Despite its small size, the Arezzo area offers a vast natural and artistic heritage. The area is surrounded in the north by the Casentino, where the valley crosses its first stretch of the Arno, to the east by the Valtiberina, to the south by Valdichiana, a plain created by the reclamation of pre-existing marshlands, the most notable waterway being the Chiana canal; and finally, to the west by the nearby Valdarno Aretino.
Visitors to Arezzo are struck by piazza Grande, glimpsed momentarily in films like Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, but even so, Piero della Francesca cannot go unmentioned; the great artist makes the city unmissable. His frescoes fill the Basilica of San Francesco, one of the beauties of the Arezzo area. This area also has a long history, as multiple traces of Etruscan civilization show; it’s a place of religion, with pilgrims having passed down the via Romea, and of ancient traditions, most famously the Saracen Joust, a medieval tournament on horseback, but also the unusual carnival in Castiglion Fibocchi, consisting of fine-looking Baroque costumes that have livened up the village for centuries. Today, the taste of the past is very much alive and visible in the flamboyant and well-known antiques fair, which gives new life to pieces of history for everyone to take home.
It’s been said that the Arno has had little sympathy for this area, curving unexpectedly near Capolona to head towards Florence and Pisa. Who knows, it could be that – knowing the river so well – in this very point, certain marvels conspired to bend Arno into a smile, and that the U drawn by its course is nothing but the outcome of a delightful journey through the area of Arezzo.