During the days of the Republic of Sienna, the territory or district of Berardenga was the area between the headwaters of the Bozzone torrent and the Ambra river, and between upper Chianti and the Biena river as far as Taverne d’Arbia. Today, Castelnuovo Berardenga marks the southern limit of the Chianti Classico wine zone and lies within the Province of Sienna.
The name of the town derives from the County of the Berardenghi, which in turn took its name from one of the sons of Count Wuinigi (Giunigi) Ranieri, a Salian Frank who came to Italy as Legate of the Emperor Louis the Pious in 865, and then became Governor of Sienna (867-881) and Roselle (868). He was called Berardo, and over the centuries the name used by his descendents evolved into Berardenga and became the name of the territory the family ruled over.
Long before the castle of Berardenga was built, the parish church of San Giusto, located not far from Castelnuovo, was already documented among the dependencies of the nearby ancient parish church of Pacina (Pieve a Pacina). San Giusto is mentioned among the first recorded disputes between Sienna and Arezzo, dating from the 7 C and concerned with diocesan borders.
The new castle (castelnuovo) was founded by the Republic of Sienna as a surveillance point on the borders with Florence and Arezzo, according to a resolution dated 26 July, 1366, when the top of the hill was surrounded by walls under the direction of Mino Dei of Sienna (1373-1374). Today all that remains is a tower and little more.
In 1382, shortly after the completion of the walls of the castle, the notorious condottiere, Sir John Hawkwood, assaulted Castelnuovo at the head of a Florentine army, but without success. The castle was besieged by the Florentines again in 1478 and 1479 in an attempt to seize it from the Siennese. Such events forced the rulers of the Republic of Sienna to augment the fortifications, at the end of the 15 C, with a new round of walls, supported by seven towers, of which only one still exists.
In 1511, Castelnuovo was ceded to Belisario Bulgarini who held the castle until 1526 when it came under the direct rule of Sienna. In 1554, Castelnuovo Berardenga suffered the same fate as Sienna itself, and fell under the absolute dominion of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Since 1932, Castelnuovo Berardenga has been part of the Chianti wine area, its territory being divided between Chianti Colli Senesi and Chianti Classico, of which it is the southernmost municipality .
Castelnuovo Berardenga is a pleasant enough place to visit. It has an interesting old clock tower and a relaxing ambience. However, the main reasons to visit Castelnuovo Berardenga lie more in the surrounding area which is home to numerous villas and a number of charming villages. These include the Certosa of Pontignano, the italianate gardens of Villa Chigi Saracini and Villa di Geggiano, the English garden of Villa di Monaciano, and villages such as San Gusmè. The latter is a great place to stop for a coffee while you are touring the area. It has a few shops and two restaurants, and is just a few km from Castelnuovo Berardenga.
Castelnuovo Berardenga fits nicely into a motoring one day excursion along the via Chiantigiana, starting and ending in Florence or nearby. To vary the route, shortly after Panzano, turn left through Lucarelli and visit Radda, Gaiole and then Castelnuovo Berardenga. For the return trip, continue on to the outskirts of Sienna and take via Chiantigiana through Castellina and then Panzano and so on Florence.
Area worth a visit. More about Castelnuovo Berardenga in southern Chianti.