our guide to arezzo
Located in Eastern Tuscany, just an hour’s train ride from Florence, Arezzo sits at the unique hilltop crossroads of four valleys: the Val Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana. One of the wealthiest cities in Tuscany due to its history in gold-smithery, the city is a hidden gem for the European traveller; a beautiful and vibrant city steeped in rich art and architecture. Generally free of crowds and masses of tourists, discovering all that Arezzo has to offer provides an authentic experience of Italian history that can be enjoyed at one’s own pace. No wonder that it was chosen as the setting for the film Life is Beautiful. Here, in fact, it is.
Arezzo’s early history was a glorious and prominent one: as Aritim it was one of the 12 major Etruscan cities and as Arretium it grew to be the 3rd largest city in the Roman empire, whose artisan works reached as far as India.
During the Middle Ages the city retained its prestige and became part of the Carolignian Holy Roman Empire, where the ecclesiatic authority and noble powers merged. By 1098, however, Arezzo was considered a Free City and led by a Consul the city built new walls, tower houses and its many churches. A municipality loyal to the Emperor, it was the last Ghibelline bulwark against the Pope, Florence and its French allies. Once defeated in 1289, its vast territories were divided between Siena and Florence.
Over the following centuries, with few exceptions, the Aretini were controlled by the Florentines, hence the vast Medici fortress that dominates the city. Yet artists such as Piero della Francesca, Giorgio Vasari and Guglielmo de Marcillat flourished and noble residences and the sweeping Piazza Grande gave shape to the city. Until 1859 Arezzo was subsumed into the Medicean Grand Duchy of Tuscany and only with the unification of Italy in 1861 was the city’s administrative autonomy reconquered.
events in and around arezzo
Tovaglia a Quadri in Anghiari – 2nd & 3rd weeks of August
Red & white checkered tablecloths deck long tables for rustic dinner theatre in which the whole community participates. Delicious!
Palio della Balestra in Sansepolcro – 2nd Sunday of September
This crossbow competition has been held since the mid 15th C. – Even Piero della Francesca took up the bow to show loyalty to his home town.
Festa della Voce in Arezzo – mid-June
Three days prior to Arezzo’s Saracen Joust the city celebrates in concerts and master classes of choral music in the historic city centre.
Maggiolata Lucignanese in Lucingano – last 2 Sundays of May
For the past 80 years this joyous festival celebrates Spring with music, dance and floral floats representing competing town districts.
Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo – in June and September
The highlight of Arezzo’s folkloric festivals fills its Piazza Grande with costumed citizens and jousting knights in a medieval game of chivalry.
Battle of Scanagallo in Foiano della Chiana – end of May
This re-enactment evokes the famous 1554 local battle, depicted by Vasari, in which the Medici/Spanish army defeated the French/Siena.
Giostra dell’Archidado in Cortona –
Created in 1397 to celebrate the wedding of Cortona’s Lord, this tournament evokes medieval splendor with with music & food.
Internationale Merletto Biennale in Sansepolcro –
One of the leading exhibitions of lace artistry and production in Italy, it honors both the lace makers of Sansepolcro and international artists.
Festa dei Antichi Sapori Aretini in Indicatore, Arezzo – early June
The classic evening out in Tuscany is dining together outside on recipes that have stood the test of time and then dancing to the early hours.
Spollinata in Arno from Giovi to the Buriano Bridge – mid June
Practically anything that will float and some unusual navigators take to the Arno River in this entertaining 3 km. boat race.
things to do in & around arezzo
Follow the Trail of Piero della Francesca and works including ‘The Legend of the True Cross’ in the Basilica of San Francesco, ‘The Madonna del Parto’ in Monterchi, and ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ in Sansepolcro.
Go bird-watching in the Nature Reserve of Buriano, where against the backdrop of the famous 13th C. bridge seen in the ‘Mona Lisa’ rare species nest in this part of the Arno River.
Indulge in some antique hunting in Arezzo’s vast open-air antique market spread throughout its historic centre on the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday before.
Cycle from Arezzo to Monte Cetona – Even taken in portions, this itinerary that traces the footsteps of the Etruscans is a close-up of natural oases and ancient habitations that will impress.
nearby towns & sites
A medieval walled town, Anghiari is known for its artisans. Famous for their work, as well as the bright checkered tablecloths that denote a place to stop and sample the locale cuisine, it is a place to fill the day with pleasurable “slow living”.
In Tuscany’s Valdichiana and famed for its ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ association, this town overlooks Lake Trasimeno. Encircled with stone walls dating to Etruscan & Roman times, this gracious town is full of shops, good restaurants and a good Etruscan museum.
Named for its plentiful laurel shrubs and the Ciuffenna river that powered its many flour mills–the earliest built in 1100 – the town finds a harmonious blend of its well-preserved historic centre and the beauty the surrounding wind-sculpted landscapes.
Lucignano‘s elliptical rings leave no doubt as to its medieval origins. For at a time when its strategic position between Siena and Arezzo was critical and fought over, being able to see invaders from the any direction atop a hill was a decided advantage.
The birthplace of Piero della Francesca, this lovely city of local stone in the upper Tiber valley honors their native son in both the fine Civic Museum and Romanesque cathedral. Lively but with an understated elegance, this is a charming place to linger.
Above the Val di Chiana and looking onto cattle ranches and quiet farmlands, the walled medieval Castiglion Fiorentino loves to party, be it in the Medieval Festival in May, the Palio dei Rioni horse race in June or the Days of Baccus Wine Festival in October.
Sanctuary of La Verna
In Poppi the charming hexagonal church Oratorio della Madonna contrasts with the imposing Castello overlooking the town and once the battleground where the Ghibellines of Arezzo met the Guelphs of Florence, Dante Alighieri among them.
Tucked into the side of Mount Penna in the beautiful Casentino Forest, the Sanctuary was the spiritual retreat of St. Francis and where on his last visit in 1224 he received the stigmata. Visitors come for its striking natural beauty and for the peace.
food and wine
As in most of Tuscany, cooks in Arezzo make the most of their nearest ingredients, some which might be new to visitors to this area. The Gobbo all’Aretina refers to the thistle, which as a member of the artichoke and cardoon family makes it fair game for cooking. Also popular is Cavolo nero, the deep green cabbage leaf usually found in hearty vegetable soups called Minestra di pane, bread stew, or Acquecotta. At the Sagra dei Baccelli in Terranuova Bracciolini in early May a much-prized vegetable is the raw fava bean usually paired with pecorino sheep’s cheese.
In Anghiari and Arezzo Bringoli, a fresh pasta like a thick home-made spaghetti is often served with olive oil and parmesan cheese or with a meatless ‘fake sausage’ ragù, something even a Vegan would love. Those who love cheese will try the soft fresh Raviggiolo, while for meat-lovers there is Prosciutto del Casentino, ham from the Casentino forest’s free range ‘grey’ pig or Peposo alla fornacina, a dish using beef of the famous Chianina cattle attributed to the workers who produced construction materials for Florence’s Brunelleschi Chapel. At the early September Sagra della Porchetta in Monte San Savino diners can enjoy the famous herbed suckling pig.
At the July Sagra dello Gnocco Dolce in Monte San Savino the delicious cream-filled pastry tempts anyone with a sweet tooth. And in the Autumn many festivals offer the bounty of chestnuts, often ground into flour and seen in Castagnaccia , a popular chestnut cake featuring raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary.
Wines: To accompany these dishes try:
- Chianti Colli Aretini DOCG
- Reds of Cortona DOC – which include white grapes grown around Cortona
- Valdichiana DOC
Serious wine aficionados may head off on the Strada del Vino wine route and take part in the tastings organized at the various wineries along the route.
MONDAYS – Loro Ciuffenna & Foiano della Chiana
TUESDAYS – Sansepolcro & Poppi
WEDNESDAYS – Anghiari & San Giovanni Valdarno
THURSDAYS – Lucignano, Cortona, Monte San Savino & Montevarchi
FRIDAYS -Castiglion Fiorentino, Terranuova Bracciolini & Loro Ciuffenna
SATURDAYS – Arezzo, Cortona & Poppi
- Da Alighiero– Anghiari, Tel: +39 0575 788040
- Buca di San Francesco– Arezzo, Tel: +39 0575 23271
- La Pieve– Arezzo, Tel: +39 0575 1481622
- La Torre– Loro Ciuffenna, Tel: +39 055 9172032
- La Grotta– Cortona, Tel: +39 0575 630271
- La Tavernetta– Lucignano, Tel: +39 0575 836568
- Le Bindi– Monte San Savino, Tel: +39 338 6726591
- Osteria del Borro– San Giustino Valdarno, Tel: +39 055 9772333
- L’Antica Cantina– Poppi, Tel: +39 0575 529844
To easily visit this restaurants, consider staying in our properties in the Arezzo area.