Pieve Santo Stefano

The Town of the Diary

Pieve Santo Stefano is known as the town of the diary. It’s located in the upper Tiber Valley, in the eastern part of the province of Arezzo, a short distance from Umbria and Romagna. 

This town is known today as the land of re-discovered memories but its ancient origins date back to the Neolithic and Roman settlements.

During the Middle Ages, the territory of Pieve Santo Stefano was dominated by the Florentines and the Tarlati family. During the Renaissance, the town reached its heyday thanks to Lorenzo il Magnifico.

Dating back to this time period, there are pieces by Della Robbia – like the beautiful glazed terracotta depicting Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, found inside the Town Hall – as well as artwork by Piero della Francesca and Ghirlandaio.

However,  it’s the more recent history that has left the greatest mark on this town. There were two tragic events that eventually led to Pieve becoming known as the Town of the Diary. In 1855, a great flood inundated the area and destroyed the archives and the most precious works of art of the town dating back to the Renaissance.

In 1944, the retreating German troops ravaged Pieve Santo Stefano, laying mines and destroying the whole old town. What was left was a mutilated town where only the Municipality Building and the churches were spared. The rest was an enormous pile of rubble.

But Pieve and its people are strong and, like the Phoenix, they rose up from their ashes. They quickly rebuilt the town, and then took care of their own history, working to mend the damage done to their own memories.

In 1984, based on an idea by Saverio Tutino, a well-known journalist and writer, the National Diary Archive was created. This archive of diaries was created to preserve the stories of “ordinary Italians.” These stories are written down in diaries, memoirs and letters that had, until then, been left locked up in a drawer.

Over the years, the Little Diary Museum was created and has also become an important attraction in the area, as it has been awarded as the Most Interactive Museum in Italy

The Little Diary Museum has interactive and multimedia displays to create a narrative museum that gives a voice and brings to life the stories contained in the Journal Archive,  whose Pieve Award was created to commemorate unpublished, autobiographical memories of the people. This festival takes place on the third weekend of September and brings the town to life with events and personalities of Italian and international culture.

From January to April in the theatre of Pieve is held a season of classical, lyric, jazz and modern art music called Pieve Classica which has now become a reference point in the panorama of Italian music.

In May the  Pro Loco of Pieve arranges the Sagra del Prugnolo e Giornate del Pastore festival, where you can taste typical delicacies combined with delicate blackthorns, like the traditional raviolo pievano.

For sport lovers an unmissable double appointment is Lo Spino race. The first, between the end of May and the beginning of June, is an Italian Champonship uphill speed race for vintage cars, while the second, in the fourth weekend of September, is another uphill speed race valid for the Italian and European Championship, but for vintage and modern motorcycles.

In the first fortnight in August, Pieve Santo Stefano turns into the tourist village Pieve Village, with a series of events that mark the days, just like in a holiday village, with music, dancing, games and exhilarating performances.

On the 7th and 8th September takes place the Festa della Madonna dei Lumi – the oldest traditional festival of Pieve – held during the plague epidemic that struck the village in 1631 – as a vote to the Holy Virgin. On these special days, Pieve lights up with spectacular games of light and the Palio dei Lumi takes place. This game is played by the four districts of Pieve and is a sort of re-enactment of a historic competition that was a “challenge to the death.” The four districts dress in costumes and the game is similar to the Florentine Historic Soccer event.