In the beginning there was Clanis (Clanis Aretium as referred to by Pliny the Elder), and then there was the Valdichiana.
In ancient times the Clanis stream flowed from the lands of Arezzo towards Umbria. A tributary of the Paglia river moving towards Orvieto, in its turn an affluent of the mighty Tiber, this stream was mentioned since the Roman Empire. Then the valley was flooded and became marshy until the new regents of Tuscany, the Grand Dukes starting from Cosimo de’ Medici, studied a way to solve the problem.
The best architects and hydraulic engineers were summoned, such as Fossombroni, as well as the best scientists, among which the genius Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo carried out his studies on the Valdichiana climbing up the towers of the villages of Marciano della Chiana, Foiano della Chiana, Torrita, Montepulciano, Lucignano and Cortona, taking notes and sketching out the “Bird’s-Eye View of a Landscape” of the flooded valley. Today the original drawings are preserved at Windsor Castle, UK. Following the reclamation, the valley became a rich agricultural area, overlooked from the east and west by villages full of Art and History.
Northwards it borders with the lunar landscape of the Crete Senesi, south with Upper Lazio, whereas towards west it runs almost parallel to the Valdorcia.
Today the region consists of 19 communes, of which 8 in the province of Siena, 8 in that of Arezzo and 3 in the province of Perugia, in Umbria. The reclamation has transformed this territory into one of the most important in Italy, both for the beauty of the landscape and for the wealth of the agricultural land. Already in the 18th century, and throughout the reign of Leopold the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Valdichiana was defined the “granary of Italy”.
Many are the artists who extol its virtues, such as the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (18th century), who, in “Italian Journey” marvelled at the simplicity and precision of the cultivations he could admire from his train: “It is not possible to observe fields more beautiful than these; there isn’t a single gorge which isn’t perfectly farmed, and prepared for sowing. The wheat thrives, finding in these lands the necessary conditions to make it flourish. On odd years they sow horse beans, since here oats don’t grow. They also plant lupins, which now are green and will bear their fruits in March.
Even the flax is sown; underground throughout the winter, where the cold and frost will make it stronger.” Today this territory is a valley of 1272 square km, in whose basin lies an intricate ramification of level grounds and gently rolling hills.
In the journey through the agricultural heart of the Valdichiana, which smells of fruit, wine, extra-virgin olive oil and wheat, a special chapter is dedicated to our Chianina beef.
One of the oldest and most important cattle breeds of Italy, it owes its name to its farming area. Among the hypotheses on its origins seems to be confirmed that, based on historical reasons, which sees it as a native breed or at least existing from time immemorial.
Since ancient times the Chianina was known and appreciated: the Etruscans and the Romans used snow-white coated oxen during triumphal parades and for their sacrifices to the gods. These large, white oxen were most probably the ancestors of today’s Valdichiana cattle.
Man has always shown a strong admiration for this breed, its beauty and its temperament. Today’s Chianina breed is the result of a selection began during the last century. The selection of the breed has continued until today with rigorous scientific methods, which have led to the harmonious conformation which distinguishes it.
It is precisely for this noble aspect, due to the harmonious structure, to the pure whiteness of the coat, and to its large size (it is the world’s largest cattle), that it is called “The White Giant of the Valdichiana”. In addition to its physical characteristics and meek character, which have made it the inseparable fellow worker of farm labourers as draft animals, during the last century it has reached fame thanks to the tastiness and unique characteristics of its meat. This beef is, in fact, excellent in terms of taste, fragrance, organoleptic features and nutritional contents. taste, fragrance, organoleptic features and nutritional contents.