The Arezzo area is home to numerous traces of the Etruscans, particularly in the Casentino and Valdichiana areas, which were both chosen by this population as settlement areas due to their geographically sound locations.
The itinerary we’re laying out for you will take you on a trip through this ancient, mysterious and fascinating civilization, with a “side” of some of the area’s finest centers of both wine and design.
AREZZO. We’ll start in Arezzo, one of the oldest cities in Tuscany, home to numerous items of natural, environmental and cultural interest. People have lived there since the eighth or seventh century B.C.E., first the Etruscans and then the Romans. This is evident from numerous finds that are now housed in the Archaeological Museum, as well as from various architectural evidence spread throughout the city and its surrounding areas.
The remains of the Roman Amphitheatre speak to the importance of Arezzo during the imperial age. Back in 68 B.C.E., Gaio Cilnio Mecenate was born here. He was a friend and influential adviser to Augustus, a true cultural minister of that period whose last name has now become a way of referring to anyone who establishes themselves as a protector and financier of the arts.
Arezzo was also the birthplace of Guido Monaco (also known as Guido d’Arezzo), who invented music notes in the eleventh century; and Petrarch, Giorgio Vasari and Pietro Aretino are just a few of the other great historic figures who were born here.
IL BORRO. Just a half hour from Arezzo is this winery, owned by the Ferragamo family. It’s a fairytale-like place where elegance, nature, history, authenticity and wine and food culture live together in harmony. Designed by the architect Elio Lazzerini, the winery’s look takes the traditional approach of blending in perfectly with the beautiful medieval village and the pre-existing structures throughout the estate. Strolling through the streets of the carefully restored medieval town is like stepping back in time, and each stone seems to have a story to tell.
PODERE DI POMAIO.
Very close to Arezzo, we’ll stop at the Podere di Pomaio, a “green” and organic winery designed by architect Marisa Lo Cigno. Right in the Pomaio woods, which can be reached via a fifteen minute walk from the winery, you’ll find an Etruscan-Roman bridge dating back tothe second century B.C.E. The old city of Arretium got its water source from the Alpe di Poti this bridge was just a stretch of hydraulic engineering which allowed the Terme del Prato to function properly, among other things. The bridge’s cyclopean walls inspired the designers of the Pomaio winery: the architect Marisa Lo Cigno and Pierferruccio Rossi created the walls with the same methods used by the ancient Etruscans.
In this contemporary location, heavily tied to the past and to the history of the surrounding area, everything has been designed to reduce environmental impact to the bare minimum. The builing uses geothermal energy both in the tasting areas and in implementing temperature controls during fermentation.
In this place the contemporary vocation but rich relations with the history and memory of the surrounding area, everything has been designed to minimize environmental impact. The building uses, precisely, the geothermal energy both for the conditioning of environments tasting, both to control the temperature of the vats during fermentation.
About 40 kilometers from Pomaio, moving southward, you’ll come to the scenic Cortona, an internationally famous town thanks to Frances Mayes’ bestselling book “Under the Tuscan Sun,” published in 1998. Out of the book came the movie by Audrey Wells, which conveyed the special atmosphere of this corner of Tuscany to an even wider audience.
This enchanting town in the Arezzo area is exactly as it appears on the big screen: poetic, romantic, unique and completely peaceful. It’s a place where time seems to have no importance at all, and beauty is everywhere.
It’s also a mecca in a historic sense. Between the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E., Cortona was an important Etruscan settlement: traces of this civilization are still here today.
Despite its small size, Cortona has always set itself apart through its cultural vibrancy, and its internationally focused events and activities—this has been true as far back as the eighteenth century when it became an important center for archaeological research with the opening of the “Accademia Etrusca” and the “Etruscan Museum,” both of which were founded in 1728 and praised by passionate supporters all over Europe, including Voltaire and Montesquieu.
The MAEC (The Etruscan and Civic Museum of Cortona) is housed inside the Palazzo Casali in Piazza Signorelli, and it contains donations from Accademia Etrusca members that are still here today, found in the library and in the historic atmosphere of the upper floor. The museum gathers many different archaeological finds uncovered in the area, including some that have been essential to Etruscan studies. Among these are a famous bronze lighting structure known as the Lampadario bronzeo, the Tabula Cortonensis (one of the longest and most important texts in the Etruscan language), and a chest from the tomb of the prince known as Melone II del Sodo, containing beautiful golden jewelry.
The MAEC (Museum of the Etruscan Academy and the City of Cortona) is housed inside the Palazzo Casali in the Piazza Signorelli, and it now includes the donations of Etruscan Academy members who are still here, in the library and in the environments historians of the upper floor. The museum contains many archaeological finds from the area, including some very important pieces for the study of Etruscan civilization, like the chandelier Bronze, the Tabula Cortonensis (one of the biggest and most important texts in the Etruscan language that you understand) and Kit Tomb princely called Melone II of Sodo, with beautiful gold jewelry.
In addition to the museum visit, you should explore the underground tombs of Cortona: that of Melone II del Sodo from the Archaic period, and that of Camucia.
Optional itinerary following the path of Piero della Francesca
If you want to add a “touch of art” to this itinerary, be sure to include two more stops on your trip, places where you can check out masterpieces by Renaissance genius Piero della Francesca. He was a painter, a humanist and a master of light, symbols and perspective.
AREZZO. In Arezzo you’ll find one of the most important works from the master: the Legend of the True Cross, a fresco cycle in the Bacci Chapel in the Church of Saint Francis (booking ahead of your visit is required). Inside the Cathedral, you can admire another fresco: the Magdalene, painted by Piero della Francesca under unknown circumstances.
SANSEPOLCRO. About 35 kilometers from Arezzo is beautiful Sansepolcro, where Piero della Francesca was born. Don’t skip out on a stroll through the streets of the town center, lined with medieval palaces, towers and frescoed churches. The Civic Museum holds important works by Piero della Francesca, including a fresco depicting the Resurrection, hailed by Aldous Huxley as “the most beautiful painting in the world,” plus the polyptych of the Madonna della Misericordia, San Giuliano and San Ludovico. Also make a stop at the Cathedral and the Berta Tower.
MONTERCHI. You’ll find Monterchi just 15 kilometers from Sansepolcro, perched atop a hill. This small medieval town is home to what is perhaps the most famous of all Piero della Francesca’s masterpieces: The Madonna del Parto, one of the finest examples of Marian iconography. The fresco was originally located in the chapel of Santa Maria di Momentana, and can currently be viewed at its eponymous museum.