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  7. Civitella in Val di Chiana

Civitella in Val di Chiana

Placed in the northern part of Chiana valley, on the border with Ambra and Arno valleys, Civitella in Val di Chiana lies on a high hill shaped like a saddle from which it overlooks its wide municipality. Populated even in Etruscan and Roman times, Civitella became a Langobard fort and, in the 11th century, a strategic fief in the hands of the bishops of Arezzo. During those times the town was called “Civitella del Vescovo” (Hamlet of the Bishop). Guglielmino degli Ubertini, during the second half of the 13th century, built new fortifications. In 1311, the treaty of peace between Guelphs and Ghibellines was signed in Civitella, as the emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg wanted, and this gave a time of peace to the cities. After the deeds of the bishop Guido Tarlati, which were the height of the castle, the place still was an important commercial crossroads between the territories of Arezzo, Florence and Siena. From the second half of the 1300s, under the sphere of influence of Florence, it became a municipality. During the 16th century, the Medicis modernised the city walls, adding the bulwarks. Between 1630 and 1635, to honour Mary, mother of Jesus, after avoiding the plague, the inhabitants of Civitella built the oratory of Our Lady of Mercatale (oratorio della Madonna di Mercatale) alongside the “road of merchants”. In 1774 some smaller hamlets were united, forming the current municipality. During the 2nd World War, Civitella was almost completely destroyed by a bombing by the Allies and then it became the place where one of the most macabre Nazi massacres in Italy took place, on the 29th of June 1944. Starting from Lazzari square, it is possible to visit the historical centre, rebuilt after the war. In the square there are the mediaeval water tank with its octagonal base and Ninci palace, composed of different buildings united during the 18th century. Still in the same square, there are the oratory of the Brotherhood (Oratorio della Confraternita) built in the 15th century and the church of st. Mary, documented since the 11th century as a Benedictine priorate that was rebuilt in a Romanesque architectural style in 1252.

This last church was destroyed in 1944 but then it was reconstructed. Right next to the religious building there is a memorial of the Nazi massacre in which 178 people were slaughtered. The memorial is composed by a bronze bas relief called “The massacre of innocents” (La strage degli innocenti) by Mario Moschi and a marble slab with the poem “Mercy of June 1944” (Pietà del giugno 1944) by Franco Antonicelli as an inscription. In Martiri di Civitella street there are the Praetorian palace, with an archway with five arcs and the coat of arms of the Florentine podestà (city magistrates) on its façade, and the Old Town Hall that nowadays contains the Municipal Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Room of Memory, dedicated to the Nazi massacre. The municipal territory contains many localities rich in history: Ciggiano is a fortified hamlet from the 11th century and its church of st. Biagio became a parish church in 1465 and keeps “Saint Mary Magdalene”, a sculpture from the early 1500s attributed to Andrea Sansovino. Out of town there is the church of st. Mary, built in 1635 along the roads of transhumance, also has a covered walkway for the shepherds. The church of st. Pietro is from the Middle Ages but its peculiar architecture derives from a fusion of styles from 1836.

The city walls of Oliveto, still visible in some parts, are from the 14th century and the church of st. Andrea in the centre of the town is from the 1300s but was restored in a neo mediaeval style in 1933. On the hillside of Civitella also Tuori, Dorna, Cornia and Gaenne are worth a visit whereas on the plains there are Spoiano, Albergo and Viciomaggio, all three built in Roman times. Badia al Pino derives its name from an abbey of the 10th century and, since 1917, it is the capital of the municipality. In Pieve al Toppo, the battle between Arezzo and Siena in 1288, that was reported by Dante Alighieri, was fought and in Tegoleto there is a mediaeval tower. On the border with Valdarno there are also the hamlets Pieve a Maiano and Montarfoni.