Val di Chiana

Foiano della Chiana
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Guide to visiting Foiano della Chiana

The Municipality of Foiano della Chiana is located in the province of Arezzo just under 30 kilometers south of the capital. The inhabited center of Foiano rises on a low hill in the heart of the Val di Chiana not far from the A1 motorway.

The history of Foiano della Chiana begins in the 6th century BC when the area was inhabited by the Etruscans. Starting from the third century BC the Romans imposed themselves and maintained control of the Val di Chiana until the barbarian invasions of the 5th century AD which determined the beginning of a long dark era for the whole area.

In 1084 Foiano obtained the status of a free municipality, thus becoming the first center in the entire Val di Chiana to adopt a citizen statute. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the city was dominated first by the Sienese and then by the Arezzo inhabitants. In 1336 it was besieged and destroyed by the Florentines who, however, rebuilt it by equipping it with new and more powerful walls. At that time a port was also built, because the only way to cross the swamps of the Val di Chiana and reach the other centers like Cortona was by using boats… seeing the Val di Chiana today, it seems impossible!

Foiano regained a certain autonomy, although depending on Florence, in 1387. In fact, in that year it regained the status of municipality. In 1554, at the nearby center of Pozzo della Chiana, there was the very important battle of Scannagallo in which Florence obtained a decisive victory against Siena. With the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, especially starting from the eighteenth century, a great work of reclamation of the valley was carried out, which was completed during the nineteenth century.

The first half of the twentieth century is inevitably marked by the dark age of the fascist first and then the Second World War. Various episodes involved the local population until the liberation occurred on 2 July 1944. Foiano della Chiana today houses an English military cemetery, where soldiers who died during the war rest.

Foiano della Chiana
Foiano della Chiana (Photo by LigaDue / CC BY)

What to see in Foiano della Chiana

Well protected by its walls, the historic center of Foiano della Chiana has a medieval layout but retains several buildings from the Renaissance period. The village has its heart in the beautiful central square, overlooked by the Palazzo Granducale, and develops following an oval shape that recalls that of other centers in the area such as Lucignano. Among the most interesting things to see in Foiano della Chiana are the churches such as that of the Santissima Trinità, the Chiesa di San Francesco, the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo, the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Fraternità and the Collegiata di San Martino. Also worth seeing are the Palazzo Comunale and the Torre Civica. When to visit Foiano della Chiana? A good time is certainly between February and March, when the village is animated by the events related to the Carnival.

Chiesa della Santissima Trinità

The Chiesa della Santissima Trinità (14th century) has an extremely simple facade in which a beautiful portal framed in stone stands out. The church has a Greek cross layout with a dome at the intersection of the arms. Inside there are three seventeenth-century altars, the largest of which preserves a Trinity by Pomarancio. This church also preserves a wooden statue of the Risen Christ which is exhibited in the Collegiate Church on the occasion of Holy Saturday.

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Fraternità

The current Chiesa di Santa Maria della Fraternità (or Sant’Eufemia) dates back to the end of the 16th century, with changes and extensions in the following centuries, although the church was founded in 1392. The beautiful neoclassical facade invites you to enter and visit this church which is actually also a civic museum. To see the Altar of Sant’Eufemia, the Madonna and Child by Andrea della Robbia and the canvases with the Stories of Santa Eufemia and Santa Lucia by Giovanni Camillo Sagrestani.

Collegiata di San Martino

The Collegiata dei Santi Martino e Leonardo dates back to the sixteenth century although it was renovated two centuries later. The facade, entirely in brick, betrays a series of changes that have taken place over time. Its interior consists of a single large hall with six side chapels. The altars of the collegiate preserve several valuable works including the glazed terracotta altarpiece with the Madonna della Cintola with St. Thomas and St. Leonard, attributed to Andrea Della Robbia and the Coronation of the Virgin with angels and saints by Luca Signorelli.

Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

The Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo also dates back to the sixteenth century. This church has a delightful facade with a remarkable portal in pietra serena and two large windows to which several very beautiful decorative elements are added. Inside there is a terracotta Ascension of Christ attributed to Giovanni della Robbia, a Madonna del Rosario between San Domenico and Santa Caterina da Siena by Lorenzo Lippi and a Nativity of Mary by Andrea Commodi. Also noteworthy is the stucco decoration of the chapel of Santa Caterina da Siena.

Chiesa di San Francesco

The Chiesa di San Francesco is located outside the historic center, just under a kilometer away. Built at the end of the 15th century, the church was deeply restored around the middle of the 18th century. The exterior is characterized by a beautiful portico on the facade, while inside you can admire a beautiful altarpiece, Christ and the Virgin interceding near the Eternal, made by the workshop of Andrea della Robbia.

Tempo di Santo Stefano della Vittoria

The Tempio di Santo Stefano alla Vittoria is located in Pozzo della Chiana near the plain of Scannagallo. This temple was built by Bartolomeo Ammannati with the collaboration of Giorgio Vasari. The work was commissioned by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in memory of the important victory achieved by Florence in the Battle of Scannagallo in 1554. The building was built in 1569 with an octagonal base and a domed roof. Above the entrance portal you can see the large coat of arms of the Medici family with an inscription in Latin that reminds us of the title of “Magnus Dux Etruriae” acquired by Cosimo I de’ Medici.

Carnival of Foiano della Chiana

The Carnival of Foiano della Chiana is one of the most beautiful, famous and ancient in Italy. The first documents that speak of the event date back to 1539! Each year, the four Cantieri in which the city is divided compete in the creation of allegorical floats. The event and the race take place between February and March starting 3 Sundays before Shrove Tuesday and ending two Sundays after. During the parade of floats, a jury composed of a painter, a sculptor, a set designer, an art critic and a journalist evaluates the works of the 4 Cantieri and establishes who is the winner who wins the Carnival Cup. Other prizes, including the Masquerade Award, are instead assigned to the most beautiful masks. The event ends with the burning of “Re Giocondo“, who represents the King of Carnival.

What to see near Foiano della Chiana

In Val di Chiana there are many very interesting villages that I recommend you visit. Among the municipalities bordering Foiano della Chiana, I mention Castiglion Fiorentino, Cortona and Lucignano. Nearby we also find Monte San Savino and Torrita di Siena. Going further south you absolutely must visit Montepulciano, Sarteano and Chiusi. If, on the other hand, you want a spa, the right place to go is Chianciano.

How to get to Foiano della Chiana

Foiano della Chiana is located about 30 kilometers away from Arezzo, 50 from Siena, 85 from Florence and 180 from Rome. The city does not have a train station. The closest are those of Arezzo and Castiglion Fiorentino. In any case, if you decide to reach Foiano by public transport, you should get to Arezzo by train and then take a bus.
By car, the fastest way to get to Foiano della Chiana is with the A1 motorway. Whether you come from the north (Arezzo, Florence) or from the south (Rome), you must take the Valdichiana exit and then follow the signs for Foiano for 5 km.
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