Situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, the area around the commune of Radda in Chianti was settled in ancient times and the community’s Etruscan origin is clearly established by recent archaeological finds. In the medieval period, Radda was the headquarters of the League of Chianti and has preserved its characteristic elliptical form of that time. It has in fact preserved its ancient structure along the eastern side of the Chiantigiana highway.
The territory, posted on the hills that occupy the initial stretches of the Pesa and Arbia valleys, covers a total of 80.56 square kilometers (31.1 square miles), all of which are within the Chianti Classico zone. The highest altitude in the zone is 845 meters (2,772 feet) on the summit of Monte Querciabella (the Chianti Mountains). Of the population of about 1,630 persons, 25% is engaged in agriculture, cultivating vineyards and olive orchards.
Although the name of the place clearly indicates an Etruscan origin and underlines the antiquity of settlements in the zone, excavations carried out only recently at Poggio La Croce and Malpensata have brought to light important Etruscan artifacts. In the Middle Ages, powerful feudal families and local lords constructed numerous castles in the zone but those redoubts soon fell under the sway of Florence. The first mention of the castle of Radda dates to the 11th century. Toward the middle of the 13th century, when the Republic of Florence organized the small communities in its territories into leagues, the castle of Radda became the capital of the entire League of Chianti. Of all the castles in the zone, only Volpaia has been preserved in large part, while others like Albola and Monterinaldi have retained intact only some parts or they have been transformed into villas. The parish church of Santa Maria Novella provides interesting evidence of the ancient religious organization of the zone. Although it was extensively restored in the past, it has maintain its original aspect, as shown by the Romanesque capitals. The church of San Niccolò a Radda, also dates to the Romanesque period, which is true of the churches of Albola, Bugialla, Livernano and Montemaione as well and the rectories of San Fedele a Paterno and Santa Maria in Colle. In addition, the convent of Santa Maria in Prato developed from a Romanesque nucleus in successive centuries. The church of Sant’Eufrosino at Volpaia, known as La Commenda, is highly unusual because its features are linked to the architecture of the Florentine Renaissance. The small chapel of Mercatale, near Radda, deserves mention. It dates to the 18th century and shows characteristics typical of Tuscan Mannerism.