It’s no tiny title, the one which the top US magazine bestowed upon Gaiole in Chianti towards the end of 2008. It was earned by the locals, the gaiolesi, and an abundance of nature and history. The rarefied dwellings are what make Gaiole so special, a population of just over 2,700 dotted through 27 hamlets, each unique as a cameo: fortified town centres, castles, churches, in a rural setting of extraordinary value, carved out by millennia of agriculture and care, a borderland between the eternal beauty of Siena and Florence.
Maybe it’s the isolation, the distance from motorways and A roads, everything which seemed a loss for such a long time is now flourishing again. We were at the beginning of the post-industrial era, a time when it was understood that it was a place you intended to reach – you need willpower to get there – chosen for its quality and culture by the wayfarer, tourist or those who began to select it as a place to live. Free from traffic, devoid of commuter towns and suburbs, peace guaranteed by a considerable distance, Gaiole in Chianti started to become, for some unexpectedly, a destination. Because of its scenery, nature and history of course, but also because it began protecting its land some time ago, never selling out to urbanization.
Starting with the
idea of a Chianti Cycling Park, we began to realize another of the unique
traits offered by our land: its perfection when explored by bike. Low on
traffic but high on a network of cycle paths through villages, with views at
every bend and roads for all fitness levels, pedalling is a must here, and a
fine welcome is the norm thanks to the area’s superb food and wine, a balm for
tired legs. In 1997 L’Eroica began in Gaiole, a non-competitive cycle
race associated with protecting the gravel roads and love for the origins of a
major sport like cycling.
In the twentieth edition, more than 7,000 people signed up and a new successful format was introduced, with 7 foreign editions that made little Gaiole a permanent cycling destination, the apple of the eye of international biking.
It’s pointless to point out that our hills are the cradle of Chianti Classico, and that our wine and oil making is famous all over the world. What we can add, however, is that the Chianti Valley is identified as the one that descends from Coltibuono and passes by Gaiole. Il suffix "in Chianti", the envy of many, goes to this little town that began life as a market, nestled among beauty, right on the Clantum torrent.