Tuscany areas:Florence Siena Lucca Chianti San Gimignano Arezzo Pisa Versilia Cortona Montecatini Garfagnana
Arezzo - accommodation listings, plus useful information and tips
Arezzo, founded by the Etruscans and at one time one of their most important settlements, is the Tuscan City of Gold. The wealth of the city is based upon the numerous and prosperous jewellers and goldsmiths, with a useful fallback being the prestigious antique shops (and fair) for which Arezzo is famous.
The town is spread around the flanks of a hill and has a semicircular design that fans out and down from the Duomo and the older quarter at the top of the hill. It is this older town that you'll find yourself drawn to from the more businesslike and modern lower town, an area that suffered extensive damage during the war.
There are not many visitors coming to Arezzo that will not have the church of San Francesco and the painted walls therein on the top of their 'must see' list. The church of San Francesco is a decidedly ordinary brick basilica, with a plain (and unfinished) facade, but this is of little importance, as it is the painted walls within, and particularly the cycle representing the Legend of the True Cross, commisioned by the Bacci family and executed by Piero della Francesca, that the visitors come to see. The church itself dates from the 13th century, but it was in the middle of the fifteenth century that Piero was working on the frescoes. He (along with Masaccio, Michelangelo and Vasari) was from the Arezzo region, and it's thought that he worked continuously on the cycle until 1457.
A short distance from here are both Piazza Grande (home to the antiques fair on the Saturday before the first Sunday of each month) and the magnificent Romanesque Pieve di Santa Maria. Dating from the 12th century, the ornate facade, with its blind arches and delicate balconies, is more typical of the 'Pisan Romanesque' style more commonly associated with western Tuscany. The campanile (bell-tower) dates from the 14th century and is known to locals as the 'tower of the hundred holes'.
The sloping main square is also home to the annual Giostro del Saraceno and is lined to the north by Vasari's loggia.
The cathedral (Duomo) sits at the very highest point of the town, and is built in a Tuscan Gothic style - bold and unfussy. The cathedral is home to the only other work by Piero della Francesca in Arezzo (Magdalen), and is unusual in that it has stained-glass windows, dating back to the early 16th century.
If you are looking for a good spot to rest a while and soak up some views, the cathedral backs on to the town park, the Passeggio del Prato, with the ubiquitous ruined Medici fortress at the far end.
The upper town has a lovely atmosphere and is a delight to wander for hour on end, and do be sure to stroll along the pedestrianised Corso Italia, traditionally the 'main drag' of Arezzo and the place for your evening Passegiata.
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