A Tranquil Land Rich In History.
The medieval town of Cetona is located in the province of Siena, approximately 385 meters above sea level and situated at the base of Mount Cetona. La Rocca (fortress) built around the 10th century surrounded by cypress and pine trees, proudly keeps watch over it’s town. The area has extremely important Etruscan archaeological sites and is steeped in a long history of wine and olive oil production.
How to get there
If you are arriving by air, there are currently two main airports not far from Cetona. ROME (Ciampino or Fiumicino airports) are approximately one and a half/two hours away, or PISA (Galileo Galilei airport) approximately two/two and a half hours away. The nearest train station is at Chiusi. The station is approximately 7 Kms away and depending on time of day, there is a bus connection. A taxi service is also available from the train station. The alternative option of course is to take a hire car. If you choose to use Cetona as a base to explore the surrounding towns, you’ll be pleased to know that Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino and Cortona are all within easy reach. Cetona is also almost touching the borders of Umbria and Lazio, making the position ideal to sample other provinces during your stay.
Piazza Garibaldi is the hub of the town where most people congregate and, because traffic is not allowed into the centre of the square, you can wander freely. There are two bars within the square, Bar Cavour and Bar Sobborgo which have plenty of outside seating, perfect for ‘people watching’ whilst taking an aperitif or a real Italian coffee.
Interesting places to visit in Cetona
Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo
Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo built during 1155 features a wooden statue of The Virgin Mary dating back to 1300.
Chiesa la Collegiata della San Trinità
This church was built between the 12th and 13th century housing important frescoes including an “Assumption” attributed to Pinturicchio 1454 – 1513).
The Tower (or fortress), better known as La Rocca, is Cetona’s oldest buiding and is the town’s symbol. It is privately owned now, but viewing the fortress may be possible. The Tourist Information Office should be contacted for the current information on 0578 239143.
Museo Civico per la Prestoria del Monte Cetona
The museum can be found in Via Roma in the building named Palazzo Minutelli, shared with the town hall (Comune). You will witness a large collection of important archaeological finds from the local prehistoric settlements discovered during excavation works at Mount Cetona.
If you have the facility of a car, it will be worth taking the short journey into Belverde. It would be advisable to take comfortable shoes with you.
Grotte di Belverde
It is said that behind the above convent there is a cave where St. Francis had retreated to pray.
Convento di Santa Maria in Belverde
The convent was constructed around 1367 and is mostly known for its beautiful interiors of important 14th century frescoes attributed to Petruccioli. To arrange a visit, please call 0578 238015.
Archaeological Nature Park of Mount Cetona
Close to the above area, you will be able to visit a very interesting and important site featuring remains from one of the oldest settlements of the area including caves, used for burials and rituals, together with open-air settlements. You are able to walk around the area, but it is best to call 0578 239219 to check opening times and to arrange a guided visit which would be more informative and allowing entry to the special areas.
Whilst travelling along the main road, just prior to reaching the archaeological site, you will pass a small opening to the left, marked Biancheto. It is a very pleasant picnic area sheltered by trees with tables and benches plus good sized BBQ’s free to use. It is popular, so I would advise you to arrive in good time ahead of the lunch period!
Palazzo and Parco Terrosi
The Palazzo and Parco Terrosi, built in 1750, dominates the hill overlooking Cetona. Inside the grand, privately owned building and park is an amphitheatre plus, many archaeological finds discovered at the nearby town of Chuisi. The palace is quite huge and has an impressive architecture. Again, it is possible that you can visit, so it’s definitely worth enquiring at the Tourist Information Office.
There is a choice of places to stay in and around Cetona. For example, if you are looking for a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ style accommodation, you could choose La Locanda di Anita. On the outskirts of Cetona there are country houses and agriturismo’s, so here’s three examples also, Arco Naturale, Casa Vecchia www.agriturismocasavecchia.it or Agriturismo Cocciano www.agriturismococciano.com.
Suggestions on Where to Eat in Cetona
Within Cetona’s main square of Piazza Garibaldi, there is a choice of venues. Firstly, on entering the square from Via Liberta, a little up on the left-hand side you will find Via Cerubini, a small alleyway with Osteria Vecchia da Nilo. An example of what’s on offer; rabbit with wild fennel, pici (traditional local pasta) with goose sauce or garlic, or raviolli of percorino (local sheep’s cheese) and ricotta with tomato and rocket sauce. Good food at a very reasonable price. As it is very popular, I would recommend you reserve a table beforehand on 0578 239040. Returning to Piazza Garibaldi, head up to the top of the square where you will find Osteria del Merlo just to the left at the base of the medieval tower. Again, a varied choice such as, monkfish with aubergines, tomatoes and black olives salad, red wine beef stew or pappardelle with Cinta Senese pork ragu sauce. A few steps away to the right, is the Ristorante Sobborgo. A little more expensive, serving prawns with orange and julienne of fennel, or strudel of potato and marjoram with Parmesan sauce perfumed with truffles. The menus are of course subject to seasonal changes. There is Bistrot in Via Liberta preparing fresh pizzas and pasta.
Even though Cetona isn’t huge, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed on the selection of shops and quality of products ranging from shoes, jewellery, gifts and ceramic shops. There are plenty of wine cellar’s where you can sample the wine and olive oil. If you are preparing a picnic there is a choice of shops displaying locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, bakers with all types of Tuscany bread and cakes, plus a beautiful delicatessen for local cheese, cooked meats and salamis. There are also a couple of small supermarkets just outside the main area. Piazza Garibaldi is home for the weekly market held every Saturday morning. If you see a crowd of locals around a delicatessen van, they’ll be buying slices of cooked pork seasoned with salt and rosemary. Beautiful, but don’t be too late!
It is not only us who enjoys this quiet and unhurried town, but you may also witness famous Italian personalities strolling the little walkways, escaping their busy lives. There are many tiny paths high up in the historic centre. Take time to follow these and you will be delighted at finding the views out across towards Mount Cetona. Piazza Garibaldi is the hub of the town where most people congregate and, because traffic is not allowed into the centre of the square, you can wander freely. There are two bars within the square, Bar Cavour and Bar Sobborgo which have plenty of outside seating, perfect for ‘people watching’ whilst taking an aperitif or a real Italian coffee. Should you be feeling a little more energetic, Cetona has tennis courts available to hire. Through the year, there are different events taking place. For instance, during July there are archaeological nights and bands playing in the square, August sees various activities including on the last weekend the Corsa delle Brocche (Jug Race), in October there’s Art and Gastronomy and December there is the Sagra dell’olio (Festival of oil). Do check on the particular dates with the Tourist Information Office.
Updated by Fay Henson