Anghiari Tuscany, Italy for Medieval Culture, Artisans, Festivals

Anghiari Tuscany, in the Valtiberina is a town that I never get bored visiting. Its a magical place full of history both past and living. Famous for the Battle of Anghiari and its Etruscan origins.

But its when I stand at the top of the town looking straight down
Corso Matteotti and into Via della Battaglia, that carves the valley floor in two for as far as the eye can see, it never ceases to amaze me. For the straight road is also testament that the Romans were here and stayed long enough to leave large traces behind.

In some ways Anghiari is a typical Tuscan hill town, but in other ways its very special.

I feel that I am being transported back into another age when I explore the arched narrow streets with its potted geraniums, weekly washing hanging from windows, listening to opera drifting down from an open widow or smelling the wood smoke suspended in the air during the cold winters warming kitchens for families huddled around tables of  steaming bowls of  simple, wholesome soups and good food.

anghiari medival tuscan town Anghiari is delightful Medieval borough surrounded by the rivers Tevere and Arno and is a town that is very much alive with shops and restaurants, and artisan workshops practicing old crafts.

If you want a slice of living history come and visit on a Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. - noon and shop with the locals at the weekly market.

This market has been held once a week in the same place in the
Piazza Baldaccio selling good, clean food since the 13th century. How is that for history?

But is wasn't always so
. Hints of its violent past can be seen with its strong 14th century town walls.
Medieval Anghiari

Straight Roman ruin in Anghiari Left is a picture showing the straight Roman Road that I spoke about earlier. This was taken at the top of the main street Corsa Matteotti .

This is where you can find the official tourism office just further down on the left, just opposite the main town square.

Where you can see an umbrella on the right is an excellent little restaurant with great food at good prices.

It is called
La Nena and takes pride in cooking up only traditional Tuscan dishes using fresh, local produce.
 

The Battle of Anghiari Tuscany

Although the Battle of Anghiari was a battle that lasted less than 24 hours with only one fatality when a soldier fell off his horse, it was a very important win for Anghiari who was then under Florentine rule. When the battle was won by Anghiari and the Florentines who had come to help it meant that Central Italy would remain in the hands of those from Florence rather than in the hands of those from Milan who had made the challenge.

The battle that took place on 29th June, 1440 between the Florentines and the Milanese may well have been forgotten had the Magistrate of Florence not asked Leonardo di Vinci to paint the battle on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Of course that ended up as a lost fresco until evidence of it was found lying under a painting by Vasari.

However the battle was so etched on people's memories that nearly 600 years later that it is still reenacted on June 29th called the
Palio della Vittoria - a festival that has been held in the town every year since 1441.
 
Painting of the Battle of Anghiari by Paul Rubens
The Battle of Anghiari painted by Paul Rubens

Anghiari is a Tuscan Town of Craftsmen

Homemade baskets hanging on a door in Anghiari I think one of the reasons why I so love visiting Anghiari is that winding through the paved alleyways you always come across something unexpected. It is a place where you can see women sitting in open doorways still making lace, as they have been for centuries.

You don't have to walk too far along hidden alleys and small squares to see antique workshops and furniture restoration businesses.

There are basket makers and coopers, and quality linens that are made by the local firm
Busatti that have their linens exported all over the world. If you visit Busatti they will take you on a tour of their factory downstairs. It is on Via Mazzini.

There are also many other artisans in the area who are involved in the production of fabrics, the manufacture of ceramics and also precious metals. From this began the
Centro Tecnologico del Restauro , an association whose members have many years of skill and experience in woodworking, joinery, inlaid marquetry and parquetry, gilding and lacquering.

Now Anghiari has become a famous center for furniture restoration, thanks to its
Istituto Statale d'Arte which represents a fundamental reference point in the social-cultural context of the town, together with the flourishing antique trade. This is a secondary school that offers 5 years of education specializing in 5 disciplines of furniture making, restoration, inlay, carving and gilding furniture, paintings and relgious icons and relics.
 

Mostra Mercato dell'Artigianato the Arts and Crafts Festival

The annual Mostra dell'Artigianato della Valtiberina Toscana is an arts and crafts festival that is looked forward to by many in the valley. From 28th April to the 1st May more than 50 small shops, basements and storerooms open their doors out on to the streets and the local craftsmen display and sell their work to the public.

It is an exciting time to see just what gets made behind those closed doors during other times of the year. Basket makers, jewelers, leather makers, wood sculptors and carpenters, potters and wrought iron workers are all here making this town one of the most concentrations of talent I have seen.

The town of Anghiari Tuscany
The Medieval Town of Anghiari

Art, Architecture and History in Anghiari

Visit their museums, and churches with important paintings and sculptures, and above all enjoy the splendid and breathtaking views all year round from the castle ramparts.

Many of its buildings, churches and museums contain masterpieces of paintings and sculptures. The
Church of Badia and the Church of Sant' Agostino are full of Medieval charm, having been built at the end of the 12th century. While the 18th century Church of S. Maria delle Grazie contains a glazed terracotta altarpiece of Andrea della Robbia and a number of 16th century works of art.

Take a trip down the hill of the main street,
Corsa Matteotti and visit the Chiesa di Santo Stefano. It is one of the oldest churches in the area, dating back to the 7th century. Haver the walk down is easy, it's the walk back that you will have to worry about!

Other elements of the town's skyline are the Castle tower,  and the clock tower. The
Palazzo Pretorio used to be a palace, a prison and is now the town hall . Palazzo Taglieschi , home of the Museo Statale , and the Palazzo del Marzocco , home of the Battle Museum , also also of particular note.
 
The town hall of Anghiari called Palazzo Pretoria
Palazzo Pretorio built in the 14th century is now the Town Hall

Also worth enjoying is the
Via di Ronda, an ancient roadway going around the town's walls, and the views over the valley which open out leading into Piazza Baldaccio .

Anghiari landscape showing the rest of the town
Views from the castle walls

Last but not least, is the
Teatro dei Ricomposti and the Capella dei Caduti which is the War Memorial Chapel which make up part of the eighteenth century group of buildings constructed by the Corsi family.
 
Anghiari Medieval center
The Medieval part of the town

Anghiari Museums

The very architecture of Anghiari makes the whole town a living museum where you can so easily image how life was like in this town in ages past. However, there are some excellent museums in Anghiari that shouldn't be missed.

The
Sistema Museale di Anghiari is an innovative concept where they have tried to establish a two-way relationship between what is found inside the museums and their external context. Your first stop would be at the Palazzo della Battaglia , - the Battle Museum which is where you can find all the informational services regarding this town.

The same building also houses the
Museum of Memories and Landscapes of Anghiari which shows the landscape's evolution from the creation of the Vatiberina's valley till today, and the relationship between history and the river through human toil and factory life. Naturally particular focus is on the Battle of Anghiari as a historical, political and artistic event.

The mainstay of the
Sistema Museale is the Museo Statale di Palazzo Taglieschi with its 20 rooms offering the visitors an exceptional collection of paintings, wooden sculptures, glazed terracotta and domestic utensils which are all displayed in the haunting context of a 15th century building.

Among the many works of art, of particular note is the wooden Madonna by Jacopo dell Quercia (15th century), a polychrome terracotta plaque attributed to Andrea della Robbia and a table organ from the 16th century which is in perfect working order.

In the deconcecrated chapel of the church of
Corpus Domini , we have the Museo della Miscordia with its collection of carriage-beds, stretchers, early ambulances and documents which tell the story of the work of the Confraternita della Misericordia in the area, a testimony to a tradition of voluntary activity which has its roots deep in the distant past.

Anghiari Festivals in Italy

Drummers during the Palio in Anghiari Anghiari is a good time to visit at any time of year as there are fairs and exhibitions throughout, and open-air entertainment which aims at preserving and continuing their historical and folk traditions.

March - April, Theater Season at the Teatro dei Ricomposti.
25 April - 1 May,  Mostra-Mercato dell'Artigianato della Valtiberina Toscana. Here shops, workshops and stands in the old town represent the vocation of the Anghiarese artisans, being one of the most looked forward dates in the towns annual calendar.


Drummers during the Palio della Vittoria
 
On the 29 June the Palio della Vittoria takes place. Towns folk get dressed up in Medieval clothing dating back to the 15th century when the Battle of Anghiari was won, and parade through the town, beating drums in celebration.

Sunset signals the hour of the race, an epic challenge between runners to run from the bottom of the main street to the top, each representing their own section of the town. The prize is the Palio or banner fiercely contested by those taking part.

However, it is a festival held over several days from visiting the battle grounds to a Medieval banquet held in Via Mazzini to craft fairs leading up to the main event.

July - August, music lovers flock to the town during this time. Music, performances and theater take place within the town walls. There are a number of events that take place, including international musicians and singers, set within the backdrop of the little streets and squares of the old town.

The week of Ferragosto (15th August). Tovaglia a Quadri . A Tuscan Dinner surrounded by a play in four courses. This even has claimed an important place in Tuscany's summer theatrical season. The play is set in the natural stage of the "Poggiolino" square, in the heart of the old town. Local people tell their stories using real memories, local myths, actual facts and pure fantasy.

Late October - Early November , I Centogusti dell'Appennino . A gastronomic fair based on the agriturismo and the food and wine makers of the region. The Fair, laid in the little shops of the old town, offers visitors and people working in the sector the opportunity of meeting and understanding more about the world of rural tourism and the typical tastes of the area, with the opportunity to try and buy local traditional products.

November , Festa dei Bringoli and San Martino . This is a traditional festival with brustichino, sausages, chestnuts and bringoli, the local specialty of thick spaghettil made with flour and water with either a mushroom or meat sauce. This festival is held in the Galleria delle Logge .
In May every 5 years, 2010, 2015 , .... for the whole month of May the members of the Societa have to meet in the main square at exactly 6 o'clock in the morning, with one precise purpose - to punish anyone who's late. After a short trial latecomers are put into a cart and pulled through the streets where everyone throws everything they can think of at him until he is completely covered. By the 1800, however, when an association was formed, it had become the town's joke on sleepyheads.
 

Slow Food Italy Anghiari

Because the  town is a border town, it expresses a wide range of flavors and traditions in food.

All the restaurants offer the opportunity to taste local dishes such as chicken liver pate on toast, toasted bread with Tuscan olive oil, salamis, cold meats, homemade pasta, stuffed or grilled meat, a variety of game including wild boar, field and forest mushrooms, truffles when in season and local cakes.

The area is known for its Pecorino cheese made from unpasteurised sheep's milk called
Abbucciato .

If you are in the Valtiberina countryside you won't be able to miss the 14 ton
Chianina cattle ; handsome white cows that provide meat of excellent quality with very little fat.Make sure that you get the real deal at any of the butchers. The meat has a mark 5R to show that it is indeed meat from the Chianina.
 

Pork Ribs and Polenta (Serves 6)

Here is a traditional pork recipe that is made in homes in Anghiari during the cold winter months.

Ingredients:

400-500 g Polenta
1 kg of Spare Ribs and Pork Chops
6 sausages (Tuscan fennel seed sausages)
800 g Tomatoes
Tomato Paste to taste
Onion
Celery
Carrot
100 g Bacon fat
1/2 cup Dry white wine
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese to taste.

Method:

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Turn down to a low heat and slowly pour in the polenta, stir regularly wiht a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. Continue cooking for 40 minutes, stirring regularly making sure that it doesn't burn. If the polenta thickens too much you can add back a little boiling water. Then remove from heat and place a lid on the pot to keep the heat in.

In the meatime heat the bacon fat in a frying pan. Add finely chopped onion, celery, and carrots. Brown the ribs and once browned add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the wine. Once the wine has evaporated add the tomatoes and boiling water to just cover the meat. Continue cooking over a medium heat.

Halfway through the cooking process add the polenta, and the sausages.  Serve and grate some Parmesan or Pecorino cheese over the top.

 

Shopping in Anghiari:

With all the artisans in the town there is certainly plenty to buy. However, like the rest of Italy they like their siesta.

Shops are usually closed from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. and reopen only to close again at 7:30 p.m. In the winter some shops may close earlier. On Sunday most shops are closed altogether.
Anghiari, Tuscany, Italy

Walking Tours Anghiari:

The Tourist Office will be able to tell you more about the guided walking tours that you can take of the town. The streets are warren-like, and although you can pick up a map and do it yourself, having someone fill you in on the history of what you are looking at gives you a far better understanding of the town.

You can also organize these tours through the Palazzo Marzocco. The tour also includes some of the churches that date back to 1100 A.D. The price is a set hourly rate so the more you have in the group the better. Make sure that you ask for a tour guide who speaks good English!

However, if you don't go on the guided tour there are 3 places that you need to see while you are there:
  1. Badia di San Bartolomeo, an octagonal Romanesque church
  2. The Medieval church of Sant' Agostino
  3. The Palazzo Pretorio - the Town Hall
There is another tour that you can take and that is the Istituto Statale d'Arte. Again this tour can be organized through the Tourist Office. Here the tour will be in Italian, so you will need to have someone who can translate for you.
 

Getting to Anghiari

As you can see Anghiari is just west of Sansepolcro and east of Arezzo. Arezzo is linked to Florence and an easy drive down for the day if you were wanting to make a day trip. From Florence it is a comfortable 2 hour drive.
 

From Florence to Anghiari by car:

Take the A1 and travel towards Rome.  After about 1 hour take the exit for Arezzo. After exiting for Arezzo follow the signs for Sansepolcro.  At the roundabout take the second exit still following the signs for Sansepolcro.

36 km from the Arezzo exit watch for the sign to Anghiari. Turn left and travel towards Campo alla Fiera for 3 km.  You will come to the top end of the town with Bar Cocomero on the right and a Eurospar on the left.  Here is a large parking area. Park here and walk back down the road until you come to the main street of the town. Turn into this street and you are there.
 

Getting to Anghiari by Air:

There are no international airports close by. The nearest airport is in Florence, followed by the airports in Rome 3 hours away and Milan 4.5 hours away. If you don't have a rental car then you would be better off to take the train to Arezzo. From Arezzo to Anghiari by car is about a 40 minute drive.
 

Day Trips from Anghiari

Nature Reserves

Ringed by country churches and pievi and castles, Anghiari emerges from the wonderful scenery of the Valtiberina, or Tiber Valley, a natural amphitheater rich in history and incomparable beautiful countryside. Nature reserves can be visited on foot, horseback or bicycle using a wide network of well-posted pathways. The nature reserves of Monti Rognosi , Golena del Tevere , and the beech woods and meadows of the Alpe di Catenaia which look directly over the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi are all  recommended.
 

Lovely Churches to Visit

Day trips from Anghiari can be taken to the nearby churches of Santo Stefano built in the 7th century, S. Maria di Corsano , Pieve di Savara , (8th-9th century), Pieve di Micciano , the Santuario della Madonna del Carmine (14th century) and the Convento di Montauto .
 
Pieve di Santa Maria a Micciano, Anghiari, Italy

Castles to Visit

There are many castles defending the territory along the principle route which connected Arezzo to the Adriatic. Some worth visiting are the Castello di Montauto , the Castello di Glabino , Barbolana , a very unusual example of a fortified villa, Toppole , a Longobard fort, the Castello di Pianettole and finally the Castello di Sorci , which was the home of the mercenary captain Baldaccio d'Anghiari.
 

Weather Anghiari

Here is a detailed weather forecast for your trip to Anghiari.
 

Looking for Hotels in Anghiari?

Hotels Anghiari

There are
26 hotels in Anghiari for you to choose from at Booking.com . This  is one of the largest online booking services available, with nearly 9000 hotels and villas for you to stay in during your Italian holidays. It also has the added advantage of speaking your language.

Booking.com is in 23 different languages!
 

Anghiari Tourist Office

Corso Matteotti (Main street opposite the Piazza Baldaccio
Phone: 0575 749279
Fax: 0575 749279
email:
[email protected]
website:
http://www.anghiari.it/new-english/

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