The City of Cetona in Toscana is in the southeast extreme area of Tuscany, in the province of Siena, 90km from the capital, 60km from Perugia and 45km from Orvieto. A triangle of land which is the photo of Cetona and the medieval centre of Italy and that also represents Cetona and the things to see in it: a triangle that speaks of convents and castles, squares, St. Francis, swashbuckling and, in the end, Florence at the time of the Medici Family. Siena and Orvieto fought over Cetona and its castle for a long time: from 1207 the castle was owned by the Count Ildebrandino until, towards the middle of the 13th century, the Umbria folk conquered it. Cetona then passed under the dominion of Perugia, but in 1418 it was captured in raids from a well-known leader of the time: Braccio da Montone.
The real name of 'Braccio' is Andrea Fortebraccio, born in Perugia, a great and well-known leader but also a good businessman. In fact, he sold Cetona to Siena for 9,000 florins. The Siena Republic looked well after Cetona: its fortified walls, gates and towers date back to this period (1458).
Siena controlled the town for a long time until Mario Santa Flora, from the disgraced Sforza family, conquered it by arms and handed it immediately and servilely to the great Cosimo I de Medici, first Grand Duke, a character who you often come across when you are touring Tuscany. We do not know if it was a pleasing conquest and if Cosimo really was fond of Cetona, but we know that , in 1557, he gave it to one of his generals by the awkward name, that Gianluigi Chiappino Vitelli said Chiappino..
From 1558 Chiappino Vitelli gave impetus to the town of Cetona realizing many works and what you see today in Cetona is mainly due to him, especially the symbol of the town: the great, beautiful and disproportionate paved square (today called Piazza Garibaldi) that welcomes you when you enter the town.
Before answering the question 'Cetona and what things to see' in it, you must, before entering the square, know how the story ended. Cetona remained under the Medici and Florence and in 1772 became a joint municipality with Sarteano. In 1840 it acquired municipal autonomy; in truth there would be two more stories to tell, one dating back to 40,000 years ago and the other to another leader, Giuseppe Garibaldi, but we will tell you about these pieces of Cetona when we are inside with you.
Visiting Cetona means moving among the beautiful old paved streets in the historic centre and enjoying a walk around its Fortress, but unfortunately you cannot enter it because it is another characteristic feature of this village. The Fortress is in fact a private luxury residence and all of Cetona is actually traversed by the thrill of luxury and international tourism. Since the 60s it has in fact been the destination of elite tourism and, when walking through the streets of Cetona you may well recognize some VIPs. Well-known businessmen, politicians, fashion designers and established professionals who have chosen Cetona as their residence or as a place for a second home. They have purchased villas and renovated old farm houses, realizing in this village little gems in a gem. Exclusive residences have also sprung up and old town houses in the town centre have been inhabited and returned to their original splendour. Villas and historic houses in Cetona are in fact often reserved for these oases of peace and quiet for the most demanding tourists. Why? The beautiful town of Siena, in addition to being on the list of the 'Most Beautiful towns of Italy' and a TCI orange flag, dominates, from a hill on a mountain side that bears its name at an altitude of 390 metres above sea level, a beautiful harmonious and relaxing hilly area. Cetona (Siena) is exactly almost a two-hour drive from Florence and Rome, what more could one want!
So, we are in the square, the big one, actually great and beautiful, and you have definitely arrived on the side opposite to how Chiappino designed it and we are not going to explain why: it's all a panegyric of urban projects basically and eventually thwarted, even after age-old disputes between Lords and Bishops on the construction in the square of this, that and the other and of the road from Sarteano in 1873. On the left you will see the church of St. Michael the Archangel at Trivium: its base is from 1155 but the internal works worth mentioning are from the 14th and 16th century; on the bottom of the Piazza the beautiful travertine fountain and the Rivellino cylindrical tower. The latter is from the 16th century and was connected to the third ring of the walls of Cetona. Places to see in Cetona there are but all pointing uphill and after passing a beautiful staircase you get to the Collegiata, a precious 14th-century church that has grown with time, long times, or the next three centuries. So one cannot be surprised of its mixture of styles: its Romanesque door and gothic windows, for example. Inside there are works of the 15th and 16th centuries, and among these, an Assumption Madonna attributed to Bernardino di Betto Betti, better known as 'Pinturicchio' (1454 -1513).
We mentioned the splendid villas of Cetona, two out of all, the wonderful Villa La Palazzina and Villa La Vagnola-Parco Terrosi. The first offers a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and a walk in the Cetona natural park and on the hanging gardens, the second also has an amphitheatre for two hundred seats in its 15-hectare park. To visit the villas you have to queue at the tourist office of the City of Cetona, Villa Vagnola is only available in summer for four days according to the availability of the well-known fashion designer Valentino.
Once you have walked around the narrow streets and alleys of Cetona, and being dazzled by the splendid view that you enjoyed from the walls and terraces, and once back in Piazza Garibaldi you will be wondering why Chiappino’s Square should be entitled to the Hero of Two Worlds. Because Garibaldi made Cetona his housing and shelter in a very difficult period of his activity as leader for the unification of Italy.
‘Bell’alba sorgeva il 17 luglio 1849 preceduta da notte alquanto burrascosa e non senza pioggia. Declinava il mio sonno abituato a cessare al mattutino apparire della luce e forte una voce concitata mi chiamava dalla strada sottostante alle finestre; balzo dal letto, corro, mi affaccio; gli era il Sergente di guardia del picchetto civico, designato alla vigilanza della notte che mi avvertiva giungere il General Garibaldi a Cetona con tutte le sue genti. Immediatamente indossate le vestimenta discendo nella Piazza Grande…’ ‘Chi siete voi’ mi si addimanda, ‘Il Tenente della Guardia Civica’ soggiungo, ‘Vi son gli austriaci?’ ‘No per fortuna’ ‘Ce lo asserite positivamente?’ ‘Si fermamente sulla mia parol d’onore’… This is an Italian text from the beginning of a book printed in 1859 by the Printers Mariani in Florence entitled ' Garibaldi in Cetona – Historic Tale ' written by Pietro Terrosi , whose last name recalls that of Villa Vagnoli. The book tells, with the charming style of its era full of rhetorical and almost disappeared vocabulary references, of Garibaldi when he stopped in Cetona in 1849, while withdrawing from the capitulation of the Second Roman Republic . The General established here his provisional headquarters and Cetona remembers his passage on several palaces, where you find commemorating boards, but if what you like is the book containing that brief passage you read a few lines above then try with a little patience and perhaps you will even find it already digitized on the web .
Here then is one of the two stories told that was missing, the other takes us instead to the Cetona museum and its prehistory, because in Cetona there was once was a sea.
About 225 million years ago where Cetona is now there was a lagoon. With the passing of centuries we get to 3 million years ago and Monte Cetona was finally an island (which is why even today there are many fossils still to be found). Subsequent ascents and breaking up of travertine plates gave rise to a series of caves that became the residence of the first men found in central Italy. It happened in the future Cetona, in the Middle Paleolithic, basically nearly 50,000 years ago. As proof of that, today you can visit the Cetona Belvedere Archeological Natural Park and Archeodrome in Belvedere. Outside Cetona, at the foot of the mountain between the larch forests, you can visit 25 prehistoric caves each naturally connected, which contain clear signs of humane presence along with pots, tools and jewellery. In the Archeodrome a guide will take you between reconstructions of the Bronze Age villages and other direct applications that will make the visitor feel a bit like Indiana Jones and a little bit Livingstone. The museum, however, is connected to another that you will have already seen in the main square, by the fountain in the Town Hall formerly known as Palace Minutelli, at the entrance of Via Roma: it is the Civic Museum of the Prehistory of Mount Cetona. Here you will find everything about the Neanderthal man.
While visiting Cetona and the Belvedere archeological natural park and the caves you may have passed near Camposervoli, a fortified village dating back to Etruscan times silhouetted in the sky. It is not open to the public as it houses a luxury residence, but if you really desire it and have plenty of money available, then treat yourself! Nearby, a little more to the east, there is also Piazze. The attraction of this Certona small village is not, for once, some monumental construction or historical rudiment but only the genuine chance to live intimately the delicate and sweet feel of total immersion in the charming hills of Siena.
The Cetona small village is a member of the National City of Oil Association (Cetona Oil) and the National City of Wine Association. The Cetona Wine reflects the best tradition of the Tuscan Sangiovese. You can enjoy tastings for refined palates in the wine cellars. The Cetona oil is also linked to a big festival, which takes place between late October and early November. It is called 'Sul filo dell’Olio' and combines culinary tradition with that of entertainment and craft thematic workshops, all in the name of the Cetona Oil and its DOP Terre di Siena brand.
The excursion into the tastes of Cetona does not end with the Cetona Wine and the Cetona Oil. In fact, it also worth mentioning its pasta, the so-called Pici and pastrignocchi, and also the Cucolo, a simple biscuit of egg, milk and lemon zest whose main characteristic is the name: it was eaten as a snack during the hard work in the fields in the afternoon, when the cuckoo begins to sing. A native of Piazze and Camposervoli is instead Bico, water-based flat bread made with flour and little else and enriched with additional ingredients only if there were enough food reserves in the house.
To party in Cetona is a must! Every year towards the end of April, the square boasts ‘Cetona in fiore’ and there are organized visits to the beautiful parks of the villas and gardens in Cetona, including workshops and cooking classes.
Who among you remembers Father Eligio, the confessor and spiritual father of AC Milan in the 70s. A friar, a celebrity and much talked about priest, and great friend of the super champion Gianni Rivera? He was considered a very characteristic figure of Italy in those years. Many of those who now have white hair are wondering what happened to this slightly weird brother. Well, Father Eligio is in Cetona, where he founded Mondo X, a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. Two period buildings in Cetona were entrusted rather than to luxury residences, to him and his community work and these are the Convent of St. Francis (1212) and the hermitage of Santa Maria in Belvedere founded in the 14th century.
If you are wandering around Cetona and you do as you are told around here it means that you really want to get to know this rea... then talk to the locals and ask them tell you the story of Piero Carbonetti . They will tell you about a guy who, dressed as partisan, played in the square his tin drum, and had the look and the pretensions of the old socialist, nothing good for Cetona in the early twentieth century, a revolutionary or a good-natured person and a little angry. He slept under the stars and the mothers liked him to scare the children and they told them to be good or Carbonetti will come and take you away. Ask, ask and try to flush out the sixteenth century Statutes of Cetona: you will find bizarre laws written at the time and rules running the town.
Well, now that you understand what is really Cetona in Tuscany, close your eyes and listen with all your senses to the eagerly taste of the Land of Siena.
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