The Sienese Val di Chiana is Tuscany's keystone. It both divides and unites Tuscany with neighbouring Umbria; it binds the provinces of Siena and Arezzo; it stretches south towards Viterbo and west to the Val d'Orcia and Monte Amiata. It is not therefore an area clearly, cleanly marked out by natural borders like mountain ranges or great rivers; its openness has always made it a cultural melting pot, but one which has nevertheless managed to keep its heritage and traditions, whether intellectual or culinary, intact.
It's worth saying something about the traits of the 260,000-odd inhabitants of the area, which covers 10 municipalities. Their identikit, noted even by foreign visitors, is a fondness for saying things that have an almost proverbial quality, deploying their wit, wisdom, a pungent verboseness and a jealous love of their traditions. Even though they might indulge in hyperbole that seems completely banal, well, the deepest truths lie in the deepest banality. In every little village, in every town centre great or small, you will hear a lot of authentic "toscanacci" - true Tuscans born and bred. It might be an old builder, a shopkeeper, the guy who mans the petrol pump or even the professional snob who thinks they're above it all, who at the right moment will perfectly embody the character of the true Chianino - maybe with a funny joke that comes out of nowhere, often profound enough to evoke a culture passed down through the generations.