What the Chianti owes to sharecropping

The development of agriculture and wine producing in the Chianti owes much to the system of sharecropping, 'mezzadria', that existed in Tuscany from the late Renaissance to post-WWII.

An evolution of feudalism, the landowner of the farm had a compact with the sharecropper, mezzadro, to provide seed, implements and housing in exchange for the cultivation of the land, with profits being shared equally.

Before machinery was affordable, horse power aided the harvest.
well-fed hog
A well-fed hog was a farmer's prized possession.

Farm workers tied to the land

This system continued for centuries all over Italy, with the lives of the farm workers tightly controlled by the Lord (Signore) whose house they maintained for his occasional visits, particularly at harvest time.

The vendemmia is a time for all to pitch in
olive picking
Olive harvest meant the ladders came out and the pickers went up into the trees.

Fight for better rights

After WWII, even as the Italian Communist Party sought to improve social and economic conditions in the countryside, this system began to collapse.

communist workers
The Italian Communist Party found many farmers who joined the fight for reform
Rice-pickers on bicycles demonstrate for their desire to protect their land and their work

Exodus to the cities

Impoverished working conditions, absent landlords, and farmhouses in dire need of repair with few funds to provide it meant jobs in the industrial north were a more attractive livelihood.

families emigrating
Whole families left the country for city living

Abandoned farms and villages

One by one, farms were abandoned and farmhouses sat empty on the land. Thankfully, many of these buildings have since been acquired by Italians and foreigners alike and converted to comfortable country homes or smaller farming estates and vineyards who have kept the Chianti agricultural tradition alive.

Abandoned houses rest on the Chianti hills until they are adopted and made whole again.

Staying in any of our properties in the Chianti allow guests to discover this fascinating area for themselves.