Chiusi Tourist Attractions
SituationThe town of Chiusi lies in eastern Tuscany at the south end of the Val di Chiana, some 20km/12.5mi southeast of Montepulciano.HistoryChiusi is believed to have originally been an Umbrian settlement, but in the sixth century B.C., under the name of Chamars, it became a considerable Etruscan city, a member of the Etruscan league of twelve cities and equal in status to such major centers as Tarquinia, Populonia and Vetulonia. A King of Chiusi named Porsenna (Macaulay's "Lars Porsena of Clusium"), in alliance with Tarquinius Superbus, was strong enough to attack even Rome, which made efforts to shake off Etruscan dominance. After its defeat by Rome it became known as Clusium. In the fifth century A.D. it became the see of a bishop, and after being held by the Goths and the Lombards it passed into the hands of Orvieto, Siena and finally Florence during the later Middle Ages.
National Etruscan Museum
On the east side of Chiusi, in a building modeled on an ancient temple, is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco (National Etruscan Museum), which has a rich collection of Etruscan material and Greek pottery recovered from excavations in the Chiusi area. Notable items include ash- urns, sarcophagi, bronze and pottery masks, tombstones, amphorae and other vessels. Of particular interest are the Canopic jars, with lids modeled in the form of a portrait of the dead person, and the cippi (gravestones with relief ornament). The museum offers an excellent insight into the life of the Etruscans, their cult of the dead, their craftsmanship and their artistic sensibility.
Opposite the National Etruscan Museum in Chiusi, to the south, stands the cathedral (San Secondiano), the origins of which date back to the seventh century. It owes its present form to rebuilding in the 13th century and restoration work carried out between 1887 and 1895. The campanile (altered in the 16th century) is built over a Roman cistern hewn from the tufa and roofed with two domes. The nave of the church is separated from the aisles by 18 columns of different forms taken from Roman buildings in the area. The wall-paintings in the interior, imitating mosaics, date from the late 19th century; of greater artistic interest are the font and the carving on the columns. In the chapter-house, which is reached from the sacristy, are 22 choir-books illustrated with miniatures from the Abbazía di Monte Oliveto Maggiore.
There are about 400 Etruscan tombs in the area around Chiusi. Some of them can be visited: information can be obtained from the National Etruscan Museum. Close to the town on the east is the Tomba del Colle (Tomb on the Hill), which is also known as the Tomba Casuccini after its discoverer, and which dates from the early fifth century B.C. It has retained the original door, a stone slab, and contains fine wall-paintings (some restored, others copies). On the road to the Lago di Chiusi is the Tomba della Scimmia (Tomb of the Monkey, after a monkey depicted in one of the wall-paintings), which also dates from the early fifth century. It has notable wall-paintings of funerary ceremonies. Near by is the more recent Tomba della Pellegrina, approached by a dromos (passage). It contains a number of urns and sarcophagi, some of them with relief decoration. Farther north is the Tomba del Granduca (Tomb of the Grand Duke), which contains several urns of the second century B.C. with figural ornament.
Address: Via Porsenna 2, I-53043 Chiusi, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-2pm; Sun: 9am-1pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Visitors to the tombs must be accompanied by a museum warden.
Monte Cetona (1,148m/3,767ft), at the foot of which is the source of the River Orcia, is a limestone hill, mostly bare and devoid of vegetation. From the summit, to which a number of footpaths lead, panoramic views can be enjoyed. There are remains of buildings belonging to the Camaldolese Order. Recently traces of prehistoric occupation have been discovered on the slopes of the hill, in which there are numerous caves.