I was told I am one of the most beautiful squares in Italy and I am flattered. When I look at myself in the mirror I see all the views of which I am proud, the Middle Age crenellated towers, the loggia made by Giorgio Vasari, the Palace of Fraternita dei Laici and the apse of Pieve di Santa Maria that looks out here from Corso Italia.
Over the centuries I have seen people pass by my square. Merchants, soldiers, artists, travelers and directors, all attracted by my so popular charm and at the same time my elegance. First of all I am Piazza Grande in Arezzo, mother of the Aretinians who are wrapped here in my embrace, season after season, between the Antique Fair, the Christmas Market, parties, the Saracino Joust, Oscar movie such as Life is Beautiful, concerts and summer events, all while sipping a good Chianti wine glass with his eyes turned to my enchanted way.
From my birth in the twelve hundreds….
They tell me that walking in Piazza Grande is like taking a dip into the past and returning to relive ancient times. Yes, my roots are born in a distant time. I was born in the late Middle Ages, at the end of XII century when for Arezzo I was the platea communis, the square of commercial meetings and political conflicts.
Even then along my outline there were important buildings, like the Palazzo Vescovile in via Seteria or the Pieve of Santa Maria Assunta with the apse in macigno stone and the belltower called “one hundred holes,” built in 1330. The Pieve of Arezzo is a jewel of the Romanic architecture with its different columns, a unique expression of the great masters of the time. The most precious of treasures that guards it is the polyptych with the Virgin with child and Saints John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Donato and Matthew commissioned to Pietro Lorenzetti in 1320.
In the thirteenth century there were built around me the Palazzo del Comune (1232) and the Palazzo del Popolo (1278), then they were destroyed by Medici in 1539. The two buildings, in fact, obstructed the view of the Medicean Fortress that was still under construction and that today stands out mightily above the Prato di Arezzo. Pity the Medici that tried to subject Arezzo to their will over and over again, but they never succeeded. But this is another story.
…To the flowering in the sixteenth century
In the sixteenth century the Aretinian genius Giorgio Vasari gave me a building that makes my outline iconic, the Palazzo delle Logge. Unfortunately, Vasari, the greatest architect, historiographer and painter of Arezzo died in 1537, only a year after receiving the assignment by the Fraternita in July 1572 and starting work.
The work was completed by Alfonso Parigi. He changed the outline of my piazzai following the design of Vasari adding the famous Logge di Piazza Grande, an elegant Tuscanian late Renaissance example that slips and hugs my Middle Age soul. I have always hosted under the Logge Vasari the workshops of master craftsmen and once a month the Antique Fair of Arezzo, the more beautiful and ancient of Italy, with its stalls and treasures of the ancient time.
The Palazzo della Fraternita, a timeless masterpiece…
The Palazzo della Fraternita combines elements ranging from the fourteenth to sixteenth century with a harmonic and charming fusion of styles. It lays on the North West side of my outline and it is the headquarters of the Fraternita dei Laici, founded in the second half of the XIII century for taking care of Aretinians with cultural , social and welfare activities and projects.
The Palazzo della Fraternita was started in 1537 and the facade was entrusted to Baldino di Cino and Niccolò di Francesco, but in 1337 the works stopped at the first frame above the arches because resources were lacking. Between 1395 and 1396 Spinello Aretino frescoed the archway with Christ in Mercy between Sorrowful Mary and Saint John.
The works restarted in 1410 thanks to the inheritance of the rich Aretinian merchant Giovanni di Feo Bracci, who bequeathed all his possessions to the Fraternita. In 1433 Bernardo Rossellino designed the second plan and completed the bas relief of the merciful Virgin with child between the protomartyrs Lorentino e Piergentino, which are beside two aedicules with the statues of Saint Donato and blessed Gregorio.
I am wrapped in a crown of Middle-Age crenellated towers. On the Southern hand corner, next to the fifteenth-century Palazzo Cofani-Brizzolari, stands against all the others the thirteenth-century Torre Faggiolana, from the name of the Ghibelline warlord Uguccione della Faggiola, authority of Arezzo in the thirteenth century.
During the Fascist era the Torre Faggiolana was restored and crenwelled. In 1932 following this stylistic revival ruffle was also added to the structure of the pit. During the fourteenth-century Palazzo Lappoli was restored, while the close thirteenth-century tower was raised and crenwelled.
Since you are already here, before going up to Piaggia San Martino I invite you to stop in the corner that makes me an Oscar square. Stop in front of the house made famous by the scene of “ Maria,Throws the key” of the Oscar movie “ Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni. Close your eyes to live again the simple and great joy of that descent by bike with Roberto Benigni in the role of Guido with his wife Dora and the little Giosuè tight in a single hug.
Before saying goodbye I invite you to stay another moment to enjoy Arezzo at the sunset light. There is no season in which my welcoming beauty does not invite you to stay, even for an instant, to look around and live a timeless beauty. In Spring and Summer time the fresh air, that climbs down from the Prato di Arezzo, smells of linden. Swallows trim the sky with their strange flights. In Winter time sunlight illuminates everything with a strong blue sky.
It is a night to celebrate tasting the flavors of my territory sitting at a table in the square. It is a night of love for strolling by holding hands and looking at the world with new eyes, facing the terrace of Palazzo della Fraternita, where I will know how to show myself to you with only one glimpse.
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