About 80 kilometres southeast of Florence there is a city called Arezzo, capital of the province of the same name. Arezzo is a rich in art and dates to Etruscan times, when it was part of the Dodecapolis, i.e. one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities. Situated along via Cassia, during Roman times it played a crucial role and was well known for its pottery products. But I'm sure you're not here to hear a history lesson, so let's go straight to the steep hill on which Arezzo stands, surrounded by four valleys: Val Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana. Unfortunately, the medieval city centre was heavily destroyed during World War II, but a lot of monuments and pieces of art luckily remain to this day. The historic centre can be reached on foot: stroll up the pedestrian street called Corso Italia towards the main square, Piazza Grande. This marks the beginning of our tour.
Piazza Grande shows different styles, from medieval towers to the Renaissance Loggiato Vasariano, from the Gothic-Renaissance Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici to Palazzo delle Logge designed by Vasari. Every first weekend of the month, Piazza Grande hosts the famous antiques fair and it is also the location of the Joust of the Saracens, a medieval tournament held on the third Sunday in June and the first Sunday in September. The square was also the set of the movie Life is beautiful by Roberto Benigni. The antiques market is a sort of institution in Arezzo. Held since 1968, it hosts 500 vendors and around 30,000 customers a month! Moreover, in Arezzo there are over 100 antique shops. Website
One of the most important religious buildings in Arezzo is the Basilica of San Francesco (13th-14th century), with the astonishing Cappella Bacci (Bacci chapel) with the frescoes of Piero della Francesca depicting the Legend of the True Cross and dating to the second part of the 15th century. In Arezzo there is also a cathedral named after Saint Donatus, which dominates the city from the hill-top. The Gothic cathedral had an unfinished façade, which was added in the 20th century. Inside there are treasures such as the medieval stained glass by Frenchman Guillaume de Marcillat, the fresco by Piero della Francesca portraying the Mary Madeleine, a wooden choir designed by Vasari, a baptismal font with a relief by Donatello, and terracottas by Andrea della Robbia.
It is clear to see that Vasari was very important here, and we can also find his works at Vasari’s House and at the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art, with the fresco Madonna and Child and Saint John the Baptist. Vasari’s House has a detail that makes it stand out from other house museums: it was planned and painted by the artist! The Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Pieve is situated between Piazza Grande and Corso Italia, and is documented since 1008. The interior has a Gothic style, while the bell tower with five rows of mullioned windows is in Romanesque style. This sandstone church is unique because of its many details, such as the five-arch façade surmounted by three loggias of columns. Each column is a statue and, as well as the capitals, each one is different. The apse of the church is in Piazza Grande.
The church of San Domenico is situated outside the city centre. It is a Romanesque church founded in 1275 and hosts a crucifix of Cimabue, a masterwork of 13th-century Italian art. Visit the Medicean Fortress and its gardens, which provides 360-degree stunning views of the city. It is free of charge. In Arezzo you will find also a Roman amphitheatre and many other churches. How to reach Arezzo
- By car: take the Autostrada del Sole (A1) and exit at Arezzo, just 9 kilometres from the city centre. If you prefer the countryside route, take the SS69, the SS71 or the SS73.
- By plane: the nearest airports are Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci airport 90 kilometres away, Perugia’s Sant'Egidio airport in Umbria and Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport 155 kilometres away.
- By train: Arezzo station is connected to Florence with trains that cover a distance of 88 kilometres in less than 40 minutes. The railway is the one that connects Rome and Florence.
- By bus: many private bus lines connect Arezzo with Siena, Florence, Rome and other nearby towns.
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