History of Bibbiena

See Bibbiena guide for highlights and historic monuments

The famous Arab geographer Al Idrisi, in the twelfth century, when writing about the Casentino, described Bibbiena as a "small but Populous town". In fact, Bibbiena is one of the oldest cities in the Casentino, with origins that seem to date back to the Etruscan family, called Vibia or Bebia (from which the name 'Vipena' and then 'B-e-blena' and B-i-blena would later derive).

Early History of Bibbiena

“Vipena”was also an important Roman center, as testified by archaeological excavations, and the road called "Flaminia Minor":

Roman roads in Bibbiena

In Roman times (...) the city of Arezzo played an important role as a stopping place of the Roman legions heading north.

The Roman roads of Casentino may reasonably be connected with these military movements to the north. Hence the Casentino is included in the debate on the existence of so-called "Flaminia Minor" or "Flaminia secunda" (second trade route).

In 187 BC, the military campaign against the peoples of the Ligurian Apennines ended happily, the consuls M. Lepidus and C. Flaminius Nepos (son of the consul who was defeated by Hannibal at Lake Trasimene), built two roads to connect the Cispadania with the military strongholds of Rimini and Arezzo. M. Lepidus built the Via Emilia, while C. Flaminius Nepos the ‘viam a Bononia perduxit Arretium’ [ the road which comes from Bologna to Arezzo] (Livy, XXXIX, 2).

To those who doubt the existence of this road, for the lack of survivor pavements , we can argue, with Lopes Pegna, that in 187 BC the use of paving the roads was not yet widespread and the layout may  have lost, because the importance of the road rapidly fell  ... " [1].

Bibbiena in the Middle Ages

Bibbiena later developed between the late 11th and early 12th century as a mighty fortress against barbarian invasions.

Due to its strategic location, the "Castrum" of Bibbiena was an important military outpost of the Bishops of Arezzo [the walls of Bibbiena were very powerful, with a length of about 100 meters], also used against the expansionist aims of the Earls Guidi and then against Florence.

After the battle of Campaldino, the fortress, with its massive walls with bastions and towers, belonged to Bishop Guido Tarlati from Pietramala ( died 1327), and then to Pier Saccone Tarlati (1261-1356), under whose rule Bibbiena had a period of great splendour.

However in 1440 the city was devastated by the troops of Niccolò Piccinino (1386-1444), who was in the pay of the Duchy of Milan, who had invaded the Casentino. In 1498 the city was occupied by Bartolomeo d'Alviano (1455-1616), Governor General of the Army of the Republic of Venice in order to bring the power in Florence Piero (1416-1489) and Giuliano de’ Medici (1453-1478) [2].

Finally, Bibbiena was taken by the Florentines, who broke down the walls completely. Its strategic importance finished, however, Bibbiena was characterized as the most important manufacturing center of the Casentino, and was enriched with new buildings such as the palaces of the Mazzoleni, Piccolini, Ferri, Cesari and Montini.

At the beginning of the 19th century the urban layout of the city developed further with the construction of some buildings, such as those for the sawmill industry.

A particularly significant urban growth characterized the mid-20th century, as it grew towards the slopes of the hill and then to the valley, along the main roads.

Detailed etymology of the name Bibbiena

With regard to the name of Bibbiena, according to W. Schulze, the name dates back to a root "vipe", which would be derived from the Etruscan family name 'Vipena':

"Other noble family names derived from vipe, such as vipena / vipina / vipiienna; vipinana, vipinie, vipitene / vipi-ene" [3].

The Etruscan origins of Bibbiena are also confirmed by archaeological evidence such as inscrptions relating to the presence of members of the Vipena Family at Tarquinia:

"Two inscriptions dedicated to Vipena, both of stone tomb, with the first name Vipe, from which the noble is formed" [4].

Among the Romans the noble was known as “Vibulenus”, from which came “Viblena”:

"The noble ‘Vibulenus’ or ‘Viblenus’ is very rare: in the Italic area it is documented in Rome, Falerii, Tuder, Reate, in Samnium and at Cingulum, in the Regio V (with the form of 'Vib-o-lenus'). This name could be ascribed, but with doubts, to the Roman area, where it may have spread also in the area of Veii and 'Latium Vetus' [= Ancient Latium], perhaps in the Augustean Age” [5].

According to A. Fatucchi, in the beginning Bibbiena may have only been a "praedium" [= farm], and not a real city. [6].

The earliest records of Bibbiena date back to the 10th century when; the name is quoted as "B-e-blena" in a parchment dating from August 4, 979, where the Bishop Everardus mentioned the small town among his possessions:

“I, Everardus, Bishop of the Holy Church of Arezzo and son of Count Boniface of good memory, know that the Church of St. Hippolytus, located in a place called 'Beblena', belongs to my possessions and it belongs with the predicted place to the Church of Arezzo" [7].

Bibbiena is instead mentioned as "B-i-blena" in a document expressed in legal form in September 1008 at Arezzo:

"Year 1008. September. Indiction VII. Helmpertus, Bishop of Arezzo and of the Church of Santa Maria, gives a property called 'Vuineildi' near Partina, and at the same time a manse situated in the Parish of 'Biblena', which he had by Hugh, son of the late Roizone" [8].

See also the Bibbiena visitor information and guide.


1. See R. Bargiacchi, “Il Lago degli Idoli e la viabilità etrusca del Casentino”, in “Gli scavi e le indagini ambientali nel sito archeologico del lago degli Idoli” edited by S. Borchi, 2007, p. 171 note 51

2. See P. Burlamacchi, “Vita di G. Savonarola”, 1761, p. 90

3. See W. Sschulze , "Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen, Hildesheim-Zürich", 1904, p. 71-108 in V. Belfiore, “Problemi di vocalismo etrusco arcaico”, in “La variation linguistique dans les langues de l'Italie romaine” , 2009, p . notes 47 and 40

4. See F. Chiesa, "Tarquinia ... ", Roma, 2005, p. 270

5. See E. A. Stanco, “Bolli doliari e ceramici dalle ricerche del Gruppo Archeologico Romano”, in “Epigraphica...”, 2006, p. 264

6. See A. Fatucchi., “Alle radici della storia della Valle del Teggina in Casentino”, in “Atti del Convegno di studio, Ortignano Raggiolo”, July 1, Citta di Castello 1995, pp.13-26

7. See "Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung: Ergänzungsband", 1907, p. 422: "Aug. 4, 979". See also “Documenti di storia italiana”, 1899, p. 107 ff.

8. See “Regesto di Camaldoli” [= “Regestum Camaldulense”], edited by L. Schiaparelli and F. Baldasseroni, Roma, Loescher, 1907, p. 8