On the border with Umbria, in a tranquil and relaxing countryside, sits the ancient city of Chiusi, which according to Roman sources was one of the first and most important Etruscan cities: the historian Servius stated that it was founded by either the hero Clusius, son of Tyrrhenus, the prince of Lydia – who according to Herodotus led the migration that established the Etruscan community – or by Telemachus, the son of Ulysses.
During the Etruscan era, Chiusi became one of the principal cities in the whole Etruscan city network, and in the 6th century BCE, the town opened its first contact with Rome. It was at this time, towards the end of the 6th century BCE, that the Etruscan King Porsenna laid siege to Rome and probably conquered it. The wealth of Chiusi was tied especially to the immensely fertile alluvial soil and the city’s strategic position along an important commercial route: heading up the Tiber river through the Chiana valley, which was navigable in that era, the route led right to the Valdarno.
In the 3rd century BCE, the city was subject to Roman rule. During the 2nd century, it was involved in a social issue that pertained to central-northern Etruria, participating heavily in the of abolition of slavery. After having been seized by the Goths in 540 CE, Chiusi became the seat of a Lombard Duchy, known to have existed until 776. From the 11th century onwards, the city’s power remained firmly in the hands of its bishop, but by the following century, it had to submit first to the rule of Orvieto, then that of Siena. In this period, the commune of Chiusi was established, though it was later annexed by the Republic of Siena.
Once in Chiusi, a visit to piazza del Duomo is surely a must. Here, visitors can find the evocative and ancient Co-Cathedral of San Secondiano, whose interior recalls the most beautiful Early-Christian basilicas in Rome. Adjacent to the church is the famous Labyrinth of Porsenna, which can be accessed from the Cathedral Museum. In truth, the labyrinth that unfolds underneath the nearby piazza and streets isn’t the tomb of the Etruscan king as tradition says, but is an ancient aqueduct (also from the Etruscan era). Continuing the visit in the direction of via Porsenna, the city’s ancient decumanus, visitor’s will come across several noble palaces, including Palazzo Baldetti, Palazzo Della Ciaia, characterized by its tower with Gothic arches, Palazzo Nardi and Palazzo Turrini-Betti, from the 1500s. Now all that’s left to see in the city center is the Etruscan Museum, situated in a palace whose façade resembles a Neo-Classical temple.
The immediate vicinity of Chiusi is filled with places that the Etruscans reserved for their burials, which dot the hills surrounding the current town center. Here, in the farmland and the forests, over the course of the centuries, and especially in the 1800s, more than a thousand tombs have been brought to light. Not far from the city sits the luminous Lake Chiusi.