A brief history of Arezzo, Tuscany

Arezzo's Chimera
Etruscan Chimera discovered in Arezzo in 1553
Arezzo’s early history was a glorious and prominent one: as Aritim it was one of the 12 major Etruscan cities and as Arretium it grew to be the 3rd largest city in the Roman empire, whose artisan works reached as far as India. The bronze Etruscan Chimera (pictured) was discovered in Arezzo only in 1553.

During the Middle Ages the city retained its prestige and became part of the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, where the ecclesiatic authority and noble powers merged. By 1098, however, Arezzo was considered a Free City and led by a Consul the city built new walls, tower houses and its many churches. Native son and medieval music theorist, Guido of Arezzo invented the system of musical notation in 1025.

Guido di Arezzo
Guido of Arezzo, inventor of musical notation system
A municipality loyal to the Emperor, it was the last Ghibelline bulwark against the Pope, Florence and its French allies. Once defeated in 1289, its vast territories were divided between Siena and Florence. Over the following centuries, with few exceptions, the Aretini were controlled by the Florentines, hence the vast Medici fortress that dominates the city. Yet artists such as Piero della Francesca, Giorgio Vasari and Guglielmo de Marcillat flourished and noble residences and the sweeping Piazza Grande gave shape to the city. Until 1859 Arezzo was subsumed into the Medicean Grand Duchy of Tuscany and only with the unification of Italy in 1861 was the city’s administrative autonomy reconquered. The city itself suffered considerable damage during World War II when the Germans and the British battled in the summer of 1944, yet the city centre surrounding Piazza Grande, which sits on a steep hill above the River Arno floodplain, survived and maintains the medieval appearance visitors enjoy today.

Where to stay near Arezzo