Although a huge portion of Chiusi's rich Etruscan patrimony was carried off by early archaeologists to museums in Orvieto and elsewhere, the city's Museo Archeologico Nazionale, in Via Porsenna (tel. 0578-20-177), has no mean share of what's left. The collections inside this neoclassical building are in eternal rearrangement. There are plenty of the rectangular Etruscan cinerary urns, in which the deceased's ashes were kept in a box topped by a lid carved with the man or woman's reclining likeness. Keep on the lookout for a winged version of the split-tailed siren -- the mythological symbol of sex and fertility, which pops up as late as the Middle Ages on Christian buildings like Pienza's Pieve. Also here is a 6th-century B.C. funerary sphinx carved from a local limestone called pietra fetida, as well as sarcophagi in travertine and alabaster. Another of the museum's greatest treasures is a set of painted urns dating back to the 2nd century B.C. on which the polychrome decorations are still marvelously intact.
Another Etruscan funerary vehicle on display is the anthropomorphic canopic jar, made of terra-cotta and sometimes bronze with a carved human head for a lid and handles like arms. Occasionally an entire statue would top off the affair, as in the 7th-century-B.C. example from Dolciano. The deceased, perched on the lid, is apparently orating, surrounded by stylized griffins whose heads are raised high, crying out. Aside from the prehistoric and Villanovan bits, the imported Attic black- and red-figure vases, and some ebony-toned 7th- to 6th-century-B.C. bucchero ceramics, keep your eyes peeled for the marble portrait of Augustus and the 3rd-century-A.D. mosaic of a boar hunt. The museum is open daily from 9am to 8pm. Admission is 4€ for adults, 2€ ages 18 to 25, and free for E.U. citizens 18 and under and those 65 and over.
A short block up from the museum, Piazza del Duomo opens off to your left, past a medieval tower converted to Christian purposes in the 16th century as the bell tower to San Secondiano cathedral. The piazza, with its loggia running down one side, is a small but striking square of light-gray cut stone that matches the facade of the 12th-century Duomo at one end. The inside was restored in the late 19th century but retains its recycled columns and capitals pilfered from local Roman buildings. On closer inspection, you'll note those seemingly early medieval "mosaics" covering every inch of the nave and apses are actually made of paint -- an 1887-to-1894 opus by Arturo Viligiardi (take a .50€ coin for the lights).
The entrance to the Museo della Cattedrale (tel. 0578-226-490) is to the right of the Duomo's doors under the arcade. The first floor has some uninspired paleo-Christian and Lombard remains, but the museum's main attraction is upstairs -- a series of 21 antiphonals from the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore that were illuminated by artists like Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Liberale da Verona in the 15th century. The entire set was stolen in 1972, but miraculously all save one and a few pages of another were recovered. The museum is open daily from June to October 15 from 9:30am to 12:45pm and 4 to 6:30pm and from October 16 to May from 9:30am to 12:45pm (Sun also 3:30-6:30pm, but Jan-Mar only open Tues, Thurs, and Sat-Sun). Admission is 2€ for adults, 1€ for school-age children.
Meet at the museum desk for the obligatory guided tour of the Labirinto di Porsenna (Labyrinth of Porsenna) (tel. 0578-226-490 for reservations), a jaunt through a painstakingly excavated portion of the tunnel system carved under the city by the Etruscans. The cathedral museum and gardens in the square above were once the bishop's palace, and the tunnels were used as a refuse dump. They were rediscovered in the 1920s by some kids who decided to start cleaning them out. The good-hearted teenagers kept at their task, eventually becoming a volunteer society of amateur archaeologists, and slowly the tunnels were reopened. A good stretch of the cunicoli (water sewers) was opened to the public in 1995. The narrow passages were apparently part of a vast plumbing system that once supplied the entire Etruscan city, as well as medieval firefighters, from a huge underground lake. As a bonus to the tour, the cathedral bell tower sits right on top of this well, and the climb to the top is worth it for the sweeping city and countryside vista. The half-hour tours cost 3€ (or 4€ combined with Museo), 2€ for school-age children, and leave about every 40 minutes during museum hours.
Of the Etruscan tombs in the surrounding area, especially to the north and northeast toward the small Lake Chiusi (a remnant of the once widespread Valdichiana marshes), currently only the Tomba della Pellegrina (with 4th-c.-B.C. sarcophagi and 3rd-c.-B.C. cinerary urns still in place) and Tomba del Leone (still showing a bit of color on its walls) are open to visitors with a valid ticket for the Museo Archeologico Nazionale . On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you can also book ahead; space is limited for two visits a day at 11am and 4pm (11am and 2:30pm Nov-Feb) to see the famous painted Tomba della Scimmia. The fee is 2€, but free for E.U. citizens 18 years and under or 65 and over. To visit any of the tombs, contact the archaeological museum desk (tel. 0578-20-177). You must have your own car, in which the custodian accompanies you.
You must also have wheels to visit the local 3rd- to 5th-century-A.D. paleo-Christian catacombs. Prebook to meet the guide Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday at 11am at the cathedral museum (in summer also Sun at 4:30pm). The visit costs 5€.
Few other sights in town hold much interest, but on a stroll you might pass through the market square of Piazza XX Settembre, anchored at one end by the 13th-century Santa Maria della Morte, with its tall, flat tower and with a 14th-century loggia along one side. At the square's other end sprouts a clock tower, near which is the medieval San Francesco. Via Petrarca leads from Via Porsenna to a panorama over the Valdichiana from Piazza Olivazzo.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.