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Ponte Buriano

Ponte Buriano is one of the most famous Aretine historical bridges that cross the Arno. It takes its name from an ancient village more distant from the river than today’s hamlet, which has now disappeared. Even of the settlement that developed in the Middle Ages at the two ends of the bridge only a part remained on the right riverbank.

In Etruscan times, in the area, which can be crossed in the summer months with a driveway ford, there used to be a wooden bridge slightly further downstream. In the Roman period a more robust one was built, with masonry pillars on which perhaps a wooden structure continued to run.

From here passed the consular road Cassia Vetus of Hellenistic age, which from Rome reached Arezzo and then extended into Valdarno Superiore, before reaching Fiesole and from the 1st century b.C. the new colony of Florentia, the future Florence.

In medieval times the track continued to be of great importance. In the 12th century there was a bridge that partly reused the Roman one, but in the 13th century it was decided to build a new one. A stone among the holes of the ribs of an arcade date back to 1240, perhaps the year of the beginning of works financed by the Accolti and the Chimenti. The year 1277, also mentioned in the Annali Aretini, is considered the year of completion of the work.

The two families in 1328 also contributed to the erection of the Oratory of S. Francesco, completely rebuilt in the second half of the 17th century again at the expense of the Chimenti, whose coat of arms is placed on the facade. Reconsecration took place in 1695.

A marvel of medieval engineering, Ponte Buriano has come to us with its sandstone cladding and powerful outcrops that almost reach the floor. Over the centuries more than once there have been interventions of reinforcement and restoration, especially of the pylons put to the test by the floods and the “linings”, that is the rafts formed by trunks linked together, which from the 14th century continuously crossed the arches to reach Florence, Pisa and other cities along the Arno path. The timber came from the Casentino forests, and it was run on the river to get wherever it would be needed.

In 1992 Ponte Buriano gained wide attention thanks to the insights of Carlo Starnazzi, who recognized in the setting that is the backdrop to the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, dating to 1503/1504, precisely the Romanesque bridge. The thesis was accepted by some of the greatest Leonardists, such as Carlo Pedretti, director of the Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies in Los Angeles.

Until 1778, a short distance from the crossing, stood the inn where, according to the tradition, on May 1, 1581 stood the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who in his travel journal recalled the beauty of the crossing. A tombstone on the facade of the building, which later changed destination, refers to this episode.

On July 16, 1944 the retreating Germans mined the foundations to blow them up. Fortunately, the project failed thanks to the blitz of an English assault group of the Lothians and Border Horse regiment remembered by a plaque.

In 1977, the 700° anniversary of the opening of the bridge, the writer and doctor Mario Lucherini promoted the first historical re-enactment of the wheat threshing in the province of Arezzo, staged with a steam engine in 1921.

Since 2016 the former elementary school hosts the Museum Leonardo e l’Aretino dedicated to the studies of Professor Starnazzi, a permanent multimedia exhibition designed as a documentation centre that gives continuity to the scholar’s globally recognized research.

In 2019, 500 years after Leonardo’s death, a marble bust of the Renaissance genius was placed a short distance from the riverbanks of the Arno, sculpted by Moreno Fossati, to reiterate the relationship between the Romanesque bridge and the Renaissance genius.

Ponte Buriano is one of the favourite starting points to immerse yourself in the Ponte a Buriano and Penna Nature Reserve.


One kilometer upstream of Ponte Buriano is Cincelli, a small village that develops around the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, a building of medieval origin but remodelled in the early decades of the 20th century in neo-Gothic style on a project by Antonio Bizzelli. The characteristic bell tower dates to 1871 and connotes the skyline of this border area of the municipal territory of Arezzo with that of Capolona.

According to scholars, the name of the place derives from the Latin “centum cellae” and refers to the cooking chambers of the kilns where the famous Arezzo pottery of Roman times was produced. The “Arretina Vasa”, with its characteristic coral red colour, were exported throughout the Roman world and beyond, making Arezzo particularly flourishing between the 1st b.C. and the 1st century a.C.

From the quarries of Cincelli clay of excellent quality was extracted, which allowed to transform the area into the most important vascular production district outside the city. Here some of the best-known potters of the time also had their branches, such as Gaio Cispio, Marco Perennio and Publio Cornelio.

The finds of the past have returned remains of furnaces and tanks useful for decanting clay, deposits of processing waste, as well as molds, work tools typical of potters and stamps that indicated the names of potters.

The objects were produced in series, a revolutionary idea for the time, which led to a sort of forerunner to chain work. This allowed a greater production, accompanied by an indisputable quality of the product. The coral vases of Arezzo were thus, for a long time, the best production of tableware ceramics in circulation.

Not far from Cincelli, two kilometers from Ponte Buriano, Meliciano is another tiny village enchanted on the border of the municipal territory of Arezzo, nestled among rolling hills, cultivated fields and vineyards of Chianti grapes.

According to the scholars, the toponym derives from the Roman predial “Milesius”. Between the 11th and the 13th centuries in the area is documented a completely disappeared castle. The small village has today its most important and remarkable building in Villa Cassi, a set composed of the manor house and other annexed structures largely recovered. The villa has an external oratory dedicated to S. Stefano, dating back to the mid-19th century. The Church of San Michele Arcangelo was built in medieval times, but the current one is a reconstruction completed in 1880.