Montebenichi

Of ancient origins, on a hill that separates Chianti from Valdarno, there is Montebenichi. A well-preserved village, where every step inside makes you relive the feeling of being in an authentic late medieval location.

The place-name and castle originated from a Longobard settlement, of which few traces remain today except for some sections of town walls and the relics of a tower; these last ones are clearly visible when you reach the village, after having passed “leopoldine” farmhouses surrounded by secular oaks full of charm and very precious from the historical point of view.

Theater of fights for its position on the edge of the Senese territory and therefore disputed by the Republics of Florence and Siena, in 1478 there was one of the most cruel and disastrous event in Valdambra: plundered and burned by the Aragonese of Carlo V, what remained of the ancient fort was a few ruins and only at the beginning of the sixteenth century it underwent a reconstruction, with the urban conformation that we know today.

 

Climbing the meters that separate us from the village, we meet the certain witness on the peopling of Montebenichi, that is the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Altaserra, a sacred building of early Christian origin surrounded by cypresses and olive trees, rebuilt during the twelfth century: a place of intriguing faith that serves as a perfect premise to the residential area that awaits us higher up, inside the parish is still preserved a baptismal font and a stone stoup carved respectively in 1596 the first, and in 1574 the second.

Once at the entrance of this delightful village stands Palazzo Stendardi, placed in front of another church in a state of neglect (the church of Madonna del Conforto, a place where an image of the venerated Madre Misericordia is well preserved), nestled amid black pines, cypresses and graceful gardens, here you can read about the famous Gregorio Stendardi known as Goro da Montebenichi, captain of the militant troops of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, defined at the same time as “wrangler” and valorous captain at the service of Francesco Ferrucci, loyal to the point of making a shield with his own person in an attempt to save his captain.

Today to remember his deeds remains this residence of the Stendardi, descendants of the brave captain, whose patronage remained on Montebenichi until 1860.

Equally characteristic is the building that dominates Piazza Gorizia, central nucleus where there is a beautiful ancient well: it is the “Castelletto”, original castle of the fortress, restored in refined neo-gothic architecture by the painter Salvadore Malesci, here is possible admire the wonderful decorations on the façade, his garden and lodge in his luxurious and refined holiday home.

 

Outside the walls of the village, you get to know the real Tuscany: rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves, dirt roads and dry stone walls identify the landscape in a perfect union between nature and human work.

As evidence of the olive vocation, not only of Montebenichi but of all the entirely Valdambra, there is the “Olivone” of Montebenichi, also called “Noccolo”,  which before the frost of 1985, the year before, this extraordinary millennial tree produced 260 kg of olives, an unbeaten record. The great olive tree together with over 30 native Valdambra olive genotypes constitutes the amazing biodiversity of this land.

 

Thanks to its 511 meters of altitude, Montebenichi enjoys a privileged position in the Tuscan countryside: the colors of the seasons frame the landscapes at any time of the day with an enchanting picture that portrays the Valdambra, Crete Senesi up to Monte Amiata and even Siena, which in the clearest days it seems almost at your fingertip.