The National Archaeological Museum of Chiusi, Tuscany

Land of The Etruscans

Il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Chiusi is a museum of great significance for the town and it's surrounding area, which is known as ancient Etruria. Chiusi (Clevsin in Etruscan) together with eleven other towns and cities of Tuscany are steeped in Etruscan history dating back to between the 9th and 1st century BC. Many Etruscan tombs and settlements have been discovered over the years which contain amazingly well-preserved items that have since been conserved by the museum and are now displayed in behind spotlessly clean glass.

There is plenty to see inside this splendid building, built at the end of the 19th century, and for a reasonable entrance fee of 4 Euros (2 Euros reduced entry). The museum is open between the hours of 9am and 7:30/8pm daily. A handy brochure is available at the desk detailing the layout of the museum, which is very useful for navigating around the two floors. Opposite the desk is a small gift shop and close to this is a very interesting timeline display depicting the various periods and relating historical events to the materials in use during those times. This is really helpful for understanding the progression of mankind through the ages.

The brochure explains the numbered exhibits and comfortably guides you in English and Italian through the museum and the various periods such as the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and the Orientalizing period. Much of the exhibition is focused on the local area and the Etruscan period, particularly a necropolis, sarcophagus and many findings from nearby tombs. You will see many styles of cinerary urns, pottery, sculptures and jewelry. Again, detailed information on what you are viewing is outlined in English and Italian alongside the cabinets.

Have you heard of ‘stinky stone'? It's real name is pietra fetida and it is a type of limestone particular to the area that contains particles of sulphur. The stone's name comes from the smell emitted when it is scratched. The Etruscans made great use of this stone and you will see a wonderful example of a carved tombstone in the form of a Sphinx from the early 6th century BC. The lower floor is dedicated to the Hellenistic, Roman and Lombard periods together with inscriptions as well as various other collections. An interesting item on display is a Glirarium, a strange looking terracotta pot produced during the ancient Roman period specifically to breed dormice. Why? Because dormice were a tasty Roman delicacy, usually stuffed with minced pork!

Statues in the atrium

Located in the province of Siena, Chiusi is virtually on the border with Umbria, and very easy to reach. Exit the main A1 Autostrada marked Chiusi/Chianciano Terme and follow the signs for only a few short kilometers to Chiusi. You will arrive at a junction with traffic lights where you will see the historical center up ahead of you towards the left, so take the left-hand lane (the inside lane will take you down to Chiusi Scalo from which you would approach if you arrive by train). Take the road up and follow it around until you find a small junction where you can turn left into Via Garibaldi. Continue until you reach a junction with the Teatro (Theatre) Comunale to your right. If you look left from this point, you will see the museum situated in Via Porsenna. To park, turn right into Via Pietriccia, pass the small hospital, and then take the next right again into Viale G. Da Chiusi. A free parking area is located on the right.

You may either re-trace your journey to locate the museum, but I would recommend you take the few steps up into Parco I Forti (incidentally, it's definitely worth taking a stroll to the edge of the park where you will find outstanding views across the border of Umbria as well as of Tuscany's Mount Cetona). Exit the park back into Via Garibaldi through the gateway constructed from stone taken from various ruins. Here you should recognize the road and the museum is only a quick walk from this point to Via Porsenna.

Mosaic in the museum

Under the same museum entrance ticket, you are able to visit Goti E Longobardi A Chiusi (Goths and Lombards at Chiusi), an exhibition situated in a building a stone's throw away in Via dei Longobardi. It is very interesting, although here everything is written in Italian. It is also sometimes possible to visit the conservation laboratory. More good news, the ticket also covers a visit to two nearby Etruscan tombs (just a few kilometres from Chiusi) at the Poggio Renzo Necropolis, grave of the Pilgrim (La Tomba della Pellegrina) and grave of the Lion (La Tomba del Leone). The grave of the Monkey (La Tomba della Scimmia), featuring frescoes from 470 BC, and can be visited by arrangement for a small entrance fee. Whilst you are at the museum it is advisable to speak to a member of staff to check on tomb visiting times. The museum may be contacted by telephone on 0578/20177, by fax 0578 224452, or by email: sba-tos.museochiusi@beniculturali.it.

 


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