If you came to this page directly, you might wish to read a page with an introduction to this section and a map of Val di Chiana first.
(above) Western view of CittÓ della Pieve from the train from Orvieto to Florence; (centre) southern view of the western part of CittÓ della Pieve; (below) southern view of its eastern part
CittÓ della Pieve is situated at the top of a hill on the eastern side of Val di Chiana. The town originated from a fortified settlement around a pieve, a rural church where baptism was administered. That of CittÓ della Pieve was founded in the VIIth century when Italy was divided between Longobard and Byzantine territories. In the structure of the Longobard system of government, a pieve (from Latin plebs) was a territorial division of the plebeians i.e. the natives. CittÓ della Pieve was therefore a Longobard possession near the border with the territory of Perugia which belonged to the Byzantines. Poor or good relations with Perugia characterize the history of CittÓ della Pieve.
In the XIth century the inhabitants of Orvieto built a dam on the Chiani, a small stream which carried southwards the excess water of Val di Chiana. The dam had a lasting impact on the environment because it caused the development of unhealthy marshes in the valley. The population of CittÓ della Pieve, which for its high position (1,667 ft) was not affected by malaria, grew substantially.
View of Val di Chiana in a fresco by il Perugino at Oratorio di S. Maria dei Bianchi
Pietro Vannucci is known as il Perugino because he studied painting in that town, but he was born at CittÓ della Pieve. He became one of the most famous Italian Renaissance painters and Raphael was one of his assistants. The landscape backgrounds of many of his paintings depict views of Val di Chiana and of its bluish tones. The same tones can be seen in landscape backgrounds painted by Leonardo da Vinci who was familiar with Val di Chiana because he visited it in 1502 to develop a plan to reclaim its marshes.
Towers (from left to right): Torre del Pubblico, Torre del Vescovo, Torre della Rocca and Torre delle Mura
For a long time the town was known as Castello della Pieve because of its fortified aspect and a tower is the symbol of the town (it can be seen in the image used as background for this page). Torre Civica or del Pubblico was erected in the XIIth century and made taller in the XIVth century. It was the symbol of the attempts made by the inhabitants to establish an independent Comune (town-state). The Rocca is instead a symbol of the domination by Perugia as it was built in 1326 to house a garrison of that town.
CittÓ della Pieve is a town of brick, rather than of stone as many towns of Central Italy are. This because it had several brickyards. In 1250, after a failed rebellion against Perugia, it was obliged by the latter to provide bricks for paving its vast main square.
Palazzo della Corgna
In 1550 Ascanio della Corgna was appointed governor of CittÓ della Pieve by his uncle Pope Julius III. In 1555 Ascanio was removed from this position by Pope Paul IV, but in 1563 the town was assigned to him as a fiefdom in addition to Castiglione. In the following year however the inhabitants of CittÓ della Pieve obtained permission to return to the direct administration of the Papal State.
Palazzo della Corgna: (left) courtyard; (centre) Vth century BC Etruscan obelisk; (right) loggia
Although Ascanio della Corgna and his brother Cardinal Fulvio ruled CittÓ della Pieve for just a few years they had time to build a stately palace which was designed for them by Galeazzo Alessi, an architect who had built the palace of Cardinal Tiberio Crispo at Orvieto following an initial project by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. Notwithstanding its limited size the building has typical features of Renaissance palaces including a loggia. Unfortunately pietra serena, the light grey stone utilized for the frames of windows and doors, is subject to deterioration.
Palazzo della Corgna - frescoes by Salvio Savini, an assistant to Nicol˛ Circignani, il Pomarancio, a painter best known for his frescoes depicting martyrdoms: (left) Justice; (right) coat of arms of the Ciocchi del Monte (the family of Pope Julius III) and of the della Corgna
Cardinal Fulvio della Corgna completed the decoration of the palace in 1580 by commissioning Salvio Savini a series of frescoes. The building remained a possession of the della Corgna until 1643. It was bought by the City of CittÓ della Pieve in 1975 and it now houses the Public Library and a small Natural History Museum.
Churches renovated in the XVIIIth century: (left) S. Agostino; (right) S. Lucia
It would be difficult to find cleaner fields anywhere; one cannot see the smallest clod of earth; the soil is as clean as if it had been sifted. Wheat seems to find here all the conditions most favourable to its growth, and does very well.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - translation by W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer - Collins 1962.
In October 1786 Goethe passed through the Tuscan part of Val di Chiana on his way to Perugia and he was impressed by how well it was cultivated. Although at a much slower pace the Papal State made progress in reclaiming its part of the valley in 1733-36. In 1780 a formal agreement was signed at S. Agostino between representatives of Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and of Pope Pius VI to coordinate the complete reclamation of the valley. CittÓ della Pieve experienced a period of economic development which led to the construction/renovation of several churches.
Other views of the countryside: (left) from a small alley; (right) from S. Pietro, one of the many "belvedere",
sites/terraces with a commanding view, of CittÓ della Pieve