From the grape vines (Vitis vinifera) planted against the backdrop of the Tuscan hills to the incredible local Chianti, viticulture is more than a hobby for Italians - it is a set of meticulously observed methods passed down through generations.
I have immensely enjoyed learning the specifics of the craft, one of which is the original technique known as “la vite maritata”, or “the married grape vine”.
While on our first horticultural walk of the valley beneath Castiglion Fiorentino, we were invited into a couple’s garden to take a closer look at their plants, where we saw a grape vine climbing up the trunk of a large maple tree, its fruit-bearing branches extending along the lower branches of the tree. The man explained that this was done intentionally, as the vine needed the tree for protection and proper growth. He said that the maple tree represented the husband and the grape vine served as the wife.
Dr. Lombardini explained that this was an ancient technique originally employed by the Etruscans and, evidently, still in use today. The Etruscans were the first major civilization to show up in Tuscany, lending the region its name and much of its original infrastructure. They brought with them the practice of planting grape vines at the base of an established tree and training the young vine to use the tree’s trunk as a trellis, instead of building the stake-and-wire structures used in vineyards today.
The tree served as a guardian and a branching structure for the vine, and the two plants spent their lives intertwined. Thus, it was said that the grapevine was married to the tree. The fact that this technique is still in use in some local gardens today is evidence of its effectiveness, as well as the ability of Italians to live interconnected with the environment and pass down traditions.
I found this subject particularly interesting because I am a follower of Jesus. The bible refers to the marriage between Christ and His church countless times, referencing our dependency on Him for our salvation and source of life, as well as His love and ability to provide for us. It was a sweet reminder that if we believe God created the universe and everything in it in His image, we can find evidence of Him everywhere.