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Adriano and son James travel the Piero della Francesca Trail through Sansepolcro, Monterchi and Arezzo


including "The Best Picture in the World" in Sansepolcro


November  2007


Link to Map of Tuscany





From Castellina in Chianti, we headed over to the easternmost point of today's part of the Piero della Francesco Trail - Sansepolcro - taking the attractive hill road (not shown on the map) to the north east of Arezzo and coming down past the dramatic medieval hill town of Anghiari (above) onto the upper Tiber plain.    





A beautifully produced little themed Tuscan"travel narrative", including an essay by Aldous Huxley who travelled over the mountains from Urbino to Sansepolcro in a bus in the 1920s to see "the best picture in the world"


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Link to Aldous Huxley's  essay "The Best Picture in the World"






The Piero della Francesca Trail


Revisiting Sansepolcro, Monterchi and Arezzo - November 2007 (This Page)


 An Autumn Sunday in Sansepolcro - October 2003 (with restaurants)


Chronology Entry


Sunset and other photos of  the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino








Piero della Francesca stands in a public garden across the road from his house in Sansepolcro







The Resurrection (Sansepolcro - Pinacotecca Comunale)


"The Best Picture in the World"


Regarded as one of the outstanding paintings of the Renaissance, in particular in the use of distorted perspective to achieve dramatic effect.  The guard with the rippling muscles is Piero himself!  The town was so proud of this work that there is a large viewing window on the opposite (street) wall with a viewing balcony.







Sansepolcro:  San Julian, Pinacotecca Comunale (also thought to be a self portrait of Piero).



Sansepolcro:  San Ludovico da Tolosa (painted c1460) - a favourite image of the dom's.  Pinacotecca Comunale.







Madonna della Misericordia (Sansepolcro - Pinacotecca Communale)

A large (say 2m+ high) early Piero altarpiece







The Piazza Torre di Berta (above), though the large Torre itself was sadly a victim of WWII.  An interesting quirk of fate saved Sansepolcro from more damage of the sort suffered by many towns in front of the advancing British 8th Army. 


The Captain in charge of the artillery battery which had formed up in the foothills to shell the town prior to the Army's advance, had read Aldous Huxley's  essay "The Best Picture in the World" in the 1930s before the war, though he had no idea what the fresco looked like.  After his field gun battery had started firing on the Borgo, he suddenly remembered where he had come across the name "Sansepolcro" before, and, fearful of damaging the greatest picture in the world he ordered the firing to stop - to the puzzlement of the gunners! 


Shortly afterwards a partisan arrived to tell them that there was no need for a bombardment as the occupying German forces had retreated from the town.  The Captain's name was Anthony Clarke (he died in the early 1980s) - and to this day there is a Via A.Clarke in Sansepolcro to commemorate his memory. 




British troops of the 8th Army greeted at the liberation of nearby Arezzo in mid 1944



A stroll through the friendly streets of Sansepolcro for lunch at the Taverna Toscana - then off to the second port of call, nearby .........










Pregnant Madonna (Madonna del Parto)


Monterchi is a 20 minute drive from Sansepolcro.  Piero painted "The Pregnant Madonna" in a church just outside the village, but over the years the church fell into disuse, and ended up in an abbreviated form as a cemetery chapel.   In the latter 1900s the fresco was taken off the church wall for conservation purposes, and redisplayed in the local school hall (where fortuitously an entry fee could also be charged!).  The hall has now been given a thorough makeover as a modern one exhibit centre.  Not that many people know it's there, so it's normally possible to spend quality time with the pregnant lady and her two angel curtain raisers.




Monterchi setting looking east, November 2007 - next stop the snow covered foothills of the Apennine Mountains



We decided to take the flatter more southerly valley road back to the final stop - Arezzo.  It will be a good route when a new dual carriageway is opened (in 2008 - 9 - 10 ?) but it was a pain in late 2007!  Arezzo, apart from being an attractive Tuscan hill town (also the place where modern music notation was invented in c1020) is home to Piero's monumental narrative fresco cycle - The Legend of the True Cross - which is in the apse area of the Franciscan basilica (get tickets next door).











Medieval administrators left their chops behind on the walls of the Palazzo they ruled from for posterity - as usual the dominant one is the 6-balled Medici coat of arms




Piazza Grande, Arezzo - the set for annual jousting contests and also the film "Life is Beautiful"





Arezzo - Detail ("The Exaltation of the True Cross") from the monumental fresco cycle in the Basilica di San Francesco by Piero della Francesca depicting scenes from the Legend of the True Cross







Backing onto the Piazza Grande is the elegant Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Pieve, with a recycled columns' facade and an altarpiece by Piero Lorenzetti.







That was it for our day of Piero and late Autumn Tuscany, except that trying to get out of Arezzo in the dark without violating one of their badly signed bus only roads is almost impossible.  The saving grace is that they have many more camera boxes than cameras.


To do "the full Piero della Francesca Trail" you need to also embrace the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino.  Urbino is further east along the road that goes through the word "MARCHE" in the map below.










Room 7 of the Uffizi Gallery is on the mid right of this photo




If you have a couple of days available (which we did not), the "full trail" starts in Florence and ends at the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino (above) (o reverso).





The small but iconically mega-famous portrait of Federigo, Duke of Urbino (1422 - 1482 (60)), in Room 7 of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.   



The sublime Madonna di Senigallia, with a bit of an iffy supporting cast (including JC)!  Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Palazzo Ducale, Urbino.








This expedition was undertaken from our base in Castellina in Chianti - that's near the "i" of "Chianti".  Sansepolcro and Arezzo are in West Tuscany and are best reached via Siena.  Monterchi (not shown) is just to the south of Sansepolcro.



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