In the area known as the Alta Valdera just south of Pisa, lies the wonderfully-secluded hamlet of Chianni. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak it’s been called the “happy island”. There must be a reason why…
All About Chianni
Chianni is the quintessential village that comes to mind when we imagine Tuscany: winding road after winding road meandering through lush green hills dotted with cypress trees and the occasional farmhouse. In this area, there are only four major towns and Chianni is one of them with under 1,500 people, and most of them over 50. The little elementary school is so small that this year’s first-grade class only has 4 students.
If it sounds like paradise on Earth so far, you’re not alone: Chianni has become a holiday destination for visitors from all parts of the world who want to get away from the stress of their routine and to be in closer contact with nature. In fact, the farmhouse holiday business, known as agriturismo, is booming. Vacationers want a different kind of holiday experience: one that allows them to connect with the surrounding area and the local people.
It’s common for visitors to come here by car with their bikes in tow so they can explore the hills and the surrounding area in total freedom on the various trails. Hiking is also a favorite as many of the trails lead to waterfalls and total relaxation. The excellent location also makes for easy day trips to nearby Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Luca, and Livorno (all within a 1-hour drive). Even closer are the lovely towns of Lajatico (birthplace of Andrea Bocelli), Casciana Terme, Peccioli, and Terricciola.
Its tiny historic center‘s main attraction, aside from the charm of its stone-covered houses and shops, is the Church of San Donato. Although the area was most certainly inhabited by the Etruscans, most of the first records of Chianni date back to the 13th century. The church was completely renovated in 1812, but the origins date back to 1277. It’s a single nave with four chapels and its altar dates to the late 1500s. You can also see the Holy Family by Giovanni Battista Tempesti (who painted the Music Hall in the Pitti Palace as well as the Last Supper in the Duomo in Pisa).
And while you’re strolling through the cobblestone streets, you’ll want to sample the local products. The area is famous for its chestnuts, especially from the nearby hamlet of Rivalto, which are harvested every fall and used in all kinds of recipes from sweets to savory pasta dishes. Where there are chestnuts, there are also wild boars and Chianni is no exception. This delicious meat is used in stews as well as in pasta sauces. Let’s not forget the prized olive oil as well as wine. The famous Strade del Vino delle Colline Pisane runs right through this area which produces delicious reds like the Chianti delle Colline Pisane DOCG just to name one.
Chianni, the Exception
After reading all of this, is it any wonder that living in Chianni is good for your health? So good in fact that as of mid-April, it managed to have not one single case reported of COVID-19. This has recently put the little town on the map at a national level. A 97-year-old pharmacist who has been practicing in Chianni since 1950, was recently featured in the news and is quoted as saying, “We have to keep our minds active because that’s our engine. If we sit down in our recliner then it’s over.” She has been working tirelessly and fearlessly every single day, staying faithful to her patrons, even during the Coronavirus outbreak. Chianni is among an elite group of 37 Tuscan municipalities (out of a total of 273) that have managed to stay “COVID-free” (statistics as of mid-April).
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