History of Chianciano, Italy

See Chianciano Terme guide for highlights and historic monuments

The small town of Chianciano, whose territory in recent years has given us many remains of the Etruscan civilization, to which the town was linked through Chiusi.

Etruscan Chianciano

Historically, Chianciano was a small town under the control of Chiusi, the dominant city. As pointed out by M. Cristofani, the history of the Etruscan Chianciano, beyond the few references in ancient writers, is encapsulated in its monuments, the remains of which demonstrate the vitality of this ancient town, which has been investigated in depth in recent years.

The contribution of A. Minetti, director of the Museum of Chianciano is very important who observed that the western limits of the Etruscan domination were made:

"by the Orcia Valley and Lake Trasimeno. Within this area the most significant data derive from the areas these days including some towns such as Chiusi, Montepulciano and Castiglione del Lago, Chianciano, Satriano and Cetona" [8].

M. Cristofani, after telling us that the story of the Etruscan city may be reconstructed only on archaeological data, remarked that:

"The findings show the existence of an Etruscan settlement in the modern urban area (...) Some baths of Roman times, still visible at the time of Inghirami (1828) were located in the area of Fontanelle. A very ancient area was discovered in Poggio alla Sala, where the remains have demonstrated a clear relationship between Chiusi and Chianciano. Some Etruscan tombs have been found about one km from Chianciano, in a place called "La Pedata". Here was discovered one of the most important monuments of the Etruscan Chianciano, that is the famous "Mater Matuta" [9].

About the "Mater Matuta", M. Guidetti remarked that it:

"is the only specimen of Etruscan origin with a woman helding a child in her lap. Inside the statue, an Attic 'oinochoe' with woman's head was discovered, dating from the fifth century BC" [10].

Roman era in Chianciano

The Roman conquest is evidenced by archaeological finds and the Roman baths and therapeutic qualities of water. The ancient spa vocation of Chianciano is confirmed by the discovery of remains of the Etruscan-Roman age connected with the cult of the waters, such as sacred statues with a specific reference to recovery from illness.

In addition, some Roman farming settlements dating from the 2nd century BC were discovered in the place called “Poggio Baccherini” [11].

Did Horace Take the Waters at Chianciano Terme

Apparently, the famous spa of Chianciano [Latin "Fontes Clusini"] once hosted the Latin poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, who was suffering from stomach ulcer and was in desperate need of healing therapies. In an article titled "Did Horace Take the Waters at Chianciano Terme?", David Soren writes that Quintus Horatius Flaccus heard of the properties of the thermal waters of Chianciano “on the road to Brundisium [Brindisi] as described in 'Satire, I, 5 (...)

But why should Horace take this water cure? When he reports that the 'fontes Clusini' are good for immersing the 'caput et stomachum' [testa e stomaco], he is echoing Musa,  because 'cessantem nervis elidere morbum sulphura' [baths cure nerve-system problems] reflects a technical medical expression” [12].

From the Middle ages in Cianciano

With regard to the Middle Ages, important data has been handed down to us by Luigi Fumi (1849-1934), who worked for a long time as an archivist in the town of Chianciano, and that on the occasion of the publication of his “Statutes of Chianciano”, dating back to 1287, he also gave us a detailed profile about the town in the Middle Ages, with an important set of documents regarding some questions about its birth and history.

Luigi Fumi wrote that the first document about Chianciano dates back to 1171, in which an inhabitant of Pratale donated to the Abbey of St. Piero in Campo what he possessed in the territory of Chiusi and Chianciano, that is the "terra qui vocatur Clantio" [the land called ‘Clantio’] [13].

Chianciano was subject to the Lords of Chiusi and later to the Manenti, known as the Lords of Chianciano and Sarteano. Afterwards Chianciano was a bone of contention between the Ghibellines of Siena and the Guelphs of Orvieto. Charles IV [of Luxembourg] (1316-1378) with a diploma dating back to 1373 granted it to William Beaufort, a nephew of Clement VI (1291-1352) [14].

Finally, we record that the old statutes of the Town were reformed and published on February 27, 1544. At the time of the wars of Italy, with the passage of foreign armies, all Tuscan cities including Chianciano suffered massacres and devastations. The imperial armies tyrannized and oppressed the town of Chianciano, which was sacked and burned.

In 1555 Chianciano passed under the rule of the Medici and afterwards it passed directly to Lorraine with Peter Leopold [1747-1792] in 1789.

Thanks to the Grand Duke Napoleon, Chianciano became a spa town and, after the Napoleonic period, it entered the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Chianciano

This ancient site continues to keep some secrets of the ancient Etruscan people, that is the secret of the meaning of its name, and over the centuries, the ancient "Clancianum" or "Clantianum" raised a lot of discussion.

In an interesting chapter of his “Cenni storici della Comunità di Lanciano”, A. Coli told us us that:

"there were those who imagined that Chianciano derived its name from Janus; and E. Repetti wrote that “Chianciano” presumably derives from the Latin verb "clango" (= make noise): "We can derive terms such as' Clanis', 'Clanum,' and ‘Clancianum’ from the verb ‘clango', because these places were covered by forests and they were suitable for hunting and the noises that resulted from it" [1].

According to another hypothesis suggested by some scholars "Chianciano" would derive from "Cis Clanas" (= on this side of the river Chiana); however, I. Calabresi pointed out that:

"scholars of the past fantasized about the name of Chianciano, assuming a root word as 'Cis Clanas'" [2].

C. A. Mastrelli said instead that the names "Chianti" and "Chianciano" had to do with the large presence of water in the area, and that therefore "Clancianum" or "Clantianum" were names related to water (hydronyms). The toponym "Clancianum" would therefore be:

"understood in a broad family of hydronyma, arising, perhaps, from the Indo-European root 'cl-', with the addition of the thematic '-en', 'an' and 'av', which gives rise to syllabic groups such as 'Clan.' - 'Glan-' (= stagnant water). This root has given rise to terms like 'Val di Chiana', ‘Chianti’, and ‘Chienti’" [3].

Established that "Clancianum" or "Clantianum" is a hydronym, a term related to the presence of water, which is still the pride of Chianciano, we must pay homage to Professor G. Semeraro, who in 1984 had already suggested this idea:

"This hilly area records Etruscan origins, equivalent to Akkadian words such as 'Kalla-eni' (=spring hill) (...) and 'enu' (= spring). ‘Chianti’ and 'Clantum' (…) derived from the same base corresponding to the Etruscan ‘kal-lum’, plural ‘Kallàtu.’ The same base ‘Kallu’ is also present at ‘Clancianum’, ‘Chianciano’, from the Akkadian terms 'Fku', 'Tgu' (= channel "Kanal")" [4].

Another interesting hypothesis has been formulated by Domenico Silvestri, according to whom "Chianti" < "Clan-t-ianum", could derive from the Latin word "Plantae" (= plants), according to the hypothesis suggested by G. Alessio, on the basis of the particular habitat of Chianciano [5].

We conclude with a final observation, namely that the link of "Chianciano" with the waters, the sources and channels was assumed before G. Semeraro and the other scholars mentioned above in 1834 by F. Orioli, who wrote:

"[...] The term 'Ciane' is one of very few words that survived over the centuries in Tuscany. I do not know if it has any relation with the 'Clan' of Scotland and Walter Scott (and I do not think it), but with regard to to the Tuscans, I find it in the term 'Chiana' … which clearly is the same Etruscan word 'Clan' with appropriate ending to the Latin language...

... Today in Tuscany some natural channels through which waters drain into the marsh are called 'Chianei' … and from this name is derived  'Chianciano', a  town in the province. (…) Its radical is probably the same of the Greek verb "Klao" by which the Greeks derived the terms "Klema" = palmes, and "Klasma" = fragmentum … "Clan" was a word originally enclosing the basic idea of something which flows [...]" [6].

We think that the words of Francesco Orioli [1785-1856, a great patriot and professor of archeology at the Sorbonne] should be adequately reappraised, because we have the impression that he had perfectly understood the etymological meaning of  Chianciano. With regard to  the variation “Chian-c-ianum”-“Chian-t-ianum”,  L. Rombai pointed out that:

"the oscillation found in the couple 'Chiancianum-'Chiantianum' depends on fluctuations in the pronunciation (…) happened in the Italian dialects in the Middle Ages and even in the writings of notaries (...) Also the oscillation 'Clan-t-ianum'-'Clan-c-ianum' (and 'Clan-ç-ianum) may depend on the pronunciation of notaries" [7].

See also the Chianciano visitor guide.


1. See A. Coli, “Cenni storici della Comunità di Lanciano”, Montepulciano, 1856, p. 11 and E. Repetti, “Dizionario Geografico, fisico e storico della Toscana”, Firenze, Tovani, 1833, Vol. I,  p. 692

2. See I. Calabresi, “L 'etimologia del nome di Chianciano: Clantianum o Clancianum?”,  in AA. VV, “Chianti. Storia e origine di un nome”, 1988,  p. 28

3. See C.A. Mastrelli, “ Considerazione sul  nome di 'Chianti'”, in  “Chianti, storia e origine di un nome”, “Centro di studi storici chiantigiani”, 1988, pp. 41-47,  44

4. See G. Semeraro, “Le origini della cultura europea”, Olschki, 1984, Parte 2,  p. 860

5. See D. Silvestri, “Il nome 'Chianti' e la documentazione dell'Italia antica”,  in "Chianti. Storia e origine di un nome", Centro di Studi Storici Chiantigiani, Quaderno IX, 1988, pp. 33-40

6. See F. Orioli, , “Monumenti dell'Etruria”, in  “Annali dell'Istituto di corrispondenza archeologica”, Parigi, 1834, Fascicolo II e III,  Vol. VI,  pp. 170-171

7. See, “Agricoltura e paesaggio agrario del Chianti in età lorenese. La graduale definizione di una regione vitivinicola”, in “Il Chianti al tempo dei Lorena”, in  “Il Chianti. Storia arte cultura territorio”, 1987, n. VII, pp. 15-31, p. 31

8. See A. Minetti, “L'Orientalizzazione a Chiusi e nel suo territorio”, Roma, 2004,  pp. 11-12

9. See M. Cristofani, “Chianciano”, in “Dizionario illustrato della civiltà etrusca”, Giunti, 1985,  pp. 68-69

10. See M. Guidetti, “Storia del Mediterraneo nell'antichità”, 2004, p. 112

11. See G. Paolucci, “Etruschi e Romani nel territorio di Chianciano”,  1992, pp. 35 ff.

12. See D. Soren, “An ancient Roman spa at Mezzomiglio: Chianciano Terme, Tuscany”, 2006, Vol. I,  p. 6

13. Luigi Fumi, “Gli Statuti di Chianciano”, Orvieto, 1874, pp. VI ff.

14. Fumi (ref 13) pp. XXII-XXIII].