Chianciano Terme (Siena) owes its fame to the wide variety of spas open to visitors. These spas range from the most traditional ones held exclusively for therapeutic purposes such as Acqua Santa, Fucoli, Sant’Elena and Sillene, to modern and futuristic spash such as the Terme Sensoriali and the Piscina Theia.
The salutary properties of the waters of Chianciano Terme are undoubtedly a precious resource, renowned throughout the whole of Europe and used since Etruscan times. However, this certainly isn’t the only valuable resource! The thermal waters are just that ‘extra something’ that fascinated and inspired artists worldwide, who loved to spend their holidays in this location: did you know that, for example, the dreamlike atmosphere in F. Fellini’s film ‘8 ½’ drew inspiration precisely from Chianciano? Even Luigi Pirandello, the famous Italian writer, mentions the Chianciano hot springs in two of his novels – ‘Mimi and Pallino’ and ‘Bitter Waters’, thus providing evidence of his knowledge of a vocabulary specific to Siena, which consequently testimonies how often he visited this area.
THINGS TO DO IN CHIANCIANO TERME. What makes this location incredibly attractive is also its strategic position between Val d'Orcia (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009) and Val di Chiana. It is the perfect starting point to visit the surrounding places of interest such as Montepulciano (at 10 km), Pienza (18 Km), Lake Trasimeno (30 km), Cortona (35 Km), Orvieto (50 km), Montalcino (50 km), Arezzo, Siena and Perugia (70 km). The valleys in Chianciano Vecchia, known as ‘Paese’, are also another suggestive area to explore to enjoy picture-perfect scenarios and breathtaking sights.
The Designer Outlets, though not yet built at the time of Pirandello, nor of Fellini, are nevertheless the perfect place to spend a few hours shopping at the Val di Chiana Outlet Village (40 km)!
CHIANCIANO AND CHILDREN. Children are welcome to Chianciano: the 'Theia' thermal pool is open even to children under the age of 3, whereas the green area at ‘Fucoli’, in addition to the playground and the mini golf course, also has a series of inflatables your children can play with! Those who are looking for a more adventurous option could choose to experience the thrill of the ‘Indian Park’, an adventure park with ropeways and fun tracks on the trees. Many Chianciano thermal baths also offer parents animation sessions and baby-sitting.
During the Christmas period, the Santa Claus Village is constructed in the centre of Chianciano, with fun shows for children and adults, a large skating rink, stalls, and many, many surprises for your children to enjoy!
CHIANCIANO’S ORIGINS (Siena). Before starting our visit, it's worth finding out how Chianciano’s valuable resources are connected to most of the town’s historical events. In the area stretching from Monte Cetona to Montepulciano, there is evidence of settlements dating back to the Etruscan period, but also to the Iron and Bronze Age. The Etruscan king Porsenna greatly esteemed the waters and considered them excellent from a therapeutic point of view, but also as a place for relaxation. Thanks to the excavation work that began in the 80's and to the subsequent discoveries, the bond that liaised Chianciano’s inhabitants to its waters was at once clear: just imagine that the remains of bathing buildings and water pipes date right back to the fifth century BC and some ongoing excavations are uncovering structures that look like bath tubs. Remains of Etruscan temples found in the area surrounding Silene also date back to the same period. These temples were dedicated to the goddess Diana Silene (goddess of springs), to Asclepius (god of medicine) and Apollo. There are other artefacts that help understand the local history, such as a series of statues - one made of bronze called ‘Apollo salutare’ (healthy Apollo), one made of stone called 'Mater Matura' (adult mother) and the ‘Biga di Diana-Silene' (Diana-Silene chariot), part of the Archaeological Museum of Florence collection.
There is evidence of thermal activity dating back even to Roman times: poets such as Varon and Horace mentioned them in their works.
The Chianciano terme water clearly didn’t include calming effects among its powerful properties. In fact, even Chianciano took part in the war between the Guelphs and Ghibellines in which Siena, Orvieto and Montepulciano contested Chianciano, in Tuscany. In 1276 the impulse to protect the waters urged the rising merchant class to turn against the Manenti counts who dominated the area and that, for financial reasons, wanted to sell rights over the thermal waters of Terme di Chianciano to other municipalities or private entities. In 1287, the population released its first statutes which thoroughly discussed the maintenance and protection of the Chianciano terme waters. Once again, in 1807, the indissoluble bond between Chianciano and its natural resources fuelled the initiative to ask the Grand Duchy government for independence from Sarteano. The aim was that of 'relaunching' the free terme in Chianciano and such objective was also pursued during the period during which the Grand Duchy was annexed to France: huge investments funded the maintenance and reconstruction expenses. From 1878 onwards the springs were handed back to the town that were given, once again, under concession to a private citizen and became state-owned in 1940. The thermal waters in Chianciano became particularly popular between the 20s and 40s, and this increased interest encouraged the construction of many of the current buildings.
WATERS AND SPAS IN CHIANCIANO. After this long description of the miraculous effects of the waters of Chianciano in Italy, it is perhaps worth understanding how to best take advantage of them. Well, luckily you are spoiled for choice. You can among five different types of waters, all part of the state run health care.
- The Holy Water in Chianciano flows in a beautiful park you can access from the imponent entrance in Perugini Square: here you are immediately greeted by the statues of two bronze peacocks, symbol of the thermal establishment and, in the hours not dedicated to thermal cures, the green area can be visited freely. The ‘Acqua Santa’ water is classified as bicarbonate-sulphate-lime and flows at 33°C and is efficacious in cases of liver and bile duct conditions: the mineral water treatment involves drinking the water before breakfast for 12 days. The renowned ‘Terme Sensoriali di Chianciano’ (sensory spa in Chianciano) is located in the park. The name reveals the modern understanding of this futuristic spa based on naturopathy and on the five elements: water, fire, earth, air, ether. Depending on your needs you can choose between four specific cycles: purifying, relaxing, energizing and balancing. In three and a half hours you go through some of the 20 rooms where you can try traditional activities such as massages, hydro-massages, chromotherapy, aromatherapy, sauna and Turkish bath. If you fancy a truly unique experience, you can try the energetic pyramid that follows the proportions of the Cheops pyramid. Instead it takes a good deal of courage to experience the cold room (ice-crush): in addition to various kinds of cold showers you can also try one in which real ice cubes fall from the ceiling. Brrrr!
- The Acqua Fucoli flows in the homonymous park connected to Acqua Santa. It is a cold mineral water classified as bicarbonate-sulphate-lime that should be taken in the afternoon after digestion and is used for gastro-enteric and biliary problems.
- Acqua Sillene - which can be found at the spring in Piazza Guglielmo Marconi - flows at 38°C and is useful for carbogaseous balneotherapy and for preparing thermal muds: is indicated for cardiovascular diseases, exerts anti-inflammatory action and is useful in various health and wellness programs. Behind the entrance to the Sillene spring, in Via della Foresta, there is another modern structure, a genuine realm for relaxation: the Centro Theia, a group of swimming pools with hydro-massages and jets, overlooks a beautiful green park. As already mentioned, this facility is also designed for children even under the age of 3. The outdoor swimming pools, thanks to their tolerable temperature, can be used all year round.
- Acqua Sant’Elena is the last of our springs in Chianciano, located in Viale della Libertà. The water of this spring is ideal for the removal of kidney stones, and can be drunk at room temperature or lukewarm in the morning. However, the secret ingredient of these cures is apparently dance: in the wonderful Italian-style garden a variety of recreational activities are organized, where dancing afternoons and evenings seem to be the most popular choice. Don’t expect to see hip-hop dancers, though it can certainly be fascinating to immerse oneself in the slightly vintage atmosphere that these activities create.
CHIANCIANO – WHAT TO SEE. After having relaxed in any of these spas, going for a walk in Chianciano’s historic centre is another unmissable option. After the arch that marks the entrance to the old part of town, you will find the Church of the Immaculate on your left, where there used to be a hospital. Continue along Via Casini where you can admire a beautiful landscape of hills, cypress trees and farmhouses on your right, whereas a row of galleries, art shops and places to taste Chianciano food and wine are on your left. At the end of Via Casini stands the Torre dell’Orgoglio which exhibits the Medici coat of arms, which underwent many alterations through time: from here you can reach Piazza Matteotti, which features a fountain at the centre dating back to the eighteenth century. The Manenti Castle is on the right, owned by the homonymous counts, Lords of Chiusi, Sarteano and Chianciano (called a monastery).
Continuing along Via Solferino you will reach a small square called Piazzolina dei soldati: this is the location of Palazzo dell'Arcipretura, which houses the Chianciano Museum of Sacred Art, and of Palazzo Vegni which organizes exhibitions and cultural events. Following Via Solferino you get to the so-called ‘Collegiata’ (Church of San Giovanni Battista) which boasts a Romanesque portal, the last remaining element of the original building. Continuing the route along Via della Croce you will reach the Chiesa della Compagnia, the most important building of the so-called ‘Volpaie’ area, and you can glimpse at the Tempio della Madonna della Rosa, within walking distance after crossing Porta del Sole.
If you do not enjoy walking or want to fulfil your children’s wishes you can choose the Chianciano Express service, a classic panoramic train that, due to narrow streets, only crosses a restricted area of the historic centre, nevertheless reaching the spa area.
The town and the thermal area, which offers a wide range of accommodation services, used to be two distinct and separated areas, but nowadays they converge into a unity.
The city also offers some very interesting museums - first of all the Archaeological Museum of Thermal Waters (Museo Civico Archeologico delle Acque), situated just outside the town in Viale della Libertà: the majority of the material found in the excavations that took place in this area are kept inside, showing artefacts brought to light from the 80s onwards, such as some canopies from the Tolle necropolis and the pediment of the Etruscan Temple in Fucoli. The Museo della Collegiata displays works of sacred art dating back to different periods between the twelfth and nineteenth century. The Art Museum of Chianciano Terme is also located in Viale della Libertà and unfortunately is only open in the spring and summer: there are a number of collections ranging from Asian to contemporary art.
CUISINE. Everyone knows that food and wine are an important component of Tuscany. Chianciano Terme’s typical dishes just confirm this impression. If you want to find out what to eat in this famous spa town, read on! In winter you can opt for a steaming 'ribollita', a typical soup of bread, beans and vegetables. In the hottest season a ‘panzanella’ it is definitely the most suitable option: a salad of 'ammollato' bread (soaked bread) with plenty of ‘olio bono’ (high-quality olive oil) and seasoned with onion, basil and catnip. You should also try the typical Tuscan appetizer made of ‘crostini neri’ (black croutons with chicken liver or spleen sauce), cured ham and cheese. The ‘cinta senese’ salamis are another must-try from the area: pork with a characteristic black stripe, which looks just like a belt, which produces fine and tasty lean meats. Another important local dish is the ‘pici all’aglione’, spaghetti pasta tossed with a sauce based on tomato, garlic and pecorino cheese.
Last but not least, the ‘fiorentina di Chianina’, impossible to describe, which must be eaten rare! Of course, a valuable suggestion would be to enjoy it with a good glass of wine: you are spoiled for choice in this area, just follow the local suggestions!
For a sweet note, in addition to the 'cantuccini con vinsanto' - almond biscuits to dip in wine – the ‘castagnaccio’ is a great option for the winter period, an unleavened cake made with chestnut flour and flavoured with olive oil , rosemary and walnuts.
At this point we must have convinced you to make a detour: when visiting Chianciano Terme, after a relaxing thermal bath, a massage and a good dinner, you are bound to walk away with a good memory. What if you reached Tuscany by train and don’t know how to get around? Don’t panic, toscanainside.com has thought of everything: check the 'Taxi and Transfer' section on our website and book transport services easily and safely! See you there!
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