Santa Maria della Pieve
from the Corso Italia
Time from Mazzaforte: 60 minutes
Market day: Wednesday
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|In 1553, the "Chimaera" was unearthed just outside the city
walls. Dating from 400 BC, this mythological creature with the
body of a lion and the tail of a serpent was supposedly slain
by the Greek hero, Bellerophon. Once dug up, the original
bronze was quickly hauled off to the Ducal capital, Firenze,
where Cosimo Medici put it on public dispaly in the Palazzo
Vecchio. Today it can be seen in Firenze's Archeological
Museum. There is a copy in Arezzo, not far from the station,
just outside the the Porta San Laurentina, close to where the
original was found.
|The Romanesque apse of S.
Maria della Pieve as seen from
the Piazza Grande.
Today perhaps most famous for its
goldsmiths and jewellers - and, of
course, the Piero della Francesca
frescoes, Arezzo was originally one of the
most important Etruscan towns. After
this moment of glory and prominence,
there followed a somewhat chequered
history as an independent city state.
This ended in 1384 when the town came
under Florentine domination and became
part of the Medicean grand duchy of
Tuscany. From then until the end of the
18th century, when Napoleon's invading
Army seized the city, not a lot
happened. Piero painted his frescoes and
the "chimaera" was unearthed (see
below). This relative inactivity carried
with it the inestimable advantage of
preserving the gently decaying medieval
centre of the city, which was preserved
intact into the 20th century.
During the second world war, the city
was the scene of fierce fighting and every
important building was damaged to a
greater or lesser degree, before the
British 8th army finally secured it on 16th
July 1944. Nearly two weeks after the
French had captured Siena, which had
been evacuated without a fight by the
After the war, extensive restoration was
undertaken and today, the medieval
centre is splendid and well worth a visit.
There is an antiques fair (fiera antiquario)
held in the Piazza Grande and the
surrounding streets over the weekend
that includes the first sunday of every
month. This is a very popular event that
draws large crowds.
Two views of the main street in the city centre, the
Buildings and details in the Piazza
Aside from the monthly fair, the city has
many antique dealers selling a huge range
of interesting items, some portable, some
The basilica of San Francesco contains
Arezzo's most famous treasure, Piero
della Francesca's cycle of frescoes
depicting the legend of the true cross, a
yarn from The Golden Legend by Jacopo
di Varagine - a popular hagiography
written in the 13th century.
Piero's largest work, it was the subject of
an extensive and lengthy restoration in
the 1990s. An absolute must see, the
cycle ends with an annunciation that is
particularly fine, although lacking the
sheer formal perfection of the
annunciation that forms the upper part
(the cusp) of the Polyptych of St.
Anthony, which hangs in the Galleria
Nazionale dell' Umbria in Perugia -
another must see for another day.