Allegrini 2024

Florence has its urban vineyard: “Vigna Michelangelo” (Donne Fittipaldi) at Piazzale Michelangelo

Seven hundred vine rootstocks planted on the beautiful hillside overlooking the Arno, an oasis of biodiversity among Tuscan vines, olive, pine

One can only imagine the splendor of Florence that was once pristine and untainted, where vines were cultivated from Chianti to Santa Maria Novella, when agriculture and urbanism shared the same soil. Images that live suggestive to this day only in the toponymy from Via della Vigna Vecchia to Via della Vigna Nuova to Via Il Prato, once rich in greenery and flowers. That ancient charm lost in history and industrial revolutions and that finds space today in initiatives of high symbolic value. Such as the one desired by Maria Menarini Fittipaldi, together with her four daughters Valentina, Carlotta, Giulia and Serena, prompted by the ever-creative communicator Gianni Mercatali, and with the work of contemporary oenologist Emiliano Falsini and agronomic technician Stefano Bartolomei. In the home of her childhood, of her father Commendatore and Cavaliere del Lavoro Mario Menarini, Mrs. Maria wanted to plant seven hundred vine rootstocks to “paint” the hill that, from Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooks the historic district of San Niccolò.

Named Vigna Michelangelo, in honor of the Florentine genius who carved eternal grace into marble, this new urban vineyard, on the hill overlooking the Arno, with a view that sweeps from Brunelleschi’s dome to the hills of Fiesole, adjacent to the Iris Garden, where the germplasm of the Iris genus, symbol of Florence, is preserved. And which represents a true pamphlet that can tell the story of classic Tuscan wine: Sangiovese, Colorino, Pugnitello and Foglia Tonda. The rooted cuttings planted in March 2024 and that will see the first harvest in 2027 are, therefore, custodians of the germplasm of the Tuscan grape varieties par excellence and bear the names of some of the most representative journalists of Italian wine culture (WineNews is the only editorial staff to have two dedicated rooted cuttings, ed.)

Thus, a symbolic operation but one that gives Florence the merit of having an urban vineyard like other cities representative of culture gathered in the Urban Vineyards Association (Uva) circutito, from Turin to Milan, from Venice to Siena, from Catania to Palermo, from Paris to Lyon, from Avignon to New York. Donne Fittipaldi, who have the center of their production in Bolgheri thus fresco an urban farmland giving back to the city a bit of its purest character, that of nature celebrated by the stilnovists Dante and Guido Cavalcanti but also in the gracefulness of the verses of Lorenzo the Magnificent and then by Michelozzo who sculpted the vineyard in the columns of the courtyard that bears his name in Palazzo Vecchio or in the traces found in the allegorical statues of Giotto’s Campanile. And, therefore, in the Florence city of symbols, the Michelangelo Vineyard of Donne Fittipaldi wants to launch the choral and feminine message of reappropriation of the land. From the analyses carried out by the agronomic team led by Stefano Bartolomei, the soil of the Michelangelo Vineyard hill is comparable in properties and clays to the noble soil of Chianti Classico. The cultivation of these seven hundred rootstocks will follow the alberello method in an amphitheater vineyard that will then form a “garden” in which to walk and observe the varieties of Tuscan vines. A real archive: three hundred vines are Sangiovese, with clones chosen in the CCL2000 selection. One hundred and fifty vines are of Canaiolo, also a vine that is widespread in all Chianti areas, one hundred vines are of Foglia Tonda, and another hundred vines are of Pugnitello, a variety that is offering interesting results in Tuscany, and which owes its name to the characteristic shape of the cluster with a small closed fist, Finally, fifty vines are of Colorino del Valdarno, also known as Abrostino or Abrusco. It will not be a production to be put on the market, but the barrel that will be vinified in 2028 will go to auction for charity. “Seven hundred bottles will be made from that cask”, concludes Maria Menarini Fittipaldi, “to be sold on the international market through auctions with charitable purposes of social support. The purpose of the vineyard, however, is not only wine, but the relationship that is created between man, earth and air, a relationship that resizes the sterility of concrete and asphalt with the search for mutual respect”.

Florence and the vineyard have an ancient and, at one time, symbiotic relationship, and it has been recounted from the earliest ages, described in many works and paintings in frescoes and pictures. Poems inspired by the vine and wine also testify to the substantial presence of the vine in the life of human beings: from the Song of Songs to the Homeric poems. The Romans, at the suggestion of Cato the Censor, purchased good land in the cities they founded, giving priority importance to the planting of vines and willows that produced the wickerwork needed for tying vine shoots. At that time, cultivating vineyards produced incomes higher than other crops, and most importantly, taxation was the lowest of all. But, the crisis of the Empire created great turmoil, viticulture suffered very high taxation, and farmers were forced to uproot vineyards. It was for this reason that in the 4th century, Emperor Theodosius, introduced the death penalty for those who cut down vines, just to cite a historical cross-section where the vineyard is central to the life of the human being.

Several urban vineyards can be found in Italy: In Turin, the Vigna della Regina vineyard has been reborn on the hill overlooking the Gran Madre and the Mole. The work of replanting the vineyard was carried out in 2006 by Azienda Balbiano, which, availing itself of the collaboration of the University of Turin, Faculty of Agriculture, and CNR Turin, replanted three thousand fifty-seven rootstocks, mostly of Freisa, with grisa roussa, cari, balaran, neretto duro, bonarda and barbera, laid out on a total area of 0.8298 hectares. In Milan, Leonardo's Vineyard, a reminder of the vineyard that Ludovico il Moro gave to the genius from Vinci in 1498 and located in Santa Maria delle Grazie, has recently been restored with the advice of Professor Attilio Scienza. Malvasia di Milano, Year I - was bottled in exclusive 330 Decanters inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing found in folio 12,690 of the Windsor Codex manuscript and made by Alberto Alessi at his Cascina Eugenia winery. Decanters are progressively numbered and sealed with a guarantee stamp and sealing wax. At the end of 2022, Casa Atellani, home of Leonardo’s Vineyard, was purchased by Bernard Arnoux, the richest man in the world and owner of the Lvmh Group, and has been closed to the public since October 2023, pending further restoration. In Venice there are important realities, such as that of the walled vineyard or Bisol’s “Clos” Venissa in Mazzorbo, which produces 3,000 bottles per year of a Dorona-based white, or that of the vineyard of the friars of San Francesco della Vigna, cared for by the Santa Margherita Group, and again a series of vineyards cared for by the “La Laguna nel Bicchiere” Association (the rediscovered vineyards). It was Siena that launched the Senarum Vinea project for the recognition and enhancement of the indigenous viticultural heritage and historical forms of cultivation in the walled city. The project involves the planting of ancient grape varieties such as Gorgottesco, Tenerone, and Rossone alongside Prugnolo gentile, Occhio di pernice, and Procanico. And it is in Siena that the Urban Vineyards Association was born with the collaboration of Paolo Corbini of the National Association of Wine Cities. Urban Vineyards Association has as its motto “Sustainable beauty will save the world” and as its purpose “to protect the rural, historical and landscape heritage represented by urban vineyards”. In Rome there are two projects at an advanced stage involving the rebirth of a small vineyard in Trinità dei Monti while another should be planted in the Colosseum park with native “Roman” varieties. Of considerable historical, artistic and landscape interest is the replanting of the Vigna del Re (King's Vineyard) in the Royal Palace of Caserta, which belonged to the Bourbons. Ferdinand of Bourbon had 5 hectares planted on the Royal Estate of “Reali Delizie” and was proud of his wines, a red Pallagrello and a white Pallagrello, which were always present at official banquets. Today the Fontana estate has replanted an area of 1.2 hectares with the same grape variety, and the agronomist in charge is the same Stefano Bartolomei who is looking after Vigna Michelangelo in Florence. Vigna San Martino in Naples covers an impressive 7 hectares at the foot of the famous Carthusian monastery. Declared a National Monument in 2010, it has been active since the Middle Ages thanks to monks. It produces white wines made from Catalanesca and Falanghina and reds from Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciascinoso. In Pompeii, again, several vineyards of Per'e palummo and Sciascinoso have been planted scattered between the Foro Boario and the Orto dei Fuggiaschi, all on sandy-textured volcanic soils. In Sicily, In Palermo, on the other hand, there is the Vigna del Gallo, at the Orto Botanico (dedicated to Diego Planeta, ed.); in Catania, on the other hand, there is the Etna Urban Winery. Abroad, we find in Vienna a vineyard inside the Orangeria of Schönbrunn Castle, formerly belonging to the Habsburgs, produces 500 bottles. In Paris we find the legendary “le Clos Montmartre”. Other vineyards can be found in Lyon with the Clos des Canuts, in Avignon with the Clos du Palais des Papes, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the United States, New York is home to the project of designer and viticulture enthusiast Devin Shomaker: Rooftop Reds in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a real vineyard on a skyscraper. And now, then, it’s Florence’s turn, “cradle of the Renaissance”, with what the Fittipaldi women, together with their team, want it to become an oasis of biodiversity, among olive trees, pines, firs, peach trees and the vineyard that are able to tell and remind what the real gold of this planet is: nature.

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