For all those who have studied Art or History, Anghiari [ahn-GYAH-ree] is a meaningful name. Why? In 1440 the valley at the foot of the burg was the scene of a battle between Florence and Milan. The battle is famous for 3 reasons:
- Legend says that after more than 20 hours of battle there was only one casuality (a man who fell from his horse). But historians think that it’s not true.
- It determined the supremacy of Florence and therefore the interruption of the possession claims by Lombardy
- The victory was so important for the Florentines, that they commissioned to Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo a job in 1503. Each of them had to paint a huge fresco portraying a Florentine victory in the hall of the city council in Palazzo Vecchio (Florence). Michelangelo had to paint the Càscina Battle, while Leonardo the Anghiari battle.
Michelangelo and Leonardo battles
Sadly none of the two frescoes survived to this days. Actually, Michelangelo didn’t even finished the work. He only prepared the cartoon, then he moved to Rome by Pope Julius II invitation. The cartoon was destroyed by rival painter Bartolomeo Bandinelli out of jealousy.
Leonardo however completed its fresco. But he decided to test a new disastrous technique. The colours started to fade soon after and Leonardo left it incomplete. In 1570 Cosimo I de’ Medici asked to Vasari to paint the wall, over the Battaglia di Anghiari. We can see how the battle looked like thanks to Rubens, who visited the Palazzo while Leonardo’s fresco wall still visible and made a copy. Anyway, some art critics think that da Vinci’s work is still there, under some layers of colour.
A lovely burg
Anghiari is much more than a name heard while studying Art History. It is a charming burg, perched on a hill, made of medieval houses and Renaissance palazzi. It houses many antiques shops and furniture restoration workshops, so it can be a must see for antique trade enthusiasts.
The local dish are the “bringoli”, thick handmade spaghetti, seasoned with porcini mushrooms or meat sauce. We devoured those served at the Feudo del Vicario (you will surely spot it during your exploration of the burg)! The waiter was super kind and cheerful, so big plus!
What to see in Anghiari
- The 1200s walls that surround the village
- Piazza Garibaldi, flanked by the climbing main street, via Matteotti, called Stradone. The Stradone is impressive, very steep and completely straight to the plain of Anghiari. You’ll see in the picture I took.
- If you’re curious about local art and crafts tradition you should visit the Museum of Palazzo Taglieschi.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie (XVII), housing some fine artworks.
- Sant’Agostino. It seems that the origin of this church derives from a chapel built by the members of a religious order who came here following Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.
- Palazzo Pretorio, i.e. the Town Hall (XIV century) with the emblems of the former justice administrators.
- The Belltower called Campano (in Italian it would normally be campana, meaning bell, which is feminine, but here the noun is mysteriously masculine).
Anghiari Battle Museum
Il Museo della Battaglia is the place where you can learn more about the histoy of the town and region. There’s an interesting anecdote here. A long time ago, some Sansepolcro citizens stole the so called Catorcio, the lock of one of the city doors, Porta San Martino (now called Porta del Catorcio). Even if they returned it, this episode kick started a rivalry between the two towns. The highlights of the Museum are the model of the battle with its full explanation and a section dedicated to Leonardo’s fresco.
Epic photo fail
Just outside the Battle Museum I noticed a group of tourists (they were from Australia) who were taking group pictures so I stupidly asked them if they needed some help. They said yes and they entrusted me with their camera. I know how to use a camera. Usually. You simply have to press a button. Usually. I don’t know why it didn’t work, I swear. As usual I pressed. Nothing. So I pressed twice. Again, nothing. I made a fool of myself. They looked at me as if I were dumb or something. I don’t know why the camera wouldn’t work normally. If you recognize yourselves in this story: Hi, I was the dumb girl who couldn’t take a photo of you. I’m very sorry!
Before leaving Anghiari, I strongly suggest to climb the street going up right behind the Theatre (under an arch) to enjoy a beautiful panorama of the entire burg. But, a better panorama can be seen a little further, walking along via Gramsci (starting from the theatre in the direction opposite to the burg). At the end of the street you will see a tiny public garden. Cross the street (be careful!). Enter the garden, go right and there it is… wonderful view on Anghiari and its set of walls. Ah! A proposito di mura, speaking of walls, there is a convenient parking lot right under the walls. You can easily reach the centre with a free lift.
It was a true pleasure for us to explore the narrow winding alleys of Anghiari, stopping here and there to take pictures of quaint corners. And it was also romantic to take a stroll after dinner along the walls. I’m very happy to have visited it and to end mycorneroftuscany tour there with that dinner and that view.