The Battle of Anghiari took place in 1440 but Anghiari in Italy - a beautiful Tuscan city, near Arezzo, 30 kilometres from the capital - owes its beauty to an even more ancient history. Visiting Anghiari means crossing pieces of history that speak of the Lombards, the Signoria in Florence and Milan, images and glimpses that lead to the famous Anghiari Leonardo da Vinci and the painting that disappeared. Anghiari is like a black and white photo of an extraordinary event: memory and beauty.
All this can be derived already from its name. "Anghiari" in fact is one of the leading names of Lombard origin found in Tuscany, it is derived from "ango", which means hook but also narrowing, to represent the fact that this town on the River Tiber was the communication route and so the military strategic control place between Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia Romagna, not surprisingly rich in castles and fortifications. Anghiari is Lombard and its name is Lombard too since it has the same origin as that of another town that is, however, in the province of Varese on the shores of Lake Maggiore: Angera.
Things to do and what to visit in Anghiari (Arezzo) is just a matter of curiosity. What you can see is the classic Tuscan village, a TCI Orange Flag and one of the most beautiful villages in Italy that should be discovered on foot.
Its historic centre is not large but definitely full of museums and palaces, sights and ancient alleys, arches and stone walls, terraces and views from the ramparts on the battlefield of the famous Battle of Anghiari.
All this can be easily done on foot, and it is fascinating because the medieval town of Anghiari has remained wonderfully intact.
A little more than four hundred metres above sea level, between the plain and the hill and best approached from the eastern side, to admire the imposing 13th century walls, built between 1181 and 1204, there only remains the problem of how to get into Anghiari.
Since medieval times access was through the ancient gate of Sant'Angelo, located right on the eastern side, facing Sansepolcro, and this access has its typical medieval story. The local history tells of when, in 1450, the inhabitants of Sansepolcro stole the "catorcio", namely, the keys to the Sant'Angelo Gate. It was a prank and at the time a real affront, which only served to exacerbate even further the already complicated relations between the citizens of Anghiari and Sansepolcro.
If the rivalry between Anghiari and Sansepolcro continues to this day it is also the fault of a certain Frederigo Nomi who, in 1685, wrote a rhyming poem about this event divided into 15 songs (11,848 verses) titled: "The catorcio of Anghiari" that told in a fun way the disagreements and events of past centuries, with the names and surnames of the families from Sansepolcro and Anghiari who took part in them.
Having said all this, for you to share the catorcio of Sant'Angelo and Nomi’s pranks, you can now get into Anghiari from the other side ... It is not a joke, it's true! And in fact, on the west side of the city there is Piazza Baldaccio, which is the interchange junction between the late 19th century part of the city of Anghiari and its medieval and pedestrian one. From this square you can get to the centre and on the right you will find the uphill walk along Via Trieste, at the bottom you will see Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, boasting 16th century paintings inside.
If you have reached the church you can come out for a short walk uphill and re-enter from above taking time to admire the Clock Tower. It was built between 1234 and 1323, but destroyed in 1502 by Vitellozzo Vitelli, a soldier of fortune of that time and rebuilt a century later, which is also the period when the clock was added.
You have arrived in front of the Praetorian Palace, which is now the City Council in Anghiari, Italy. A 14th century building, with a coat of arms on the front, its Municipal Archives house 13th century scrolls and writings. If you are interested we suggest you go inside and you will be amazed!
Walk down along Vicolo della Piazzola to arrive at the Abbey, a beautiful church built by the Camaldolese monks from 1104, then rebuilt in 1447, with beautiful terraces and characteristic ravines leading to the Borghetto.
In the heart of Anghiari you can now reach the Sant'Angelo Gate and have access to the terraces of the beautiful walls. You will then be the victims of the classic Tuscan dizziness from high exposure to medieval charm, but because, you know, this is never enough, on your way back go inside Taglieschi Palace. Built in the mid-15th century by the merger of several medieval houses and towers, thanks to the donation made by its owners to the State, in the ‘60s it became a museum. The Taglieschi Palace Museum contains pieces of great value and, among these, there are works by Andrea Della Robbia and Jacopo della Quercia, who painted the Madonna of Anghiari in 1420.
What to do in Anghiari: now here comes the fun part! You must have walked past the 15th-century St. Augustine Church down Via Garibaldi, so now you can finally pitch your tent in Mameli Square. You will find in front of you the 16th century Palazzo Marzocco, housing the Museum of the Memories and Landscape of the Land of Anghiari. Here is the place most visited in Anghiari and in this museum there is a section on the Battle of Anghiari history.
The village of Anghiari, Arezzo in the province of Tuscany, Italy is already beautiful in itself but, let's face it, many would snub it had it not been the place of such great fighting: the Battle of Anghiari was in fact a fundamental event in the vicissitudes of Tuscany, an essential basis for the maintenance of its independence for centuries to come. It was on 29 June 1440 and for long time the troops of Filippo Maria Visconti, led by Niccolò Piccinino, had been marching towards the land of Tuscany to battle against the Florentines. The opposing forces gathered in the area of Anghiari, together with another 4,000 Florentines and 4000 papal troops led by Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan known as Scarampi Mezzarota and in particular the 300 cavaliers from the Republic of Venice led by Micheletto Attendolo, who arrived here by order of the Venetian Republic to help the Florentines and especially to counter the troops of Milan (the story has many twists and turns but it didn’t differ much).
The battle was fierce, the League of the Florentines came out victorious but the central episode was just its beginning, when the surprise attack of the troops of Milan failed thanks to the readiness of the Venetians and the above mentioned Micheletto. The troops of Piccinino had enlisted many soldiers of Sansepolcro and we leave you to imagine how the Anghiari inhabitants took it at the end of the battle of Anghiari.
The museum contains weapons, representations and everything else related to the Battle of Anghiari cannot be exempted.
The Anghiari Battle is also linked to a history mystery whose protagonist is a painting of this battle. The work was commissioned to Leonardo da Vinci, which he painted in 1502 in the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The mural painting of Leonardo was covered over fifty years later by Giorgio Vasari, who left on his work a small, peculiar and almost illegible inscription: "look and find". Did Vasari want to give clues on the exact spot where to look for Leonardo's painting? The scholars are wondering about and seeking solutions to save the work of Vasari and also succeed in looking underneath it.
Given the lack of sympathy between Anghiari and Sansepolcro, to many it may seem a solemn weirdness the enormous feat of road engineering designed and built between 1323 and 1329 by Pier Saccone Tarlati. Tarlati was a noble family of Lombard origin that ruled Arezzo and its surroundings from the Pietramala fortress (between Arezzo and Anghiari) until the 14th century.
Pier Saccone built this road, an eight kilometres straight route that still connects Anghiari and Sansepolcro.
Once back in Piazza Baldaccio, go to the main street, Corso Matteotti, look to the east and here is the “Strada Provinciale della Libbia”, the ramrod straight road built by Tarlati, so straight that the more you look at it the more you feel like you can see a Sansepolcro inhabitant saluting at its end.
The surroundings of Anghiari justify a real holiday to spend here. The Arezzo town is in fact part of the larger mountain district of the River Tiber that, on the Tuscan side, includes the towns of Monterchi, perched on the hill, Pieve Santo Stefano, with a quaint old town, Caprese Michelangelo, birthplace of the famous Buonarroti, Badia Tedalda, old village at 700 meters above sea level which takes its name from an ancient Benedictine abbey, the beautiful Sestino, land originally Etruscan subsequently Roman and also strategic place of defence of the Medici towards the belligerent Romagna, and finally Sansepolcro.
Anghiari castles are the real feather in the cap of this town and its surroundings. From Anghiari on the Strada Provinciale della Libbia towards Scheggia, after a few kilometres, turn left and you arrive at the Galbino Anghiari Castle, private property and a residence for tourists.
Castle Sorci is located south of Anghiari towards Monterchi and was inhabited for centuries by the great families of the time: Tarlati (1234-1388), Baldaccio (1388-1441) and Pichi (1443-1650). Today the Anghiari Castle Sorci is a charming inn for tourists, a restaurant but is also home to the Academy of Tagliatella (the influence of Romagna is obviously felt!) and a Study Centre dedicated to "sacred and esoteric architecture, symbolism, mythology and fairy tales, alchemy and paths of initiation, the esoteric art, music and literature." Sorci Castle is also famous for its ghost, we leave it to you to see how you can possibly make friends.
Montauto Anghiari Castle is however the real must for those who love those places where history leaves centuries over the centuries. Located on the ridge between Casentino and the Upper Tiber Valley, you can get there by following the SR71 and exit towards Anghiari (when you get to the Scheggia pass there is a little road that leads to the Castle). The area was an Etruscan settlement, then in 1170 the Montauto family built a virtually impregnable fortress, seven hundred metres above sea level, overlooking the rock, covered by mountains.
Montauto Anghiari Castle was also a favourite place of St. Francis of Assisi, today it is still owned by the Counts of Montauto Barbolani but there is a chance to visit it.
Among the many things to do in Anghiari and events held in the town of Anghiari the 'Checkered Tablecloth' stands out as the most popular. Organized by the association of the same name, it is an outdoor dinner with show which is held during the week of August on the lovely Piazza del Poggiolino. Animated by the Association of Theatre of Anghiari and citizens of Anghiari who help tell the stories and traditions of the area, it is defined by the same theatre company as "Tuscan dinner with a story to tell in four courses."
Anghiari is home to the Free University of Autobiography founded in 1998 and, for the aficionados of cinema - and Tuscan cinema in particular – it has been the location of Leonardo Pieraccioni in 2007 for the making of the film "A beautiful wife".
Italian rock fans remember Anghiari for a song of the late Abruzzo artist Ivan Graziani who included in his 1979 "Agnese dolce Agnese" album the song "The priest of Anghiari," a piece in gothic style that put the finger on the rumours and superstitions of the town.
For those more apprehensive, remember that the “catorcio“ of Anghiari - the keys of Porta Sant'Angelo – have been back in the city for centuries - and we can imagine how - and now are really kept in the Museum of the Battle.
As for the Libbia straight road, the main road between Anghiari and Sansepolcro, the person that maybe you see down there waving at you we are not sure they are from Sansepolcrino, because even today we are not certain they would greet with much positive enthusiasm somebody from Anghiari... It's probably another tourist like you, in fact you can bet on it.
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