1-800-454-5922 Toll Free
Email Address
Password

Top Ten Things to Do - Arezzo

Arezzo’s main attractions are its magical main square and its churches, often linked to Piero della Francesca. But the best thing to do in Arezzo is simply to appreciate life in a Tuscan city that does not define itself by tourism. Beyond Arezzo, we recommend day trips along the arty Piero della Francesca trail to Sansepolcro and Monterchi. Our other favourite trips are to hilltop Cortona and to a chic wine estate.

Top Ten Things to Do - Arezzo

Piazza Grande – magical main square

This sloping central square has been at the heart of city life since medieval times. This massive main square, the Piazza Grande, is barely on an even keel and is set in the hilliest, most picturesque part of the city. It even featured in the classic film, La Vite è Bella (Life is Beautiful), starring local boy Roberto Benigni. Compared with the more touristy town of Cortona, this theatrical, café-lined square feels more peaceful, far more so than Florence. Admire the porticoes of the 16th-century Palazzo delle Logge Vasariane before retreating to a café, such as Caffe Vasari (at number 15).

The square is at its most evocative during the Giostra del Saracino, a chivalric jousting tournament held twice a year, in June and September. On the first weekend of every month, this square welcomes an antiques market, the largest of its kind in Italy. Stalls cover the square, run around the base of the Duomo, and spill into the cobbled Corso Italia, the city’s main shopping street. It’s a similar story at Christmas, when a huge Bavarian-style Christmas market moves in. In summer, the locals, known as Aretini, love their early evening strolls (passeggiate) between Corso Italia and the square.

Read more

Basilica di San Francesco – Piero della Francesca frescoes

For art-lovers, Arezzo’s star attraction is Piero della Francesca’s painstakingly restored fresco cycle in the barnlike Basilica of San Francesco. These virtuoso works of art have survived an earthquake, lightening and an attack by Napoleonic troops.  These well-preserved frescoes illustrate the Legend of the True Cross (1452–66), a complex story presented in the local artist’s haunting style. The most compelling scene in Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient was filmed here. This church is often considered the start of a spiritual trail in Piero della Francesca’s footsteps that also leads back to the artist’s home town of Sansepolcro.

One of the country’s greatest treasures is on display in the Cappella Bacci inside this cavernous church. The beguiling fresco cycle weaves together a complex story in which the wood of the Tree of Knowledge (from which Adam and Eve ate the apple) becomes the wood of the cross on which Christ died. Legend has it that it was later discovered by the Empress Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great, who converted to Christianity and made it the state religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD. What matters more than the story is the spirituality that suffuses Piero della Francesca’s art. His frescoes have a transcendent quality that elevates his work beyond the mere mastery of perspective and space. Look for his graceful figures dressed in Renaissance gowns and framed by idealised depictions of Arezzo and Sansepolcro. (Entry is via timed-entry tickets, with the option of an audio-guide, and available as combined tickets with the Casa Vasari, Vasari’s House).

Read more

Duomo d'Arezzo – Arezzo Cathedral

Also known as the Duomo dei Santi Donato e Pietro, Arezzo Cathedral occupies the site of a
pre-Christian temple in the hilly, northern part of town. The lofty Duomo, dating from the late 13th century, boasts a Gothic bell-tower, but still feels stranded on its hilltop site. Inside the cathedral are fine 16th-century stained-glass windows and the Gothic tomb of Guido Tarlati, which flanks the serene St Mary Magdalene fresco by Piero della Francesca. This work can be contemplated in comparative peace, unlike the frescoes in the Basilica di San Francesco which may attract tour groups. If in the mood for more sacred art, call into the Museo Diocesano di Arte Sacra (the Museum of Sacred Art) behind the Cathedral. Inside are medieval crucifixes and Vasari frescoes salvaged from other churches in the region.

Read more

Museo Archeologico – Arezzo Archaeological Museum

Set fairly close to the station, in the southern section of the city, this museum overlooks the remains of a Roman amphitheatre that once welcomed around 10,000 spectators. A section of the amphitheatre walls was incorporated into a 14th-century Olivetan monastery which now houses the Archaeological Museum. The Roman Arretium was originally an Etruscan city, but in 294 BC it became a Roman settlement, a convenient resting post on the Via Cassia between Rome and Florence. The site was later plundered to build the city walls and churches, and the perimeter wall is all that remains. On display are Etruscan and Roman artefacts, including the Aretine waterproof tableware which made Arezzo’s name. Known as Arretino, this fine, red Roman pottery once competed with the more famous Samian ware as the crockery of choice on aristocratic Roman dinner tables.

Read more

Museo di Casa Vasari – Vasari’s home

The Casa del Vasari is the attractive house where the Arezzo-born painter, Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) lived and worked. Vasari was not merely a Mannerist painter and architect but author of The Lives of the Artists (1550). This celebrated book, which documented the life and work of his contemporaries, and near contemporaries, is treated with reverence. Vasari is often dubbed the world’s first art historian. This home was built for Vasari and decorated with frescoes of the artists he most admired. Vasari’s home is much as he left it. The 500th anniversary of his birth was celebrated with much pomp in Arezzo in 2011, including the painstaking restoration of a Vasari altarpiece before visitors’ very eyes.

There’s a saying that Tuscany is `equally blessed by the genius of man and nature.’ History has proved the proverb, with the greatest of the region’s greats achieving worldwide fame. Vasari is just one of the greats from Arezzo. Other major local figures include Petrarch, the classical Italian poet, and Guido d’Arezzo, who invented musical notation. Then there was Maecenas, the Roman patron of the arts who encouraged the work of ¬Virgil and Horace. To continue the Vasari trail, visit the neighbouring Museo Statale d’Arte Medioevale e Moderna, housed in the 15th-century Palazzo Bruni. The collection features frescoes and examples of the Arezzo goldsmiths’ work, alongside paintings by Vasari and modern works by local artists.

Read more

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieve – Romanesque church

Churches are never far from mind in Arezzo but they are often strikingly different, as here. Spiritual duties await in one of the loveliest Romanesque churches in Tuscany. Rising from the southern side of Piazza Grande, the main square, sitting on the Corso, is the Santa Maria della Pieve. This is Arezzo’s most ancient church, and revels in its arcaded façade and elaborately carved columns. The church boasts a so-called `tower of a hundred holes,’ named because of the filigree pattern of arches piercing the belfry. As in San Gimignano, the lofty tower has been likened to a medieval skyscraper. Inside, the star attraction is Pietro Lorenzetti’s panel-painting, Madonna and Saints, painted in the 1320s.

Read more

Day out in Cortona

Cortona is a charming town located in the Valdichiana, around 30 km south of Arezzo. Set high above the Valdichiana plain, Cortona surveys terraced slopes of olive groves and vineyards. This perfect medieval town is deservedly popular but brave the summer crowds for some of the loveliest views in Tuscany. Set on a rocky spur 600 metres above sea level, Cortona climbs upto a Medici fortress and views of both Lake Trasimeno and Monte Amiata. The city, enclosed by stone walls dating to Etruscan and Roman times, was the most important Etruscan city in the north of Tuscany.

Begin a walking tour in the delightfully asymmetrical Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Signorelli, once home to the ancient Etruscan-Roman forum. The Etruscan Museum is, of course, the place to get to grips with the city’s origins. Even so, Cortona is a place for medieval musings rather than specific sites. The city’s medieval core is centred on the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), which dates back to 1236 but Cortona is riddled with medieval alleyways. On a higher level, you can also visit the monumental complex of San Francesco, which includes the church and the convent. Continue ever upwards to reach the higher part of the town with its narrow streets and medieval buildings. Crowds in Cortona are nothing new, especially since an American author gave it a further boost. The city is famous for being the setting of the bestselling book, Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. Much like San Gimignano and Pienza, Cortona is a tourism hotspot so its over-popularity is a given. Luckily, there are enough quaint inns and cafes to restore any grumpy spirits.

Read more

Monterchi art trail

From Arezzo, the Piero della Francesca trail proceeds 25 km east to tiny Monterchi, on the border with Umbria. Here, a former schoolhouse displays the artist’s striking Madonna del Parto, the Pregnant Madonna. Recently, Arezzo fought with Monterchi to display the masterpiece but the battle was won by Monterchi.

The Madonna, heavily pregnant and aching, has un¬but¬toned the front of her dress, while above, two angels hold up the entrance to the tent in which she stands. The story is that in 1459 Piero della Francesca came back to Monterchi to pay homage to his mother, who came from the village. After working in Urbino for the Dukes of Montefeltro, this poetic Renaissance artist spent his last years in Sansepolcro. Fittingly, this revolutionary artist died there on October 12th 1492, the day the New World was discovered. (From Monterchi, you can continue on to Sansepolcro or return directly to Arezzo).

Read more

Sansepolcro & Piero della Francesca trail

Art fans will be tempted to follow the Piero della Francesca trail to Sansepolcro, in the Upper Tiber valley, on the border with Umbria.  The only decision is whether to combine the trip with a stop at Monterchi.  From Arezzo, it’s a pretty 41 km drive northwards to Sansepolcro, via a patchwork of pasturelands and beechwoods. Sansepolcro is famous for two things: as the town where Buitoni pasta is produced and as the birthplace of the great Renaissance artist.

For art-lovers this is a pilgrimage to see Piero della Francesca’s greatest work, The Resurrection. The fresco, created in 1463, was hailed by Aldous Huxley as “the best picture in the world.” It was nearly destroyed by the Allies during World War II as they bombarded Sansepolcro, believing the Germans were still occupying the town. Thankfully, it was saved from destruction by the villagers, who surrounded the artwork with sandbags. Today, this intense, brooding work is displayed in the Museo Civico, alongside the Madonna della Misericordia, another della Francesca masterpiece.

Sansepolcro, huddled behind crumbling ramparts, is framed by four ancient gateways. The medieval town has much to recommend it beyond the Piero della Francesca masterpiece. The Duomo, which started out as an 11th-century abbey church, displays Perugino’s Ascension of Jesus and works by the della Robbia school. Apart from the well-preserved city gateway of Porta Fiorentina, admire the mansions, strung out along on Via Matteotti, the 16th-century Palazzo delle Laudi (Town Hall) and the Gothic Palazzo Gherardi.

Read more

Il Borro – lunch and wine-tasting on chic wine estate

Set in the hills 20km from Arezzo, Il Borro is part of a patchwork of cypresses, sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards that inspired Leonardo da Vinci. More prosaically, Il Borro is in the middle of nowhere in the Arno Valley, a place of ancient forests, rolling hills and clear streams. Come for a wine-tasting and lunch on this chic estate owned by the Ferragamo fashion dynasty. The setting often features in fashion shoots but the Ferragamo family are serious restaurateurs and wine producers. According to Salvatore Ferragamo, “The wines are trail-blazing Super-Tuscans rather than traditional Chianti Classico.” Dine in L’Osteria Il Borro, the gourmet restaurant, with a completely open kitchen overlooking the countryside. On the menu are rabbit, snails and scallops, plus pasta with lamb ragout, spinach and ricotta. Beneath it is the Tuscan Bistro, for informal meals, or Il Vincafe, set in a converted carpenter’s workshop, for a light tasting menu of cold cuts, carpaccio and salads.

Read more

Experience an official tuscany tour with

Florence walking tour with Chianti wine, Tuscan snack, Uffizi and Accademia tour

If is your first time in Florence, our tour is the best way to have a total vision of the center of this historic city. Join to our English Monolingual Small group Walking tour to visit, the Brunelleschi’s dome, the Baptistry Doors, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria and admire the building of Uffizi Gallery and Vasari corridor before relaxing you in Repubblica square with an excellent glass of Chianti wine and Tuscan salami snack. Continue the tour skiping the line with our guide to discover the secrets behind Botticelli's masterpieces and story of Uffizi Gallery before to admire the imposing statue of Michelangelo’s David, the symbol of Republic of Florence and other important sculptures.

from 136 US Dollar

Vintage Fiat 500 Panoramic Tour of Florence from Montecatini

Get behind the wheel of a vintage Fiat 500 and drive around Florence’s hills on a scenic 3-hour tour. Drive up to Piazzale Michelangelo and see the breathtaking view over the city. Keep heading out and visit the Fiesole, a location just above Florence with one of the city’s most incredible sightseeing spots.

from 77,54 US Dollar

Livorno Shore Excursion: Pisa, Florence and Chianti Wine Private Day Trip

Visit Pisa and Florence with a private tour guide who really describe the local Italian life. Explore the streets comfortably. Before going back, stop in a farm for a Chianti wine tasting.

from 113,33 US Dollar

Livorno Shore Excursion: Florence and Pisa Private Day Trip

During this amazing day tour you will discover the secrets of the region of Tuscany. You will start with the most famous Square in the world, the Square of Miracles. Then Florence, without doubt the city where the Italian genius has flourished with the greatest display of brilliance and purity. You'll have the opportunity to gain entrance to one of the most important museums of the world: Michelangelo's David museum (except Mondays because the museum is closed.)

As this is a private tour, your private guide can adjust the schedule and activities to meet your needs.

from 1049,81 US Dollar
Villa finder