Castiglion Fiorentino, a well-known medieval town situated between Arezzo and Cortona, is documented as a fortified hamlet dating back to the 10th -11th century under the name of Castellione Aretino. Numerous architectural structures such as the massive town walls and the impressive fortified complex of the Cassero highlight the town’s past strategic importance. Today, in the light of recent archaeological discoveries, Castiglion Fiorentino has also achieved distinction as an important Etruscan centre in the Valdichiana. The town, built on an isolated hilltop stretching between the Valley of Clanis and the Val di Chio, continued to develop over the centuries as a result of its strategic position. The ancient centre corresponding to Castiglion Fiorentino, situated on the territorial boundary between Arezzo and Cortona, dominated not only the direct routes toward the north but also the transversal connection routes towards the Valle del Nestore (Trestina–Fabbrecce) and the upper Valtiberina. Research conducted in 1988 has identified an Etruscan settlement that flourished primarily between the archaic and the Hellenistic ages. We can assume that the forthcoming excavations, which will involve archaeological surveys in the entire area, will yield further fascinating results. Following is a summary of the most important archaeological finds to date.
Church of Sant’Angelo al Cassero:
During the restoration of the church, different alignments of the walls were discovered in the crypt, characterised by large, square blocks belonging to the Etruscan wall circle (4th century BC). Two showcases display archaic Etruscan (bucchero and impasto ware) and Hellenistic finds (grey and black-painted ceramics) discovered on the site, as well as the cover of a cinerary urn with an Etruscan inscription (3rd century BC).
Piazzale del Cassero:
Excavation of the Etruscan temple (mid-4th – 2nd century BC)
The archaeological excavation, begun in 1991 and still in progress, has uncovered a sanctuary, with a north-south orientation and a rectangular layout (17 x 22 m) very similar to that of the Etruscan temples which Vitruvius spoke about in De Architectura. The podium was made of large blocks of stone, and the pronaos featured four columns placed in two rows with the entrance steps carved out of the rock. The materials used for the decoration of the roof (reconstructed in the museum) roofing tiles, architectural slabs painted with palmettes and black, white, and red lotus flowers, part of a polychrome sima decorated in relief with a frieze of white lilies and red roses with a Gorgon’s head and various lion’s head antefixes, can be dated around the mid-4th century BC. The sanctuary, however, also had two other phases of life: the earliest towards the end of the 6th century BC and the most recent in the 2nd century BC.
The Etruscan gate (4th century BC)
In the surveys of 1987-88, the western side of the Medieval wall circle revealed the presence of subfoundations composed of small sized blocks, and of the threshold and frame of a town gate with an access ramp (3.2m wide) dating to the Hellenistic Etruscan period. The remains, incorporated into the Medieval walls are visible and accessible from the Piazzale del Cassero, passing through the recently reopened Porta Perugina.
Medieval and Etruscan dwellings (3rd – 2nd century BC)
The archaeological research carried out on the last defensive bastion of Castiglion Fiorentino, erected by the Perugini in the mid-14th century, has brought to light walls belonging to a fortification that preceded the construction of the Casseretto, including a water drainage tank and Medieval dwellings built up against the walls.
The remains of the Etruscan walls, and the Etruscan dwellings of the Hellenistic age located underneath the foundations of the medieval dwellings, can be seen in the short underground passage below the level of the present road.
Il Museo Civico Archeologico
The archaeological exhibition of the town is characterised by the uniqueness of its multimedial information system, intended to highlight the didactic aspect of the experience. The museum houses local archaeological finds through which it recounts the history of Castiglion Fiorentino and its territory. The exhibition itinerary extends over five rooms dedicated to the various themes relating to the ancient residential nucleus and its rural hinterland, constellated with settlements ranging from the Iron Age to the Late Ancient period and beyond: the Etruscan bronzes of Brolio; the Etruscan Temple in the area of the Cassero; the ancient settlement of Castiglion Fiorentino from its origins to its fortification, and the rural hinterland; Brolio Melmone, an Etruscan settlement for production and trade in the Clanis district, and the activities performed in these settlements, such as fishing, spinning and weaving, and the practice of writing on ceramics.
Civic Pinacoteca in Castiglion Fiorentino
The Civic Gallery in Castiglion Fiorentino is found in the monumental complex of Cassero, occupying in particular the church hall of Sant’Angelo al Cassero – a building with medieval foundations – the adjacent sacristy and the monks’ choir on the top floor. You can enjoy a beautiful view over the Valdichiana from the loggia of the museum, built into the old clocktower.
Though the collection is of small size, the quality of its exhibits make it of great interest. For the most part, it comprises sacred artworks from the churches and monasteries of Castiglion Fiorentino and the surrounding territory.
The paintings that stand out are the Cross with Christ Triumphant by an unknown artist from 13th-century Arezzo, Saint Francis by Margarito d’Arezzo (mid-1200s), Madonna with Child by Taddeo Gaddi (c.1325), and also the two panels The Marriage of Saint Catherine by Giovanni di Paolo (1457) and Bartolomeo della Gatta’s Saint Michael the Archangel and the Stigmata of Saint Francis (c.1485).
The most notable pieces of goldwork include the 12th or 13th-century cross-shaped reliquary from the Meuse Valley of Belgium; a French Holy Cross from the 13th century and the reliquary bust of Saint Ursula, made in the Rhineland in the third decade of the 14th century.