Not everyone knows that Arezzo is an ancient city, older than Alexandria in Egypt! To discover Arezzo you need to have a smattering of understanding about its past. Arezzo was one of the main Etruscan city-states. Later in life it became a Roman city of strategic importance, a nerve center of vibrant commerce, a place brimming with monuments such as the Ampitheater, whose remains can still be seen today. Back in those days Arezzo’s foundries were well known, as too were the city’s artistic workshops of “coralline” pots, which were painted red and whose decorative technique extended throughout the Roman world.
In the Middle Ages Arezzo was a free commune, in which the Ghibelline faction predominated, in historic contrast with the not too distant Florence. Following the 1289 Battle of Campaldino the city’s independence was lost and, despite some economic recovery during the Tarlati era, Arezzo was ruled by Florence until 1384, becoming part of the Medici grand duchy.
Getting to know Arezzo means discovering a copious land of natural and artistic integrity in an extraordinarily concentrated area. The frescoes of Piero della Francesca in the Duomo are worthy of just one visit to the city. But you’ll just as easily be drawn to the medieval city center, which elegantly relates the great seasons of art and architecture in Arezzo. Alongside the medieval towers the striking Loggiato Vasariano rises up in the bluest of skies – designed by Giorgio Vasari, who was born and grew up in Arezzo; some regard this loggia as a trial run for the one he would later craft at the Uffizi in Florence). Equally mesmerizing is the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici, an intermingling of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, as well as the apse of Pieve di Santa Maria. The Basilica di San Domenico is home to a beautiful cross painted by Cimabue.
Arezzo is a city in which ancient traditions continue to thrive. One way to experience them is to visit on the second-to-last Saturday in June or on the first Sunday in September when Piazza Grande becomes the stage for the Giostra del Saracino, a chivalric tournament dating back to the Middle Ages. Alternatively, check out Arezzo on the first weekend of the month when the Antiques Fair comes to town in the same central piazza. A dazzling market of ever-surprising items and objects, arm yourself with patience and curiosity – and don’t forget to practice the fine art of negotiation: bartering is second nature for the city’s market holders, so hold your corner!
Cover image credit: Anguskirk