Aglione of the Valdichiana

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Aglione of the Valdichiana


A. ampeloprasum L. var. holmense Mill.


This local variety belongs to the Allium ampeloprasum var. holmense, propagated only by clonal route through cloves. Although the genus Allium L. is native to Asia Minor, the major center of biodiversity is the Mediterranean Basin. The first historical traces of Aglione date back to 1549 with “Banchetti compositions of food and general equipment” by Cristoforo di Messisbugo; it seems to have come down to the present day in small family gardens, becoming an open field crop only in recent years.

Defining a historical profile of Aglione is not easy, over time information has been found on uses and customs related to this species, one of the 800 of the gen. Allium, but in a sporadic and discontinuous way, we proceed for great leaps in history. The place of choice and departure is always Tuscany and the Valdichiana in the provinces of Arezzo and Siena. Although the genus Allium is native to Asia Minor, the major center of biodiversity is the Mediterranean Basin. The historical path of Aglione seems to take shape starting from the Egyptians, then from the Greeks, from the Romans to the Etruscans, people who initially used to collect and use the wild leek Allium ampeloprasum L. for soups, sauces and meats, then moving on to its domestication and cultivation. There are historical traces of the cultivation of Aglione on the island of Giglio, as reported by the notary and municipal secretary of this island in the “Historical Cenno all’Isola del Giglio”, published in installments between 1898 and 1900 in the Grosseto newspaper ” The Ombrone “. This document reports that in 1460 the Giglio government passed from the Lordship of Florence to the nephews of Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini). In 1534 the pirate Khair ad Din known as Barbarossa with a hundred ships sacked the Giglio deporting most of the Gigliesi as slaves to Constantinople. Since the island remained almost uninhabited in 1549, Francesco Piccolomini first had the walls of the castle restored and then to repopulate the island he sent families of farmers from Val D’Orcia and Valdichiana. The new islanders would have brought garlic bulbs among other crops, thus starting cultivation on the island. The cultivation of aglione or coarse garlic is also mentioned in Ischia as Guglielmo Gasparrini reports in his monograph “A brief account of agriculture and pastoralism of the Kingdom of Naples on this side of the Lighthouse”, dated 1845.
Aglione adapts very well to the heterogeneous but tendentially rich and loose soils of the Val di Chiana, where it is enhanced through markets, fairs and various events. It is also the protagonist of various traditional cuisine, in particular the pici all’Aglione, now a typical dish of the Umbrian part overlooking Lake Trasimeno and of South-Eastern Tuscany.
Routes of the cultivation of Aglione in Umbria
The cultivation of Aglione in Umbria, in the area of Lake Trasimeno and in the municipalities that insist on the border with Tuscany, has a real historicity. Although currently in the investigated area there is the attitude of identifying this cultivation as recent, in fact some of the farmers themselves define themselves as the holders of the primacy in the introduction of the Aglione in Umbria in the last 10 years. This testifies to the sectoriality between the municipalities or some specific areas of the lake and also to the poor mutual communication between farmers. The historicity of this cultivation can also be traced to the type of isolated and temporally distant reminiscences, preserved in the memory of some informants, such as the Pici all’Aglione prepared for Sunday lunch in the short story of a farmer’s daughter from Panicarola. The limits in the transmission of this crop is also due to the impossibility of keeping the Aglione bulb for a long time and thus making it survive the arrest of agricultural practice. It is deductible that this has not led, over the years, to a spread of the cultivation and culture of this variety of garlic as a community asset.

It includes the whole Val di Chiana, which extends between the Provinces of Siena, Arezzo, Perugia and Terni.
Specifically, the municipalities involved are:
for the Umbrian part

  • in the province of Perugia
    • Castiglione del Lago
    • Città della Pieve
    • Passignano
    • Tuoro sul Trasimeno
  • in the province of Terni
    • Fabro
    • Ficulle
    • Monteleone d’Orvieto
    • Montegabbione

for the Tuscan part:

  • in the province of Siena
    • Cetona
    • Chianciano Terme
    • Chiusi
    • Montepulciano
    • Sarteano
    • Sinalunga
    • Torrita di Siena
    • Trequanda
  • in the province of Arezzo
    • Arezzo
    • Castiglion Fiorentino
    • Civitella in Val di Chiana
    • Cortona
    • Foiano della Chiana
    • Lucignano
    • Marciano della Chiana
    • Monte San Savino

As for the gastronomic use, Aglione della Val di Chiana is used more and more instead of common garlic, even raw, given its organoleptic characteristics. It is famous for the Pici all’Aglione, a pasta made only with flour and water, typical of the area, topped with a sauce made with tomato and aglione. Even the flower scapes, commonly called woodworms, thals, buds or bigoli and the same flowers are edible and used in various ways in the kitchen.

Texts taken from“Regional register of autochthonous genetic resources of the Umbria Region”