Situated in the Val di Chiana at about 400 metres above sea level, it is also among the most ancient Italian cities as evidenced by the Etruscan labyrinth and Roman era catacombs in Chiusi.
Your visit to Chiusi can start from the Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of San Secondiano.
Chiusi cathedral and museum
The origins of the cathedral in Chiusi date to the 6th century, although it has been expanded and renovated over the centuries. Inspired architecturally by paleo-Christian basilicas, the cathedral has three naves which are divided by columns that support Roman arches.
Excavations in the cathedral in recent years have also unearthed fragments of mosaics with geometric motifs that are now preserved in the Cathedral Museum.
The Cathedral Museum contains paintings and items of jewellery of great artistic value, such as “Madonna and Child” by Sano di Pietro (1406-1481). The same subject was used by other artists who worked in the cathedral later, such as Girolamo di Benvenuto (1470-1524), while another significant painting is the 'Blessing of Christ' by Matteo Rosselli (1578-1650).
Elsewhere in Chiusi old town
Continuing your tour, from the Cathedral Museum you can follow the route known as the Labyrinth of Porsenna.
The labyrinth winds beneath the town and was probably an aquaduct of Etruscan origin that has been modified over the centuries and consists of a series of tunnels at different levels and different sizes. Some of the labyrinth can be visited and it is a very evocative route that leads to a big underground reservoir from the first century BC.
Just above here rises a 12th century bell tower, a little distant from the church and formerly a defense tower. Close to here between the Via Porsenna and Via Nardi-Dei you can visit one the National Etruscan Museum of Chiusi
National Etruscan Museum
The National Etruscan Museum of Chiusi is ne of the most important cultural centres of the city and holds a considerable amount of archaeological artefacts.
The museum visit follows a chronological and thematic organisation, starting with Bronze Age, Iron Age and oriental influences, and with various objects produced locally such as the famous 'Buccheri', some typical black vases of Chiusi that date from the 6th century BC.
The Etruscan Museum in Chiusi is also famous for the considerable amount of pottery, urns and statues. Among the ceramics note the Attic black-figures (like the one depicting Achilles and Ajax playing dice in the presence of Athena) and the Attic red-figure (the "skyphos" by the Painter of Penelope, with various scenes from the “Odyssey”).
Moving on, along the Via Paolozzi you reach the Church of Saint Francis, built entirely in brick according to the severe style of the Franciscan church and probably built between the 13th and 14th centuries. Inside the church there is a fresco of the "Beheading of Saint John the Baptist" by Niccolò Circignani (known as the Pomarancio - 1530-1597 ca.).
Next you enter Piazza XX Settembre where you can see Chiusi Town Hall, the clock tower and the lodges, and also the Church of Santa Maria della Morte. The city walls were in large part destroyed during World War II, leaving only some sections intact and only one gate (Lavinia Gate) of the three that originally opened through the walls.
A visit to Chiusi can continue with a tour of the famous Etruscan necropolis. The most important monument here is the 'Tomb of the Monkey' (5th century BC), consisting of a hall and three rooms decorated with funerary couches.
The tomb was discovered in the 19th century by A. François and owes its name to a wall painting that depicts a monkey tied to a bush.
Other interesting monuments in the necropolis include the "Tomb of the Lion" (so named because of wall decorations depicting the lion) which has a porch and three bedrooms, one of which communicates with a well); and the "Tomb of the Pilgrim" (IV-II century BC, discovered in 1928, and consisting of a corridor in which there are four niches and three burial chambers.
As well as the Etruscan necropolis, Chiusi also has ancient catacombs on its territory. Some of them, dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria (IV century) and of small size, were discovered in the mid-19th century. They consist of two ancient pagan tombs reused by Christian communities between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Here there are many graves in the floor.
Equally interesting is the catacomb of St. Mustiola (III Century) to the north-east of Chiusi. Discovered in 1643, it consists of a series of tunnels where the remains of the martyr Mustiola, a young patrician who died in 274 AD, were buried. See also history of Chiusi.
Chiusi restaurants and cuisine
Having enjoyed so much Etruscan, Roman and Paleo-Christian culture you will find plenty of local restaurants offering very interesting 'historical' dishes. Perhaps try the dish known as "Etruscan Pigeon", or another called “Pasta Lucunome”, in honour of the ancient Etruscan city magistrates.
Other local dishes to try include the delicious handmade "Pici". The traditional cuisine also includes “polenta topped with pork” and soups such as the “stracciatella” (with whisked egg and cheese). Among the wines to be tasted without the slightest hesitation are the Brunello di Montalcino and Vin Santo, accompanied with the Cantucci (biscotti). Enjoy!
The part of Tuscany south of Siena and close to the border with Umbria is less visited than the north of the region, but contains a good number of interesting medieval towns and hill villages. Among the most popular with visitors and close to Chiusi are Pienza, Montepulciano and Chianciano.
Map of Chiusi and places nearby
Chiusi places to visit
See more places nearby in the Tuscany guide