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10 things to do and see in Arezzo

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10 things to do and see in Arezzo
10 things to do and see in Arezzo

Arezzo is the Cinderella of Tuscany, unfairly overshadowed by the fame of Florence, Siena and Pisa. However it can’t  be considered a minor tourist destination. Arezzo offers everything you would expect from the beautiful Tuscany: the atmosphere, hospitality, art and gastronomy, but without the crowd of tourists.

Giorgio Vasari and Piero Della Francesca have always been the historical testimonial of Arezzo. Their artistic and architectural works are, even today, the major attraction in town. Everything remember them: the Piazza Grande arcade, the frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francesco, the Cathedral of San Donato, the Museum of Vasari. But that’s not all: Arezzo offers much more. In this page we suggest you  10 things to do and see during a weekend or a holiday in Arezzo.

If you are looking for a hotel in Arezzo, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 40 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo

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The small church made of brick and stone is  popular because of  “The Legend of the True Cross” by Piero della Francesca, rightly considered one of the masterpieces of Italian art. The cycle of frescoes was inspired by the Legenda Aurea written from the Ligurian Bishop Jacopone Da Varagine and very popular in the Middle Ages. The “Legend” tells the story of the piece of wood with which it was built the Cross of Jesus: raised from the dead branch that God put in the mouth of Adam, the tree was to be used to build the Temple of King Solomon but it was thrown into a river and used as a walkway until the Queen of Sheba predicted its use.

Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo
Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo

Solomon then bury him until the Israelites found it to make the cross of Jesus. The frescos are held in a non-chronological way, but are aligned for symmetry: at the top there are the outdoor scenes, in the central part  there are the court scenes , and, below, the battles. Inside the Basilica of St. Francesco there is also a fresco by Luca Signorelli and the large central Crucifix of the Master of San Francesco.

Where: Piazza San Francesco
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: Monday / Friday: 9:00 am  to 5:30 pm  Saturday: 9:00 am  to 5:00 pm  Sunday: 1:00 to 5:00 pm . Visiting hours every 30 minutes. Reservations required at tel. 0575 352 727.
Ticket Church: free entrance. Frescoes visit  € 8

Piazza Grande in Arezzo

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Piazza Grande or Piazza Vasari  in Arezzo is one of the most harmonic architectural complex in Italy, and so in the world. Built in a steep rise where you can admire churches, historic buildings, galleries and antique shops.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo
Piazza Grande in Arezzo

On the left there is the church of Santa Maria and the Palace of Fraternita dei Laici  with the still functioning Astronomical Clock. On this side there is also the beautiful public fountain. In the high side of the square stands the silhouette of the Palace of the lodges built on a project of Vasari. On the right, the Palace Lappoli with wooden gallery and the Palace of Casatorre dei Cofani with the characteristic tower. This is the square of “Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni, when you see him on a bik ein the square. Piazza Grande houses  the monthly Antique Fair and the Giostra del Saraceno

Cathedral of San Donato in Arezzo

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The Cathedral was built on the site of the ancient Acropolis town. Works started in 1278 and ended only in 1500.

Cathedral of San Donato in Arezzo
Cathedral of San Donato in Arezzo

The façade was rebuilt in the early 1900s while the interior is original and is divided into three naves. Stand out for the beauty the stained glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat and Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca painted in 1465. In the Diocesan Museum there are different works including some of Vasari and Luca Signorelli. The marble panel with the “Baptism of Christ” that decorates the baptismal font is attributed to Donatello

Where: At the highest point of Arezzo
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: Every day from 7 am to 12.30 pm / 3 to 6.30 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Basilica of San Domenico in Arezzo

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The large crucifix by Cimabue, recently restored, is the great attraction of the Basilica of San Domenico.

Basilica of San Domenico in Arezzo
Basilica of San Domenico in Arezzo

The large cross, more than 3 meters high, is the first work attributed to Cimabue and was painted between 1268 and 1271 approximately.

The Romanesque-Gothic exterior has an unfinished façade with a bell tower.

The interior has a nave with frescoes largely deteriorated while it’s still visible the Gothic altar of the Chapel Dragondelli.

Where: At the highest point of Arezzo close to the Cathedral
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: everyday 8.30 am –1 pm /  3.30  – 7 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in Arezzo

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This small museum is one of other Italian treasures overshadowed by the big galleries. The Museum of Medieval Art in Arezzo, however, is just what you would expect from a museum: a fine selection of works, the tranquility to admire them  with no crowds, and expert available guides.

Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in Arezzo
Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in Arezzo

The museum is hosted in the beautiful “Casa della Dogana” that once hosted the State’s Monopoly. After the large backyard porch you enter into the rooms divided by historical periods. Along the way you will encounter works by Pietro Lorenzetti, Parri Spinello, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Andrea della Robbia, Vasari, beautiful Umbrian and Tuscan schools ceramics up to the most recent works of the nineteenth century with paintings by Telemaco Signorini and Cecioni.

Where: Via S.Lorentino. 800 meters far from Piazza Grande
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: everyday 8.30 am – 7.30 pm
Tickets: Full ticket € 4. Reduced ticket € 2

The Pieve of Santa Maria in Arezzo

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Overlooking Piazza Grande, the apse of the church of Santa Maria contributes to the set of the whole principal square of Arezzo. The main façade of the church is hidden in Via Seteria, on the left of the square.

The Pieve of Santa Maria in Arezzo
The Pieve of Santa Maria in Arezzo

It has five blind arches in the basement and three rows of arcades that stand on 68 columns. The imposing bell tower on the right is called the “100-holes” for the special production of the mullioned windows on five floors. The interior has three naves with truss ceiling. The most important work of the Pieve is the polyptych by Pietro Lorenzetti depicting a Madonna and Child, the Annunciation, the Assumption and 12 saints. The apse, which overlooks  Piazza Grande, is Romanesque with blind arches and two loggias.

Where: Piazza Grande
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: everyday 8.30 am – 1 pm / 3.30 – 7 pm
Tickets: free entrance

Giorgio Vasari House - Museum

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Arezzo has rightly paid tribute to one of its most illustrious sons: Giorgio Vasari, painter, architect and Italian art historian. Vasari bought the building in 1511 but he didn’t lived there for long: soon after the marriage with  Niccolosa Bacci, he moved to Rome and then to Florence. Despite this, he managed the decoration of the house directly collecting paintings, sculptures and other works that have been  dispersed.

Giorgio Vasari House - Museum
Giorgio Vasari House – Museum

Since 1911 it has been the property of the state which turned it into a museum and into the Vasari Archive which contains writings and correspondence that the artist held with other personalities of his time including Michelangelo, Cosimo I de Medici and Pius V. The archive properties is disputed between the state and the current owners of the building, who tried to sell the entire archive to a Russian buyer. During the visit to the House Museum you can admire the works distributed on three floors: the apartment with the Chamber of Fame and the Arts, the Chamber of the Muses, the House of Abraham and the Fireplace Hall decorated by Vasari and his pupils. In addition there is a beautiful roof garden, which the artist personally curated.

Where: Via XX settembre 55
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: Weekday 8.30 am – 7.30 pm ; holidays 8.30 am – 1,30 pm Closed on Tuesday
Tickets:  € 2

The Antiques Fair and the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo

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Every first Saturday and Sunday of the month, Piazza Grande in Arezzo is transformed into a huge antiques market attracting sellers and enthusiasts from all over Italy. More than 500 exhibitors occupying the square sell items of all kinds: a treasure trove for art buyers experts or just curious.

The Antiques Fair and the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo
The Antiques Fair and the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo

The Antique Fair in Arezzo has nearly 50 years (since 1968) and for the glory of the organizers, has never missed an appointment. Only two times a year, however, there is the Giostra del Saracino. The second to last Saturday in June during the night (Giostra of San Donato) and the first Sunday of September during the day(Giostra of September), Piazza Grande becomes the scenery of this ancient competition in medieval costumes. The knights of the four city districts must hit the shield of “Buratto” with a spear without being hit back by the puppet of the Saracen. The carousel recalls the time when people used to  train against the possible invasion of the “Moors” but then has  become a simple celebration.

Things to eat in Arezzo

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Nature has given to Arezzo hills, vineyards, orchards, wild animals and those on the farms. In addition, the sea is far away, with long winters and cool summers, so you can expect a nourishing cuisine made of pasta, meat, cheese, vegetables and good wine.

Things to eat in Arezzo
Things to eat in Arezzo

You can expect the great Italian poor cuisine too: as  starter crostini with chicken livers and ham from Casentino; as first courses acquacotta menu (bread eggs, cheese, mushrooms) Pappardelle with hare sauce or the ocio sauce (goose or chicken), gnocchi with ricotta and spinach, or bringoli Pici with various seasonings. Among the latter stands the Chianina meat, the “Grifi” the calf muzzle seasoned with spices and tomato, a nice selection of cheeses including the Florentine abbucciato. The typical dessert of Arezzo and the province is the Gattò of Arezzo, a cake in chocolate and alchermes.

Where to sleep in Arezzo

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A bit out of the most crowded Tuscan tours, Arezzo is a destination for lovers of high-quality tourism and is equipped with a good availability of accommodation. In the down town center and close to it are about 40 hotels, farm houses and B&Bs.

Where to sleep in Arezzo
Where to sleep in Arezzo

Usually there are no availability problems that might be during the high season (spring and early autumn) and during the most important events: the Giostra del Saracino (second Saturday of June and the first Sunday of September) and the Antiques Fair : every first Saturday and Sunday of the month. A room in a three star hotel in the Old Town centre starts from 50 euro per night.

If you are looking for a hotel in Arezzo, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 40 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com