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The legend of the Black Rooster

Chianti Classico bottles have always been distinguished by a brand depicting the image of a Black Rooster – a historical symbol of the “Ancient Military Chianti Legion” dating back to Medieval times. An image of this ancient symbol by the painter Giorgio Vasari appears on the “Salone dei Cinquecento” ceiling in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where Castellina in Chianti is visible in the background.

This symbol’s history also includes a unique legend set in Medieval times that explains how the Chianti territory’s geographical boundaries were decided. And the main character of this story is indeed a black rooster.

In the 18th century, the Republics of Florence and Siena fought bitterly to conquer each other and take control of the Chianti region, a land placed in between the two cities. To decide once and for all which part of the Chianti land should belong to Siena and which part to Florence, the two cities decided to resort to a quite bizarre plan.

They agreed that a knight on horseback would depart from each city at sunrise and then the boundary belonging to each city would be set at their meeting point.

It was further decided they would leave at dawn and that the departure signal would be the crow of a rooster.

However, it will be seen that the success of the mission depended more on the choice of the rooster than of the rider or the horse.

Siena chose a white rooster, while Florence opted for a black one, which they kept shut up in a small, dark chicken coop for several days.

So, on the day of the challenge, as soon as the Florentine people opened the chicken coop, the black rooster began to sing madly, well before sunrise.

Its singing gave the Florence knight a head start over his opponent, who had to wait for the first light of day to start his race. In the end, the Siena knight rode for only 12 kilometres before meeting the Florence knight in the small village of Fonterutoli outside of Castellina in Chianti.

From that day it was agreed that the border between the two cities was in Castellina in Chianti, which for centuries remained a military bulwark of Florence and is still strongly linked to the Tuscan capital.