Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

This “Letter from Panzano” arrives from Stavanger, Norway, and tells a story that links Norway and Chianti.  It’s told by Dario, who recently went with Kim for an “almost-vacation” on the North Sea.

We had been to Stavanger a few years ago.  And a guide, navigating from fiord to fiord, told us about the highs and lows of the economy of his hometown, which wasn’t so small anymore, considering it’s now Norway’s fourth most important city.

Stavanger was a poor village of fishermen who lived on the modest resources that you can imagine.  As luck would have it, in the late 1800’s a river of sardines, a silver mass like a single, solid body, brought by who knows what current, sailed straight to the area.  The fishermen took advantage of this miraculous catch and preserved it, in tins.  And that’s how the sardine canning industry started.  There were riches for all.

A good canner could pack up to 600 tins a day, until a local blacksmith found a way to automate the job, bringing production up to 1.000 tins per hour.  And Norway invaded the sardine markets of the world.  We have all enjoyed a good tin of Norwegian sardines.  Then the sardines, decimated, and maybe having understood man’s greed, changed course, and with the decline of production, rough times returned.

There was, and still is, a good fish market in Stavanger.  There is even an interesting canning museum, showcasing beautiful sardine tine labels from around the world.

But rough times ended once again, with the discovery of oil deposits in 1969, and riches returned for all.  Yet recently, with petroleum’s low price, it seems that over 30.000 workers in Stavanger have lost their jobs.

This story could easily be compared with Chianti’s own economic highs and lows.

“Rende quanto un Podere in Chianti” (It’s generous like a farm in Chianti) they used to say, describing something very fruitful.  The mezzadria sharecropping system made Chianti landowners rich, but not so much the farmers, who moved to the work in city factories after World War Two. 

The abandonment of the countryside left our Chianti lands neglected, and times were rough.  But then, here came foreign visitors to “Chiantishire”.  Savvy entrepreneurs and noble landowners became winemakers.  The rebirth of excellent wines and of prestigious estates, plus the beauty of our land and creative initiative of our people, makes Chianti one of the world’s most admired places, visited by travelers from around the world.

And what if some unfortunate event made all this well-being disappear?  Never fear. We will wait faithfully for sardines to navigate up our streams and rivers!”.

Dario and Miriam