Arezzo

 

 

The walled city of Arezzo is built on a steep hill to the south of the plain of the River Arno. It was one of the most important Etruscan fortified cities, some walls of which have been found on the Poggia del Sole, along with the famous bronzes, the Chimera and the Minerva, both dated from the Bronze Age.

 

The city was captured by the Roman Republican army in 311 BCE, and a military station known as Arretium guarding the road north from Rome was established in the Etruscan city. During the Roman Civil War General Sulla put a retirement settlement for his veteran troops in the city, as he did in Florence. Arretium grew to be the third largest city in Italy, famous for its glazed moulded pottery which was exported across the Roman world.

 

There is little left to see of Roman occupation, just the decimated amphitheatre, as destruction took place both during the Gothic and Lombard invasions, and like most of Italy, by dismantling the old buildings to reuse the stone in new building projects.

 

A Palaeo Christian cathedral must have been built by the 3rd century as around that time a bishop was installed in the city. At this time in Italy bishops acted as the feudal lords of cities, having secular as well as religious authority.

 

In 1098 the control of the city was taken away from the bishop and it became an independent city-state with allegiance to the Ghibellines, supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor, who opposed the Guelphs who supported the pope, which made Arezzo and Siena rivals of Florence. Conflict reigned until Arezzo finally fell to Florence in1384, and its subsequent decline has helped preserve the medieval buildings seen today.

 

The south western corner of the main medieval square, the Piazza Grande, is dominated by the distinctive 13th century Romanesque asp of the church of Santa Maria della Pieve. The church also has a massive square bell tower with mullioned windows. Alongside it are the old Tribunal Palace a 17th century building now a law court, and the Palace of the Lay Fraternity a 14th century building having a Gothic first story with bas relief added in the 15th century by Rosselino. A Renaissance upper level, and the bell tower were added in 1550 by Vasari. The northern side of the square is contained by the Loggia del Vasari, a covered corridor over shop fronts.

 

During the Middle Ages an ancient game of chivalry was held in the Piazza Grande. Originally a military training exercise, the "Saracen Joust," which was contested between knights tilting at a quintain. The practice declined over the centuries, but during the 20th century it was restored as an historical re-enactment.

 

The 13th century Gothic Cathedral of St Donatus, built on the high ground facing the municipal park of Passeggio del Prato, remained unfinished through the centuries. The western facade with rose window only finished in the 19th century, and the campanile added at the beginning of the 20th. Outside the door stands a monument to Grand Duke Ferdinando de Medici.

 

The court of justice, Palazzo dei Priori, was built in 1333, with its square tower added in 1337. It displays "swallow tailed" crenellations which distinguish a Ghibelline city from supporters of the Guelphs whose cities used square topped crenellations.

 

The Palazzo Pretorio is an interesting building, built during the 14th and 15th centuries. It now has a single tower and the façade  is embellished with coats of arms of the city's "People's Captains who governed the town." The building has housed a prison, a chapel and the local reference library, over the centuries.

 

In the north east corner of the walled city, on the site of a medieval citadel, stands the Medici Fortress a massive pentagonal construction built during the 16th century.

 

In comparison with many of the highly decretive medieval churches and public buildings, the church of San Domenico founded in 1275 by the Medicant Orders of the Black Friars is quite unadorned. This is to reflect the piety of the "heresy hunters" who persecuted the Cathars, and became known as the Domini Canes, the "Hounds of God."

 

 

Italian Tour

 

 

Roman Amphitheatre

 

Cathedral

 

City Walls

 

Santa Maria del Pieve

& Tribunal Palace

 

The Loggia, Piazza Grande

Antique Fair

 

Palazzo dei Priori

 

Palazzo Pretorio

 

Medici Fortress

 

San Domenico