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Chianciano Terme in the past - history

Etruscan princes had family ties with the witch Circe, as tells us Hesiod in his Theogony, because they kept the secret of thermal baths. They dwelled Chiusi (once called as Charmas) and experimented and won this magic on Chianciano thermal baths, where even in those times there were extraordinary recoveries. It seems that the name of Chianciano keeps the sign of its past. In its name some people find the characteristic root "clan" or "glan" of Mediterranean tongues, that would mean "region close to a muddy river" (perhaps the Chiana river), or the root "clan" of the Etruscan tongue, that would mean "son". However, according to some scholars, this last meaning does not seem to be attributed to Chianciano. Others hold the name "Chianciano" comes from "Cis Clanas" (beyond the Chiana river) or from the name of a Roman centurion.

The grat Etruscan king Porsena (VI cen. BC) is known to have gone to Chianciano thermal baths because they were a wonderful region of very creative leasures and successful cures. It is confirmed by a XVII-century tablet: "Balnea ista inter celebres Porsennae delicias insigna..." ("These baths, remarkable among Porsena's famous leasures").The XVII-century document is too rhetorical; however, the presence of royal life is proved by excavations and objects found here. (The tablet reminds us that thermal baths were restored by Domenico Angelotti and Andrea De Vignis in 1674). These thermal baths began famous during the priod of Roman Empire, as it is witnessed by writers ant poets such as Varro, Tibullus and Horace, The latter pities the poor patient who has to rinse his stomach and to swim in "Fonti Chiusine" in his 15th Epistle of Book I.

It seems that "Fontes Clusinae" could not be but the present Chianciano thermal baths, since they were not so far from Chiusi, the main town. Even because people found remains of bath plants, lead tubes, a beautiful bronze statue called "Apollo salutare", a stone one called "Mater Matuta" and the biga of Diana Sillene (III-IV centuries BC), today at the archeological museum in Florence. The hillock where were found these precious objects is still called "Sillene". Its name might come from Diana or Sethlas, the Etruscan god of deep springs, or from Silla who was quartered with his troops here. On the via Cassia, in the times of Roman Empire, a station between Arezzo and Chiusi led directly to Terme, till, in the times of Charlemagne, the road Florence-Siena (continuing to Radicofani) was open; whereas, in 1300, Messer Ermanno di Corrado Monaldeschi open the road from Orvieto.

In the Middle Age, even the Goths and the Longobards took possession of this region. That is why people who do not believe to Etruscan origins of Chianciano attribute its foundation to Liutprando or Ildebrando (744) or the Counts Manenti (976), who ruled this town for many years. Only in 1171, in a deed of gift, the name of Chianciano appears distinctly together with "Acqua Santa e Sillena". The Chianciano statutes dealing mostly with the patronage and the mantenance of thermal baths date back to 1287 and they were compiled by nine persons. The statutes were published again in 1544.

At the times of the free cities, Chianciano was overturned by the wars between the Guelphs and Ghibellines and it was harshly disputed by Siena, Orvieto and Montepulciano which had a claim on its waters. During this upsetting period, its history was brightened by a miraculous event attributed to St. Agnes "poliziana"; since, as said her biographer Fra' Raimondo of Capua, "tanks to her, God made many wonderful miracles in Bagno Grande...". This took place in 1317. In 1349 Chianciano was under the patronage of Siena and in 1494 it made peace definitively with Montepulciano. Its name keeps on blending with the reputation ot its waters, since many reports on them were made even in Siena (as did Simone of Messer Giacomo Tondi in 1334); they were studied and written on (as did Antonio Maynero and Andrea Bacci); finally, Paolo Maria of Forlì bequeathed "neither god, silver, nor lands, but a more valuable instruction on the employment of Acqua Santa of Chianciano" (1631).

In the early decades of 1900, Terme drew a businessman's attention. He set up a society and the Municipality gave him their concession. Between 1920 and 1930 neoclassical establishments with Pompeian-style bower were built, but then they were destroied when the Terme were owned by the State(1940). Almost in the same period, Sant'Elena spring, with its efficaciously diuretic water, was turned to better account by another businessman whose heirs hold its ownership. When the Terme were owned by the State, a new town plan was designed by architects Loreti and Marchi who also designed "Salone delle Feste" and "Salone di mescita" in the park of Acqua Santa. The town plan was adjusted by the Town Technical Office of Chianciano in 1958 and passed in 1961.

Chianciano Terme has the qualities of a well organized thermal bath resort. The Tourist Office makes the stay as pleasant as possible to visitors by means of up-to-date criteria and refined experience. The direction of Terme has put Chianciano and its waters at an international level; whereas, the medical direction sets up a detailed and global system of diagnosis thanks to its health offices and organization. The recent appellation "Chianciano Terme", to consider as a unique urban plan the modern thermal quarter and the ancient town, proves that, in recent years, a urban link between these two areas has been set up. Infact, the modern style, already started and confirmed, keeps also the ancient town and the large Viale della Libertà, quite 2,500 km long. Once, it seemed to detach the town from Terme, but today it is a urban artery without solution of continuity borded by hotels, boarding-houses and villas.

Chianciano Terme stretches in a continuous crescent from Terme to the village. Also in its outskirts new streets, villas, boarding-houses, hotels and beautiful shops have been built. With its arc-shaped position on a mild hill, Chianciano is like a big port rising from the green sea.

View of Chianciano (1756)

This extract is taken from the Guide to Chianciano Term and its outskirts by Mrs. S. Orienti and G. Vagaggini Poppi

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