You now arrive at Anghiari , a small town which, like a citadel sitting on a spur of rock, dominates the Valtiberina. It was precisely because of this strategic position that a Lombard castle rose here in the 7th century. In 1104, the site was donated to the Camaldolese monks on condition that they found an abbey here. They built the monastery of St Bartholomew and the village grew up around it.
The village was destroyed by the Aretine forces in 1175, but it was immediately reconstructed and you can still see some parts of the walls dating back to 1181-1204. After more than two centuries of domination by the Camaldolese monks, Anghiari was subjected to the rule of Bishop Guido Tarlati di Pietramala in 1322 and entered definitively into the orbit of Arezzo, following the fortunes of this city until 1384, when it was sold to the Florentine Republic. However, the sway of the Tarlati family continued to resist, right up until 1440, when Florence, after defeating the Milanese and their allies in the famous Battle of Anghiari, subjugated the entire district.
Piazza Baldaccio di Anghiari is named after a soldier of fortune who lived in the first half of the 15th century, but it used to be the market place which grew up here outside the castle walls in the 14th century. From this piazza, you can reach the Propositura di Santa Maria delle Grazie, or Church of the city Provost. Although constructed in the 18th century, the building houses valuable art-works from churches and religious societies which were suppressed during the period of the Grand Duchy. The Deposition from the Cross is by the Florentine artist Domenico Puligo from 1515, and the Last Supper was painted in 1531 by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, who also did the Washing of the Feet. The large shrine to Our Lady of Mercy in polychrome glazed terracotta positioned behind the high altar is from the workshop of the Della Robbia family, chiefly from the hand of Andrea.
The 14th-century Palazzo Pretorio, today the Palazzo del Comune, or City Hall, looks onto the Piazza del Popolo. Over the years it has undergone many changes but it retains, on the southern side, the massive bulk of the castle keep. The laneway, Vicolo della Piazzola, leads from the front of the Palazzo to the abbey Badia di San Bartolomeo Apostolo. This is not the church constructed by the Camaldolese monks, together with the monastery, between 1104 and 1105; those buildings around which the township developed not only are no longer in existence, but were located in a different site, in the upper section of the town. Starting from 1359, a new abbey and a new monastery were built on this present site by the Tarlati di Pietramala family, who were at the time ruling over Anghiari. The 14th-century church, which underwent reconstructions during the course of the 15th century, possesses an altar frontal attributed to Santi di Desiderio da Settignano which was, however, restored in the second half of the 16th century, and also a polychrome wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child, attributed to Tino da Camino and dated towards 1317.
Now take the rather lovely route from the abbey to Palazzo Taglieschi, named after the ancient family whose residence it once was. It was built between 1462 and 1490 by the miltary commander Matteo Cane, but since 1975 it has housed the Museo Statale whose works of art range from the Romanesque period to the 18th century. These works, from foundations centred around this part of the Valtiberina, include 15th-century detached frescoes, some polychrome glazed terracotta objects from the workshops of the Della Robbia family and of Benedetto di Santi Buglioni, Our Lady of the Rosary by Jacopo Vignali, a Crucifixion by one of the most important 17th-century Florentine artists, Matteo Rosselli and, above all, an extraordinary wooden Madonna made by Jacopo della Quercia towards 1420. In this same quarter of the town, known as Borghetto and which grew up in the 15th century, there is the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino which was built perhaps towards the end of the 12th century but which was changed a number of times until the 15th century. A Renaissance portal opens into the sandstone façade which goes back to Romanesque times. The 15th-century interior was changed during the 18th century, as can be seen in the stucco work. The quite remarkable stucco decorations in the nave are ascribed to the Milanese plasterers, Francesco and Domenico Rusca, who were working in Arezzo between 1760 and 1770. Of the original furnishings, some coats-of-arms of Anghiari families have been conserved, and also a polychrome terracotta depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds, ascribed to Santi Buglioni.
Heading north towards Caprese Michelangelo, and a just a short distance from Anghiari, you can visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Santuario della Madonna del Carmine al Combabio, which was built here between 1536 and 1552 following a miracle. Inside, you can see the Madonna and Child with the young St John the Baptist, from the first quarter of the 16th century. This is a contemporary copy of the painting which gave origin to the miracle, and about which reference is made in a number of manuscripts in Anghiari.
Heading out of Anghiari, but this time along the Via della Libbia which goes on to Arezzo through the mountain-pass of Scheggia, you will come to the Pieve di Santa Maria a Sovara. Although this church goes back to the 8th-9th centuries, it first appears in documents in 1030 after which, along with the rest of Anghiari, it came into the Camaldolese orbit and was reconstructed. The present day exterior and interior belong to the work done between 1468 and 1480. The same road takes you to the Castello di Montauto which, constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries, became a manorial residence after the 16th century.
Although the architectural complex has been greatly restored, you can still see a very interesting cylindrical tower with mullion windows. In 1224, St Francis of Assisi was a guest here of the Counts Barbolani di Montauto and he presented to Count Alberto the cowl he was wearing when he received the stigmata. This cowl is now kept in the Basilica at La Verna.
To go to Sansepolcro, you now go in the opposite direction from Anghiari and take a long, very straight road. This road was opened between 1323 and 1327 by Bishop Guido Tarlati di Pietramala to make an easy link between these two important centres of the Valtiberina which were under his domain. On 29 June 1440, the famous Battle of Anghiari that marked the subjugation of this part of Tuscany to the Florentine Republic took place on the plain here. Leonardo da Vinci was called to paint a fresco of this historical event, starting from 1503, on the walls of the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.