Val di Chiana. Art, Nature and Fine Eating
Val di Chiana is a valley in Tuscany with a rich historic and cultural heritage. Ancient hamlets, hot springs and an inestimable food tradition, most notably represented by the beefsteak Florentine style.
Val di Chiana is a vast, fertile stripe of land stretching across the plains and hillsides between Tuscany and Umbria, covering an area of 1,200km². Val di Chiana is famous worldwide for the white-coated, large-sized Chianina beef cattle, which is used to prepare the beefsteak Florentine style. It is a land rich of history and culture, where olive trees and grapevine have found their perfect habitat. Its hamlets on the surrounding hills disclose a rich artistic heritage dating back to the ancient Etruscan and Roman times, blending with artefacts from the Renaissance. Formerly a marshy land, Val di Chiana is noted for the quality of its waters in the numerous natural hot and cold springs and the two lakes of Chiusi, which are the proof of the past reclamation of the land and a haven for countless species of birds and other animals.
Typical product of Val di Chiana
One the most important products of Val di Chiana is the extra-virgin olive oil, which is flavourful and fruity. Products like pecorino cheese, made with 100% free-range sheep’s milk, the Cinta Senese salami and the Porchetta of Monte San Savino are only a few of the numerous jewels in the crown of Val di Chiana. This is also the production area of different types high-quality honey, namely acacia, chestnut, strawberry tree, alfalfa, sainfoin and sunflower. Those with a sweet tooth may appreciate the local apple and plum jams and cantuccini almond biscuits dipped in Vin Santo. Val di Chiana is also a land of world renowned wines, such as Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, the first to be awarded a Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG), Chianti of Colli Aretini DOCG and Bianco Vergine Valdichiana, which can be easily recognised by its fruity taste of Golden Delicious apple and wisteria, with notes of tropical fruit.
Tuscan bread, a staple in the Val di Chiana food tradition
Tuscan bread is a staple in the local food tradition. Farmers used to consume it in large quantities with vegetables and beans, meat being unaffordable. It later became the core ingredient in a number of recipes, still enjoyed nowadays. Panzanella is made with bread soaked in water, seasoned with Frantoio olive oil, vinegar, onion, basil and diced tomatoes. Pappa al pomodoro is prepared with bread cooked in water and squashed tomatoes, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with Parmigiano. Winter dishes include cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) soup and sugo con le briciole, a breadcrumb sauce used on pici, fat spaghetti typical of the area.