On the eastern border of the territory of Arezzo and the entire Tuscan region, bringing to life the first Tiber River-outlined bay, sits Pieve Santo Stefano, the “Diary City”.
The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by several archaeological finds. In Roman times, its position along the Tiber was favourable for development and trunks were taken from the woods of Pieve, then called Sulpitia, and used in Rome for the construction of the naval fleet and temples.
Of its past, however, little remains. Almost the whole town was devastated by bombing during World War II, which is why the houses have all been rebuilt more recently. The beauty of the landscape remains unchanged: the nature that surrounds the town, the great food, and the many small and large historic gems in the area such as the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo, along "the paths of Francis", and also the many churches in the hamlets with their various artistic works, including many glazed terracottas from the Della Robbia school.
In medieval times, the Pieve Santo Stefano territory existed under various dominations: first by the Florentines, then by Arezzo nobles the Tarlati, later going on to become the headquarters of a Vicariate in 1545.
It was under Lorenzo the Magnificent that the small city enjoyed its golden age: he loved Pieve Santo Stefano so much that he brought prestigious works to the town by artists such as the Della Robbia (including a beautiful terracotta picture window by Girolamo della Robbia, Jesus and the Samaritan at the well, which you can see inside the Palazzo Comunale), Piero della Francesca and Ghirlandaio. Unfortunately, however, a substantial portion of this inestimable cultural patrimony was submerged in the flood of 1855.
The more recent history of Pieve Santo Stefano is defined largely by two tragic events. The first was the aforementioned flood, in which many of the city’s archival documents and artistic treasures were destroyed. The second was the devastation brought about by the retreating German troops, who mined and destroyed the historic center: the only notable buildings to survive those days were the Palazzo del Comune and the churches. Quickly rebuilt, over the next few decades Pieve Santo Stefano gained a new notoriety for being the “Diary City”. This was perhaps a direct outgrowth of its experience with challenging events over the course of two centuries, and an impulse to strengthen that civic resilience: in 1984, the journalist and writer Saverio Tutino came up with the idea for the Archivio Diaristico Nazionale, which collects thousands of diaries, memorial documents and epistolary texts.
The greatest attraction in the historic center is undoubtedly the Piccolo Museo del Diario, an archive of written diaries and memories that today has more than 10,000 diaries left here by the authors themselves, or by their families, to be safeguarded and to become fascinating discoveries for visitors.
A short distance from the inhabited center, on the left of the Tiber river, you'll find the Tempietto of Santa Maria del Colledestro, with a single arch bridge right near the facade of the octagonal structured sacred building.
It's definitely worth visiting the historic Hermitage of Cerbaiolo, an 8th century Benedictine monastery. In 1216, the Pievani offered it as a gift to San Francesco, making it the property of the Minori Friars. To quote a parish saying, "whoever has seen La Verna without seeing Cerbaiolo, has seen his mother without seeing his son".
Trekking and long walks are some of the best ways to experience the area and to regenerate, in any season. Enjoying the feeling of discovery in the Tuscan Valtiberina is an unforgettable journey. With over 500 km of trails blending history, art and nature, it's always possible to look, listen and imagine something new.
Valtiberina is a land rich in history and spirit, which has always been linked to the figure of St. Francis. Here is the first stage of the Ways of Saint Francis, a pilgrimage that goes from the Sanctuary of La Verna to Assisi.
In September, the Palio dei Lumi takes place, ending the dispute of Calcio in costume: a challenge between the four districts of the land that's very similar to Florentine 'Calcio Storico'.
Every year around mid-September, the Pieve Saverio Tutino Prize is awarded: a literary competition for autobiographical stories.
The mountains and woods of Valtiberina are generous custodians of tasty and delicious products, with highlights including truffles and porcini mushrooms. The valley is a particularly rich area for truffles which, depending on the different species and quality, can be found almost all year round. Truffle hunting is now a traditional activity that's deeply rooted in the territory.
Undoubtedly, the best season for truffles is autumn when the prized white truffle or Tuber Magnatum Pico can be found.