Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Laura Teso
Lucignano is a small town on a hill. Its intact medieval centre, with a lovely oval shape, is enclosed by stone walls. The burg has an Etruscan past. Then Rome conquered it in the I century before Christ. The Roman contingent, led by consul Lucio Licinio Lucullo, settled right on the hill and founded a castrum (fortified camp). In honour of the consul the village was named Lucinianum.
Awarded with the Touring Club orange flag, Lucignano is indeed a wonderful village. And also very “avanti”, as we Italians would say, meaning “one step ahead”. Lucignano, despite being very tiny, has a wonderful website called VisitLucignano, very modern and provided with English version.
Moreover they installed some solar energy powered info points in the village (where you can also charge the mobile and connect via WIFI). They have also created an App and adopted an hasthag #visitlucignano used by people to share their photos and impressions of the burg on Instagram and Facebook.
I have to thank Vanda and Marcello for their support and help during my visit. And for all the material they gave me (also one including some local recipes I will try sooner or later). Grazie mille!
What to see in Lucignano
- The remains of the Fortezza Medicea are visible on the hill in front of the burg.
- The city walls. We parked along the walls so we could see them (many houses have steep stone stairways climbing on the walls).
- Porta Murata. Once it had been closed (hence the name Murata, i.e. walled-in). Now it is open again.
- Via Matteotti, leading to the centre after passing through Porta San Giusto, is the main street. Its ancient name was via dell’Amore (for the close bond between Lucignano and Siena) or Borgo Ricco (Rich Burg), because here you could find the palazzi of the most prestigious families.
- Via Roma, called via Povera (Poor Street): the street where the lower classes lived and had their workshops.
- Il Cassero, a former fortress, then used as a grain deposit, transformed into a theatre. In front of the Cassero there’s Piazza delle Logge, built in the Renaissance period.
- Piazza del Tribunale where you can find the Collegiata church, built to replace a fortress destroyed by a lightning in 1556. Unfortunately, it had just been damaged by a whirlwind so we couldn’t enter.
- The Gothic style San Francesco church, adorned with exquisite frescoes. Among them Il Trionfo della Morte, The Triumph of Death, a very common iconographic theme in Europe at that time (particularly after the Plague epidemics). The famous French art critic Philippe Daverio defined it the first “strip cartoon” ever, because there are writings expressing the message of the painted characters.
- The Town Hall is also the seat of the Municipal Museum, housing fine artworks. Among them Saint Francis receiving the stigmata and Madonna with Child by Luca Signorelli. We had also the chance to see the Council Room on the upper floor adorned with neoclassical frescoes depicting the Triumph of Rome.
The Tree of Life
The highlight of the museum is the extraordinary reliquary called The Golden Tree, located in the former Hall of Audiences (here you can admire well preserved frescoes depicting famous wise or important men, like Caesar, Aristotle, Virgil). The Tree was exposed at the Milan Expo among the Italian excellences. Also called the Tree of Life, it is a symbol of devotion, metaphor of life and eternal love. That’s why many couples have decided to marry or to renew their vows in front of the tree as a good omen for their future life together.
Freedom of speech and singing
Along one of the streets of the centre (near the San Francesco church and the gradinata – stairway – di San Giuseppe) you can see a stone on the corner of a house, with the writing: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND SINGING. It refers to a division between the upper area of the town, seat of the political and religious powers, which required silence and respect, and the lower area, where the people lived.
Say cheese to the Cat
Along a street full of plants and flowers there was a corner with a little table and two small benches. I saw no one there. But “something tells me” it was a sitting room for cats. In fact on the adjacent door there was this handwritten sign:
“If you take a picture from the two cats, the big one black and white is Gimbo, the small one brown is Margot… Please send it to us by email at … we’ll make a beautiful album with pictures from all around the world! Have a nice day!” 😀
My kingdom for a bench!
When we arrived at the Town Hall where we had appointment with kind Vanda and Marcello, we noticed two gentlemen sitting on a bench in the square. It was 10.20 am. They were talking and talking. We entered and visited the Museum. When we got out, the two genlemen were still there. Since theirs was the only bench in the shadow, we sat on a low wall in the piazza. In fact we needed to reorganize our stuff and post some photos on the social accounts of My Corner of Italy, When we finished we continued our tour of the village. It probably was 11.20. We wandered around, we took photos, we stopped at a grocery store where we bought 2 panini for a cheap lunch. And at this point the bench came back to our mind. Let’s go there to sit and have the panini!
Do you believe that at 12.30 the 2 men were still there, on the only bench that was not in full sun? So we had to settle for the same old low wall. They were talking about war, economics, literature, everything on earth. They finally parted just at 12.50 when one of them received a phone call and went away. The other one got up and went home… just behind the bench! Finally the bench was ours. But we had already eaten our panini! At that point we sat there all the same. And I also took some pics to remember this historical moment 😉
The flowers battle in May
If you have the chance to come in May you could attend to the Maggiolata, the traditional local Spring Festival. The highlight of the Festival are the two parades of wagons. Each of the four contrade (Porta Murata, Porta San Giovanni, Porta San Giusto and Via dell’Amore) must prepare a wagon, adorned with thousands of colourful flowers. The parades take place in the last two Sundays in May. The winners (who created the most beautiful wagon) receive the Grifo d’Oro, the Golden Griffin. The festival ends with a “flowers battle” between the contenders (using the wagons’ flowers).
Fiera del Cappone in December
The weekend before Christmas there’s a market of local products: honey, sausages, wine, but most of all extra virgin olive oil (there’s also an olive oil producers competition).
What to eat in Lucignano
Lucignano has great wines, extra virgin olive oil, Chianina meat, honey, fruits and vegetables. You can bite a savoury bruschetta, whose pronounce is [broohs-KEHT-tah], mi raccomando! Simply seasoned with garlic, salt and oil or with liver (a Tuscan tradition). Or you can try a panzanella, a simple bread salad with onion, basil, vinegar and oil (plus often tomatoes). In winter better to chose a black cabbage soup.
Lucignano was the set for a Monicelli’s film starring Marcello Mastroianni in 1985. More recently Kiarostami chose it for his film “Certified Copy” with beautiful Juliette Binoche, who then won an award at Cannes for this role.
Lucignano is called the pearl of the Val di Chiana for its beauty. It is peaceful, full of romantic corners, and its air is pleasantly filled with aromatic plants and laundry soap perfume.