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Historic hotel at Arezzo | Badia di Campoleone

The Hotel-Relais Badia di Campoleone at Arezzo is located in an area where the River Arno once flowed. As it retreated, a strip of land was left behind on either side where two castles were built, Castelluccio and Castellaccio, perhaps during the period of Lombard domination. Due to its impregnable position, this area came to be called campus leonis, or "the field of the lion", later known as "Campoleone".

According to legend, the Abbey of Campoleone was founded when Count Ugo, Marquis of Tuscany, repented his life of licentious debauchery after a dream in which he realised he was destined for eternal damnation. Out of terror, he sought redemption through penitence. He confessed his sins to the Cardinal Archbishop of Ravenna and the Bishop of Florence, and decided to devote himself to the foundation and construction of a number of abbeys.

Records from the time relate that Ugo, Marquis of Tuscany, was responsible for founding the abbeys of Buonsollazzo, Settimo of Florence, Città di Castello, Verruca near Lucca, Trasimeno and Campoleone.

In addition to the legend there are also historical accounts and motives involving strategy and power. Campoleone Abbey was begun by Ugo in 972 in order to organise imperial assets in the lands around the city of Arezzo. By 988 Campoleone was already an abbey, whereas the imperial privilege relating to its foundation was awarded later, on 13 December 997. After its foundation, Bishop Elemperto entrusted the abbey to a group of Benedictine monks who had fled from Montecassino. They dedicated the monastery to St. Gennaro (Januarius), bishop of Benevento, the most popular saint in Campania, and perhaps brought a relic of the saint with them to Campoleone.

Count Ugo endowed Campoleone with as many as 6 castles, 7 villas, 24 courts, and a number of watermills on the Arno and the Tiber. Its church, dedicated to St. Saturninus, held notable treasures and works of art. The abbey rapidly became rich and important, one of the most notable feudal powers in Tuscany. Historical sources report that the castle from the Lombard period – located where "Chiuso" is today and now the swimming pool garden – was very close to the Abbey, which is now Hotel Badia di Campoleone, a few kilometres from Arezzo.

So great was the power of Frederick I (Barbarossa) that the privileges and property of the Abbey were recognised and confirmed by him in 1161.

At the end of 1100 a period of decline began, marked by the destruction of the monastery of St. Flora, the stronghold of monastic feudalism in Arezzo, and the loss of numerous properties. Government by consuls was replaced by the podestà or mayor, but in 1214 the militias forces of Arezzo besieged and destroyed the castle of Campoleone, forcing the abbot to cede to the city all the castles and lands under his jurisdiction. The struggle between the podestà and the abbot was resolved by an act in which the former gained Campoleone castle with all its appurtenances, all the revenues of the abbey, the houses and the produce from the land and vineyards, whereas the Abbot retained only the monastery of St. Gennaro and the adjoining cemetery. Despite the agreement, the Arezzo citizens continued to try and expropriate the church property until 1236, when compensation was awarded for the damages caused to the monks of Campoleone.

The abbey continued to exist until the mid-fifteenth century as a community of monks, after which Niccolò V placed it in trust as a commendam with the rights and assets that were left. This interim legal institution became permanent over time and was turned into a usufruct assigned to a commendatory. In 1527 Duke Carlo of Bourbon sailed from Lombardy to fight the Florentines and Pope Clement VII. On arrival at Campoleone, he destroyed the castle, the convent, the church and all that existed in the vicinity.

After so much chaos Giovanni Della Stufa, with his brothers Angiolo and Pandolfo, rebuilt the church and the abbot's home. All the remaining assets of the old abbey were surrendered to Cav. Francesco Lodovico Bacci and his siblings Ostilio, Lucrezia and Baccio. On the ruins of the abbey church these Arezzo nobles built the house that still retains the name of Badia (abbey) and is home to a sumptuous 4-star hotel near Arezzo.

Today, the Hotel-Relais Badia di Campoleone property retains few traces of the original structure of the abbey and castle, but it is believed, for instance, that the outer wall of the current chapel in the villa was built to correspond with the apse of the ancient abbey church. The monks' cemetery was located in what is now the garden. The Lombard period castle, however, was located somewhere near the edge of the land called "Chiuso", to the north of the villa.

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