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According to legend, it
was founded by the Etruscan King Lars Porsena of Chiusi; recent
findings prove that a settlement was already in existence in the
4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison
guarding the main roads of the area.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it developed as a
religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was
repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani
faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes
Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant
struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora
family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a
loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the
mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such
as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola,
Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious
residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was
conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its
After the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana,
the town remained the most important agricultural centre in the
area, while the industrial activities moved mostly next to Chiusi,
which was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.
Pienza was rebuilt from a
village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace (1405) of Aeneas
Silvius Piccolomini (Italian: Enea Silvio Piccolomini), a
Renaissance humanist born into an exiled Sienese family, who later
became Pope Pius II. Once he became Pope, Piccolomini had the entire
village rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town. Intended as a retreat
from Rome, it represents the first application of humanist urban
planning concepts, creating an impetus for planning that was adopted
in other Italian towns and cities and eventually spread to other
The rebuilding was done by Florentine architect Bernardo Gambarelli
(known as Bernardo Rossellino) who may have worked with the humanist
and architect Leon Battista Alberti, though there are no documents
to prove it for sure. Alberti was in the employ of the Papal Curia
at the time and served as an advisor to Pius. Construction started
about 1459. Pope Pius II consecrated the Duomo on August 29, 1462,
during his long summer visit. He included a detailed description of
the structures in his Commentaries, written during the last two
years of his life.
like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the
Etruscans (c. 900400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called
the Saina. The Etruscans were an advanced people who changed the
face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim
previously unfarmable land, and their custom of building their
settlements in well-defended hill forts. A Roman town called Saena
Julia was founded at the site in the time of the Emperor Augustus.
The first document mentioning it dates from AD 70. Some
archaeologists assert that Siena was controlled for a period by a
Gaulish tribe called the Senones.
The Roman origin accounts for the town's emblem: a she-wolf suckling
infants Romulus and Remus. According to legend, Siena was founded by
Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after
whom Rome was named. Statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf
suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus can be seen all over the
city of Siena. Other etymologies derive the name from the Etruscan
family name "Saina," the Roman family name of the "Saenii," or the
Latin word "senex" ("old") or the derived form "seneo", "to be old".
Siena did not prosper under Roman rule. It was not sited near any
major roads and lacked opportunities for trade. Its insular status
meant that Christianity did not penetrate until the 4th century AD,
and it was not until the Lombards invaded Siena and the surrounding
territory that it knew prosperity. After the Lombard occupation, the
old Roman roads of Via Aurelia and the Via Cassia passed through
areas exposed to Byzantine raids, so the Lombards rerouted much of
their trade between the Lombards' northern possessions and Rome
along a more secure road through Siena. Siena prospered as a trading
post, and the constant streams of pilgrims passing to and from Rome
provided a valuable source of income in the centuries to come.
The oldest aristocratic families in Siena date their line to the
Lombards' surrender in 774 to Charlemagne. At this point, the city
was inundated with a swarm of Frankish overseers who married into
the existing Sienese nobility and left a legacy that can be seen in
the abbeys they founded throughout Sienese territory. Feudal power
waned however, and by the death of Countess Matilda in 1115 the
border territory of the Mark of Tuscia which had been under the
control of her family, the Canossa, broke up into several autonomous
regions. This ultimately resulted into the creation of the Republic
It existed for over four hundred years, from the late 11th century
until the year 1555. During the golden age of Siena before the Black
death in 1348, the city was home to 50,000 people. In the Italian
War of 15511559, the republic was defeated by the rival Duchy of
Florence in alliance with the Spanish crown. After 18 months of
resistance, Siena surrendered to Spain on 17 April 1555, marking the
end of the republic.
The new Spanish King Philip, owing huge sums to the Medici, ceded it
(apart a series of coastal fortress annexed to the State of Presidi)
to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, to which it belonged until the
unification of Italy in the 19th century.
A Republican government of 700 Sienese families in Montalcino
resisted until 1559.
The picturesque city remains an important cultural centre,
especially for humanist disciplines.
The hill upon which
Montalcino sits has probably been settled since Etruscan times. Its
first mention in historical documents in 814 AD suggests there was a
church here in the 9th century, most likely built by monks
associated with the nearby Abbey of Sant'Antimo. The population grew
suddenly in the middle of the tenth century, when people fleeing the
nearby town of Roselle took up residence in the town.
The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered
the terrain. The very high site of the town offers stunning views
over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany, dotted with
silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages. The lower
slopes of the Montalcino hill itself are dominated by highly
productive vines and olive orchards.
During medieval times the city was known for its tanneries and for
the shoes and other leather goods that were made from the
high-quality leathers that were produced there. As time went by,
many medieval hill towns, including Montalcino, went into serious
Like many of the medieval towns of Tuscany, Montalcino experienced
long periods of peace and often enjoyed a measure of prosperity.
This peace and prosperity was, however, interrupted by a number of
extremely violent episodes.
During the late Middle Ages it was an independent commune with
considerable importance owing to its location on the old Via
Francigena, the main road between France and Rome, but increasingly
Montalcino came under the sway of the larger and more aggressive
city of Siena.
View of Montalcino.
As a satellite of Siena since the Battle of Montaperti in 1260,
Montalcino was deeply involved and affected by the conflicts in
which Siena became embroiled, particularly in those with the city of
Florence in the 14th and 15th centuries, and like many other cities
in central and northern Italy, the town was also caught up in the
internecine wars between the Ghibellines (supporters of the Holy
Roman Empire) and the Guelphs (supporters of the Papacy). Factions
from each side controlled the town at various times in the late
Once Siena had been conquered by Florence under the rule of the
Medici family in 1555, Montalcino held out for almost four years,
but ultimately fell to the Florentines, under whose control it
remained until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was amalgamated into a
united Italy in 1861.
In the case of Montalcino, gradual economic decline has recently
been reversed by economic growth due to the increasing popularity of
the town's famous wine Brunello di Montalcino, made from the
sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the comune. The number of
producers of the wine has grown from only 11 in the 1960s to more
than 200 today, producing some 330,000 cases of the Brunello wine
annually. Brunello was the first wine to be awarded Denominazione di
Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. In addition to
Brunello di Montalcino, which must be aged five years prior to
release, 6 years for the Riserva, Rosso di Montalcino (DOC), made
from sangiovese grosso grapes and aged one year, and a variety of
Super Tuscan wines are also produced within the comune, as well as
the Moscadello sweet white wines for which it was most famous until
the development of the Brunello series.
Some of the oldest human
settlements of central Italy were discovered at the base of Monte
Cetona, such as the early neo-Paleolithic Gosto cave (4080th
century BC) and Lattaia cave (910th century BC). The Belverde park
hosts 25 prehistoric and Bronze Age caves, such as the San Francesco
cave. There are several sites of Etruscan finds.
The town of Cetona developed on the hillside around the rocca
fortress, containing a square tower (about 900 AD) and an inner
fortress wall. It became known as the Scitonia castle. In the first
mention of the comune, at the end of the 11th century, Pope Gregory
VII granted feudal rights to a member of his family, the
Aldobrandeschi. The family's heirs sold the rights, and in the
14th century, Cetona was alternatingly ruled by Siena and Orvieto (until
1354), and, after a brief rule by Perugia, was annexed by Siena. An
outer wall was built, containing two round towers (1458). Grand Duke
Cosimo I de' Medici of Tuscany sold Cetona in 1556, to the marchese
Chiappino Vitelli (151975), who made the fortress into a private
residence, and built the piazza below it, today named Piazza
Garibaldi. His descendants also erected Palazzo Vitelli in the late
17th century. Cetona was connected to Sarteano (17721840), and
annexed to Italy in 1861.
The place name of Cetona or Citonia (local variation) probably comes
from the Latin word caedita, "felled, deforested" with regard to a
deforested and cultivated place. An early Christian baptistery, now
a parish church, mentioned in documents as baptisterium Sancti
Johannis de Queneto or de Queteno, may have been named in reference
to the Chieteno stream that flows just south of Cetona.
n.27 - 53042 Chianciano Terme (Siena) - Tel. 0578/63724 Fax. 0578/63065 e-mail: