Lying on the hills, Arezzo is the ideal meeting point among different territories: Casentino, the upper Arno valley (Valdarno), the valley Valdichiana and the Tiber valley (Valtiberina). The town’s origins date back to the Etruscan times, though its present day […]
Lying on the hills, Arezzo is the ideal meeting point among different territories: Casentino, the upper Arno valley (Valdarno), the valley Valdichiana and the Tiber valley (Valtiberina). The town’s origins date back to the Etruscan times, though its present day architecture reminds us of the middle Ages. The town is rich in art treasures, like the famous paintings by Piero della Francesca (the frescoes inside St. Francis’ church, known as “the legend of the real cross”).
The areas, the province is divided into, mix art, nature and tradition to fresh, lively spirituality, witnessed by several pilgrims coming to the town every year.
Thick woods and spiritual places are typical of the whole area: the river Arno springs by the mount Falterona, and then it flows for a short stretch side by side with the river Tiber along the valley. Water is an important element of this region: the lake “degli Idoli”, the sulphur waters by Chitigliano and the curative waters by Calcedonia and the thermal baths by Cetica.
The national nature park of “Foreste Casentinesi” (with Sasso Frattino, Europe’s oldest nature reserve) still keeps excellent relationships with men, who have lived here since the ancient times.
This special kind of spiritual relationship achieves its climax by two famous holy places: the monastery in Camaldoli and the Franciscan sanctuary of La Verna, where this deep religious path have linked people since the middle ages. This deep respect towards nature is to be found in other religious buildings ( for example at the sanctuary Santa Maria del Sasso by Bibbiena) and castles as well, like the castle Conti Guidi by Pioppi, the Porciano castle in Stia, or even the Romena castle in Pratovecchio, which is believed to have inspired the Poet Dante for his Inferno.
The Valdarno area has always been disputed between the Guelphs of Florence and the Ghibelline town Arezzo, this is the main reason why the Florentine Republic used to fortify the whole valley during the 14th century, castles were actually very important in order to control roads and territories in the region. These castles, former known as “Terre Nuove” (i.e. new lands), were later renamed as follows: Castel San Giovanni (at present San Giovanni Valdarno, Masaccio’s birthplace), Castel Franco (at present Castelfraco di sopra), Castel Santa Maria (at present Terranuova Bracciolini).
All along this valley, bathed in the green woods, we still can admire wonderful bell towers, churches and smaller castles, which – sometimes – have been named after an Etruscan toponym, like: Loro Ciuffenna, Gropina and Cennina. The valley still preserves its agricultural tradition (with wine and olive oil production), although it has been recently industrialised and today (together with the neighbouring Florentine Valdarno) it is one of the best known industrial centres for fashion and haute couture in Italy.
Many important artists were born in the region Valdichiana, amongst them: Luca Signorelli, Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Sansovino and Gino Severini. The region was already known in Italy about 22 centuries ago as the Etruscan barn: Hannibal came actually here with his army and plundered the valley in order to supply his soldiers, before fighting against the Romans by the lake Trasimeno.
Etruscan people inhabited the area, reclaiming the marsh and leaving their traces all along the valley: amongst the archaeological finds we can mention the tombs in Camucia and Sodo, other finds by Farneta, Foiano, Cingano, Castiglion Fiorentino, and – last but not least – all the treasures kept inside the Museum of Etruscan Academy in Cortona.
From the top of hill in Cortona you can take a look at the wonderful valley below with its rich cultivations. The agricultural tradition of the region is well testified by one of the most famous cattle breed in Italy, the so called Chianina and even by a typical, local wine called Bianco Vergine (i.e. white virgin). The Tiber valley (Valtiberina) borders Umbria, Marche and Emilia, being parallel to the Casentino region: this landscape was often depicted by the famous Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca. According to some art experts it’s just the landscape by the Romanesque Bridge at Buriano sull’Arno which Leonardo depicted in his masterpiece Mona Lisa.
The Tiber valley has always been a strategic starting point for tourists and travellers who wanted to explore the wonderful surrounding territories, far from the modern mass tourist routes. Beautiful centres like Sansepolcro, Monterchi and Caprese Michelangelo are not far from Arezzo, and so we can take the same routes, Piero della Francesca used to walk along, during his travels.
Piero is one of the best known Renaissance artists: he was born in San Sepolcro and he always maintained good relationships with his birthplace, working here every now and then; in San Sepolcro he created one of his famous masterpieces: the so called “Polittico della Misericordia” (i.e. polyptych of Mercy), today in the city museum.
Anghiari is famous thanks to a battle which took place here in 1440; it’s aslo the birthplace of some renown mercenary leaders of 16th century, among them the captain Baldaccio Bruni, whose ghost is believed to infest the Sorci castle, also celebrated for welcoming gourmands and lovers of Tuscan cuisine.
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