Archaeological Museum at Castiglion Fiorentino
Strategically nestled on a hill (342 metres a.s.l.) overlooking the valley, on the ridge between the Valdichiana and the Tiber Valley, only a short distance from the main route between Arezzo and Chiusi, the town of Castiglion Fiorentino was first settled in Etruscan times (6th-5th century B.C.) and gradually grew into an important castrum in the Middle Ages. Dominated by the tall keep-tower (Torre del Cassero), the walled old-town has retained much of its medieval layout as well as remarkable remains of its Etruscan and Roman past. Ideally located on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, the town makes the perfect base for day-trips out to the main destinations in central Italy. While in town, tourists will have a chance to enjoy hearty local food and to purchase local hearts and crafts and organic produce.
Set in a commanding position overlooking the entire Valdichiana, the Cassero (castle keep) has retained its original features as well as much of its medieval charm. Its unique silhouette has become something of a landmark in the town as well as the very symbol of Castiglion Fiorentino. As far back as the 8th century b.C., the hillside was home to a hut village which, over the centuries, grew into an Etruscan oppidum with an acropolis surrounded by massive stone walls; here, in central position, stood the stunning 5th century Etruscan sanctuary whose remains were brought to light during extensive archaeological excavations. The current layout of the keep is the result of successive alterations and additions carried out since the 11th century, when the area became the site of a castle built to control the dense network of roads and tracks that criss-crossed the Valdichiana from a position far enough from the swampland and yet close enough to it to take advantage of its abundant fishery resources.
MUSEO CIVICO ARCHEOLOGICO
Officially opened in 2001, the museum houses a wide range of archaeological finds uncovered during excavations carried out since the late 1980s, enabling visitors to gain a unique insight into the history of Castiglion Fiorentino and its surroundings. In its five rooms, the museum takes visitors on a fascinating journey into the past of the ancient Etruscan village and its neighbouring settlements dating between the Iron Age and the 3rd-6th century A.D. Highlights of the collection include the votive deposits of Brolio and Montecchio, remains of the roofing from the Etruscan sancturay unearthed during excavations in the Cassero area as well as archaeological finds from the Etruscan site at Brolio Melmone, a production and trading centre along ancient river Clanis. Since 2008, the museum was extended to include a new section housing exhibits from the town’s medieval past, including a wide range of materials dating as far back as the 9th century as well as fine glazed-pottery from early medieval to Renaissance times.
UNDERGROUND ARCHAEOLOGICAL TOUR
The tour takes visitors on a fascinating underground journey of archaeological discovery through sites that, since the early 1980s, have been the subject of excavations suggesting an extraordinary continuity of settlement from the 8th century B.C. well into medieval times. Archaeological surveys brought to light a hut village from proto-historic times (8th-7th century b.C.), an Etruscan dwelling as well as the remains of an Etruscan sanctuary, built on a rectangular plan (17 m x 22 m) with a north to south orientation. The polychrome materials which originally adorned the roof of the sanctuary (reconstructed in the museum), can be dated to the 4th century b.C. The remains of two medieval towers can also be seen: one, from which only the base and part of the elevation are preserved, possibly only served a defensive purpose; the other, built on rock foundations with substantially-sized squared blocks, possibly dates to ancient times. In the 14th century, the existing structures were torn down and raised to the current level as sweeping urban renewal projects were undertaken under the patronage of bishop Tarlati and the ancient hilltop hamlet was turned into a fortress.
Housed in the church of Sant’Angelo, the Pinacoteca (art gallery) features a vast collection of works of sacred art from churches and monasteries located in Castiglion Fiorentino and across its surroundings. At the entrace are a wooden statue of St. Michael the Archangel, originally placed over the Porta Romana gate, and a stunning painted cross from the early 1200s, perhaps one of the earliest examples of painting in the Arezzo territory. A collection of priceless pieces of medieval goldmith’s work is displayed in the Sacrestia Vecchia, including a stunning, exquisitely crafted 13th century Holy Cross, featuring elegant hand-crafted filigree work, enamels and precious stones. The reliquary contains a fragment of the Holy Cross as well as a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, which were donated by king Louis IX, commonly known as St. Louis, to the blessed Mansueto of Castiglione, an apostolic legate at the court of France. The room also houses a second masterpiece of medieval goldsmith’s work, the so-called Bust of St. Ursula (Busto di Sant’Orsola), a stunning 14th century gilded and enameled silver reliquary in the shape of a woman’s bust depicting the 5th century martyr of Cologne, adorned with glass-paste inlays and pearls. The painting section features a number of works on panel and canvas by Tuscan masters from the 13th to the 18th century, including a 14th century Maestà by Taddeo Gaddi (about 1328) as well as a “St. Michael the Archangel” (about 1480) and the “Stigmata of St. Francis” (1486), both by Bartolomeo della Gatta.