AREZZO | TUSCANY
Arezzo is a city situated in the middle of the Tiber Valley in eastern Tuscany, and is the capital of the Arezzo Province. The town still overlooks the important lines of communication which since ancient times have been the main reason for the development of the town's economic activities. Arezzo is located at on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the River Arno. In the upper part of the town are the cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), from which the main streets branch off towards the lower part as far as the gates. The upper part of the town maintains its medieval appearance despite the addition of later structures.
GETTING TO THE TOWN OF AREZZO
Arezzo (Latin Arretium) is the capital of the central Italian province of the same name, located in the Region of Tuscany, Italy. Arezzo is about 80 km (50 miles) south-east of Florence, at an elevation of 296 m above sea level, and can easily be visited during a single day excursion by anyone vacationing in the Chianti wine zone or the Valley of the Orcia. Arezzo is set on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the Arno. In the upper part of the town are the cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), from which the main streets branch off towards the lower part as far as the gates. The upper part of the town maintains its mediaeval aspect despite the addition of later structures.
Arezzo may have been one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities, the Etruscan Dodecapolis. It was described by Livy as one of the Capitae Etruriae (chief Etruscan cities). Etruscan remains establish that the acropolis of San Cornelio, a small hill next to that of San Donato, was occupied and fortified in the Etruscan period. There is other significant Etruscan evidence, parts of walls, an Etruscan necropolis on Poggio del Sole (still named "Hill of the Sun" ), and most famously, the two bronzes, the "Chimera of Arezzo" (5th century BC) and the "Minerva" (4th century BC) which were discovered in the 16 C and taken to Florence. Increasing trade connections with Greece also brought some elite goods to the Etruscan nobles of Arezzo: the krater painted by Euphronios ca 510 BCE with a battle against Amazons (in the Museo Civico) is unsurpassed.
WHAT TO SEE IN AREZZO
- Most visits will start in the Piazza Grande, the large central square in Arezzo, with many of the most important buildings around the square and surrounding streets. We explore some of the highlights of the town:
- Church of San Francesco, built in Gothic style, then remodeled in the 14th century and again at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Arezzo Cathedral has three aisles with stained glass windows by Guillaume de Marcilatt (1470-1529).
- Diocesan Museum you can see works from the cathedral and other churches in the Diocese.
- Medici fortress dating from the 16th century and a pentagonal bastioned fortification, which according to Vasari was impregnable.
- Church of Saint Dominic, in Gothic style and with a Romanesque portal.
- Also worth seeing is the 14th century Abbey of Holy Flora and Lucilla, where Vasari also worked.
- The Church of Santa Maria is interesting, and popularly known as the Chiesa delle cento buche” (the Church of a hundred hollows), because of its 40 windows.
- Nearby the church of St. Michael and Adrian, whose facade was rebuilt after the last war, is the former monastery of Olivetan monks, which houses the Archaeological Museum which collects Etruscan, Roman and medieval finds of Arezzo.
HISTORY OF AREZZO
Arretium was conquered by the Romans in 311 BC and became a military station on the via Cassia, the road to expansion by republican Rome into the basin of the Po. Arretium sided with Marius in the Roman Civil War, and the victorious Sulla established a colony of his veterans in the half-demolished city, as Arretium Fidens ("Faithful Arretium"). The old Etruscan aristocracy was not extinguished: Caius Clinius Mecaenas, whose name is eponymous with "patron of the arts", was of the noble Aretine Etruscan stock. The city continued to flourish as Arretium Vetus ("Old Arretium"), the third largest city in Italy in the Augustan period, well-known in particular for its widely-exported pottery, the characteristic moulded and glazed Arretine ware, bucchero-ware of dark clay, and red-painted vases (the so-called "coral" vases).
In the 4 C AD, Arezzo became an episcopal seat. It is one of the few cities whose succession of bishops are known by name without interruption to the present day, in part because they were the feudal lords of the city in the Middle Ages. The Roman city was demolished, partly as a result of the Gothic War and the invasion of the Lombards, partly dismantled, as elsewhere throughout Europe, and the stones reused for fortifications by the Aretines. Only the amphitheatre remained.
The commune of Arezzo threw off the control of its bishop in 1098. Until 1384, Arezzo maintained itself as an independent city-state, generally Ghibelline in tendency, thus opposing Guelph Florence. In 1252 the city founded its university, the Studium. After the rout of the Battle of Campaldino (1289), which saw the death of Bishop Guglielmino Ubertini, the fortunes of Ghibelline Arezzo started to ebb, apart from a brief period under the Tarlati family, chief among them Guido Tarlati, who became bishop in 1312 and maintained good relations with the Ghibelline party. The Tarlati sought support in an alliance with Forlì and its overlords, the Ordelaffi, but unavailingly. Arezzo yielded to Florentine domination in 1384 and thenceforth its individual history was submerged in that of Florence and the Medicean Grand Duchy of Tuscany. During this period Piero della Francesca worked in the church of San Francesco di Arezzo producing the splendid frescoes which are Arezzo's most famous works, but afterwards the city began an economical and cultural decay, that had the effect of preserving its mediaeval centre.
In the 18 C, the neighbouring marshes of the Val di Chiana, south of Arezzo, were drained and the region became more pleasant. At the end of the century, French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Arezzo, but the city soon turned into a base of the resistance against the invaders with the movement of "Viva Maria". This gained the city the role of provincial capital. In 1860 Arezzo became part of the Kingdom of Italy. City buildings suffered heavy damage during World War II.