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Between Tevere and Arno

Valtiberina and Casentino between rivers and forests

Two valleys shaped by the main rivers of central Italy: The Arno and the Tiber. Villages, parish churches and castles with a great history that follow their courses. The Alpe di Catenaia, with its woods, separates the two river basins. The Casentino Forests National Park reminds us that nature and spirituality are an inseparable pair. These are the ingredients that make the Valtiberina and Casentino two contiguous territories to be visited in every season.

An authentic and exciting landscape

The Tevere Valley

Bounded by the Alpe di Catenaia to the west and the Alpe della Luna to the east, the upper Tiber valley has always been a fundamental crossroads connecting Tuscany, Romagna, Marche and Umbria. This characteristic has allowed the Valtiberina to develop cultural, economic and social ties between different geographical areas, absorbing their best. A land of great personalities and unforgettable landscapes, where the major centres are the spearheads of a territory to be discovered from one corner to the next.

Humanism and Renaissance

Piero della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. This trio of wonders, who crossed paths with the upper Tiber valley, is enough to understand the importance of the Valtiberina. The suggestions this territory can give to visitors help to understand the extraordinary renewal of thought and the arts that between the end of the XIV century and the first half of the XVI century placed man at the centre of the world.

The “lost” masterpiece by Leonardo

On 29 June 1440, Anghiari was the scene of a pitched battle between the Florentines and the Milanese. In 1503, Florence commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a huge painting for a wall in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio to commemorate the victory. To execute the work, the Renaissance genius experimented with techniques that did not yield the desired results. Discouraged by the failure, he abandoned the project. The “Battle of Anghiari” still represents one of the greatest and most unsolved mysteries in art history.

The masterpieces of Piero della Francesca in his homeland

Piero della Francesca is considered one of the pivotal artists of the Italian Renaissance, one of the most influential figures of his time, both as a painter and as a mathematician. Today, few works by the artist from Sansepolcro remain. The largest nucleus can be found in the city of Arezzo and the Valtiberina, whose landscapes are often depicted in the masterpieces executed by this absolute genius of art of all times.

The place dearest to St. Francis from where many Franciscan ways depart

On 14 September 1224, St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata on Mount Verna. At the site of the miraculous episode, a sanctuary was built, which is still visited by pilgrims from all over the world. The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Stigmata Chapel house some of the most beautiful Della Robbia terracottas ever made. Sasso Spicco is a mystical place where the future saint loved to take refuge to pray and meditate under a gigantic hanging boulder.

Caprese is the village where one of the greatest Renaissance artists, Michelangelo Buonarroti, was born

Rising as a medieval fortified village, Caprese Michelangelo became a podesteria (town hall) where Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the greatest geniuses of the Renaissance, was born on 6 March 1475. At the time, his father Ludovico, a member of the Florentine patriciate, was mayor of Chiusi and Caprese. Michelangelo’s birthplace and the Church of San Giovanni Battista, where the artist was baptised, are the best known places in an area immersed in nature.

A magical and astonishing place

The Monti Rognosi, in the territory of Anghiari, are distinguished by their particular geological composition: they are in fact made up of ophiolites, from the Greek ophis (snake) and lithos (rock), hence “snake rock”, of magmatic origin, dark green and black in colour. The rocks contain precious minerals with astonishing colours that change according to weather and light conditions, on which a unique vegetation grows, with endemic and specialised species.

The Arno Valley

The Casentino is the first valley of the Arno, the one through which the river of the Tuscans flows from its birth on Mount Falterona to the great bend near Giovi, where according to Dante Alighieri it turns its nose at the inhabitants of Arezzo and heads towards Florence through the Valdarno. Along the way, the Arno passes through a series of towns with a great history, which still today oozes from the stones of the historic centres or from the castles, which like inviolable guardians control the course of the river.

Thousands of years of history

The Casentino is a land of art, nature, spirituality and traditions that time has not managed to erode. Beautifully preserved villages, parish churches and castles from the Middle Ages are set in environmental contexts that change in colour with the passing of the seasons, but their beauty remains unchanged. A land populated by men and women who hand down ancient trades and knowledge, presenting them with a new key that looks to the future through the past.

Nowadays a made-in-Italy icon exported all over the world, the Casentino cloth has a history spanning at least seven centuries. As far back as the 14th century, the inhabitants of Stia paid taxes to Florence using their woollen cloths, obtained by fulling to make them waterproof, gauzing to have a hairy side and napping to create the curls, which once served to make the fabric more resistant to wear and tear, but today are elements that make the cloth unmistakable.

A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture in Casentino, the Pieve di San Pietro a Romena is immersed in a dreamlike environment. It was built in 1152 by the parish priest Alberico on the remains of an earlier church. The polygonal apse is a jubilation of arches, small columns, single, double and triple lancet windows. Inside, sacred and profane intertwine seamlessly in the capitals, amid symbols, human figures, real and mythological animals, biblical quotations and plant motifs.

Centuries-old forests and ancient traditions

Located in the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, included in the territories of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, the National Park of the Casentino Forests, Monte Falterona and Campigna is a paradise for nature lovers that offers endless hiking possibilities in every season. A protected area crossed by more than 600 kilometres of trails for all needs, including breathtaking views, millenary forests, sacred places, traditions and places to be discovered.

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Other suggested routes

From the plains to the mountains, forests, rivers and lakes

Thick green forests and crystal-clear river waters: a varied territory with many parks and nature reserves to visit. Such as the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, the Sasso Simone and Alpe della Luna Reserves on the Apennine ridge, and the river reserves on the Arno. These are protected places that can be accessed in exchange for respect and care for the environment.

Camaldoli, La Verna and St. Francis Ways

The entire land of Arezzo is enveloped in an aura of profound mysticism, which is inextricably linked to the figure of Saint Francis, who found refuge here and spent much of his existence. The most important place is the Sanctuary of La Verna in the Casentino forests, where the community of Benedictine monks of Camaldoli also live, amid solitude and prayer.