11 September 2018
A solid pentagon of walls of Lombard origin stands solemnly on an isolated hill in the municipality of Gaiole in Chianti.
The high bastions hide an ancient and fascinating history ... and more than a mystery.
Inside, the large square tower, the Barone Ricasoli palace, the garden and various othr buildings including an ancient votive chapel.
A history of sieges and conquests
The castle of Brolio has been named since the tenth century, and at least since the twelfth century its name is linked to the noble Florentine family of Ricasoli.
Outpost of the Republic of Florence on one of its "hottest" borders, the one with Siena, the "stone sentinel" underwent numerous sieges.
It was conquered by the Sienese several times, in 1252, in 1452 and especially in 1478: on this occasion part of the walls were demolished by the bombards of the rival city.
His military life ended when Florence conquered Siena, becoming something similar to what we can admire today: a noble residence and a farm mainly devoted to the cultivation of vines.
Unfortunately, however, the Second World War brought it other wounds: the signs of the bombingss are still visible.
The Iron Baron
The first time we speak of Brolio and its Chianti is 1696. The Ricasoli wine was renowned in Europe, from England to the Netherlands.
But the period when the fame of Chianti in the castle of Brolio reaches its peak is the nineteenth century, under the demanding heel of the "Iron Baron", the great Italian politician Bettino Ricasoli who, passionate about wines, never neglected the cure of his vineyards when politics allowed him.
It was the Baron in 1874 to codify the composition of the Chianti Classico grapes that is still used as a disciplinary... so we can say without a doubt that the Chianti we drink still has been "invented" by Bettino Ricasoli.
What to see
Transformed by Ricasoli into an "English" fortress, with Tudor-style windows and bricks, the castle of Brolio presents various stratifications depending on the time, from the 10th century foundation to the Renaissance walls up to the changes made by the baron.
The garden certainly deserves a visit, both in its "Italian" and "English" nineteenth-century style, as well as the museum dedicated to Bettino Ricasoli, the chapel where the family members are buried and the vineyards of the estate.
The rest of the building can not be visited, as the Ricasoli family still lives there (lucky people ...).
Brolio wines are still prized and sold all over the world, and here the Bertolucci film "Io ballo da sola" was shot, one of the main responsibles of the great "appeal" of Chianti by many American and British celebrities.
Beware of the ghost!
Second president of the Council of the Kingdom of Italy after Cavour, great supporter of the Unification of Italy and Mayor of Florence, he had an extremely hard, angry and determined character.
One of the most important figures in Italian politics, Bettino Ricasoli, thanks to his fortitude, seems to have even won death.
His is in fact one of the most famous and long-lived Italian ghosts, with apparitions frequently attested.
It seems that right after death appeared continuously, clearing the table when he was in a bad mood or returning to sleep in his bed, which was often found unmade, with a cigar stub next door as if the ghost had granted a smoke before sleep, as was the Ricasoli costume.
But his most famous appearances see him on horseback, wrapped in a black cloak, which runs with a pack of hunting dogs in tow on full moon nights, passing through the walls of the manor.
Finally, there are those who swear they have heard the trot of the Baron's horse resounding in the stone corridors, or sometimes hearing a mysterious flute sound.
If ghosts do not scare you and appreciate a good glass of Chianti drunk right there where it became famous, the gardens and the museum of the Castle can be visited for a fee, and differentiated tours are organized with visits to the cellars, some vineyards and tasting.
Sources of reference: Wikipedia, Chianti.com, Italiaparallela.blogspot.com
Excellent base for your visit to the Castello di Brolio, the Albergo del Chianti is located right in the most famous square of Greve in Chianti, the picturesque Piazza Matteotti. Contact us now to book your holiday in Chianti on the trail of Bettino Ricasoli... or maybe the beautiful Liv Tyler of "I dance alone"!
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