At the foot of the last stretch of the Tuscan Appenines, Sansepolcro dominates the Valtiberina, and sits within a vast amphitheatre of mountain and forest. This includes the Alpe della Luna (Mountains of the Moon) of the Massa Trabaria, the hills of nearby Umbria, the mountains of Arezzo and the Alpe di Catenaia.
An ancient town subject to a long history of earthquakes and involvement in battles between the various town factions , Sansepolcro has conserved the character of an artistic centre, best known for the most important son of the area: Piero della Francesca. The artist, who signed himself ”Pietro dal Borgo” has immortalised his city in his works, extolling the characteristics of this perfect town which was discussed in the italian courts.
Alongside the great artistic traditions, the folklore. Sansepolcro is the town of the Palio della Balestra (Crossbow competition) and the flag games, testiment to the past conflicts in defence of the towns liberty. In the second Sunday in September the Bowmen of Sansepolcro renew their challenge to their rivals of Gubbio, and Sansepolcro is dressed in the colors of Piero della Francesca. As trumpets call and drums roll, in the Torre di Berta square the Palio della Balestra triumphs. In this age-old festival (dating back to the early 5th century) Sansepolcro recalls its proud past as a free city, constantly engaged in defending against attacks by neighboring lords.
It is not only the Palio, held in honour of Sant’Egidio, which makes September special. Two other events alternate annually, the Festival of Goldsmiths and the Festival of Lace, each exhibiting important local traditions and uniting the skilled artisans. Today Sansepolcro is a buzzing modern town, with around 16,000 inhabitants, who, while committed to retaining the towns noble past, culture and traditions, also look to the future. Industrial development arose from the birth of Buitoni in 1827, and the important food industry has spread worldwide from the modern pasta factory in Sansepolcro. The town is also an important centre for the production of shirts, knitwear and clothing textiles. The industrial economy is accompanied by agriculture, mainly based around the valuable tobacco harvest, alongside peppers, sunflowers and cereals such as wheat, corn and barley. In recent years the production of medicinal herbs has been developed and marketed with growing sensitivity to the ecology of the the Valtiberina, a ‘green’ valley.