A millenary tradition
In Valdichiana Senese and in all of Tuscany, craftsmanship is an important value. If elsewhere the wisdom linked to the manipulation of natural materials seems to have been lost, here the teachings of the masters are still alive and present, perhaps because the local artisan production has its roots in a millenary tradition.
The Etruscan artisan shops
The first artisan shops in the area were founded when the Valdichiana Senese was still called Etruria. On the streets and alleys of the cities, terracotta containers and vases of every shape, bronze furnishings and tools, refined jewels in gold and other precious metals were made: products that were purchased locally or would travel to distant locations.
Etruscan artifacts tell us a lot about the ancient inhabitants of this land, about their relationship with life and death, with aesthetics and food and wine. In the artisan production of the time we find traces of a remote past that would have otherwise remained unknown, in the face of the indecipherability of Etruscan writing.
The Etruscan artifacts on display in Valdichiana Senese
The canopic jars, the human-shaped vases that housed the ashes of the deceased, give us insight into the way Etruscans dealt with the afterlife. The exquisite local productions are kept in the Civic Archaeological Museum of Chianciano Terme, which can boast the largest collection of canopic jars in the world.
Furthermore, kitchen and table ceramics (dating back to the 1st century AD) give us information on Etruscan culinary and winemaking habits: the Civic Museum “La Città Sotterranea” in Chiusi houses an entire section dedicated to production activities, which includes refined utensils and crockery invoice, in use during banquets.
The hands of the most capable artists were dedicated to the manufacture of jewels, which adorned the clothes and the figure of the aristocrats. The Etruscan goldsmiths had the privilege of enriching their skills by coming into contact with workers from Phenicia, Syria and Greece: the refined motifs that decorate local productions can all be admired in the Civic Archaeological Museum of Chianciano Terme (in particular, in the section dedicated to the Etruscan woman).
Without a doubt, the product that we most distinctly associate with Etruscan artisan production is bucchero. The success of this ceramic class in antiquity went beyond the borders of the Italian peninsula, spreading throughout the Mediterranean and even in central Europe. Both the Etruscologists and the Tuscan artisans have tried over the years to verify in a reproducible and measurable way the ancient technique to make these artifacts, capable of making the ceramic black and shiny. A feat that many local ceramists have made their own, creating works very similar to those produced in the ancient Etruscan artisan workshops.
In short, a journey into the artisan workshops of the Valdichiana Senese is also a journey into the remote history of this land and into the traditions that continue to flourish in the local communities.