Let’s begin by eliminating any doubt: I’m not a hunter and have never been interested in pursuing any hunting-related activities. The one and only occasion I ever found myself shouldering a firearm was as a child, at a fair in London. I vividly recall taking careful aim with the air-rifle at the rusty cans set up like bowling pins to serve as targets, despite which the subsequent shots were invariably wide of the mark. I missed or, in the term dear to the local hunters, padellandoli each and every time. So, it’s reasonable to pose the question: do I really have anything in common with a team of seasoned cinghialai (boar hunters)?
Maybe so. After all, I breathe the same air they do; we’re all indissolubly rooted to these lands, choosing to spend a good deal of our lives in its woodland territories, immersed in, and frequently in contact with, the natural world that surrounds us. The cinghialai also love red wine and good company, and as far as I’m concerned this is all that’s required to make them incontestably my brother Chiantigiani (inhabitants of the Chianti hills). As the renowned poet Umberto Saba wrote: we are “spat out of our native soil.”
In short, if I attempted to write a book on the lives of the professionals who commute daily from my village to their jobs in Siena, where they work in banks or offices or hospitals, I would be hopelessly out of my depth. But in the case of this present endeavor not so.
My protagonists in the following pages are the picturesque characters of Distretto 9 of my village, Vagliagli, and I shall try to pay them proper tribute. I’ll attempt to provide you with an accurate depiction of the forays they faithfully undertake each weekend during the hunting season, from the point of view of one who is both an outsider to their calling, yet as authentically Chiantigiano as they are. A study, if you like, both testimonial and anthropological and why not? The goal is to illustrate in a simple and diverting way a local, if vanishing, tradition and to document the attendant virtues of my beloved hills in Chianti District Nine.