Roman cistern

The cistern is one of the most important archaeological remains from Roman times in the entire Valdelsa area, dating back to the mid-third century, located on a hill that offers wonderful views of Montaione. The Roman cistern is located on a country road that leads to Volterra, about a kilometre south of Montaione, in a place known as Muraccio.

The structure has a rectangular base measuring 32.5 metres by 4.50 metres in width and it has a capacity of 200,000 litres. Dug into the ground, its sheer size is very impressive. It contains three tanks in a row, with a slight difference in height from the first to the third, connected by transverse walls with a rectangular opening in the centre to allow the water to pass through from one to the next. The cistern was the central settling tank of a complicated system of water collection and distribution through underground pipelines. It collected water from the springs on the Poggio dell’Aglione hill, to supply settlements located further downstream, which most likely included a villa that may have been located nearby, to the north-east of the cistern. Originally, it was covered with barrel vaults built in opus caementicium, while the retaining walls were constructed from a mixture of mortar, limestone and brick. Traces of the original plaster can still be seen on the inside of the cistern.

Originally, there was a water pipe running north from the cistern, which was made up of a circular terracotta fistulae, housed in a layer of mortar and stone, in accordance with a well-documented typology used in both Greek and Roman times. The aqueduct came to light in 1998, along with large containers (dolii) used as “well-heads” or wells for decanting and diverting the water. The pipeline followed a south-north course for about 150 metres, then branched off: part of the pipeline was oriented towards the east in the direction of the Pietroso stream; the second diversion curved towards the western edge of the present-day vineyard, but stopped after only 40 metres. A further branch, immediately after the cistern, was used to service small brick kilns, located a short distance away, near the current road to Pozzolo, where piles of bricks and fragments of a large dolio were found. A section of the pipeline is now exhibited at the Archaeological Section of the Civic Museum of Montaione. In the 1970s, some Late Imperial Roman bronze coins, dating from AD 395 to AD 238, were found near the cistern. Recently given a protective cover, the Roman Cistern can be visited independently.

Roman cistern
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