Chianciano’s tradition as a spa town offering a variety of cures, dates back more than two thousand years. There is abundant evidence that it was famous even in Etruscan-Roman times. Recently, Chianciano has drawn the attention of archaeologists world-wide, due to the discovery of a large swimming pool, dating back to the 1st Century B.C., in the heart of t thermal centre. The countless number of antiques that continually turn up in the area have led to the creation of the prestigious Museo Civico Archeologico delle Acque which is visited each year by thousands of specialists and interested tourists.
Up till the 1950s, Chianciano Terme was divided in two distinct areas: the “old town” Chianciano Vecchia and “the baths” Bagni di Chianciano. Even now, although they go under the collective name of Chianciano Terme, the two areas are still quite different.
The modern part is a tourist centre, internationally known for its thermal pools, its conference centres, hotels, shops and a brand new Terme Sensoriali. The old town is however the original nucleus and carefully maintains its architectural heritage and traditions.
Like many of the towns around, the old town was constructed following the classic criteria for mediaeval urban development. From a distance, the houses look as if they were piled on top of each other and the perspective makes them look as if they were squeezed together. The focal point is the massive outline of the austere monastery of Castello Manetti.
The town has magnificent sweeping views, particularly the one from the Torre dell’Orologio. The most important building is the Palazzo dei Podesta’ which looks out over the picturesque Piazzolina dei Soldati. On the opposite side of the piazza, you can see the Palazzo dell’Arciprete, which now houses the small but interesting Museo della Collegiata, where you can see paintings from the Florentine school, important 14th Century works and a wooden Crucifix attributed to the school of Duccio di Buoninsegna.
The Collegiate Church contains a Crucifix dating from 1100, a 14th Century Assumption of the Virgin and a Presepe (Nativity Scene) by the 14th Century Sienese painter Rustichino.
The most beautiful church in Chianciano, however, is the Madonna della Rosa, which stands just beyond the Porta al Sole, outside the old town. Built in the 16th Century by the famous architect Baldassare Lanci, its clean, harmonious lines culminate in a simple but elegant dome. Its name derives from a painting inside, depicting the Madonna presenting a rose to the infant Jesus. It is well worth a visit while exploring the whole of the old town, with its narrow, silent streets, its neat piazzas and its craft workshops. Time here seems to have stood still, and the contrast with the lively Viale della Liberta’ which links the two parts of Chianciano Terme, is striking. Meanwhile, the modern spa town continues to offer its cures and beauty treatment to 21st Century visitors.
The Museo Civico Archeologico Delle Acque
Viale Dante, 80
Inaugurated in 2002, its up-to-date and innovative displays instantly put a town mainly for its tourism on the international archaeological map. Its spacious rooms house reconstruction of tombs – including a perfectly preserved aristocratic one – splendid Etruscan and Greek illustrated vases, the colossal pediment of a temple, as well as specimens of gold and bronze jewellery. Its collection of painted Canopic vases is the finest in the world.
Museo della Collegiata
Via Solferino, 38
As small as it is, this compact museum houses many of Chianciano Terme's treasures. These include a striking crucifix of the school of Duccio di Buoninsegna and a Madonna with a Child, also of the fouteenth century Sienese school. Interesting too, as much as a historical document, is a panel of San Giovanni supporting fifteenth-century Chianciano.