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Villages and castles

Middle Ages and Renaissance in Arezzo and its valleys

Arezzo and its four valleys: from the castles of Casentino, to the strongholds of Val di Chiana, to the fortified villages of Valtiberina. So many fascinating places, where the mystical Middle Ages of the parish churches and the bloody battles between Guelphs and Ghibellines gave way at a certain moment to humanistic thought. Thus began that cultural and philosophical renewal that later marked the Renaissance period and filled the land of Arezzo with new light, bringing the artistic and architectural masterpieces that we can still admire today.

A journey back in time

The medieval castles of Casentino

A land of lush forests, ancient parish churches, fascinating legends, but above all of mighty fortresses perched in a strategic position controlling the main communication routes and the course of the Arno, the Casentino is the ideal place for anyone who cannot resist the fascination of the Middle Ages, which can still be felt everywhere. A valley where time has stood still, just waiting to be admired from the heights of its mysterious castles.

Fortresses and fortified villages

Seen from the heights of the mountains and hills that surround them, the Val di Chiana and Valtiberina look like gardens shaped through the centuries by nature and man. The two valleys include settlements of ancient origins, which in medieval times assumed great strategic importance. Even today, villages and castles that have preserved their charm intact stand out on the plains, like pearls of inestimable value.

Between Guelphs and Ghibellines

Even in the land of Arezzo, the Middle Ages were marked by the clashes between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who fought for a long time for control of the city and the strategic castles scattered throughout the four valleys. The fortified villages suffered sieges, attacks and destruction. Some did not recover and disappeared, others still present themselves today in all their magnificent beauty, ready to recount the characters who crossed their destinies with the manors.

Mentioned in a document dating back to 1014 under the name of Castrum Montis Guisponi, the castle was purchased in 1234 by the municipality of Arezzo.  Its position on top of a hill, controlling the Val di Chiana and Val di Chio, made it a strategic outpost to keep a wide band of territory under control. At the end of the 14th century, it became a fief of the condottiere Giovanni Acuto. Today it is one of the best-preserved castles in Italy.

The first records of the fortress date back to the mid 12th century. In the 13th century it was a fief of the Ubertini, one of the most powerful Arezzo families of the time, but due to its strategic position between the Arezzo Val di Chiana and the Sienese land, the castle was at the centre of continuous disputes for its control between the cities of Arezzo, Siena and Florence.

The Towers of Arezzo

Throughout the Middle Ages towers assumed great military importance, but from the 12th century, with the development of free communes, they also became a status symbol. Many of them continue to characterise the city’s skyline in Arezzo. Some in their original size, others cut off and modified, others raised during the stylistic revival of the 1930s. Discovering the towers of Arezzo means setting off on a unique and exciting journey.

Renaissance towns and villages

The Renaissance left indelible traces in the Arezzo area. Towns were enriched with new architecture, churches and palaces housed pictorial and sculptural masterpieces, great personalities contributed to the social, economic and artistic growth of the territory. Today that precious heritage is available to visitors, who can relive an unrepeatable period of cultural renewal.

The two annunciations by Beato Angelico

Two valleys and two cities far apart but linked by a painter who is considered one of the fathers of the Renaissance. The two Annunciations by Beato Angelico preserved in Cortona and San Giovanni Valdarno are absolute masterpieces that have many things in common, but also many differences. It has not yet been decided which of the two was painted first.

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Other suggested routes

Valdichiana and Etruscans routes

The valley is formed by a fertile plain, born from the reclamation of an ancient marshy area, and by gentle hills that surround it, on which there are splendid towns and ancient villages. Today, these villages, which have remained almost intact, represent a priceless heritage of art, history and beauty.

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.