La Valdichiana

La Valdichiana

Storie dal Territorio della Valdichiana

Tag: landscapes

The village of Castelmuzio

Let’s continue our journey to discover the most interesting places of this territory, which can become a surprise and a destination for both tourists and residents of Valdichiana, which are…

Let’s continue our journey to discover the most interesting places of this territory, which can become a surprise and a destination for both tourists and residents of Valdichiana, which are chasing memories of the past. Our territory is rich in beautiful landscapes, villages and artworks, which have roots in history and they form a fixed point of reference for our future.

Among the most charming and interesting medieval villages that we can find within Valdichiana municipalities, there is definitely Castelmuzio, a part of the municipality of Trequanda. The origins of the village date back to the Etruscan Era, as proved by the discovery of the remains of a temple, dedicated to the Goddess Isis near the settlement, as well as tombs, urns and Etruscan inscriptions. To find official tracks of Castelmuzio, however, we must go beyond the year 1000 A.D.. In some documents of the 9th century of the Badia Amiatina of St. Salvatore (St. Salvatore’s Abbey), the place is called “Casale Mustia”, while it was called “Castello” (Castle) by its residents. In other documents, dating back to 1213 A.D., in the State Archive of Siena, it was appointed as “Castel-Mozzo“.

During the Middle Ages, Castelmuzio was owned by Messrs. Cacciaconti della Scialenga, former Lords of Montisi and owners of the farm of Fratta in Sinalunga. In 1270 A.D., the village passed to the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, whose coat of arms is still present in some farms in the surroundings; it was bought then by Andrea Piccolomini in 1470 A.D.; the domain broke in 1559 A.D. with the defeat of the Republic of Siena and it was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled by Medici. After the unification of Italy, Castelmuzio became definitively part of the municipality of Trequanda.

The hamlet of Castelmuzio was erected on the crest of a tuff hill, at the foot of Mount Lecceto. Its structure follows the model of the medieval fortified castle, surrounded by walls and ramparts to facilitate the defence of the inhabitants. At the entrance of the village, there is a monument to the fallen and the ancient stone on which St. Bernardino of Siena used to rest. Within the village, there are many notable historic buildings, such as Palazzo Fratini, which was the seat of the Court and the name of the place is probably due to this, to its cut off tower. On the main square there is the Spedale of St. John the Baptist as well, which used to offer accommodation and food to travellers and orphans, as well as provide a dowry for girls without assets, who wanted to get married. It’s worth mentioning also the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity and St. Bernardino, founded in 1450 A.D., equipped with a small pharmacy and a hospice for pilgrims on the Via Francigena; the oratory and the Sienese church, dedicated to the Saint, host a Sacred Art Museum rich in valuable specimens.

Today Castelmuzio is a part of the comune of Trequanda, with less than 300 inhabitants. Situated near Petroio and Montisi, it is definitely a suggestive part of a visit through Valdorcia and Valdichiana and Val d’Asso.

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The Thermal Baths of Chianciano

In our journey through Valdichiana, today we stop in Chianciano, which owes much of its fame to the thermal waters, still appreciated for their therapeutic properties by hundreds of visitors….

In our journey through Valdichiana, today we stop in Chianciano, which owes much of its fame to the thermal waters, still appreciated for their therapeutic properties by hundreds of visitors.

The history of the Thermal Baths of Chianciano has its roots during Etruscan times. The ancient inhabitants of Etruria and the King Porsenna had already occupied the area with residential areas around Chiusi and Monte Cetona. The Romans as well knew the beneficial properties of mineral waters, which led to the construction of shrines dedicated to the divinities of water, including the Temple of Fucoli. The thermal waters were considered magical, with powers of healing, and for this reason were protected by following civilizations in the area, up to the present. The Thermal Baths of Chianciano, originally called “Fontes Clusinae“, had their own station on the Via Cassia, between Arezzo and Chiusi, dating back to the Roman Empire.

The importance of the Thermal Baths of Chianciano does not decrease even during the Middle Age, when they were occupied by the Goths and Longobards. The name of Chianciano clearly appears in 1171 A.D., through a deed of donation, together with “Acqua Santa and Sellene”; while a document dated 1287 A.D. confirms the presence of citizens which deal with the maintenance of the Thermal Baths of Chianciano. In 1349 A.D. the town passes under the protection of Siena, after many years of struggles against Montepulciano and Orvieto, and even in the following centuries there are frequent references to the healing properties of its thermal waters. A legend says that even St. Agnese Segni did several miracles in the Thermal Baths of Chianciano, and the pagan name of Bagno Grande di Sellene is called “Acqua Santa” (Holy Water).

The real spas were built by a private company (led by Angelo Banti), that was allowed, by the town of Chianciano Terme, to use the Thermal Baths; the building process was started in the ‘20s, with neo-classical style establishments, and the opening of new sources and a plant for bottling. Some structures were torn down after a town plan in the ‘40s, which returned the thermal baths to the State property. The projects of the establishments in a fresher and more modern version, done by architects Loreti and Marchi, built thermak parks and a Hall, as well as the creation of the Institute of Biological and Chemical Research, to undertake research on the water and its therapeutic properties, and on the correct application of therapies.

As a result of these studies, the waters of the Thermal Baths of Chianciano were divided into five types, which have several beneficial effects on organisms:

Acqua Santa and Acqua Fucoli: they have to be drinked as they pour from the sources, good for the liver and the gastrointestinal tract;

Acqua Santissima: used for inhalations against diseases of the breathing apparatus;

Acqua Sillene: used for mud baths, thermal baths and cosmetic products;

Acqua Sant’Elena: a water with low mineral content, for the treatment of diseases of the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract;

Thanks to the therapeutic properties of its thermal waters, throughout the 20th century, Chianciano has been a significant tourist attraction. The organization of the spa and a world-class healthcare management have led to an urban and structural continuity between the old town and the modern spa area, represented by the great Viale della Libertà, lined with hotels, pensions and villas.

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The burg of Farnetella

The Valdichiana has large territorial municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, but also some peculiar burgs that might go unnoticed by tourists or even by citizens themselves. In our journey…

The Valdichiana has large territorial municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, but also some peculiar burgs that might go unnoticed by tourists or even by citizens themselves. In our journey through the places of interest of the Valdichiana, today it’s the turn of Farnetella, close to Sinalunga, Scrofiano, Rigomagno.

Farnetella is a small burg that still keeps the fascinating medieval features – and it’s 419 m above sea level. It is structured around a castle with four parallel burgs and four main streets – and it there are only 140 inhabitants. Around the village traces of the walls can be seen, as well as a semicircular defensive tower. Farnetella centre is San Giovanni Square (Piazza San Giovanni) and Farnia Square (Piazza Farnia). The English oak, a part of the Oaks family, is the symbol of the burg and it’s likely that this was the origin of the name of Farnetella.

Farnetella origins can be traced back to the 6th century. The first document dates back to 1175 A.D., with whom Siena ordered the Scialenga Counts to return Farnetella castle to the Barotti Counts – an evidence of the antiquity of the village, it’s probably earlier than Rigomagno. It was during that period, that the Valdichiana was affected by the splitting of great noble families and it was affected by the construction of many castles and residences, which can be traced back to the origin of Farnetella.

The Castle of Farnetella was built on a hill called Castelvecchio and it was a noble possession together with San Gimignanello, Montalceto and Castiglioni, near Rapolano; These lands were owned first by Barotti Family, later by Cacciaconti Family. In 1271 A.D. Farnetella was accused of treason by the Republic of Siena, for hosting some Ghibellines: according to the law, the castle was burned to the ground by the troops of Camollia. The pleas of innocence on the part of the inhabitants of Farnetella were so persistent that, in 1295 A.D., Siena allowed them to return to live in the reconstructed court a hundred meters further downstream.

The alleged treason was not the only dramatic moment for Farnetella: in 1324 A.D. the rebellious Guccio Tolomei sacked it and burned it down. The inhabitants were forced to rebuild the village and provide the burg with wider walls which allowed it to resist, in 1554 A.D., the assault by a contingent of Charles V’s army. Farnetella remained an independent municipality for a long time, but at the end of the 18th century it was annexed by the nearby municipality of Sinalunga.

The current appearance of Farnetella is due to Adolfo Ferrari, owner of the estate in the 19th century. In December 1889 began the construction of a large residential building for richer visitors – however, it remained incomplete; the Villa and the main body of the castle still characterize the appearance of the entire burg. There are still preserved frescoes, antique furniture and a wooden dining room inside of them, done by sculptor Giovanni Sammicheli.

For a list of owners and other historical curiosities, please visit Farnetella website.

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Take This and Take That Towers

The history of Valdichiana is rich of specific moments and conflicts, not only against other men, but also against nature. The dike-break of Clanis River and the consequent formation of…

The history of Valdichiana is rich of specific moments and conflicts, not only against other men, but also against nature. The dike-break of Clanis River and the consequent formation of wetlands, which occupied Valdichiana for centuries, forced the population to live in a noxius area and forced them to make continual attempts at recovering the territory. Not to mention the struggle with the neighbourhood to keep the control of the few farmlands and fortresses available.

The two towers “Beccati Questo” (“Take This”) and “Beccati Quello” (“Take That”) represent the well-preserved memories of a period made of conflicts and violent clashes between the Italian lordships (a.k.a Signorie) of Florence, Arezzo, Siena, Perugia and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The two tower have been built as opponent outposts, and they clearly prove the fights in the Middle Ages, also thanks to their names, which try to enmesh and to laugh at the enemies.

The Beccati Questo (“Take This”) Tower, was built in the municipality of Chiusi around 1279 A.D. – however, the final reconstruction was made in 1427 A.D.. It was built by the Guelfs after a victory over the Ghibellines and it had to represent their supremacy over the wetlands which demarcated the territories controlled by Siena and the ones controlled by Perugia. A few years later, though, the opposing part from Perugia built the Beccati Quello (“Take That”) Tower, to laugh at the enemies from Siena. The peculiar names of the two towers, still in use nowadays, prove the importance of mockery towards the opponents in the Middle Ages, as a mean to avoid conflicts or to worsen the existing ones.

The “Beccati Questo” Tower, built on a dry soil, started to be submerged by the swamp of Valdichiana, after some creek deviations and the deviation of the Lake Trasimeno, done by the Papal States at the end of the 15th Century.  A third of the structure has been filled up by the several recoveries, which were necessary in order to stop the territory from turning into wetlands. “Beccati Questo” Tower has an octagonal form with battlements, as usually done in Siena, where as “Beccati Quello” has a classic rectangular base.

The two towers, despite having been built as military outposts and defensive fortresses, have always been used as a place where tolls were collected, and they were necessary for the transit of goods and people through Valdichiana, Siena and Perugia. Nowadays, “Beccati Questo” is a community property, where as “Beccati Quello” Tower is a private property; both of them have been heavily restored, but the interior of the towers can’t be visited.

The travelers who are going by Lake of Chiusi, and who are heading towards Lake Trasimeno, can easily spot the two towers, which are standing out against the farmlands. The Take This and Take That Towers have kept an eye on each other for six centuries, one in front of the other, between Tuscany and Umbria. And they still remind the years when, among the wetlands, the lordships used to mock each other.

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