Italys’ Best Kept Secret – Anghiari (shhh don’t spread the word)

What can I tell you about Anghiari? 

Firstly, it has a cool back story that includes a great battle that took place on 29th June 1440. This battle is thought to have been depicted by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Hall of the 500 in Florence then painted over by another artist, Giorgio Vasari, who in turn became world famous in his own right. This painting is now considered so important that there are endless debates about how far experts can go to see if Leonardo is behind it. I could go into detail but I honestly couldn’t tell you more than you’d find in a google search (National Geographic have covered ‘The Lost Leonardo’ in great detail), so I will leave it there because there is so much more I want to say. 

It ticks every box for being a truly beautiful, medieval hilltop town in Tuscany, complete with the straightest Roman road you will ever see. CNN agrees with me as it was recently named as one of Europe’s most beautiful towns.  But it’s so much more than that. It’s one of those places that stays in your heart. It’s true that Pierluigi and I are biased when it comes to this town, as 15 years ago we married in the church at the very top of that Roman road. We filled the town with family and friends from England and other parts of Italy. I imagine they still talk in Bar Teatro about the weekend when the English came and drank them dry! We were still living in London then and had no plan to move here but it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

Anghiari has a sense of community that I had never experienced prior to moving here. It packs in a vast number of markets, foodie events, artisan fairs every year as well as the fantastic palio.  There is a steady flow of tourists without it being a major tourist destination, which means that visitors don’t feel as though everything is targeted towards them with the inflated prices found in busier towns.  In fact, most of the events held here are for local people. If tourists, happen to come across one, lucky them!

Anghiari is a member of a movement called ‘Cittaslow’ that was founded in 1999 by a mayor in a small village in Tuscany who wanted recognition for the value of the pace and way of life in small towns. The movement values the importance of balance and quality of life with an emphasis on good local food, celebrating the uniqueness and individuality of each town and local life. When we first moved here, having spent most of my adult life in large cities, it took me quite a while to adapt to a slower pace of life but now it is something I truly value and appreciate. Quality time with family and friends, long relaxed lunches during the week which make the working day so much more pleasant, popping out of the office for a coffee in the sunshine with a friend. 

The older I get the more I appreciate good quality linens, so I am very grateful to have the very best Italy has to offer, quite literally across the road from our office. Anghiari is home to a family run fabrics business called Busatti. The company was founded in 1842 and have been producing stunning Tuscan designed fabrics and homeware ever since. The original weaving looms are beneath the store and private tours are available.  

Every Wednesday evening during the summer the town hosts what can only be described as a massive party. Each area of the town arranges live music events and themes for each week, and this could mean anything from Hawaiian themed beach parties complete with tiki bars and limbo dancing to tango in the main piazza. One year there was an inflatable ‘human table football /foosball’ where teams would get in and hold onto the bars to compete. Summer evenings are hot and long here and with children having a 3 month long summer break from school, Wednesday evenings are popular with people of all ages. 

A few years ago when there was the dreadful earthquake in another part of Italy, Anghiari held a fund raising event to help victims, that encompassed all the elements of various festas and groups in Anghiari into one evening. There was traditional food, songs from the local theatre group and plenty of wine flowing as the local community gathered in support of the cause. We happened to have friends staying at the time including one first timer to the area, she thought it was the most amazing night ever. She wasn’t far off. 

To see photos we share throughout the year in Anghiari, follow us on facebook and instagram https://www.facebook.com/itcasa.it https://www.instagram.com/itcasa.it/

To avoid missing any of the fantastic events in Anghiari check out our guide below.

A rough guide to the yearly events in Anghiari

Springtime (depending on the Easter calendar) – Carnivale – You don’t have to go to Venice and get swamped in crowds of tourists to enjoy carnival in Italy. Anghiari holds a fantastic local carnival with decorated floats and costumes galore.  My all-time favourite was when half the town were dressed as dalmatians with one man dressed up as a truly spectacular Cruella De Vil. 

April/May – Artisan Fair – From homemade jewellery to hand carved furniture. There’s truly something for everyone, so it’s a great place to buy gifts and get ideas for your next home project.

June – July – August – As mentioned earlier, every Wednesday evening during the summer months, Anghiari hosts music events, a night market and general festivities. The shops and bars in each area of the town organise bands and themed nights that make the whole town buzz with entertainment for all ages. 

June 29 – Palio della Vittoria -Commemorating the battle of Anghiari that ticks all of the boxes for a great day out – flag throwing, medieval parades, a ‘no rules’ race up the hill to the main piazza and prosecco. What more do you need in life? It is quite possibly my favourite event of the year so it needs its own blog as I feel it’s crucial to get in all the details. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rCfr9AmAoU

July is for classical music lovers when the town hosts the Anghiari Festival. The Southbank Sinfonia have been coming here from London for over 10 years to perform throughout the town in a week long programme of music. Many of the events are free with some of the larger performances ticketed. The town buzzes with excitement and it’s wonderful to walk through the streets mid-afternoon and hear musicians rehearsing, in apartments and rooms throughout the historic centre. https://www.southbanksinfonia.co.uk/anghiari-festival/

October – Cento gusti dell’appenino – foodie heaven with local, artisan food providers in pop up shops and stalls throughout the town. Tents line the ancient town walls so you can order some pasta or grilled meat and grab a table inside. However, after sampling all the delicious food on offer you may be too full for lunch. There’s everything from aged balsamic vinegars to artisan beers, cheese, cured meats and honey. Divine.

November – Straight after the food fair comes more food with the Festa di San Martino e dei Bringoli. There is a saint involved but it’s mostly about really good pasta and the whole town coming together to eat and enjoy. Bringoli are gorgeous – similar in look to udon noodles and it comes with a choice of sauces (sughi) such as classic meat ragu, mushroom and wild boar ragu plus the welcome addition (by me at least) of a vegetarian option. My kids always head straight to the fire pit for grilled sausages on toasted Tuscan bread. 

24 December – You know how hectic it gets in the build up to Christmas – last minute panic gift buying, the food shopping en masse? Well for me, there is a moment when I let go of any final worries that I have forgotten something and that moment starts at 5pm on Christmas eve when the local Vespa club, all dressed as Santa, with fairy lights on their vespas, parade through the town before arriving in the piazza where they hand out gifts to all the children, while the adults celebrate with prosecco in the bars.   At this point the only thing left to do is join the long queue at the butchers to collect the turkey for Christmas day before heading off for a tradiitional fish supper with the family. 

New Years Eve – Cappo d’Anno – Most celebrations happen in restaurants or house parties but at midnight the town puts on a spectacular firework display for everyone to enjoy. Wherever you decide to celebrate, make sure that lentils are on the menu as they bring good fortune for the coming year, oh, and don’t forget your red underwear – another good luck tradition…

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