The first inhabited area originated with the arrival of the Etruscans. Legend attributes the foundation of the first thermal “baths”, that were definitely present in the Roman era with the name of “Fonti Clusinii”, to the sovereign of Chiusi, Porsenna. The centre was very much appreciated by the Romans who were also interested in San Casciano for its close proximity to the Via Cassia route, one of the most frequented roads in imperial times that travelled from Rome to the North.
San Casciano was also one of the first centres to feel the penetration of Christianity. The first parish, called St. Mary “ad Balneo”, was built as early as the 5th century. The area then suffered a long process of depopulation, owing to its position in the centre of a zone of conflicts between barbarian and Byzantine populations.
Historical traces of them have been found dating back to before 1000 AD. In 995 the "Curtis in Bagno" was purchased by the abbots of San Salvatore, whose authority was often reinstated by imperial bulls. From a deed by Frederick II in 1226, we learn that the castle of San Casciano passed to the hands of the Viscounts of Campiglia. At the same time the ancient Via Cassia, deviated by the Longobards so it passed even closer to San Casciano, had now become the Via Francigena, the main road that linked northern Europe to Rome.
Villages such as San Casciano benefited from their proximity to the route, installing an economy based on commerce and hospitality activities. The village’s growth was also due to the diplomatic ability of the Viscounts of Campiglia: first Ghibellines under Federico Barbarossa, then Guelphs flanking Orvieto and Florence. On this occasion, however, they ended up involved in the overthrowing of Monteaperti that started the brief period of Siennese domination over Tuscany.
With the Viscounts divided into two branches, in the 14th century, the one that was owner of San Casciano came definitively under Siennese influence. The family disappeared from the council’s history in 1443 with the renouncing of their last heir, Giovanni. Militarily weakened, San Casciano suffered the attacks of Niccolò Piccinino’s Milanese troops (1455) as well as those of Vitellozzo Vitelli (1495). In the 16th century it was involved in the bloody conflict between Siena and the Spanish and Medicean troops, at the end of which it became part, together with the other Siennese territories, of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
In the Grand Ducal era political stability favoured the recovery of thermal activity, further valued in the time of Ferdinand I. Other noteworthy works were carried out by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopold of Lorena who, after visiting the village in 1769, assigned a great sum for the restoration of the ancient Via Cassia, interested in recuperating the thermal heritage of the community. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of the baths, compared to the others being created throughout Tuscany, never allowed for a real revival of the sector.
Cover image credit: TOB