It was thanks to 18th-century historical sources that the place name of Salingolpe was recovered for the Etruscan settlement that once stood near today’s Castellina. The impressive Montecalvario burial ground provides evidence of the site’s existence: with a diameter of 53 m, unearthed at the start of the 16th century, seemingly inspiring Leonardo da Vinci in the plans for the “grand burial monument that rises up above a man-made conical-shaped hill” still preserved in the Louvre. The most important materials from the four tombs excavated in the early 19th century are on display in the rooms of the Chianti Senese Archaeological Museum, set up in the medieval fortress in 2006. Among these are the lion’s head in pietra serena and structural elements of recently restored procession carriage, which stands out for the decorative side frieze referring to the Greek myth of Amphiaraus. In addition to findings from neighbouring areas, the museum’s rooms are also home to the wonderful Attic amphorae from the Poggino di Fonterutoli necropoleis.
Located, with the arbitration of Poggibonsi (1203), in the Florentine dominions as part of territorial disputes with Siena, Castellina formed a terziere subdivision of the League of Chianti. The strategic nature of its position pushed the Florentine rulers to strengthen the defences on more than one occasion: it was Giuliano da Sangallo who designed the additional fortification of “della Castellina”, which defined the present layout of the town with its extended hexagonal walls, rectangular bridge house and half-underground walkway along the perimeter of the stronghold (the evocative via delle Volte). In the background of the battles between Florence and Siena, Castellina remembers the legend of the Black Rooster, which recalls the founding myth of the symbol par excellence of the Chianti area. The two knights are believed to have met near Castellina, at Crocefiorentin, where the Florentine knight thrust his sword to decree the boundary with Siena.
Based on the history of the local peoples, the charm of a unique land like Chianti, “a neighbouring paradise” in the words of anthropologist Alessandro Falassi, thanks to its scenery and harmonious relationship between civilisation and nature. Olive groves and vineyards, as if they were painted with a brush, alternate with the tiniest of villages, scattered farms and farmsteads and woodland that benefits from the landscape. Explore the Sant'Agnese Nature Reserve, covering more than 270 hectares, one of the few examples of naturized cypress woods in the Mediterranean and one of only three in Italy.
From its ridge at 580 metres above sea level, Castellina in Chianti affords vast views from Monte Amiata to Casentino,the Apennines, as far as Valdelsa and the metal-bearing hills.