ASCIANO… the town of politness
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The territory of the Commune of Asciano is depicted as one with predominatly clayey ground, is situated a 25 km to Siena, surrounded by Crete Senesi.
It is certain that the territory of Asciano was the seat of numerous Etruscan communities, before becoming a Roman colony. In this regard, the various documentation provided by the findings of the necropolises of Poggio Pinci and the mound of Molinello. During the Longobard era, Asciano became a curtis regia and the first parish churches and chapels had prospered in the well-colonised and populated territory. Under the Carolingian domination, the “Contea assianinga”passed to the della Scialenga counts.
With the coming of the self-government autonomies, under the patronage of the populace, the social, economic and political conditions changed and the Cacciacontis (descendants of the Scialenga) became spectators of the rapid decline of their own power.
In the 1168 Siena with arms, forced Asciano to surrender. In September 1260 Florence threteaned Siena with a big army and it asked the inconditional surrender in exchange of not destroying it. The Sienese people, for not to loose the freedom decided to counter-attack. They asked help to the castles and the villages most faithful to the Republic. The Ascianese people rushed quickly and his contribution for his victory was so determinant to gain the appellation of the “polite ascianese ”
In 1369 the General Council of Siena, grateful for the devotion and loyalty demonstrated by the people of Asciano, granted Sienese citizenship to all tha Ascianesi. When Siena was conquered by Florentines also Asciano was conquered by Medici and then by Lorena. In the 1860 Asciano was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
Entering the historic centre from the south, from where the Massini Gate stood until 1944, on the right stands the majestic basilica of Sant’Agata, which has been dominating the village for more than a thousand years. In front of the Basilica steps there are 3 streets, via Bartolenga, Corso Giacomo Matteotti and via Mameli. A road scheme imposed during the Napoleonic age. Via Bartolenga, the ancient medieval main street leads to the Piazza del Grano (ancient square of the agricultural market) where you can admire the facade of the thirteenth-century Palazzo del Podesta and the fifteenth-century fountain by Antonio di Paolo Ghini.
From the square, after crossing what remains of the Jewish ghetto, we arrive at the only gate still existing, the Porta del Bianchi (or Senese) from where going up Corso Matteotti, the ancient Via Lauretana, we find other important monuments such as the Church of Sant 'Agostino, with its Gothic structure or the Museum of Sacred Art housed inside Palazzo Corboli, in whose rooms the Allegories of the Four Seasons have also been frescoed, according to Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s style in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. At Palazzo Corboli there is now a collection of paintings and sculptures from the 14th-15th century as well as an Etruscan Museum. Not far away, still along Corso Matteotti, in the back shop of a pharmacy there is a 90sqm Roman mosaic from the third century AD. The other museum in Asciano is the Cassioli Museum, dedicated to the Ascianese painter Amos Cassioli and his son Giuseppe. Outside the historic village centre there are the church of San Francesco, with its fine Gothic façade and the ancient parish church of Sant'Ippolito (8th century) where a fresco has recently been attributed to Raphael by some critics.
In the south-west of Siena, in the upper basin of the Ombrone, there is a wide territorial strip characterised by the presense of innumerable minuscule summits of white or yellowish clay, often found amidst deep chasm or dug into frail crests. It is the region of Crete Senesi: a constantly changing landscape in the alternating succession of the seasons, thanks to incessant erosive phenomena. These hills become green in spring due to the recent wheat seedings and grow purple in summer with flowering dense sulla clover. These panoramas inspired the backgrounds of the panels and frescoes of the most prestigious Sienese painters of the past. Today, there is no photographer, film- amateur, or wandering artist who has not been intrigued by the erosion furrows and Jura limestone, tha sunny but tremendous splendour of the crete, They change colour in every season. Here there are the numerous thermal spas where in few km a popular thermal spa centre haa developed for the treatment of the respiratory illness and of the skin. But the most important thing is the gastronomy, represented by three big products, pecorino cheese, olive oil, wine. The cooking is poor and is handed on from our country culture, based of bread without salt, olive oil and tomato, but also rich of resoluted tastings.
Culture and art are immersed in every surroundings, going out for a walk too. It’s like living in a dream.
The mystique of the Crete area is timeless. Here each day represents another step in an ongoing cycle of changing colours and infinite silence. The Crete is home to some of the most remote vestiges of the Sienese heritage, with its towers and castles reaching toward the sky and its enchanting landscape in the Val d'Orcia. Here nature has created a sort of perfect island, with such unique geometry and hues that in the 1800s visitors drawn here by their love of the landscapes in 14th-century Sienese madonna icons were bewildered to find them faithfully reproduced. The Crete is a land where poets, writers and mystics have always found inspiration. The Crete Senesi and Val D’Arbia develops around Asciano. Here for centuries, life went on around the farmhouses and the farmer carried on the balance and the beauty of the countryside. Near Chiusure and Monte Oliveto Abbey the landscape becomes surrealistic: The clay, modelled by the wind and water, draws spectaculars hills. The travertinos quarries are popular, local typical stone, in the area of Serre di Rapolano. In Buonconvento area The Crete are softer and the sky bigger.
The Crete area are the most photographed of all Tuscany, thanks to the originality of its landscapes and to the presence of splendid historical and architectural witness. The predominant colours is grey, which becomes in various shades and different reflections during the day and the seasons: the yellow of the sunset and the summer white light colour softly the grey of the Crete, a clay hills lay almost completely with no tree vegetation everywhere cut by deep “Calanchi”. The traveller who likes the craftsmanship could find in the Crete area numerous terracotta laboratories, where the artisans work the clay according to technical traditions abandoned everywhere in name of the modern technology.