Sarteano - A Hidden Jewel in Tuscany
The historical center of Sarteano is a labyrinth of little streets and alleyways, huddling together at the base of the medieval castle, originally built in 1038. The views from the castle are spectacular. You will see the landscapes of Val di Chiana, Monte Cetona and the Umbrian mountains on the horizon: if you visit Sarteano, make sure to bring your camera! The castle is open to visitors between May and December.
What to See
At the very core of the historical center, looking onto Piazza XXIV Giugno, you will find a beautiful theater called Il Teatro degli Arrischianti: the main auditorium has an elegant elliptical shape, with splendid three tiered boxes. The theatre, whose history stretches back as early as the 1600s, often comes alive with frequent productions by the Arrischianti Theater Group.
On Via Roma you will find the Museo Civico Archeologico, situated within the sixteenth-century building of Palazzo Gabrielli. Here you can view Etruscan relics from the Sarteano area. While visiting the city's historical center, go to San Martino church, located close to the Porta Umbra gate. Inside you will find the painting Annunciation by Domenico Beccafumi (1486–1551).
Sarteano has several bars to choose from, two of which I'd like to mention. The first located at the junction of Piazza Bargagli, is called Bar dello Sport. You can mix with locals inside this popular spot, or sit outside. The second bar you might like to try is Bar Italia, tucked into the quaint Corso Garibaldi, within the town's historical center where you can sit outside on the narrow street enjoying your coffee.
If you are interested in archaeology, do not miss the Pianacce Necropolis, just outside Sarteano. Before venturing out, though, check visiting days and times with the museum. At the necropolis you can see the splendid Quadriga Tomb from the second half of the 4th Century BC, which houses uniquely painted walls depicting the Etruscan thoughts on the afterlife. Not only are these ancient tombs and other underground rooms special, but so is the view out across Val di Chiana you can enjoy from their location.There are a couple of seats where you may wish to rest quietly, taking time to reflect and absorb the landscape.
Where to Eat
There are several restaurants and pizzerias in Sarteano: La Locanda dei Tintori is situated just inside the city's historical center. If you enjoy pasta try pici, a regional hand-rolled spaghetti specialty. Rather than opting for the usual ragù ( veal and pork meat) sauce why not order Pici del Cacciatore (Pici with Wild Boar Sauce). You may also want to try the family run Taverna di Merlino on Via di Fuori, or the rustic home cooking at Trattoria Tripolitania on Corso Garibaldi. The Osteria Da Gagliano on Via Roma also offers a good menu.
If you are in need of cooling down, there is a beautiful swimming pool, which is constantly fed by a cascade of spring water kept at 24 degrees.
Special Events in Sarteano
Every year, Sarteano holds its Giostra del Saracino, a jousting tournament where five areas of the town compete against each other. Tickets for the seated stands are purchased locally, preferably a couple of days beforehand. The afternoon prior to the Giostra there is a wonderful parade through town. In June, the Febbre da Cavallo, a weekend-long equestrian show, keeps locals and tourists entertained. The 15th of August, the day of the Assunzione di Maria Vergine is, as anywhere in Italy, an important feast in Sarteano, as well.
The people of the area are great olive oil and wine enthusiasts. In August and September, many little Piaggio APE will pass you filled to the brim with grapes for making wine. During November, the same little vehicles are filled with olives and can be seen hurrying to the local press. Shortly thereafter, Sarteano holds various events promoting these tasty nectars. If you would like to know more about all the events planned for the period, the local tourist information office, Pro-Loco, situated on Corso Garibaldi, can be contacted by telephone at 0039 0578 269204, or via their website www.prolocosarteano.it .
If you visit Piazza Bargagli, the town's main square, on most sunny days you will see its "sunflowers," the older male population of the town sitting or standing, chatting amongst one another and watching the world go by.
Getting to Sarteano
Visitors can fly into Rome, which is approximately one and a half hours away from Sarteano, or Pisa (Galileo Galilei airport), which is about two and a half hours away. The nearest train station is at Chiusi. The station is approximately 13 kilometers away from the city center and, depending on time of day, there is a bus connection. Alternately one can hire a taxi or car from the train station. If you choose to use Sarteano as a base to explore the surrounding towns, you will be pleased to know that Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino and Cortona are all within an easy distance.
By: Fay Henson