History of the Valdichiana landscape
Before the roman conquer Valdichiana was part of the Etruscan nation, in this period the farmers had already developed agricultural practices that will shape the Italian landscape for many centuries. Vitivulture was based on a different cultivation system using not vines on low trees or dry stakes, as in the Greek colonies of Sicily, but raised high up bound to poplar, maples or elms.
Much later the term "rumpotinetum" was infact used by Latin authors to describe trees married to vines, with long vine branches. Valdichiana was considered the granary of Etruria, in the first century A.D.; Plinius the Young describes it as a pleasant place, with a nice climate, quite populated, with a flourishing agricultural activity and many forests. The fall of the roman empire and the barbar invasions caused heavy environmental changes destroying the roman organization of rural landscape all across Italy.
There are not historical records describing Valdichiana in the dark barbaric era, but in the 11th century most of the valley is described as a swamp. People lived in villages surrounded by walls placed on the top of the hills, and cultivated vines, wheat and olive trees, along the hill slopes . The swamp extended for all the length of the valley, almost 40 km and much of its width, 25 km. Roads run high on the hills and each town had a port, the valley was a big lake linked with the Tevere river and Rome, to the south, and the Arno river and Florence to the north.

Between 13th and 15 century the valley was divided between the rule of Florence, supporting the Pope, and the rule of Siena supporting the Emperor. The situation was very unstable, hired armies conquered several times the towns of the valley, which passed frequently from on Lord to another. At the end of the 15th century the republic of Florence decided to start to dry the swamp, entrusting Leonardo da Vinci with the project.
A map of 1500 showing
the Valdichiana swamp.
The red circle is Lucignano

In 1503 he drew a detailed map of the valley, now collected at the Windsor Royal Library in London, showing an archipelago of hills emerging from the swamp, probably reaching its largest extension. However, only a little amount of the swamp was dried in this century. A description of the 17th century divides the territory of the valley into cultivated area, pastures, and swamp vegetation. In this period works done to dry the swamp are increasing and they will last until the total drainage in the 19th century, when new arable land was created and farm houses built also in the plains.

The traditional forms of agriculture, based on the share-crop system, with many different land uses forming a complex landscape mosaic, where trees and hedges plaid a major role, continued until the second world war, when many farmers abandoned the countryside to work in factories. A technological revolution started in this period, introducing mechanization and fertilizers, that completely changed rural economy. Nevertheless, many parts of this territory still show ancient landscapes, often managed by aged farmers mastering traditional techniques. The complex landscape mosaic once dominating farmland can still be observed looking to the hill slopes surrounding the eastern and western side of the valley, where mixed cultivations with vines bound to olive and maple trees are lined at the side of the fields and terraced slopes, and woodlands are still managed according to traditional techniques existing since Roman times.