01/01/2013 - Discover our proposals for a weekend or a vacation in Franciacorta wine area
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Vine-growing is an uninterrupted tradition in the area that is today Franciacorta. The Roman, the Late Classical, and the Medieval periods all witnessed the growth of vineyards, which were favoured by the area’s excellent weather and soils. Through bad times and good, viticulture here remains an unbroken tradition.
The monastic courts
The history of Franciacorta has been indelibly marked by extensive monastic foundations that possessed, even prior to the year 1000, vast land holdings, where they converted forest land to fields and improved it for cultivation. Among the most assiduous was the female convent of San Salvatore, later known as Santa Giulia di Brescia. Founded in 753 by the Lombard King Desiderius and his wife Ansa, its Franciacorta-area properties are documented in the Santa Giulia Polyptych, an ancient codex from the mid-9th century. But there were numerous other monastic corti, or monastic settlements, here as well, among them Clusane (a Cluniac abbey), Colombaro (or Cella di Santa Maria), Timoline (corte of Santa Giulia), Nigoline (corte of Sant’Eufemia), Borgonato (corte of Santa Giulia), and Torbiato (corte of the monasteries of Verona e of San Faustino di Brescia).
The first document referring to Franciacorta property belonging to the Brescian monastery of San Salvatore, later Santa Giulia, dates to 766. Through this grant deed, Adelchi, King Desiderius’ son, donated to the monastery all of the goods that he had inherited from his grandfather Verissimo and from his uncles, Donnolo and Adelchi, which included properties in this area.
Among Guelfs and Ghibellines, Dante took refuge in Paratico
During the period of the Signorie, or local tyrants, all of Franciacorta belonged to the Guelph party, with the exception of two important towns located at its approaches, Palazzolo and Iseo, then in the hands of the Ghibellines. Dante Alighieri, wandering as an exile at that time, found refuge at the court of Lantieri family at Paratico and then at Capriolo. These were bloody times, filled with plots and armed struggles; they ended only with Pandolfo Malatesta’s assumption of power, which ushered in a sustained period of stability. This allowed a recovery of the agricultural economy, and winemaking was able to flourish again. When the Brescia area passed from dominance by the Visconti to that of Venice, Franciacorta gained in ascendency. It was in Gussago, in fact, in 1426, that the Guelph nobles laid the plot to transfer control of Brescia to Venice. This period, too, saw the construction of the first of the square, crenellated watchtowers that still today characterise the Franciacorta countryside. By the late 15th century, Franciacorta was divided into three quadre, or districts, each with its leading city, Rovato, Gussago, and, though only in part, Palazzolo.
Historians are in agreement that the first appearance of the name “Franzacurta” was in 1277, in the municipal statues of Brescia, and it referred to the area south of the Lago d’Iseo, between the Oglio and Mella rivers. Franzacurta or Franzia Curta was at that time an important wine supplier for nearby Brescia, for the villages as well in the Valcamonica and the Valtrompia, and for the cities to the south in the Po river valley.
The delimitation of today’s boundaries for Franciacorta dates back to a 1429 decree by Francesco Foscari, Doge of Venice. The oldest map we have is from 1469, by an unknown cartographer, preserved in Modena’s Biblioteca Estense.
The Rovato Vespers
The struggle between Venice and France brought war once again to Franciacorta. In 1509, the people rose up against the French in a rebellion known rather grandly as the “Franciacorta Vespers,” centred in Rovigo. Later, following Napoleon’s victories in Italy, Brescia too was proclaimed a Free Republic, and in Franciacorta’s towns the banners of liberty were unfurled and the symbols of the Serenissima destroyed. Then came the Austrian occupation, the struggles of the Risorgimento, and finally annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.
The Podestà of Brescia, Paolo Correr, in a 16th-century report to the emperor, made mention of “Valcamonega, Valtrompia, and Lasabbio,” as well as the four areas of “Pedemonte, Franzacurta, Asolano, and Riviera.”