Chiana Valley


This is the most extensive of all the valleys in the Apennine chain - over 500 sq. kilometres of well organized, cultivated farm land. A garden when viewed from Cortona, the ancient city which dominates the entire area from its 600m in altitude. As early as the 3rd century BC., the valley must have been considered the granary of Etruria as Hannibal, after plundering and ransacking the area, was still able to stock his entire army before making his legendary crossing alluring the Roman legions to Trasimeno where they were ambushed and defeated.
In addition to historical documentation there is also archeological evidence and cultural tradition to support the theory that the Chiana Valley belonged to an ancient civilization. The underground tombs of Camucia and Sodo, the finds from Franeta, Foiano, Cignano, Castiglion Fiorentino and the Cortona Museum all testify to the effect that the Etruscan inhabited and cultivated this valley draining it of the waters which for thousand of years had reduced it to marshland.


When Leonardo da Vinci, more than fifteen centuries later, drew up the "Codice Atlantico" (Atlantic Code), the Val di Chiana once again appeared as a lake. It so happened that after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the ensuing barbarian invasion and bloody gothic Wars (which continued throughout almost the entire 6th century) brought about the systematic depopulation of the country-side. No longer tended with loving care, the Val di Chiana surrendered yet again to the waters inundating its territory. Land reclamation planned and carried out by the Aretine engineer, Vittorio Fossombroni, during the Lorraine rule at the beginning of the 19th century, restored to the Val di Chiana its former productive capacity. The valley was soon scattered with villages and architecturally superb farm-complexes which were higly efficient for the times.
It had not however always been a paradise. After Hannibal's crossing, the Val di Chiana experienced other historical episodes which later led to the information of the Tuscan state: the Battle of Pieve al Toppo (1128) in which the Aretini inflicted a decisive blow on the Senesi who were at that time closely allied to the Florentine Guelph faction; the so-called Scannagallo battle (1554) fought near Foiano and renowned for the large number of French mercenary soldiers killed. The outcome of this conflict was a determining factor in the subjugation of the Republic of Siena to the rule of Cosimo de' Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Val di Chiana was once the granary of Etruria and even today is still the only area specializing in the raising of the prized breed of beef cattle known as the Chianina, which can be directly traced back to the bos primigenius of the prehistoric times.
This natural bent towards agriculture characterizes the valley's economy as a whole, where activities connected with the production of cereals, sugar beet, high quality oil and local wine, "Bianco Vergine" all flourish and prosper.


Castiglion Fiorentino

Of Roman Etruscan origin, known from 1014 as Castiglione Aretino until, in 1384, when Florence took over the Aretine Republic, it became Fiorentino.
Its medieval girdle of walls, dominated by the Cassero fortress, remaining intact.

The historic centre consists entirely of dignified mansions both sacred and secular, among which the most notable are the Gothic church of San Francesco, the Collegiate church and the Chiesa del Gesù all of them rich in art works of high value.
In the Pinacoteca Comunale there are princeless goldworks of the 13th and 14th centuries and paintings by Margarito, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Vasari, Jacopo del Sellaio, Taddeo Gatti.


One of the twelve cities of the Etruscan League-substantial fragments of its primitive cyclopean defences can still be seen, incorporated in the medieval walls.

Apart from a few Renaissance palaces, the prevailing character of Cortona's architecture is medieval, conferring on the steep narrow streets a strong sense of atmosphere. The city is commandingly situated (altitude 600 metres) and there are magnificent panoramas to every point of the compass, embracing the whole of the Val di Chiana.
Prominent among many art works of various periods in the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca are the Etruscan chandelier known as the "lamp of Cortona", one of the most celebrated bronzes of antiquity, and the "Polyhymnia Muse", an encaustic painting of the Roman era, of remarkable beauty. The Museo Diocesano displays works by Luca Signorelli, distinguished Renaissance painter and native of Cortona, and a much-admired "Annunciation" by Fra Angelico.


The defensive layout, a circular plan with streets concentrically arranged inside the walls, makes this town one of the most atmospheric in Tuscany. The buildings erected between the 13th and the 18th centuries are, with few exceptions, perfectly preserved.

The dignified air which they impart to the landscape is reinforced by the monolithic and majestic proportions of the fortress, and by the Gothic church of San Francesco.
In the Palazzo Comunale, the walls of which are rich with frescoes of the Siennese and Aretine schools, a small museum has been set up. The outstanding item in a collection of valuable works and furnishing is a reliquary, a superb and unique example of late-Ghotic goldwork of Arezzo.
Events: Last two Sundays in May: "Maggiolata Lucignanese" including procession of carts decorated with allegorical scenes in flowers.

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