Mercatale Val di Pesa is a tiny lovely town entirely surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and dense woods. It is located on the top of a hill in the Chianti Classico wine area in the boundary between the Pesa valley and the Greve Valley, in short distance time from the city of Florence.
Its first historical records came from the first half of the 13th century. It is said that Messer Marzoppo della Tosa, the Podestà (civil governor) of Montecampolese ordered the construction of a huge square. When the square was built it became in a brief time the site of the local community market.
In this way, a village former called Beccamorto, afterwards Mercatale del Beccamorto and now Mercatale Val di Pesa was born all-around the square.
The square is now named Piazza Vittorio Veneto in Mercatele. It is one of the most typical and well preserved squares which operated as a market-place in the territory of Chianti.
The open area is encircled by beautiful buildings from the 16th and the 17th century.
One of it sides is cordoned off by the Church of Santa Maria a Mercatale, which indoors hosted some beautiful art works.
The market-place became at once one of the most renowned in the area, particularly during the religious or local holidays. Trade fairs and special events as all the celebrations were there held. It was also a point of bargaining offers, of interchange of goods and cattle auctions, where everything, not only food, could be sold and bought. In Tuscany these sites were usually located outside the walls of the castles and were called “Mercatali”.
Nowadays, its popular market activities are weekly held on Thursday morning.
The gorgeous castle of Mercatale Val di Pesa is called “Il Palagio”. From ancient origin, it is thought that the castle was erected before the 13th century. Even so, it was mentioned for the first time in 1252.
Along the centuries, Il Palagio has been eyewitness of many historical events but its almost unbreakable fortified walls have always safeguarded it. In 1260, when the famous Battle of Montaperti was fought between the Guelphs of Florence and the Ghibellines of Sienna, the entire area was devastated, but the castle did not suffer any damage.
In the Middle Ages Il Palagio (former called Curtifredda) was the castle of the Buondelmonti family. It later passed to the Visdomini di Pretojo family (the descendants of S. Giovanni Gualberto) and afterwards it belonged to the Canigiani who were also the Lords of the Castle of Montefolchi.
In the 14th century started the works of enlargement and the castle was almost got to its present dimensions. In the second half of the 19th century, when the everlasting fights suffered in Tuscany and in Italy all through the history came to an end, the fortress was changed, by the Barons of Miniati, into a private magnificent mansion
The mansion hosts splendid art works. Within its large courtyard there is a wonderful Chapel in neo-Gothic style which walls are wholly frescoed. It hosts a beautiful Florentine triptych of “The Madonna and Child flanked by S. Giovanni Gualberto and B. Michele Flamini”.
In a short distance from Mercatale Val di Pesa is located the large farmland of Il Palagio. It is divided in vineyards and olive groves.
The production of Chianti Classico wines and extra virgin olive oil is a tradition that Il Palagio is upholding from more than two centuries ago.
Its most renowned wines and grapes acquavite are:
- Chardonnay del Palagio Chianti Classico Riserva
- Rosso del Palagio
- L’Oro di Brumario
- Vin Santo del Chianti Classico “Amabile”
- Vin Santo del Chianti Classico “Secco”
- Brut Il Palagio (a Charmat-method sparkling wine)
- Pietralata (a Charmat-method demi-sec sparkling wine)
- Fragantia (an acquavite made from grapes)
Its extra virgin olive oil of Chianti Classico DOP (denomination of origin) arrived at the final of the well- known competition of the “Ercole Olivario” like the best Tuscan oil in 1994, 1995, 1997 and 2001.
Where to eat:
- “La Cantinetta di Rignana”: a cosy and charming restaurant located in the countryside between the small towns of Mercatale Val di Pesa and Panzano in Chianti. It has a beautiful terrace garden for meals in season with amazing panoramic views on that area of the Chianti territory. The cuisine is based on old traditional Tuscan recipes. Several ingredients are coming from their farms like: ham, cold meat cuts, cheeses, extra virgin olive oil and honey.
Wine list is made up by its own Chianti Classico wines.
Main Towns of Chianti
Badia a Passignano,
Barberino val d' Elsa,
Castellina in Chianti,
Castello di Brolio,
Castello di Gabbiano,
Castello di Meleto,
Colle Val D' Elsa,
Greve in Chianti,
Mercatale Val di Pesa,
Panzano in Chianti,
Radda in Chianti,
Tavernelle Val di Pesa,
Badia a Coltibuono.
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