In a cold March night in New York, during a spring that doesn’t seem to start quite yet, and keeps going back and forth with winter, what’s better than finding yourself in Tuscany? The Italian National Tourist Board took care of this on Monday March 6th, 2017, by creating a tour of the Valdichiana Senese, a land “within the land,” that extends over no more than 100 kilometers in southern Tuscany and offers numerous cultural, artistic and food-and-wine wonders that will make one forget New York’s harshness.
The event was organized in order to introduce the American community to the Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano e dei Sapori della Valdichiana Senese, the association that, ever since 1998, takes care of enhancing and promoting the beauty and variety of this territory, which includes nine townships, Cetona, Chianciano Terme, Chiusi, Montepulciano, San Casciano dei Bagni, Sarteano, Sinalunga, Torrita di Siena and Trequanda. Strada’s members are Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and producers of gastronomic delicacies, restaurateurs and winemakers, hospitality and spa professionals, local associations and institutions. The Strada’s goal is to spread, in the most authentic way possible, the knowledge of Valdichiana Senese, with its wine-and-food-related heritage, its landscapes and historical, artistic, thermal assets through different activities.
Prestigious speakers, Andrea Rossi, Mayor of Montepulciano, and Luca De Ferrari, Vice-President of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came to New York to present the Association and its goals. “We invested a lot of resources to make sure that tourists could have a wide and varied offer that includes culture, arts, landscapes, gastronomy and, of course, our wines. After ending 2016 with 2 million of visitors, we now aim at continuity: we would love tourists to stay in our territory at least five or six days, not only for the weekend. This is why we are promoting an offer in collaboration with other townships, so that we can make the visitors curious and motivate them to extend their stay here. We want them to experience our territory as we do, with our rhythms: we don’t want to re-create a fake and “touristy” experience.”
This is what the Mayor tells us before leaving the stage to an evocative video of the cultural wonders scattered throughout the nine townships of the valley; many are the archaeological artifacts from Chianciano Terme’s Etruscan Age, Sinalunga’s Medival villages, the 16th Century magnificence of Montepulciano with its palaces harking back to the Renaissance and even to the Paleolithic era, the end of the Bronze era and the different stages of human settlement around Cetona. And, of course, you can’t miss the traditional local cuisine. Olive oil, cheese, Vino Santo and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, pici – a typically Tuscan pasta – the different kinds of seafood and meat – the pole position going to Chianina, a special steak from a specific breed of cattle. You cannot miss also the chance of practicing some sports, especially cycling, thanks to the Sentiero della Bonifica, or of relaxing in the numerous spas. You can walk around locations where movies such as “The Gladiator,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The English Patient” and “New Moon,” from the Twilight Saga, were shoot.
The Association does seem to have taken care of everything. The experiences available to the tourists are numerous and diverse: you can learn Italian, organize your wedding, pick a tour, like the artisans’, the foodies’s, the spas’s – another local highlight – the wine cellars’s and the gardens’… New York really feels farther and farther away every passing minute, and Valdichiana closer and closer.
Mayor Rossi goes on and proudly explains that 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the DOC designation for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the first wine to obtain this label in Italy in 1966. In 1980, the Motepulciano was also assigned the label of Guaranteed Origin, DOCG. It is then Luca De Ferrari that introduces the mission of the Consorzio del Vino Novile di Montepulciano, which its dedicated to the promotion of this precious wine both in Italy and around the world. “The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from mixing 70% of grapes from Sangiovese wine variety and 30% of other approved Tuscan wine-grape varieties. Every year, we sell 8 million bottles, and Germany is the primary buyer purchasing 46% of the sold bottles. 21% of this wine is exported to the US, and the percentage keeps raising, also thanks to the work of Associazione Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano e dei Sapori della Valdichiana Senese.”
The Mayor echoes the agreement between the Consorzio and the Associazione: “The wine producers were the first to believe in a rediscovery of this territory, by sponsoring the wine through initiatives like ‘A tavola con il Nobile’ – At the Table with the Nobile – or the renovation of the Fort – the the Consorzio’s current headquarters – which required a great collective effort, given the discovery of Etruscan finds over the restoration and the need to get the works delayed. But the beauty of the final result is recognized worldwide.”
The Consorzio was not the only investor, though. We find out that also the Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Atlanta, GA, invested 600,000 Euros in the renovation of the Fort. Parts of its premises have actually been adapted as classrooms for KSU students, when they come to attend the program “KSU in Tuscany.”
Art, history, culture, wellness, gastronomy, all this together with one of the oldest wines of Italy. This can give some hard times to New York’s charm, I say to myself, while leaving the meeting and daydreaming about the Valdichiana Senese.
Translated by Giulia Casati