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Arezzo: the history

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Foundation: Arezzo was surely founded by the populations villanoviane, then it suffered the influence by the Etruscans and it grew of importance up to become one of the twelve lacumonies of Etruria. The first archaeological finds of Arretium go back to the end of the 6th century B.C.: rests of surrounded building, rests of the acropolis of S. Cornelio, rests of the necropolis on the Poggio del Sole, the Chimera and the Minerva (bronzes of the 5th and 3rd centuries B.C., Florence Archaeological Museum), Greek pottery (Euphronios' crater, Arezzo Archaeological Museum ) and vases made of bucchero.

Roman epoch and Middle Ages: in 311 B.C. Arezzo was defeated and it suffered the occupation by Rome. In the 3rd century B.C. the city became an etrusco-Roman centre, and it fought with Rome against the Senonine Gauls; then the city became a strategic point for the Roman expansion toward north. During the civil wars, Arezzo supported Marius and Pompei against Silla, but it suffered the punishment of Silla and Caesar who turned it into a colony. During the Augustan period, Arezzo became the third city in Italy for importance. The walls were enlarged, the Amphitheater (2nd century), the theater and the thermae were built. Caius Cilnius Maecenates became minister and adviser to the emperor Octavian, so the town's economic and artistic activity was increased. The vasi corallini (red vases) made in Arezzo were sold in India. During the Middle Ages, despite the collapse of the Roman empire and the Barbarian raids, Arezzo maintained prestige and importance and the Lombard built castles and parish churches. Then the city entered to belong to the Carolingian Empire. During the 10th and 11th centuries, the figure of bishop-count gradually emerged; he lived in the fortified castle of Pionta (Duomo Vecchio). Due to his economic importance and of his prestige, the bishop was directly elected by the emperor.

The Free Commune: after the year 1000 there was the birth of the Free Commune, that limited the power of the ecclesiastical authorities. The presence of a consul in Arezzo is certified from 1098 onwards. Around the year 1200 a new ring of walls was built; the perimeter of the wall reached 2,600 meters. The main radial road took the name of borgo maestro. During the 13th century a lot of public buildings and tower-dwellings were built; the Pieve of S. Maria was completed. At the end of the century the construction of the Cathedral was begun, in Gothic style, and the construction of S. Francesco and S. Domenico churches was begun, too. The life was governed by the Commune (controlled by the Ghibellines) which extended its dominion on a vast territory and there were clashes with the neighbouring Communes. The Ghibellines were defeated at Campaldino (1289) (during the fight the bishop Guglielmino Ubertini died), so Florence and Siena occupied large chunks of Arezzo's territory. The cultural revival included the opening of the Stadium, the flourishing of liberal arts and the work of local poets (Guittone, 1235-1294) and artists (Margaritone d'Arezzo, Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti). Francesco Petrarca was born in Arezzo in 1304.

The Signoria of Tarlatis from Pietramala: Guido Tarlati raised the city from the defeat of Campaldino and started up a new period of development; the town walls were enlarged. Guido Tarlati was succeeded as Lord by his brother Pier Saccone, under whose government the city entered a process of decline; so Arezzo was ceded to Florence. Even if Arezzo regained the independence, it lived a long political crisis and it was ceded to Florence again (1384). The last local artist who worked in the city in the second half of the 14th century was Spinello Aretino (1346-1410). In the 15th century Piero della Francesca was commissioned to paint the frescoes of the choir of S. Francesco church; so the artist produced the cycle of the famous Legend of the True Cross.

The 16th century: in Arezzo the most important artist of the 16th century was Georgio Vasari (1511- 1574). In this period the Frenchman Guillaume de Marcillat (the stained glass windows of the Cathedral and the church of Ss. Annunziata) worked in Arezzo and Bartolomeo Ammannati, too. The Florentine domination was a catastrophe for Arezzo: a new system of fortification was realized, the palazzo del Comune and the Duomo Vecchio were destroyed. The fortress was rebuilt, a lot of noble houses were built; in the upper part of Piazza Grande Vasari's palazzo delle Logge was built.

From the Grand Duchy to the 1861: during the Florentine domination, Arezzo passed from the Gothic style to that Renaissance. During this long period, Arezzo had an economic, social, cultural and demografic decline. Andra Ceselpino (1519-1603) and Francesco Redi (1626- 1698) worked in Arezzo. In 1772, with the communicative reform there was the birth of the modern Commune of Arezzo, from the territorial point of view. In the 19th century Vittorio Fossombroni (1754-1844) reclaimed the Valdichiana. After the unification of Italy (1861) Arezzo regained the administrative independence.

 

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