The city of memories Stampa E-mail

by Patrizia Dindelli

In the part of Tuscany that borders with Umbria, Marche and Emilia Romagna, in a valley surrounded by the Appennine mountains, lies the small city of Pieve Santo Stefano, known since 1984 as "Città del Diario", or the city of memories. The small inhabited valley opens out in a southward direction into the rather immense territory of the Tuscan Valtiberina. The landscape of wooded mountains and lush valleys provides the steady flow of tourists a perfect vacation destination for relaxation and enjoying the beauty of nature. As the Tiber (Tevere) descends from the mountains Pieve Santo Stefano is the first city it passes through. Through the past centuries the Tiber played a significant role in shaping the economic development of the village (see the history of Pieve).

To follow along the river is interesting and pleasant. South of the city, the Tiber feeds an artificial lake, the Lago of Montedoglio.
Pieve Santo Stefano is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered. The warm, friendly and traditional hospitality of its inhabitants, culinary specialties unique to the area, the natural beauty of the landscape, are just some of the possibilities. Driving the rural roads one passes pastures filled with a wide variety of animals. For the tourist who wants to really know rural living, it is possible to visit farms, learn products of the traditional resident of this area, and observe ancient trades like the handicraft job of the tombolo. All this makes for a relaxing but informative holiday with walks, enjoying the peace of nature, and visits to tourist and cultural sites which the territory of Pieve Santo Stefano and nearby communities offer in abundance.

Much of the countryside and the city were completely destroyed in August 1944 by the Germans as they withdrew northward from advancing American forces, abandoning what was known as the Gothic Line. Unfortunately, the rapid reconstruction of the post-war period did little to restore the earlier classic architectural style of the ancient village. Though the war destroyed much, there are still remains of the past to be found which show the richness of the past history of the area known as Pieve Santo Stefano. The small community is attracting visitors from all over the world to visit the National Archives of Diaries, which will soon become a true museum dedicated to the practice of daily record keeping or the "Diary".

Located in the 16th century Palazzo Pretorio, the entrance way has a terracotta by Girolamo della Robbia La Samaritana al Pozzo (1510), representing a woman of Samaria at the well. Making their way through the rooms of the palace, visitors are taken back in history through the display of precious manuscripts in the exhibit not just from the local area, but from all over Italy going back 200 or 300 years. Included are note-books from soldiers in the trenches, love letters of the past centuries, locked diaries of children and youth, and stories of migrants. One of the more fascinating of the diaries is “The Sheet” of the peasant Clelia Marchi telling the history of her life, patiently writing with a felt pen after the death of her loved husband Anteo, using the sheets from the bed they had shared together for so many years.

This unique place, created by the journalist and writer Saverio Tutino, offers hospitality to the memory of more than 5000 people who have left traces of their lives in written form, and now their memories are kept alive for the world to share in this National Archives.Though only a small city of 3300 inhabitants, the Archives has become an example of how the past can continue to live, which in some small way is a compensation for the destruction of the war. 
In the public square next to the Palazzo Pretorio is the Collegiata of Santo Stefano (built in 1844) that houses a famous works of terracotta by Andrea della Robbia representing the Assumption of the Virgin (1514 ).

As one enters the city from the south, they will encounter the Church of the Madonna dei Lumi (1590), a temple of the late renaissance style, built in honor of the Virgin whom legend records had granted the citizens of Pieve Santo Stefano many miraculous actions. In the historical center of town it is possible by appointment to visit the interesting Centro della Civiltà Contadina, which illustrates the daily life and work of the peasant people. Here one will see how people literally 'lived' from the land, making their own clothes, raising their own food, building their own homes, and buildings, etc. It is truly worth the effort to visit this museum and take a step back in time.

Outside the center of city, along the Tiber, there is the Temple of the Colledestro, an octagonal shaped temple, the most ancient monument of Pieve Santo Stefano, of pagan origin, from an unknown dating. Inside the Temple, in 1636, during a restoration job, a tablet from the Roman era was found in which was written that the building was dedicated to the God Tiber and the Tiber Nymphs by a certain Publio Sulpicio and his wife Cellina.
The Tiber Valley is home to several famous personages: Piero della Francesca (Sansepolcro, 16 km from Pieve), Alberto Burri (Città di Castello, 30 km from Pieve), Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese Michelangelo, 10 km from Pieve). St. Francis spent different parts of his life in Assisi, and here at Eremo di Cerbaiolo, and at La Verna, whose sanctuary is situated a few minutes from Pieve Santo Stefano. These are only a few examples indicating the riches awaiting tourists choosing to visit this city and the surrounding towns.

Pieve Santo Stefano is rich with cultural and sport associations. A wide variety of events are organized throughout the year. For information regarding these, inquire at the City Hall and Proloco to learn what is happening, when and where. Currently, the most important festival is the Celebration of the Madonna dei Lumi on the 8th of September each year. This festival which features a procession of lights has become in more recent years a contest between different parts of the city, with contestants displaying much originality, attracting visitors from all over the province. 
Before leaving the ”City of the Diary” a visit can be dedicated to its surrounding hamletsrich places of history and suggestions, dipped in a green landscape protected by silence (look at the gallery of images).

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Indice della sezione  

La città del diarioThe city of memoriesStoria di Pieve Santo StefanoNumeri utili e link Galleria fotografica


foto di Luigi Burroni


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