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Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande (Big Square) is the heart of Arezzo’s historical centre. Unique for its original trapezoidal shape and steeply sloping plane, it is characterised by a harmonious alternation of buildings from various eras providing it with an evocative and scenic appearance. Built around 1200, the square was significantly modified during the 16th century, when it was reduced to its present size to allow Giorgio Vasari to design the Palazzo delle Logge, with its imposing and elegant loggia.

The Romanesque apse of the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta, renovated in the second half of the 19th century, overlooks Piazza Grande. The Fontana (Fountain) of 1603, designed by Gherardo Mechini to complete the city’s new aqueduct, stands in front of it.

Another symbol of the square is the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici, an elegant building with a façade that is partly Gothic and partly Renaissance, surmounted by a bell gable where one of the oldest and rarest astronomical clocks in Europe is still working.

On the other hand, the other two sides of Piazza Grande tell of its medieval origins, with houses embellished with wooden galleries and crenellated towers, which owe part of their appearance to the stylistic revival that led to the neo-medievalisation of the historic centre in the first half of the 20th century.

The most characteristic buildings include the 15th-century Palazzo Cofani-Brizzolari with the 13th-century Torre Faggiolana next to it, named after the condottiere Uguccione della Faggiola, and the 14th-century Palazzo Lappoli with the nearby 13th-century tower.

The statue of Ferdinand III of Lorraine by Stefano Ricci was placed in front of the Loggias in 1822, and moved to the top of Piaggia di Murello in 1932. In its place was placed the Petrone, a reproduction of the infamous column that in the past was used to expose bankrupts and insolvent debtors to public ridicule, as well as serving for posting notices. The base shows the measures used by the square’s hawkers during the market.

Palazzo delle Logge

The Palazzo delle Logge dominates the uppermost side of Piazza Grande, grafting a grandiose Renaissance frame into the heart of the medieval city. Designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1573, commissioned by the Fraternita dei Laici the previous year, the building drastically altered the urban layout of the square, which had already been altered by the ruins of the Palazzo del Comune and the Palazzo del Popolo, dismantled in 1539 to clear the view of the new Medici Fortress.

The construction of the Logge required the resizing of the ancient ‘platea communis’ and the occupation of an entire side with an uninterrupted curtain wall. However, the operation achieved a result of great balance, thanks to the simplicity of the architectural lines and the luminosity of the long portico under which the entrances to the ancient shops with their characteristic espaliers for displaying products opened up. Vasari died in 1574 and the construction was continued under the direction of Alfonso Parigi, ending in 1595. On the far left of the building there was also a theatre.

The palazzo has a massive and sober form, with bright plastered surfaces showing off the contours of the architectural elements in local sandstone, pillars, string-course cornices, arches, and windows with a low arched tympanum. The succession of cross vaults can be admired from under the portico. Note the curious plaque, a copy of the original, placed on a pillar in 1687, which states that the “rabble” were forbidden to walk under the portico.

Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici

The Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici tells much of the history of Arezzo.. Originally founded as  the headquarters of the Arezzo institution that arose in the second half of the XIII century and has been a point of reference in the city’s welfare and cultural spheres ever since, the building was begun in 1375. The façade was entrusted to Baldino di Cino and Niccolò di Francesco, but work stopped in 1377. Between 1395 and 1396, Spinello Aretino frescoed the portal lunette with “The Dead Christ Supported by the Virgin Mary and St John“.

In 1410, Lazzaro di Giovanni di Feo Bracci, a wealthy Aretine merchant, died and made his will in favour of the Fraternita dei Laici. Resources made it possible to resume construction. Bernardo Rossellino was called in to design the second floor in 1433. For the façade, he created the bas-relief of the “Madonna and Child,  among the protomartyrs Lorentino and Pergentino, flanked by two aedicules with the statues of “Saint Donatus” and “Blessed Gregory”. Work continued until 1461. With the second order, concluded by the gallery of Giuliano da Settignano, an extraordinary fusion of the existing Gothic layout with the new Renaissance language was achieved.

In 1549, based on a design by Giorgio Vasari, the bell gable was added, housing Felice Salvatore da Fossato‘s precious astronomical clock from 1552, still working today and an attraction for tourists, who when visiting the palace have the opportunity to enter the gear room. The façade of the extension on the left was executed in the second half of the 17th century.

In 1786, the palace became the seat of the court and since 2010 it has been adapted as Museo di Palazzo di Fraternita(Fraternity Palace Museum), enriched year after year with artistic treasures and themed rooms. On the ground floor is also the Museo dell’Oro (Gold Museum).

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