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The Mysterious Etruscans

Arezzo - Cortona  -  Orvieto - Viterbo - Cerveteri - Siena - Volterra -  San Gimignano  

 

We begin and end this excursion in Florence, crossing the Arno Valley through Incisa, San Giovanni Valdarno and Montevarchi, as far as


 Arezzo,              

the Etruscan's art capital, Roman military station, an important town in the Middle Ages, and the birthplace of Petrarca and Vasari. The most important monuments are the Gothic Church of S. Francesco with its fine 16th c. windows, Gothic and Renaissance aedicules, and among its many frescoes, the world-famous Story of the Cross which Piero della Francesca painted beween 1453 and 1464; the Curch of Santa Maria, with its austere Romanesque facade, richly carved portal and stout bell-tower with 40 tracery windows, the Gothic Cathedral ( fine stained glass windows by Guglielmo di Marcillat, Piero della Francesca's Mary Magdalene, etc.); the  Gothic Church of S. Domenico (Cimabue's Crucifix inside); the graceful 13th c. Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre . The Huge irregular Piazza Grande is the delightful setting of the Romanesque apse of S. Maria's, the Palazzo del Tribunale, the Gothic-Renaissance Palazzo della Fraternita` dei Laici, and Vasari's Palazzo delle Logge v(1573). There are fine collections in the Galleria and Museo Archeologico Medievale e Moderno and the Museo Archeologico Mecenate (with a priceless collection of relief-carved coralline vases). Arezzo has a number of major national and international Chiusi (Siena) - Museo Archeologico (Etruscan Museum)events (polyphonic competition), and the traditional "Giostra del Saracino" jousting tournament in period costume. We now leave for Castiglion Fiorentino and


Cortona           

a town famed for its art and antiques market in a magnificent natural setting. We can visit  the Church of the Nadonna del Calcinaio (Francesco di Giorgio Martini, 1485-1513), and then go up to the Piazza della Repubblica to see the Palazzo Comunale and Palazzo Pretorio (housing the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca, and the Museo Diocesano (with works by Signorelli, Fra Angelico, Sassetta, Lorenzetti, etc.). Driving down into Castigllione del Lago on the banks of Lake Trasimeno, we reach Chiusi (well endowed Museo Nazionale Etrusco, and a large Etruscan Necropolis with some of the finest extant Etruscan tombs), Citta` della PieveThe pituresque village of Pitigliano (Grosseto) (works  by Perugino, who was born here), and


 Orvieto.               

Perched on the top of a hill which time and elements are gradually wearing down, Orvieto still preserves the typical layout of the medieval fortress town it was. We can stroll along its silents streets lined with Renaissance buildings and medieval houses, and linger a lenght in its unique Gothic Cathedral on which artists, architets, sculptors and painters have worked across the ages - Lorenzo Maitani, Andrea Orcagna, Gentile da Fabriano and Luca Signorelli, who left his greatest work here (the frescoes in the cchapel of Madonna di San Brizio). In a 14th c. marble tabernacle is a famous reliquary, a mastreppiece of the Italian goldsmiths' craft made of precious metals and enamels by Ugolino di Vieri, in the chapel of the 'Corporale" . We can also visit the Museio dell'opera del duomo, the municipal museum, the Piazza del Popolo (12th c.) , the Church of S. Andrea, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger's courious S.Patrick's Well (pozzo di San Patrizio) which was sunk to provide the city with drinking water in case of siege. Just outside the city is the 4th c. BC Etruscan necropolis. From Orvieto we pass through Bolsena and Montefiascone to reach


 Viterbo,               

where virtually all the typical mediaeval features of the 13th c. "San Pellegrino" district have remained intact: mullioned windows, external stair casa, balconies, towers and loggias. In Piazza San Lorenzo is the Cathedral and the Papal Palace (13th c.) Other notable monuments are the 13yh c. fountain, "Fontana Grande", the Churches of S. Maria della Verita`, the Madonna della Quercia, S. Francesco, and the fine archaeological exhibits in the municipal museum. There are a number of wonderful visits that can be made using Viterbo as home base.: Bomarzo and Bagnaia,, the ruins of Ferento, (Roman theatre and excavations at Acquarossa), the necropolis at Castel d'Asso, the Cistercian Abbey of San Cimino, and the mediaeval town of Vetralla, in the heart of Norchia, one of the most important archaeological areas of Tuscia.  (a splendid necopolis hewn into the rocks), and San Giovenale (where prehistoric settlements and an Etruscan town have been unearthed). After Viterbo, we still skirt Lake Vico and the step tufa stone hill on which the little town off Sutri is built with the ruins of the Etruscan (or Roman) amphitheatre and the church of Madonna del Parto on the site of an Etruscan tomb, dedicated to Mithras before becoming a Christian place of worship, both carved out of solid rock, and the reach isola Farnese  to see the ruins of the Etruscan city of Veii where a 6th c,. BC statue of Apollo was found in 1916 (now in the Villa Giulia Museum , in Rome)  The tomb in the museum are famous throughout the world, expecially the "Campana"  tom with the painted lions. Only 12 liles from Rome we will take the Aurelian Way north to


 Cerveteri,               

one of the most important cities of ancien Etruria. Its necropolis covers a large beautiful are studded with cy presses, olive groves, broom and laurel bushes. We are going to visit the tombs of tTarquinia (Viterbo) - Museo Nazionale , Etruscan high-reliefshe "Capitals" , "Reliefs" (with supreme polychrome stucco work) , "Greek Vases" , "Shield and Chairs", "Ship", "Sarcophagi" and the "Alcove" which is built to resemble a house with a bridal chamber. If we have time, we ought to see the Museo Nazionale Cerite. Passing Santa Severa, Santa Marinella and Civitavecchia we reach Tarquinia, whose towers, palaces and mediaeval churches risse up amid rocks and oive grows. The most beautiful church i s the Romanesque S. Maria di Cstello. Th eaustere Gothi-Renaissance Palazzo Vitelleschi is the home of one of Italy's leading Etruscan Museums (high relief with two horses, vases, frescoes taken from several tombs, etc.) . But Tarquinia's main attraction is the Etruscan Necropolis to which you gain access through the museum. This huge burial ground covers a large area of countryside (6th-2 centuries BC), and the tombs are decorated with frescoesthat give a unique pictorial account of the cutoms, beliefs and culture of this ancien people. We suggest a detour through Tuscania (Churches of S. Pietro and S. Maria Maggiore, small museum) before going to Montalto di Castro, near the Excavations of the Etruscan town of Vulci, Ansedonia, Orbetello, as far as Grosseto, in the heart of the Maremma region (the walls and fortress buil by the Medicis, Cathedral, archaelogical museim) Vetulonia has another major Etruscan burial ground. On the way to Siena along minor roads, we can see Massa Marittima (paces of various ages, the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, archaelogical museum) and the charming ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano.


Siena               

is a perfect preserved mediaeval city with so many signs of its past greatness; it is a major artistic center which deserves a much longer detailed description than we have space for. Its shell-shaped central square - Piazza del Campo - is the setting for the twice-yearly "palio" horse-race; the Palazzo Pubblico  (1297-1342) with its tall slender Mangia tower (102 maters; 334 foots) , containing the municipal museum (works by Simone Martini, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Jacopo della Quercia, etc.), the Renaissance Palazzo Piccolomini, the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, the Loggia della Mercanzia, the typical Via di Citta` with Palazzo Chigi-Saracini (14c., and home of the celebrated Accademia Musicale). Walking through the silent , narrow mediaeval steets we come to Piazza del Duomo overshadowed by the tall marble Cathedral, one of the most remarkable examples of Italian Gothic. We will then visit the Baptistery, the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana (full of masterpieces by Jacopo della Quercia, Giovanni Pisano, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini, of which the most outstanding work is perhaps the " Maesta` By Duccio di Boninsegna), the Pinacoteca Nazionale (picture gallery with Sienese paintings from the 12th c. to the 17th c.). Then there are the churches: S. Francesco e S. Domenico, S. Bernardino's Oratory, the Shrine of S. Catherine of Siena, Utaly's patron saint, (1347-80); and the Palaces : Salimbeni, Tolomei and Buonsignori, as well the Archbishops' Palace. The return to Florence takes us through Colle Val d'Elsa, via the extraordinary town of


 

 

 

Volterra,              

 which lords it over a vast valley (Palazzo dei Priori, the Pinacoteca picture gallery, Romanesque Cathedral and Baptistery; Etruscan Arch and walls, the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum) and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

San Gimignano             

the town of the hundred towers, with its magnificien palaces , Romanesque Collegiate Church, frescoed by Ghirlandaio and Benozzo Gozzoli, with sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia, Palazzo del Popolo (museum) nand the Church of S. Agostino. Our last stop before Florence will be Boccaccio's birthplace, Certaldo.

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