Everyone knows that Tuscany is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, and one full of history: the Medici family, the birth of the Italian Renaissance. Florence, its main city, is the one everyone knows about and everyone visits. However, that is not the only city worth seeing in Tuscany, a region which boasts many towns that are real jewels. One of these is Arezzo.
Arezzo started out as one of the twelve most important cities during the Etruscan town. Conquered by the Romans in 311 BC, it became a military station along the road to the conquest of the north on the part of the Roman Army. In the 11th century it was declared an independent city-state (it remained such until 1384) and it later sided with the Ghibelline faction during the civil war.
It was later conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte at the end of the 18th century but it didn’t react to French dominion well and was soon freed by nationalists movements of its people. Nowadays the city has become an important agricultural trade centre. Tourism, however, is very important, and so is traditional craftsmanship: artisans from Arezzo are in fact very proud of their clothing, jewelry and gold industries.
But what is there to see? The historical centre of Arezzo is without a doubt a must see for lovers of medieval architecture. It is also small enough to explore easily on foot – it is, in fact, the best way to truly enjoy the many views it offers and to experience the atmosphere of this place. (A word to the wise, however: many of the roads in the centre are winding and steep uphill, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes).
As you are enjoying your ramblings along the narrow streets of the historical centre of Arezzo, make sure you stop a moment in the Piazza Grande, the main square. This is where the famous Giostra del Saracino, a medieval festival, is held every year, and where one of the largest antiques fair in Italy also takes place twice a month. In fact, go and have a look, if the dates coincide with your stay – tourists and locals alike love it and you can always find a good bargain.
If it is sacred art you are interested in, then taking a tour of the many churches to admire the masterpieces of Piero della Francesca is something you really need to do. His beautiful depiction of Mary Magdalene, dated 1549, is conserved in the cathedral, while is painting of the Legend of the True Cross, dated 1452-1466, is kept in the 14th-century Cappella Bacci, a chapel in the St. Francis’ Basilica. The work of Cimabue is also worth mentioning: you can find his painting of the Crucifixion in the Chiesa di San Domenico.
If instead it is literature that drives you, make sure you stop by Petrarch’s house. Once the abode of this famous poet, now it has been turned into a small museum and the headquarters of the Petrarch Academy, a research institute on his life and works.
Finally, make sure you plan a stop to the Medici Fortress: built as a defense to the city, it now gives you the opportunity to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Come to see Arezzo and book a room at our B&B in the historical center.
Photo credit: Anguskirk