This makes an easy must-see from our villas in Chianti. 

The prime minister who invented Chianti wine: Bettino Ricasoli  

The most intriguing and important figure in the whole history of Chianti wine is the creator of Chianti Classico himself.  

Known as the “Iron Baron” for his integrity and austerity, Bettino Ricasoli was a man of science and politics. He was one of the leading figures of the Italian Risorgimento, and twice Prime Minister. His estate in Chianti, the Brolio Castle, is one of the oldest and most prominent Chianti wineries. 

The opera composer who loved a glass of Chianti: Giuseppe Verdi 

Not only is he one of the greatest names in Italian Opera, with works like Nabucco, Aida, La Traviata and Il Trovatore; Giuseppe Verdi was also (and still is) a symbol of the Italian Risorgimento and Italy's fight for freedom and unity.

As a man of great culture and intelligence, Verdi was also a connoisseur of the “pleasures of the table”, as we say in Italian. In Giuseppe Verdi’s best-known opera La Traviata (1853), Alfredo sings in a famous duet: “Libiamo, libiamo ne'lieti calici che la bellezza infiora;e la fuggevol, fuggevol ora s'inebrii a voluttà’. Translated he is singing: “Let's drink, let's drink from the joyous chalices”. 

In this brindisi (toast) we can hear the composer’s enthusiasm for wine. And it seems — by reading the letters of Verdi’s wife, Giuseppina Strepponi — his favourite wine was…well guess what? Chianti!

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