Everyone wants to visit Tuscany. Its rich artistic heritage, its enchanting landscapes and the food and wine of the area make it a destination that attracts tens of millions of tourists each year. And yet, many of its visitors settle for the classic Firenze-Siena-Pisa tour, and skip the areas that offer interesting glimpses into the history and culture of the region.
Mystery Tuscany, a project organized by the Cultural Association of Siena in collaboration with the Region of Tuscany, aims to highlight the historic and legendary heritage and make it accessible to people in Italy and abroad through diverse media. This kind of territorial highlight is based on the process of storytelling and includes a documentary film, an application for iPhone, an internet site and, starting in April, there will be guided tours of various mysterious places.
Everything started in 2010 with Mystery Tuscany, a film which is part fiction and part documentary, in which a narrator talks about the legends and secrets of twelve places in Tuscany: an abbey without a roof, haunted castles, underground chambers and even the island of Montecristo. The film creates a Tuscany that is not only a geographical location but also a legendary land, equal to any described in fantasy novels. The authors, Pantaleone A. Megna and Andrea Mignolo, call this narrative style and use of visual images travel-drama. The iPhone application enriches the episodes with a travel guide and an interactive map and its website, www.mysteryitalia.it, constantly updates the location of mysteries in Italy.
The Mystery Tuscany Tour
Starting in April it will be possible to visit the twelve places of the film thanks to a partnership between the Galgano Association and MyTour, a tour company from Siena, which gave life to the Mystery Tuscany Tour. There will be on-site guided tours which allow visitors to explore the cultural and historical aspects in depth.
The tour begins in Volterra, where the first witches ever used magic spells and formulas. Custodians of ancient Etruscan rituals, their spells were able to bring about love, hate and explore the depths of the human soul. Volterra and witchcraft have had a relationship that goes back hundreds of years. In the city there is a Via dell Streghe and a stone outside the city walls that marks the spot where people would meet up for the Saba (a coven or gathering) of the Mandriga witches.
The tour continues on to Chiusdino following the path of the knight and saint Galgano Guidotti and his sword in the stone, which has been kept for 800 years in the Rotonda of Montesiepi. Fans of King Arthur will discover that the origins of this myth come directly from the heart of Tuscany. A knight who was very violent and who then became a saint, Galgano Guidotto left his mark on our collective imagination of knights. HIs abbey, not far from the Rotonda, is a magical place with the sky for a roof.
As Sergio Costanzo writes, the Rotonda and the Abbey were built by medieval builders. The perfection of their work is visible in all sacred works of that time, but present here is an almost archetypal purity. The Rotonda hasthe most famous mathematical rules at its base: Pi and the constant of Fidia, or the Aureo Numero. The abbey on the other hand, through a complex manipulation of the natural environments, was built to be a heavenly Jerusalem in Tuscany.
Galgano Guidotti had a strong following. He was named a saint after only four years after his death, and a strong community formed around him. Even Emperor Federico Barbarossa came to pay his respects to his sword. After a while, however, his innovative and pacifist spirit weakened. The Cistercense monks, who declared themselves his successors, abandoned the place and moved to Siena. The abbey lost its prestige and became a farming warehouse at one point. The lead supports that were part of its structure were sold for weapons, which led the roof to fall. Ever since then, Galgano's nickname was "the bad saint."
So what link is there between King Arthur and Galgano? Galgano stuck his sword in a stone to make a cross to pray at. Arthur extracted it to form his kingdom. Even if Arthur was an imaginary character, Galgano has imporant proof that he existed: the papers that led to his canonization are conserved in the Vatican Archives. Scientific analysis on the sword reveals that it is from the twelfth century. Is it chance that one of the knights of the round table was called Galvano?
The last stop is in Monteriggioni, the crown of Italy where on dark nights you can hear the screaming cry of a ghost in pain. According to some people it's Captain Giovannino Zeti, the protagonist of a crucial historic episode that marked the end of the common era. In 1554, Florentine troops stormed Monteriggioni. A cannon shot destroyed a well, making it unusable for water. Captain Zeti waited to see if Monteriggioni would give up or keep fighting; Zeti decided to give up but his decision was not well seen and he was accused of betrayal. The visitors can end the tour with a lovely walk along the walls of the city, which led Dante to write in the Divine Comedy: Monteriggioni is crowned by towers.