Between Art, Faith and History – Arezzo at the time of Ferdinand III and Napoleon


Arezzo is not only synonymous with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The neoclassical period has also left its mark on the city, with examples of art and architecture that lend further beauty to this place.

There are lots of things to see when you look up towards the sky. Take a look at the clouds as you stand in front of Palazzo Albergotti, also called Palazzo delle Statue, and you’ll see the austere architecture of this building and its terracotta statues. This is an admirable example of neoclassical style. Another good example is the Grand Ducal Palace, so called because it served as the residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany when they visited Arezzo.

The large marble statue of Grand Duke Ferdinand III Habsburg-Lorraine was made by the Tuscan sculptor Stefano Ricci and dates back to the twenties. It was commissioned by the citizens of Arezzo as a sign of gratitude to the Grand Duke for connecting Arezzo to Tuscany and the Marche with new roads. Initially the statue was located in Piazza Grande, but ever since 1932 it has dominated the steep incline of Piaggia di Murello street. 

A few steps from here, in Piazza San Domenico you’ll see Palazzo Fossombroni, the birthplace of Vittorio Fossombroni who was a distinguished diplomat and engineer from Arezzo. Fossombroni was a prominent figure in Napoleonic Italy. At the time of Ferdinand III and Napoleon, he was the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy, as well as the engineer responsible for the reclamation of the Valdichiana, commissioned by Ferdinand III. His great marble statue from 1863 was sculpted during the centuries thanks to the work of the great master Pasquale Romanelli. Today Fossombroni’s statue is located in Piazza San Francesco

In the Cathedral of Arezzo, there is a masterpiece of neo-Gothic style with neoclassical features: the Chapel of the Madonna del Conforto. Here you can see the terracotta icon of the miraculous Madonna who saved Arezzo from an earthquake on February 15, 1796. Since that time, Our Lady of Comfort has been considered the protector of the city. The Diocese of Arezzo dedicated this chapel to the Madonna, commissioning the greatest Italian painters and sculptors of the 19th century. In this chapel,  the 15th century Della Robbia works of art are complemented by the 19th century frescoes depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments made by Luigi Ademollo and Luigi Catani. These works of art in the chapel help create an atmosphere full of light and mysticism.

Outside the Cathedral, heading towards Corso Italia street you’ll come to Viva Maria Square. This was the site of an anti-French insurrection that started in Arezzo in 1799 under the banner of the protector, the Madonna del Conforto. The efforts that started here ended up freeing Tuscany and other two regions, Marche and Umbria, from French rule. 

As you go further down Corso Italia street, you’ll find the Santa Maria Assunta Church. This is a splendid Romanesque church and inside there is a 16th century chapel dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. There is also a fresco series by Luigi Ademollo that is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and the stories of the Old Testament.

Colors and hidden places create itineraries that are complete with art, history and faith and reveal the rare face of neoclassical Arezzo.

  • For nature and art lovers
  • For lovers of art and neoclassical architecture
  • For those who love taking a stroll
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Camera to fully capture this experience
  • Notebook and pencils to write when the inspiration comes

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