The Province of Arezzo is vast and varied: the terrain ranges from flatlands to hillsides to mountains. It is where four valleys meet: Valtiberina, Valdichiana, Valdarno and Casentino. In this post we’ll explore 10 small towns near Arezzo. Which one is your favourite?
Cortona is a charming town located in the Valdichiana 30 kilometres from Arezzo and famous for being the setting of the bestselling book Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. The city, enclosed by stone walls dating to Etruscan and Roman times, boasts interesting places to visit as well as wonderful views of Trasimeno Lake. Begin your tour of the town in piazza della Repubblica and piazza Signorelli, once a unique site of an ancient Etruscan-Roman forum. All around there are medieval buildings such as the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), which dates back to 1236; the fourteenth-century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo Casali, which houses a museum; the municipal and Accademia Etrusca library; the town’s historical archives, the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and the Museum of the city of Cortona. You can also visit the monumental complex of San Francesco, which includes the church and the convent. Continue upwards to reach the higher part of the town with its narrow streets and medieval buildings. Also check out: "Cortona: one day trip from Florence."
Anghiari is a medieval hilltop town situated in the Valtiberina, just 30 kilometres from Arezzo, characterised by winding streets and stone houses decorated with flowers. It is considered one of the “most beautiful villages in Italy” and received the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club. This small village is enclosed in massive 13th century walls with perfectly preserved corners and architectures. Visit the “Cassero,” the monastery of St. Bartholomew, the apse of the Church of St. Augustine and the Bastione del Vicario. The perfect time to visit is during the Mostra-Mercato dell’Artigianato della Valtiberina (the Handicraft Market of the Tiber Valley) held in late April and early May. Read more: "Anghiari: 5 photos and 5 things to know."
Foiano della Chiana is located 32 kilometres south of Arezzo, on the border with the province of Siena. In the past, Foiano was the best defence point in the Valdichiana because it was surrounded on three sides by marshland. Leonardo da Vinci was called to draw up plans for the draining of the Valdichiana. Foiano della Chiana is surrounded by city walls and from the gate a road leads to piazza Cavour where the town hall faces the Palazzo Monte Pio. In Foiano you find notable works by Andrea della Robbia as well as other artists of the Renaissance. You can walk along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and see the 18th-century loggia and piazza della Collegiata, the church of San Michele Arcangelo, the church of Santa Maria della Fraternità, the 14th-century Palazzo Pretorio, and much more. The best time to visit Foiano della Chiana is in February during the Carnival. In fact, this is the oldest carnival in Italy (since 1539), and Carnival floats are built throughout the year. Read more: "Foiano della Chiana Carnival: a 365-days celebration."
Lucignano is a small medieval hilltop town overlooking the Valdichiana and located about 25 kilometres southwest of Arezzo. Here you can visit the fortress, the sanctuary of the Madonna della Querce attributed to Vasari, the convent of the Cappuccini, the churches of Misericordia and della Collegiata. But Lucignano is particularly known for being home to the “Tree of Love” or “Tree of Life,” a 2,60 meter-tall Gothic masterpiece decorated with coral, enamel and rock crystal. People believed that the tree had a magical ability to make love last, so lovers would go there to make their vows of fidelity. If you want to continue this romantic tradition have a look at this post: "A romantic honeymoon in Tuscany: some ideas for making it unforgettable."
Castiglion Fiorentino is a walled town located just 18 kilometres from Arezzo. The area of Castiglion Fiorentino was settled in the mists of time, but an important town was developed in the Etruscan period, between the fifth and the fourth centuries BCE. An Etruscan wall was found underneath the current Piazzale del Cassero as well as the remains of an Etruscan temple under Sant’Angelo, one of the town’s churches. The walls, including the main entrance to the town’s historical centre Porta Fiorentina, were erected in the 13th century. Castiglion Fiorentino is renowned for the Etruscan archaeological site and for the nine-arch loggia in piazza del Comune overlooking the valley, constructed by Vasari in 1513. The Cassero, which is the town’s fortress, was used as a convent and later as a prison. Visit Castiglion Fiorentino during the famous Palio dei Rioni on the third Sunday of June, a horse race around Piazza Garibaldi, including a display of the ancient custom of flag-waving.
Chiusi della Verna is a municipality located about 25 kilometres north of Arezzo in the Casentinesi Forests National Park, between the valleys of the rivers Arno and Tiber, in a strategic position between Casentino and Valtiberina. It is particularly known for the Sanctuary of San Francesco alla Verna, one of the most important Franciscan sanctuaries in the world, located on the Monte Penna and surrounded by beech forests. The sanctuary includes the small church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the corridor and the Chapel of the Holy Stigmata and the Basilica dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. You can also sleep in the monastery. Find out more here: "Sleeping at monasteries in Tuscany."
Poppi is an ancient medieval village in the Casentino area, about 40 kilometres from Arezzo. It was mentioned as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy since it is a perfectly preserved walled town. Check out the medieval castle of the Guidi Counts (known also as Poppi Castle), which dominates the surrounding countryside; the Church of Madonna del Morbo, which is situated in the centre of the town and houses a painting of the Virgin Mary attributed to Filippino Lippi; and the S. Fedele Abbey with valuable works of art. The historic centre of Poppi deserves a visit for the architecture of its buildings, elegant arcades and narrow alleys. To learn more about this village read this post: "Poppi: the walled city with a wonderful castle in the Casentino area."
Loro Ciuffenna is a charming village rich in history and medieval military architecture located about 25 kilometres northwest of Arezzo. Its hallmark is a beautiful single-arched Romanesque bridge that passes over the gorges of a stream. Loro Ciuffenna’s surroundings are characterised by the mountains and the Balze (unusual rock formations of clay and sand). Porta dell’Orologio (the clock tower) marks the entrance of the village and, together with a second gate, form the rest of the old fortress. Visit the church of Santa Maria Assunta and the old mills that produced chestnut flour. Read more in this post: "Charming Tuscany: let’s meet Loro Ciuffenna!"
Monte San Savino is an ancient village in the Valdichiana about 25 kilometres from Arezzo. It is one of the first urban settlements in Tuscany, originating around the year 1100. Sloping walls with four gates surround Monte San Savino and the main monuments are in piazza Gamurrini. You can visit the town museum in the castle, the Church of Saint Clare with a Sansovino painting, the Cassero and the Loggia dei Mercanti. Read more about its history here: "Monte San Savino."
Sansepolcro is the main town in the Valtiberina area, located at about 37 kilometres from Arezzo. You can start your visit from the Cathedral of Saint John, a Catholic church founded 1000 years ago with a great historical value. Here is where Saint Francis of Assisi preached in 1211 or 1212, and also where Piero della Francesca worked in the church. Then you can visit the Sansepolcro Civic Museum that houses a number of artworks, including notable works related to the figure of Piero della Francesca and the Della Robbia’s art. Sansepolcro has many churches, but the church of San Lorenzo deserves a special mention because of the masterpiece of Mannerist paintings that it houses, “The Lamentation over the Dead Christ” by Rosso Fiorentino (1528), which is on the main altar. The best period to visit Sansepolcro is during its ‘Palio della Balestra’ and its Flag-games. Read more: "10 things to do in Sansepolcro, the main town in the Tiber Valley in Tuscany."