Table customs in Florence from Middle Age to Renaissance

May 12, 2017  |  Culture and Art, Florence  |  Comments Off
Restaurant at Villa le Barone Tuscany

Restaurant at Villa le Barone Tuscany

Table customs and traditions have been often reflected in Western paintings. This is particularly true for paintings from the middle Ages to the Renaissance in Florence, which are a true chronicle of life at that time and show the evolution of table habits. You can admire these paintings in the museums and churches of Florence or Siena, and in the surroundings of Villa le Barone. Perhaps you will look at them with different eyes after having read this article! You will also appreciate the care with which the table is put today in Villa le Barone!

The artists were chroniclers of their time, and the various paintings of the Middle Ages to the Renaissance show the evolution of table customs in Tuscany at that time. It is in the representations of the evangelical episodes that table settings first appear, and especially in the Last Supper’s representations. For example, in the paintings of Giotto (1266-1337), Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1318), Maestro Pisano (1215-1284), the essential elements of a table in the Middle Ages can be seen: a simple white tablecloth, plates in front of the guests, a unique dish where one takes the food with the hand to bring it directly to the mouth, in the center of the table, a single knife with a wooden handle and a long blade, a few glasses. In the 15th century, with Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the tablecloths are embroidered, there is a plate of metal for each guest. The spoon and the knife are the first table cutlery to appear on the table. The spoon was of wood, round, but its dimensions were reduced and it was given an oval shape. There was only one knife, used by all to cut the food, and the pieces were brought to the mouth with the hands. One of the first representations of the fork, born not as an individual cover, but to take the food in the common dish, can be found in the Abbey of Monte Olivetto (near Villa le Barone), in one fresco by Giovanni Bazzi detto il Sodoma (1477-1549). Over time, the functions of the tip of the knife will be filled by the fork, and this tip will always be more rounded and the blade less sharpened to avoid the negative impression of an offensive weapon. Note also that one wiped his mouth with the tablecloth, and the use of the napkin appears only at the end of the fifteenth century.

Fresco at the Abbey of Monte Olivetto Tuscany

Fresco at the Abbey of Monte Olivetto Tuscany

It was Catherine de Medici’s who introduced the use of the fork to the court of France. She would have said at a banquet in Fontainebleau in 1535 “Ladies and Gentlemen, you seize the meat in pieces with your fingers but grasping the meat with your fingers is considered improper and intolerable in the city from which I come,” and she showed a curious object with three pointed metal teeth: the fork.

Today table setting has been enriched, with different cutlery for each dish. The blade of the knife is rounded, it is less tapered, and it is oriented towards the plate, thus losing its offensive character. Whereas in France the forks are arranged points downwards, in Italy, as in England and the USA, they are arranged points in the air. This is how you will find your table put in the restaurant of the hotel Villa le Barone, with beautiful “Ginori” plates and all the necessary types of glasses to taste the exquisite wines of Chianti Classico!

A hotel for book lovers

May 5, 2017  |  Culture and Art, News  |  Comments Off
For books lovers , in one lounge ,Villa le Barone Tuscany

For books lovers , in one lounge ,Villa le Barone Tuscany

Do you like books? They are perfect traveling companions … but heavy to carry! Lovers of literature, books of art, novels, detective stories, will find at the boutique hotel Villa le Barone enough to satisfy their passion! There are books everywhere, in the rooms, on the tables of the various lounges and in many languages ​​…

At Villa le Barone, we love literature, and we want to share our love with guests! We therefore offer them the opportunity to read a good novel or , in summer in a comfortable deck chair in one of our quiet gardens or by the pool, or in autumn in front of the fireplace while sipping a glass of Chianti! Of course we have novels in many languages, English, German, French … and it is also possible to exchange your book for another: we think books have to be shared!

For books lovers: one of the lounge at Villa le Barone Tuscany

For books lovers: one of the lounge at Villa le Barone Tuscany

Our books on art in Tuscany or our books on Italian gardens will also help you prepare your excursions, and discover the so many facets of Italian arts and artists!

Lovers of literature and books, you will find in Villa le Barone a considerable number of books whose reading will allow you to relax and spend pleasant moments of relaxation!

A new book on Chianti Classico

February 24, 2017  |  Culture and Art, Food & Wine  |  Comments Off
Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico

Do you really know what is “Chianti Classico” wine? We are sure you don’t! To know what it is, you have to read the most fascinating new book Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine , written by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, which has just been published by the University of California Press.

The book not only tells the story of this famous wine since the 1500s until today, but it also reveals the closely intertwined socio-economic story of the Chianti territory. It is also a story of the laws, decrees, institutions and lobbying bodies which sought to protect the place of origin of wines and have led to the modern Chianti Classico, with its trademark, the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero).

We hope that the book’s short summary below will give Villa le Barone’s magazine readers the desire to read the book!

For centuries, “Chianti was valued as a special wine from the rocky hills of three river valleys between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany: Val di Pesa, Val di Greve and Val d’Arbia”. This place, the original Chianti, has been mired in conflict for much of its history… and it was the dispute over the borders of the Chianti zones in the 20th century that came to be known as the “War of Chianti” (Guerra del Chianti). In 11 chapters, Bill Nesto and Frances di Savino describe the evolution of Chianti from the 1500s through Bettino Ricasoli in the 1800s, to the twenty-first century, including the birth of the competing “Chianti Classico” and “External Chianti” zones in the twentieth century. It tells how Chianti Classico entered the global market, mainly commercialized in “fiaschi” (flasks), wrapped in traditional reed, “sala”. At the same time, Italian wine merchants started to sell red wine under the brand “Chianti” coming from all over Tuscany, and even Rome, Naples, Sicily and other Italian regions. Tellingly, Italy did not sign the international Madrid Agreement to protect “indications of source or appellation of origin” in the late nineteenth century. In 1924 a law called Disposizioni per la difesa dei vini tipici (Provision for the defense of typical wines) gave precedence to the concept of “Vini Tipici “ over that of wines from delimitated areas, the result of a 4-year legislative odyssey. The Chiantigiani immediately fought back, and in May 1924, the “Consortium for the defense of the typical wine of Chianti and its mark of origin” was created in Radda in Chianti, and choose the Black Rooster, the emblem of the medieval Lega del Chianti, as its “mark of origin”. Within 6 months the consortium grew to 189 members. It was soon called “Rooster Consortium” (Consorzio del Gallo). The authors continue describing the divisions and fights between Chianti Classico and External Chianti and their respective consortia after World War 2. In 2014, a new Chianti Classico DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Guarantita) discipline was adopted. The Chianti Classico zone now covers the full townships of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti , Castellina in Chianti, and Greve in Chianti (which includes the hamlet of Panzano). The denomination also includes part of the townships of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Casciano Val di Pesa. Today, the discussions are continuing: Is it important to identify “subzones” of Chianti Classico? Should there be “township labeling”?

Chianti Classico Vineyards from Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

Chianti Classico Vineyards from Villa le Barone Panzano in Chianti

 

“Essentially, Chianti Classico is a Sangiovese varietal wine”, already referenced in 1552 by Girolamo da Firenzurola in his long-lost treatise, “Sopra la agricultura”. It is Baron Bettino Ricasoli who, in 1870, re-established Sangiovese as Chianti’s star variety, sharing the stage with Canaiolo and Malvasia. But the authors state in conclusion of their chapter “The Secret of Sangiovese” that creating a new category of 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico would allow “Sangiovese and terroir to shine”. Organic and biodynamic viticulture is now growing. It began in Panzano, where the Villa le Barone hotel is located, and where the Chanti Classico producers agreed together to adopt “sustainable viticulture practices”.

There are about 380 grower-bottlers of Chianti Classico, and Bill and Frances have selected a number of them, mostly the smaller to midsize ones and present them in one of the last chapters.

You will be able to savor the best Chianti Classico wines at Villa le Barone, together with the best traditional dinners prepared by our cooks!

“This is not a simple tale”, as Bill Nesto, MW and founder of the Wine Studies Program at Boston University, and Frances Di Savino, attorney and co-author, state in the first chapter of Chianti Classico: “With its many twists and turns, peaks and valleys, Chianti is a territory worthy of an epic. Framed by Florence to its north and Siena to its south, Chianti is a land of quintessential beauty and culture. It is the timeless paesaggio (landscape) in the background of a Renaissance painting. It is a land of castles, chapels, bell towers, farmhouses, hills, oaks, cypresses, olive groves, and vineyards. It is an authentic place which gave birth to an iconic…wine, also known as Chianti.”

You have to come to Chianti!

Our guests have many talents

January 9, 2017  |  Culture and Art  |  Comments Off

Le maitre de l'unicorne

Villa le Barone’s guests have many talents: designers, photographers, painters, writers! The recent book by Thierry Chambolle “The Master of Unicorn” is an example.

It is a historical novel that tells of the journey of the Indian rhinoceros given in 1515 by the Sultan of Cambaye to Afonso de Albuquerque, who will give it to his king, Manuel I, who himself will give it to Pope Leon X. From a drawing, Albrecht Dürer will make a still famous engraving of this rhinoceros, animal never seen before in Europe.

Le maitre de l'unicorne

Unfortunately, the book has not been translated yet, but it might interest the French speaking readers of this article!

Tuscan Christmas Traditions

December 22, 2016  |  Culture and Art, Tuscany  |  Comments Off
Chimney in the main lounge at Villa le Barone , Tuscany

Chimney in the main lounge at Villa le Barone , Tuscany

Was the Christmas tree always there as a Tuscan Tradition…? There were different and very ancient year end traditions before this charming fairly new symbol. In particular, a “Ceppo” (stump of a tree) would be brought in the fireplace on the December solstice, and it would be the occasion for the whole family to express wishes… and today Villa le Barone formulates all best wishes to the readers of this article!

Much before the Christmas tree custom had become the standard in most of the Christian world and beyond, many European households celebrated the December solstice (longest night of the year) with a different tradition inherited from pagan pre-Christian times; the Tuscan version of this tradition, still practiced in traditional families in the early nineteen fifties, consisted in bringing into the house, close to the fireplace, the “Ceppo” (stump) of a tree, often of an oak, which would be decorated with leaves, moss and berries from the forest. Then the house master would set the “Ceppo” in the already burning fireplace sprinkling on it a few drops of wine and dropping some grain on the embers. Then the family would gather in front of the burning stump and, holding hands, would sing the classical propitiatory song: “Be happy , stump / tomorrow is the day of the bread / all grace comes into this house / women, goats, sheep shall all breed offspring / grain and flour and wine will abound (Sia felice il ceppo/ domani è il giorno del pane/ ogni grazia entri in questa casa/ le donne, le capre, le pecore figlieranno/ abbonderanno grano e farina e vino”) . Then the chidren, blindfolded, would hit the burning stump with fire irons while chanting aloud their gift wishes. The “ceppo” was kept burning for a few days to cheer the household up during these longest and coldest days of the year.
A remnant of this tradition, in some countries, is a popular Christmas rolled cake, often covered with chocolate, which is still decorated in the shape of a tree stump.

Christmas log

Christmas log

When you come to #VillaleBarone next time – even if it will probably be in a period different from the winter solstice- and pass in front of one of the very large fireplaces, just have a thought about the families chanting in front of it to ensure and bring down some prosperity on the household! … and if in the meantime you hear someone chanting “I would like a lovely trip to Chianti and Villa le Barone” we are all in favor of it and shall be happy to help make this wish become true!