History of Lisciano Niccone, Italy

See Lisciano Niccone guide for highlights and historic monuments

Lisciano Niccone is located in Umbria on the slopes of Mount Castiglione, to the right of the valley of the river Niccone in a strategic position to control the roads among the valley of the Tiber, Lake Trasimeno and the Val di Chiana.

As a result of this location the whole valley played a key role during the Byzantine rule, because it was also one of the largest trade routes connecting Ravenna, Rome, Florence, Perugia and the Tiber Valley. The presence of strong castles, both in Lisciano Niccone and in nearby villages, attests that this formed part of a very important territorial defensive line.

Archaeological data attest to an Etruscan and Roman presence at Lisciano Niccone:

"Many 'terracotta tombs' were found across the city on several occasions during the 19th century (...) Remains were found of two Roman cisterns in 'opus caementicium' [which is obtained from mixing small irregular stones or brick fragments, with a mortar made of lime and sand], oriented east-south-east" [1].

More detailed historical data about the site of Lisciano Niccone begins, as we shall see, around the beginning of the 13th century, a period in which the presence of the castle is attested. We only have limited historical data on the territory of Niccone, but studies by A. Grohmann have set the situation of the site very well:

"In 1202, Lisciano is mentioned among the villas and castles that were transferred by Guiccione and Guido Ranieri, the Marquis del Monte, to Perugia (...) In the listing of 1258 Lisciano appears as a castle. Similarly in 1282, there are 20 homes. In 1380 it is mentioned as a villa. In the 15th century it is mentioned as a villa, with the exception of 1499, when it is mentioned as a castle...

... The settlement, like many others of the mountain, during the 15th century, suffered a severe demographic crisis. At the end of the century we count only eight homes. The parish church, dedicated to St. Thomas, is documented since the 14th century as being dependent on the Monastery of Santa Maria di Petroia" [2].

The data provided by Grohmann relative to 1202 is the only certain document, prepared in several copies over the centuries by the notaries of Perugia. The precious document attesting the ownership of the castle and its transfer of property to Perugia was collected by A. Langeli Bartoli, who illustrated it, providing information on various owners.

In the "Diplomatic Code" we read that Uguccione and Guidone, the sons of Marquis Ranieri, transferred it to the consuls of the commune of Perugia, in particular Monte Gualandro, Lisciano and Tisciano, along the northern border between the Tiber and Trasimeno. We quote the document from a copy by notary Nicola in 1280:

“In the name of God, Amen. In the year of Our Lord 1202, during the fifth indiction, on the third day before the end of the month of May, We, Uguccione and Guido, the sons of the late Marquis Rainerio, in God's name we give, grant, and subject all our castles , villas, villages, men and families, and all possessions or possessed by others  in our name, to the district and the Diocese of Perugia: that is Mount Gualandro with its curia, Castro Nuovo with its  curia , Santa Maria di Pierle and Lisciano with their curia."

A. Bartoli Langeli also pointed out that all the possessions of Uguccione and Guido were confirmed some time before with a letter from Pope Innocent III (1161-1216). Among these goods there were also two islands of Trasimeno, belonging to the Roman Church:

"It is therefore conceivable that these islands were part of the possessions of the Marquis" [3].

This document is also reproduced [5]:

"We add that, before the dominion of Perugia, the territory belonged to Cortona, and in particular to the family of the Casali, who had confirmed their dominance of a few villages, including Lisciano, by Pope Boniface IX (1350-1404), and they served the Roman Church as Pope’s Legates [4].

In the 14th century Lisciano was subject to the Vicariate of the Casali of Cortona, but in essence the town remained under the dominion of the Papal States until the Unification of Italy in 1861. Towards the end of the 19th century "Niccone" was added to the name, being the name of the stream that runs near the town.

Origins of the name Lisciano

With regard to the etymology of Lisciano, literary criticism interprets Lisciano as a predial name (place named after a person), since it seems that this territory belonged to a Roman owner called "Lisius":

"Lisciano is related with the predial ‘Lisianum’, derived in turn from the gentilitial name ‘Lisius’, ‘Lissius’ or ‘Lucius’" [6].

According to G.B. Pellegrini, the  name seems to derive from "Lisianus" or perhaps "Lisius", but it is possible that it is also derived from "Lissius" and "Lixius" [7]: "Lisiano, in 1140 was called 'Lisciano'; it seems that it derives from 'Lisianus' (Lisius?) It's also possible that it derives from 'Lissius' or ‘Lixius'."

Lisciano is located along a road of great importance, which was also mentioned by some sources with reference to St. Francis:

“Another source is offered by the 'Legenda Perusina', which alluded to Lisciano Niccone as a 'Castrum' near to which St. Francis of Assisi passed during his pilgrimage from Assisi to Cortona" [8].

See the Lisciano Niccone guide if planning a visit.


1. See G. Cataldi, “Cortona: struttura e storia : materiali per una conoscenza operante della città e del territorio”, 1987, p. 184 and 182

2 See A. Grohmann, “Città e territorio tra Medioevo ed età moderna: (Perugia, secc. XIII – XVI), 1981,  p. 162

3. See A. Bartoli Langeli, “Codice Diplomatico del Comune di Perugia. Periodo Consolare e podestarile (1139-1254). Deputazione di storia patria per l'Umbria, Fonti per la storia dell'Umbria, Perugia, 1983.  Document No. 30, pp. 67-68

4. See P. Uccelli,  “Storia di Cortona”,   1835, pp. 63-64

5. M Smith, F. Vieillard, P. Bourgain, O. Guyot-Jeannin, “Conseil pour l'édition des textes médiévaux”, Paris, Ecole de Chartres, 2001, fascicule II, pp. 70-71

6. See G. F. Binazzi, “Le origini della parrocchia rurale nella Diocesi di Gubbio (IV–VIII secolo”, in   “Bollettino d'arte”,  2005, p. 86, footnote 186

7. See G.B. Pellegrini, “Toponomastica umbra”, in “Saggi di linguistica italiana: storia, struttura, società”, Boringhieri, 1975 p. 251

8. See L. Pellegrini, “Insediamenti francescani nell'Italia del Duecento”, Laurentianum, 1984, Vol. I,  p. 105