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Inhabitants in 1991 : 91,926

The Municipal territory of Arezzo extends for 384,53 square kilometres, occupying an area prevalently flat with areas of hills and mountains. The city, principle development area in the Firenze-Roma direction, rises from a gently sloping hillside in the centre of a vast valley which constitutes the natural convergence point for the basins of Valdarno di Sopra, of Casentino, of Val di Chiana and of the high Valle del Tevere. Originally probably founded by the Umbri and then an Etruscan centre, it has not made changes to its corporation since the Unification of Italy.

Traces of an extremely ancient wall situated on the hill of Castelsecco hypothesise a primitive Arezzo founded by the Umbro population ; it is certain that it was, in ancient times, on of the most powerful Etruscan Lucomo. Allied with Roma since the end of the IV century B.C., it came under direct Roman dominion in the II century B.C. and thereby became involved in the civil war, suffering damage and destruction at the time of the conflict between Mario and Silla, having chosen, like many other Tuscan municipals, to take sides with the former. Repopulated by a colony of Silla followers, and in the year 60 B.C. by a new colonisation of Romans decorated by the “Triumviri”, Arezzo assumed the aspect of an economically florid Roman city in an Imperial era ; having overcome the persecutions of the IV century, its process of Christianisation must be considered to have been completed during the V century. It was after a grave decadence during the first part of the Mediaeval period and in particular a very long dispute between its diocese and that of Siena for the possession of a number of rural churches (documented for the first time in 714), that the city of Arezzo reappears with a certain vivacity on the historic scene. As this conflict, in which, underneath the religious and patrimonial motives, there were certainly also political motives, lasted until the XII century with interventions by Popes and Emperors, from the IX century the Bishops of Arezzo had to also take on the role of maximum civil authority. Half way through the XI century appeared, for the first time in documents surviving from that time, the title of Count Bishop and a few decades later it was the townsfolk themselves who proposed the first form of communal organisation, partly taking advantage of the bishop’s protection and partly assuming a growing antagonistic behaviour, managing among other things to compel the Bishop to leave his fortified residence on the Pionta Hill (indefinitely in 1203) and to take refuge in the parish church of Santa Maria inside the urban area.

In the meantime, Arezzo increased its district, so that by the end of the first half of the XIII century  it dominated a territory which comprised the Val Tiberina as far as the confines of the Citta di Castello, the lower part of Casentino, the Valdarno as far as Laterina, the Val di Chiana as far as Lucignano, the Cortonese area as far as Trasimeno ; and had, as the other great communities of Tuscany, lively and conflicting internal political affairs with the conflict for the predominance of the municipality between the Ghibellini (headed by the noble group of Ubertini and Tarlati) and the Guelfi (headed by the Bostoli). If, during the first eighty years of the thirteenth century the political changes were more or less synchronised and homogenous with those of Firenze, in 1287 the Guelfi and Ghibellini magnates joined forces and, with the fundamental support of Bishop Guglielmino degli Ubertini, overthrew the Guelfi peoples regime. It was an auspicious occasion for Siena and Firenze, who in 1288 declared war on their rival, trying to conquer it. Having defeated the Sienese at the nearby Parish of Toppo, the Arezzo forces had to surrender to the predominance of the Fiorentini at the battle of Campaldino in 1289. Firenze however was not able to profit from the victory and the city was besieged in vain. After Bishop Guglielmino’s death at Campaldino, and after Ildebrandino was declared Bishop by the Guidi  Counts; Guido Tarlati was elected at the Episcopal Cathedral in 1312, subsequently named Master of the City for life. Several times excommunicated and declared heretic, as Ghibellino, by Pope Giovanni XXII, Bishop Tarlati remained in power until his death (1328), and nominated his brothers Pier Saccone and Tarlato as his successors in the government.

The rivalry with Buoso degli Ubertini, who was in the meantime elected as Bishop of Arezzo, the rebellion of the cities dominated by Arezzo, the war with the Guelfi from Perugia, the lack of friendship by the other great Arezzo families, all determined, in the span of one decade, an intolerable situation for the Tarlati, in so much that Pier Saccone was compelled to recognise the dominance of Firenze over Arezzo in 1337. Having re-acquired its autonomy after the banishment of the Duke d’Atene from Firenze (1343) and repressed various attempts to establish a dominion in the city - like that put into action in 1377 by Bishop Giovanni degli Albergotti, Arezzo was consigned in the end to King Carlo di Durazzo in 1380, who governed it through his representative Jacopo Caracciolo until 1384, when it was occupied by the troops of the French leader Enguerrand de Coucy, who came to Italy to help Luigi d’Angiò. Shortly after Arezzo fell definitively under the power of Firenze, who managed to have de Coucy give the city over to them for the sum of 40,000 gold florins. From that time the city passed a long period of decadence and the short term anti-Fiorentine revolts of 1409, 1502 and 1529 are tangible signs of the unrest of the population who felt ignored and impoverished. They received better attention under the Lorena and had an indubitable advantage from the reclaimed land of the nearby Val di Chiana, realised thanks to the project of a co-citizen Vittorio Fossombroni, so that, in gratitude toward the deposed dynasty (but also for the prevalence of a particularly conservative landlord) after the occupation by the French, the city rebelled ousting the Napoleon garrison (1799), and giving birth to that singular Toscano Sanfedista movement which was called the “Viva Maria” ; after the battle of Marengo, in October 1800 Arezzo was anyway reconquered and plundered. Once again under the grand-ducal government, they took advantage of the fervour of public works which distinguished the last phase of the Lorenese government, with the establishment of the railway and the strengthening and modernisation of the road network ; finally becoming part of the Italian Realm, after having participated with an exclusive sect of citizens in the revival struggles. The development continued during the XIX and XX centuries as is shown by the strong population growth, by the progressive march of the citizens from the town centre to the outskirts with the construction of new districts, and of various industrial and commercial initiatives.

A brusque interruption in this evolution process was caused by the second world war, when, because of the aerial bombardments nearly 60% of the buildings were destroyed, with heavy damages also to the artistic patrimony, and since Arezzo had become the logistic base for the occupying German troops, the population was courageously active in the partisan warfare in the city and the provinces, paying a high price in victims of guerrilla action and German reprisals, the worst of these happening in the hamlet of San Polo on the 14th July 1944 two days before the town was liberated by the Eighth Army. With great fervour they prepared the reconstruction after the war, and already during the 1950’s the development was in full stride, which at this point tended more towards giving new characteristics to the city under urban and economic aspects and also political aspects, in as much as with the definitive decline of tradition the ruling agricultural classes made their choices leaning strongly toward the left.

Over the course of the centuries the city has given birth to a large number of illustrious men : among these Caio Clinio Mecenate, one of the most authoritative persons of Emperor Augusta’s Roma whose generosity towards the artists and the well lettered persons like him, is proverbial ; the politician and man of government Arrigo Testa, feduciary to Federico II ; the poets Cenne da la Chitarra (second half of XIII century) and Guittone (1235-1294) ; the artist and architect Margaritone (second half XIII century) ; the cosmographer Ristoro (XIIII century) ; Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) ; the artist Spinello Aretino (1346-1410) ; the historian and political official Leonardo Bruni (1374-1444) who was secretary of the Florentina republic ; Andrea Cesalpino, philosopher and doctor (1519-1603) ; the writer Pietro Bacci, called L’Aretino (1492-1556) ; Giorgio Vasari, treaty writer, architect and artist (1511-1574) ; Francesco Redi author of Bacco in Toscana (1626-1698) ; the musician Marcantonio Cesti (1623-1669) ; Vittorio Fossombroni, man of letters, statesman and originator of the land draining of Chiana (1754-1844) and finally, those worthy exponents of sixth to eighteenth century education, Gian Francesco Gamurrini and Ubaldo Pasqui.

The city of Arezzo is situated near the Alpe di Poti, in the centre of a wide basin where the Valdarno Superiore, the Casentino, and the Val di Chiana all converge.

It has been transformed in a short period of time from a prevalently agricultural economy to a mainly industrial one, and has also become a world centre for gold craftsmanship.
The first reliable evidence of the existence of a settlement here dates back to the period between the 4th and 5th century BC, when it developed as one of the largest centres of Etruscan civilisation (Arretium). In the Roman period, when it became an important military outpost on the Via Cassia and an ally of Rome, the city expanded southwards and an imposing amphitheatre was built. Traces of this period can still be seen today.

Despite various changes made over the course of time, Arezzo has managed, partly due to its position, to preserve the environmental and architectural character of its most ancient quarter, perched in the highest part of the city; its shape has remained unaltered, circled by a road perimeter running round the old 13th century walls. Looking at the overall evolution of the urban and architectural layout, it's possible to see a fan-shaped expansion dictated by the particular position of the city; there are a series of adjoining layers, with the oldest section at the top, then a second, later area of development which also lies within the 13th century walls, and finally the contemporary expansion which has seen the city spread beyond the many gates of the city wall and into the basin below.
The building of the Autostrada del Sole highway in the 60s, followed by the quadrupling of the Firenze-Rome railway, has meant that Arezzo lies in an advantageous position at the centre of the national transport network.

If you get the opportunity to visit Arezzo between the end of August and the first few days of September, you'll catch one of the most well-known cultural manifestations held in the region, the Giostra del Saracino, the Joust of the Saracen, which takes place in Piazza Grande. Set against the background of the prevalently medieval city centre, the Aretini gather together to side with and support the lancers on horseback.
If you miss this fascinating historical re-evocation, there's the chance for another leap into the (more recent) past at the antique fair. Held on the first weekend of each month, hundreds of stall-holders come from all over Italy and visitors crowd the streets of the ancient city centre.
Much of the city centre is closed to traffic, except for tourist access to the hotels, but moving around on foot shouldn't just be regarded as an administrative imposition. It's an opportunity to experience things that can only be seen from the paved streets, from the doorways of palaces, and from under the overhanging buildings rising in the narrow, uneven alleyways.

Aretine food is typical rustic Tuscan cooking with lots of grilled or spit-roasted meats. Specialities are zuppa di pollo (chicken soup), anguilla all'aretina (eel), pollo grillettato (deep-fried chicken), sedano fritto (fried celery), and carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes), which can all be found in the many restaurants and trattorias of the city.

Places to visit :
Piazza Grande, also called Piazza Vasari. Of unusual composition with facades of different styles : the Palazzo del Tribunale, the Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici and the great Palazzo delle Logge.
Fortress, even though it has been remodelled more than once it remains an interesting example of 16th century military architecture.
Palazzo dei Priori, now the Town Hall, crenellated in 1300 and renewed in 1900. In has conserved the original facade with the ancient coats of arms of the Podestas and Commissioners.
House of Giorgio Vasari, a building acquired by the artist in 1540, where he lived for a short period. In 1911 it became State property housing the Vasariano Museum and Archive.
State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art, considerable collection of paintings, sculpture, majolica and porcelain donated by Arezzo collectors and from the stores of works of art; since 1958 arranged in the ancient Bruni-Ciocchi palace.
National Archeological Museum “Caio Clinio Mecenate”, is situated in the 14th century building which is an ex-monastery of S. Bernardo. Modified in the 1700s for military use by Napoleonic troops it was badly damaged during the second world war. Since 1937 it hosts various archaeological collections relative to the prehistoric age, Etruscan and Roman. In 1973 it became State property.
Church of S. Francesco basilica founded at the end of 1200 and renewed during 1300 in the Gothic style ;changed and renovated at the beginning of the 1900s the internal single nave has a trussed roof, and one can admire numerous paintings by important artist one of which being Piero della Francesca, whose most important works are shown here, having been recently restored.
Parish Church of S. Maria a notable example of Romanesque in Toscana, initiated in the XII century had Gothic additions in the successive century until the contribution of Vasari in the 1500s. The architectural element which is most impressive is without doubt the heavy bell tower (1330) known as the “hundred holes” for the regular structure of the mullioned pairs.
The Cathedral. (S. Pier Maggiore) imposing Gothic structure which took two centuries to complete (XIII-XV) presenting a neogothic facade from the early XIX century which substituted the original which was never completed. The interior with three largely proportioned naves is characterised by the soaring lines of the pillars and one can again see numerous works of art among which a fresco by Piero della Francesca and various works by G. di Marcellat.
S. Domenico Gothic structure from the end of 1200s changed more than once in the course of the centuries. In the luminous single nave there are a number of frescos from the Arezzo and Siena schools.
S.S. Annunziata, or Madonna delle Lacrime Renaissance church, built on top of an pre- exiting building of the 1300s after a miraculous event. Near the church is the ancient boarding school of S. Caterina modified by Vasari.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford

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