What to see around Arezzo
For those who have elected it as a destination for a more or less prolonged stay, choosing what to see around Arezzo really represents a difficult moment. This is because the four valleys, which make up its province, are equally rich in history and scenic and
artistic. These are capable of flattering like fascinating sirens the curious tourist – and we, curious we really are.
Between the masterpieces of art of the Valtiberina (and we have already planned an upcoming visit to Piero della Francesca’s frescoes in Sansepolcro), the enchanting landscapes promised by the Valdarno, and the authentic jewels that dot the Valdichiana, we finally allowed ourselves to be enchanted
by the fascinating “valley of the soul,” the Cosentino, where ruined castles and strongholds teem as evidence of its glorious past (Dante and the future St. Francis of Assisi, among others, peregrinated here).
First stop: Bibbiena
Bibbiena is the largest town in the valley, which traces its origins back as far as the Etruscan period. We recommend a pleasant walk through the historic center, which has a characteristic Renaissance layout, and a visit to the church of Ss.
Ippolito and Donato, with some interesting works by local Renaissance artists. If you go there on a Saturday, don’t miss the Coldiretti market in the Station area. We were able to buy some excellent zero-mile agricultural products there at really low prices, with the producers
happy to illustrate what they put on display on their stalls and explaining its virtues and benefits.
Around Arezzo: the beauties of the Casentino
From Bibbiena, we continue to the sanctuary of La Verna, where according to legend the poor man of Assisi, St. Francis, received the stigmata. Whether or not sensitive to religious beliefs, the Sanctuary is worth a visit if only for the extraordinary naturalistic context in which it is set: in fact, the large complex rises in the middle of the Casentino Forests National Park, completely enveloped in dense forest vegetation and perched on rock. The path surrounded by greenery is perfect for all trekking enthusiasts, and is a pleasant change from the city’s reality.
A visit to the complex (free offer) takes approximately a couple of hours. That is unless you intend to take part in some of the liturgical celebrations, which take place there daily. You can then end the day with a brief stop at Chitignano Castle. It is located near the town of the same name: once the residence of the noble Ubertini family (until the suppression of the county at the end of the 18th century), the castle played an enormously important strategic role in the overall economy of the Valley.
History and Culture of the Casentino Forest Park
This area, rich in history, is home to traces of the ancient Etruscans, evidenced by the well-known “Lake of the Idols.” In medieval times, travelers, especially Germans, passed through it on their way to Rome. Unitarian managements safeguarded the forests, passing from feudal lords such as the Guidi,
to the Camaldolese and then to Florentine rule. The Republic and the Signoria wisely managed the territory, with the cooperation of the lay Opera del Duomo of Florence. Despite the vicissitudes of history, the park remained linked to Tuscany.
Great religious and cultural figures were attracted to Casentino. Dante was fascinated by the Acquacheta waterfall, mentioning it in his Inferno. Dino Campana celebrated his experience in the park in the “Orphic Songs.” Many artists, including Mazzuoli, Fedi and Lega, immortalized the forests in their works.
Cultural Heritage and Materials
The area has a rich heritage: villages, cottages, and artifacts. These signs speak of a bygone era, but still valuable and kept alive and in high regard by local governments. Protected areas preserve archaeological, historical, and architectural values, demonstrating the ancient connection between man and nature.
Religion and Nature
The park is home to the Hermitage of Camaldoli, founded by St. Romuald, and the Sanctuary of La Verna, donated to St. Francis. These places demonstrate the harmony possible between man and nature.
The Casentino Forest Park, with its history, culture and spirituality, is an Italian jewel that is definitely worth visiting.
Today one can admire its structures still almost intact and is therefore a true uniqueness among medieval fortifications, mostly demolished or heavily damaged in the centuries to come. As it is privately owned, the castle can be visited by prior phone request (no. 347.6004815; very kind managers and really very helpful in welcoming us and guiding us through the visit).
After the Square of Arms you enter a courtyard from which you can access, thanks to a staircase, the apartments on the noble floors in which the Hall of Arms and the Hall of Judgments are set up. In these rooms one can see the cleaver with which condemned prisoners were beheaded and the noose for hanging.
Also visible is the ancient prison, a gloomy place where one would end up even accused of a crime. Chitignano Castle is a perfect date for history lovers. It will make them relive the distant atmosphere of when other laws and rules were in force and life was very different.
The Castle is in a way a reminder that the past is not only the protagonist of events to be nostalgic about.
About Castles: Poppi
The medieval village of Poppi, set on a hill, is famous for an imposing castle that towers over the old town and much of Casentino.
This Tuscan town, surrounded by ancient walls, boasts extraordinary architectural harmony, earning it the title among the “Beautifulest Villages in Italy.” The Castello dei Conti Guidi, dating back to the 13th century, is the main attraction, housing the Rilliana Library with 25,000 volumes
antiquities, a viewing tower and frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, a pupil of Giotto.
Poppi is also home to the Badia di San Fedele, with significant works of art such as a 13th-century Madonna and Child, and other historic structures such as the “Devils’ Tower,” linked to the legend of Countess Matelda known as “The Warrior”.
Every year, Poppi hosts the “Gusto dei Guidi,” an event dedicated to local food and wine products. From the town, you can admire Casentino landscapes and there is also a golf course. A short distance away, in Ponte a Poppi, there is a large bridge over the Arno River and there are places
historical sites such as the Church of Certomondo. Important is the Dante’s Column, which marks the Campaldino Plain, famous for the Battle of Campaldino in 1289.
Just a few kilometers from Antiche Mura
All this and more-we have not mentioned food and wine culture, for example-is within a half-hour’s drive of Antiche Mura. OurB&B in the center of Arezzo is therefore also a great place to stay for nature lovers and for
all the curious who want to be amazed by the rich history of our Province of Arezzo. Not only things to see in Arezzo, Antiche Mura also awaits you along with Dante, Conti Guidi and the ancient trees of Casentino!
Discover here all our offers for your vacation in Arezzo.
Photo credit: Helena