Sunday, 20 March 2022

Beavers re-appear in the wild in Tuscany

The wild life of Tuscany is by no means static. For example, several species of deer plus wild boar were rare in the Chianti Classico wine zone of Tuscany 80 year ago. They're now so common as to be a pest to the extent that most vineyards are have to be surrounded by high mess fences to keep them out. Now that these ungulate populations are out of control, wolves have made an appearance over the past 2-3 years, presumably having migrated down from the Apennines to easy pickings in Chianti.

Another pest is the nutria or coypu, a rodent that resembles a beaver but lacks its flat tail. Some years back, these rodents escaped from breeding facilities where they were raised for their pelts. They are now found in rivers and steams all over Italy, and cause damage by burrowing into stream banks, causing collapse of the ground along waterways.

Nutria or coypu (Myocastor coypus)

Nutria or coypu (Myocastor coypus)

Historically, true beavers used to be very common all across Europe. However, due to hunting for their pelts, beavers became almost extinct. In several countries, reintroduction projects successfully brought back the beaver. In Italy, the beaver remained absent until at least one was reported in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in the Tarvisiano woods, about 3 years ago. This individual and possibly others probably migrated over the Alps from Austria.

Beavers in Tuscany

 Beavers in Tuscany

Over the past two years, there has been photographic confirmation that the Eurasian beaver Castor fiber L. has re-appeared in the wild Tuscany for the first time in more than 500 years. There are at least a couple of colonies, one sighted in the province of Arezzo, in Valtiberina, along the Tiber river. Another on the border between the provinces of Sienna and Grosseto. Local freelance wild life technicians and government scientists, Chiara Pucci, Davide Senserini, Giuseppe Mazza and Emiliano Mori, confirmed the occurrence of beavers through camera trapping. Genetic analyses (cytochrome-b mitochondrial gene) and hair microstructure confirmed the beavers to be the Eurasian species now in a new range about 530 km south to the historical range for this species. The presence of a relict population in this area is unlikely and the researchers therefore suggest that these newly reported beavers are the result of unauthorised releases. A recent radio broadcast by Radio 24 suggested that the Tuscan beavers are escapees from a small zoo near Aretino, but this can be ruled out by the genetic analysis.

Beavers photographed at night in Tuscany

Beavers photographed at night in Tuscany

More about the fauna of the Val d'Elsa.


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Friday, 18 March 2022

Chianti wine festival at Montespertoli


The Chianti wine festival at Montespertoli is coming up (28 May to 5 June 2022) and as usual it will be an entertaining occasion with a procession of locals dressed up in 19th century costumes and, of course, lots of wine to taste. This wine festival is unusual in the number of street musicians and costumed bands who, along with Tuscan flag throwers and street actors, turn out to provide entertainment. In this respect the Montespertoli Chianti wine festival is superior to the Rassegna del Chianti Classico wine festival held later in the year in Greve in Chianti. The Greve festival has plenty of excellent wine available to try and buy but the entertainment is quite feeble in comparison with that of the Montespertoli event, especially in the evenings.

Chianti wine festival at Montespertoli
Chianti wines ready for tasting at Montespertoli

The important difference between the Greve and Montespertoli Chianti wine festivals is that they present wines from different wine zones of the Chianti appellation. The Montespertoli festival covers Chianti, Chianti Montespertoli and Chianti Colli Fiorentini while the Greve festival is devoted to Chianti Classico.

Montespertoli Chianti wine festival
Wagon loaded with Chianti fiasci pulled by Chianina oxen at the Montespertoli Chianti wine festival

Montespertoli is within easy reach of Florence by public transport and there are some excellent agriturismi vacation accommodations in the area

More about Montespertoli.

More about the Greve in Chianti wine festival.

Calendar of events in Tuscany.

Important festivals of Tuscany.

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Upcoming Chianti wine festivals

On 28 and 29 May 2022, there is a wine tasting event taking place in the attractive village of Radda in Chianti - Radda nel Bichiere. Earlier in the year, on the first weekend of June 2021, there is another one in Lamole in Chianti, I Profumi di Lamole. And the Chianti wine festival takes place in Montespertoli from 28 May to 5 June 2022. To take in some or all of these wine tasting occasions, you could find a place to stay on the Panzano in Chianti website.and for the Montespertoli Chianti wine festival on the Montespertoli website.

Radda nel Bichiere
At Radda nel Bichiere

For September, there are two upcoming Chianti wine festivals to note in your agenda.

Chronologically, the first is the Chianti Classico wine fair taking place in Greve in Chianti, 45-60 minutes south of Florence and reachable by bus from Florence. The official name is the LI Rassegna del Chianti Classico (51st Expo of Chianti Classico wines). In 2022, this wine festival takes place from the 8th to the 11th September 2022 in Piazza Matteotti, the main piazza of Greve in Chianti. Note that you might have to park some distance from the venue due to heavy traffic - this fair is very popular. If you also plan to drink some wine, that's just one more reason to take the bus.

Rassegna del Chianti Classico
The Terre di Melazzano booth at the Rassegna del Chianti Classico
 
The way it works is that you buy a wine glass from the Cassa and Informazioni booth and this allows you to try a certain number of the wines displayed. You can both buy and order wine and olive oil at the booths. In addition to the wine tasting, a variety of events is offered during the four days, but I wouldn't over estimate their intrinsic interest. Click here for the 2022 programme. The Greve Chianti wine fair has a good number of Tuscan wineries represented, each offering all of the wines that they produce - mainly Chianti Classico, of course. My only objection to this fair is that when the weather is hot, few of the exhibitors take any steps to keep their wines cool. Some of them are left in direct sunlight and are distinctly warm when you taste them.

The second wine tasting event is Vino al Vino, taking place one week later in Panzano in Chianti, 10 minutes drive in the direction of Sienna from Greve and also accessible by bus from Florence. Vino al Vino takes place from 15 to the 18 of September 2022. To some extent, I prefer Vino al Vino over the Chianti Classico Expo if only because it is smaller, with about 21 wineries presenting their wines and olive oil, and has a more intimate atmosphere. I also find the food on sale better than in Greve. There's live Jazz on Saturday & Sunday from 6 until 8 pm.

Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival
Vino al Vino Panzano Chianti wine festival

For accommodation nearby the venues:

Greve in Chianti accommodation.

Panzano in Chianti accommodation.

Villa hotels.

Chianti wine festivals on Facebook.

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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Sunday, 6 March 2022

The Medici. Masters of Florence. Use of digital backgrounds to re-create Renaissance Florence.

The TV series "I Medici" premiered on Italian television in 2016. I haven't had a chance to watch the whole series but I was greatly entertained to see in some clips how they re-created Renaissance scenes using digital composites. I'll show one or two here and add some more in due course.

Here's a scene which represents one of the gates of Florence during Renaissance times.

A scene from the TV series on the Medici family

A scene of Florence from the TV series on the Medici family

Observant readers (all of my readers are observant) will notice, first, that the Duomo sports the decorative facade that was added in the 19 C. The original facade was the raw brickwork that we still see on some other Florentine churches. So that was a blooper that they hoped no one would see - or perhaps they didn't know? It would have been easy to photoshop the facade for the digital background of this scene. The dome is depicted as completed, but that might be correct, depending on the period represented. Elsewhere in the series they make a big deal of the uncompleted dome.

The original facade of the Duomo of Florence
 
The original facade of the Duomo of Florence

Now let's look at the gate where live action is taking place in the film. That's the Etruscan gate at Volterra with the fake Florence in the background.

The Etruscan gate at Volterra in Tuscany

The Etruscan gate at Volterra in Tuscany

Now what about the Ponte Vecchio? Here it is in the series with its four arches - whoops, how many?

The fictional Ponte Vecchio in Florence

The digital Ponte Vecchio in Florence

The Ponte Vecchio has three arches (see below) and, furthermore, the Vasari Corridor, which is depicted on the bridge in the digitalised background of the TV series, was not built until 1565 (by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici).

The Ponte Vecchio as it looks today in Florence

The Ponte Vecchio as it looks today in Florence

Now here's a Tuscan countryside backdrop from the scene leading up to the death of  Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (who died during February when the grape vines have no leaves and it's way too cold to be munching grapes outside). Oh, and he was not poisoned or murdered in any other way.

Vineyards in Tuscany

Vineyards in Renaissance Tuscany according to I Medici

Vineyards like this didn't exist much before 1950. These are post-war grape vines. We call them "Fiat vineyards" because the rows of vines are planted just wide enough apart for a Fiat caterpillar tractor to plough between them. Prior to that, Tuscan farms used the method known as "cultura promiscua" where vegetables, wheat, olive trees, vines etc were planted in close proximity. In Renaissance times, grape vines were grown more or less wild through trees. Children used to climb up for the bunches of grapes which they threw down to the adults below. Furthermore, most of the Tuscan countryside was planted with wheat, with far fewer olive trees on cultivatable ground and even fewer grape vines. 'F' for that one, I'm afraid.

Next time you want to film a TV series on location in Tuscany, maybe hire me as an advisor!

More about Volterra.

More about the history of the Medici family in Tuscany.

More about the history of the Medici.

More about films shot in Tuscany.

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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