This is the most extensive of all the valleys in the Apennine chain- over 500 sq.
kilometres of well organized, cultivated farm land.
A garden when viewed from Cortona, the ancient city which dominates the entire area from its 600 m in altitude. As early a the 3rd century B.C., the valley must have been considered the granary of Etruria as Hannibal, after plundering ad ransacking the area, was still able to stock his entire army before making his legendary crossing alluring the Roman legions to Trasimeno where they were ambushed and defeated.
In addition to historical documentation there is also archeological evidence and cultural tradition to support the theory that the Chiana Valley belonged to an ancient civilization. The underground tombs of Camucia and Sodo, the fids from Farneta, Foiano, Cignano, Castiglion Fiorentino and Cortona museum al testify to the effect that the Etruscan inhabited and cultivated this valley draining it to the waters which for thousands of years had reduced it to marshland.
When Leonardo da Vinci, more than fifteen centuries later, drew up the "Atlantic code",
the Valdichiana once again appeared as a lake. It so happened that after the fall of the
western roman empire, the ensuing barbarian invasions and bloody Gothic Wars
(which continued throughout almost the entire 6th century) brought about the systematic depopulation
of the country-side. No longer tended with loving care, the Valdichiana surrendered yet again to
the waters inundating its territory.
Land reclamation planned and carried out by the Aretine engineer, Vittorio Fossombroni, during the Lorraine rule at beginning of the 19th century, restored to the Valdichiana its former productive capacity. The valley was soon scattered with villages and architecturally superb farm-complexes which were highly efficient for the times.
It had not, however, always been a paradise. After Hannibal's crossing, the Valdichiana
experienced other historical episodes which later led to the formation of the Tuscan state:
the battle of Pieve al Toppo (1288) in which the Aretini inflicted a decisive blow on the Senesi
who were at that time closely allied to the Florentine Guelph faction; the so-called Scannagallo
battle (1554) fought near Foiano and renowned for the large number of French mercenary soldiers killed.
The outcome of this conflict was a determining factor in the subjugation of the Republic of Siena
to the rule of Cosimo de'Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The list of the artistic genius of this valley is impressive, the most outstanding to note being Luca Signorelli, Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Sansovino and Gino Severini.
The valdichiana was once the granary of etruria and even today is still the only area specializing In the raising of the highly prized breed of beef cattle know as the Chianina, which can be directly traced back to the "bos primigenius" of prehistoric times.
This natural bent towards agriculture characterizes the valley’s economy as a whole, where activities connected with the production of cereals, sugar beet, high quality oil and Wine D.O.C. All flourish and prosper.