Arezzo

Birthplace of Petrarch and Piero della Francesca, set for Benigni's masterpiece, Arezzo is a city where beauty is at home.
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Arezzo is a breath of fresh air. A surprising destination, little considered in the classic itineraries of Tuscany and yet rich in art and beauty, just like all the most famous tourist resorts in the region.

It has been the birthplace of some key names in the history of Italian art, literature and science: those of Francesco Petrarca and Piero della Francesca would be enough to attract attention, but the list of illustrious Aretines also includes the architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari, the biologist Francesco Redi and the music theorist Guido Monaco.

Its squares and churches are treasure troves containing absolute artistic masterpieces; its parks are regenerating green oases a stone’s throw from the centre.

Arezzo is greatly penalised compared to other Tuscan art cities because the centre was badly damaged during the Second World War. Ironically, however, it is events of that period that have made the beauty of the city known to the general public: it was precisely in Arezzo that key scenes of ‘Life is beautiful‘, the famous film by Roberto Benigni that recounts the tragedy of the Holocaust in a touching and fairytale-like manner, were filmed.

Give it a thought. Divided into two parts – the historical part high up on a hill, the lower part with clubs and shops – Arezzo is a doubly exciting city, capable at the same time of catapulting you into Tuscany’s heyday and bringing a modern dynamism to life.

It is set in the middle of four beautiful valleys (Valtiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana), ideally located as a base for a holiday in south-eastern Tuscany: villages, spas, countryside and good food await you. Umbria is not far away: you can even take a day trip to Lake Trasimeno!

Things to do in Arezzo

Things to do during a walking tour of the centre of Arezzo? It depends on how much time you have: half a day is enough to see the main attractions, but with more time you can visit churches and museums inside.

Piazza Grande

1Piazza Grande, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

As in many Italian cities, the nerve centre of city life in Arezzo is the main square, called Piazza Grande or Piazza Vasari.

It is distinguished from other elegant squares in the Belpaese by its unusual trapezoid shape and its inclination, the latter designed to favour the drainage of rainwater. The total height difference between the lowest and highest point is about 10 metres.

The square is overlooked by magnificent historical buildings from different eras: the palaces on the southern and eastern sides date back to the Middle Ages, the northern side is bordered by Renaissance buildings from the 16th century, and the western side is overlooked by buildings from the 15th century. The overall effect of great harmony is truly astonishing when one considers the different architectural styles of the various eras.

Among the most beautiful buildings facing onto the square are the Loggiato Vasariano, the Pieve di Santa Maria and the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici.

Piazza Grande is the spectacular setting for the Giostra del Saracino, Arezzo’s most important traditional event: beloved by the people of Arezzo, it is a historical re-enactment held twice a year with a night edition in June and a day edition in September.

The other event that animates the square, this time on a monthly basis, is a popular antiques market.

Loggiato Vasariano

2Piazza Grande, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

The Palazzo delle Logge designed by Giorgio Vasari, known as the Loggiato Vasariano, is the elegant and imposing building on the highest side of Piazza Grande. It is immediately recognisable by its beautiful portico, which today houses restaurants and bars with outdoor tables.

The Loggiato Vasariano was built in the second half of the 16th century and is considered one of the most important works by the famous architect, so much so that the work was named after him instead of the client, Cosimo I de’ Medici.

Neither of them managed to see the work completed: construction of the palace and its magnificent loggias ended in 1595, some twenty years after the death of both.

Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici

3Via Giorgio Vasari, 6, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

The Palazzo della Confraternita dei Laici condenses three styles and three eras: a Gothic lower part built in the 14th century, a Renaissance part, and a bell gable with a clock added in the 16th century. The design of the bell tower is by Giorgio Vasari while the clock is by Felice da Fossato.

The clock is still working today and shows the time, day and moon phases according to the Ptolemaic conception of the universe, i.e. with the earth at the centre and the sun and moon revolving around it. It is considered a true masterpiece of horology.

It is possible to visit the building inside: after having been the seat of the court for years, it now houses a museum that was opened to the public in 2010. During a visit to the Fraternita Museum, you can walk through the rooms of the palace, admire a valuable collection of works of art, enjoy a splendid view of the Piazza Grande and see the elaborate gears of the astronomical clock in the bell tower up close.

Church of Santa Maria della Pieve

4Corso Italia, 7, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

Although confined to a narrow space between the beginning of Corso Italia and the end of Via dei Pileati, the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve certainly does not go unnoticed. It is a magnificent Romanesque-style church with a façade with three portals; construction work began around 1140 and was completed in the early 14th century.

An unusual detail, the part of the Pieve di Santa Maria that faces Piazza Grande is not the façade but the rear part, a semicircular apse with small single-lancet windows. By contrast, the windows opening from the bell tower are mullioned windows with two lights, which earned it the nickname ‘tower of a hundred holes’.

The interior of the church houses precious works of art – including the Polyptych by Pietro Lorenzetto, a masterpiece dating back to the 14th century – and the relics of San Donato, the city’s patron saint.

Fortezza Medicea

5Viale Bruno Buozzi, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

The Fortezza Medicea is a defensive stone construction that stands in the north-eastern part of Arezzo, on top of the Colle di San Donato.

A fortified citadel from medieval times probably already stood on this site. It was the Medici who wanted a more imposing fortress in the 16th century and it is therefore to them that we owe the current appearance with its five-pointed star shape and ramparts of different heights to match the terrain. The design is by Giuliano and Antonio da Sangallo.

From being a military construction, the fortress became a popular meeting and leisure place for the people of Arezzo. In fact, one of Arezzo’s most beautiful and popular city parks can be found inside.

The fortress can be reached on foot from Piazza Grande by first reaching the Giardini del Prato and then continuing along the Passeggio del Prato.

Passeggio del Prato

6Viale Bruno Buozzi, 1, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

The Prato is the city’s green oasis of Arezzo, located on the top of a hill between the Duomo and the Fortezza Medicea. It is the place where the people of Arezzo enjoy a relaxing stroll and is often animated by concerts and open-air events.

For travellers on a visit, it is the ideal place for a break; because of its location, it is also a beautiful vantage point from which to observe the historical centre and the surrounding countryside.

A piazza dedicated to Francesco Petrarca dominates the centre of the park.

Casa Vasari Museum

7Via XX Settembre, 55, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

Giorgio Vasari is one of the most influential Italian painters and architects of the 16th century, famous for writing one of the most important art history texts in Italy. He is credited with some of the most beautiful monuments in Arezzo: it is not surprising that his house is now a museum dedicated to him.

The Casa Vasari Museum in Arezzo is housed in a building purchased by the artist in 1541 and used as his family residence; it should not be confused with Casa Vasari in Florence, which he rented during his working periods in the Tuscan capital.

The house is arranged on three floors; the stately flat occupies the second floor: decorated by the artist himself and still well preserved, it represents one of the best examples of an artist’s residence in Mannerist style in Italy. The house is surrounded by a beautiful geometrically structured garden, which can also be visited.

Casa Petrarca Museum

8Via dell'Orto, 28, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

Another house-museum not to be missed in Arezzo is the one dedicated to one of the fathers of Italian literature, Francesco Petrarca; here too, there is some confusion with another house-museum, the one in Arquà Petrarca in Veneto, which was the poet’s last home before his death.

The House of Petrarch in Arezzo is housed in a 17th century palace that contains the remains of a house three centuries older: according to tradition, this is the birthplace of Francesco Petrarch. We know for certain from historical documents that the poet was born in Arezzo, but there is no irrefutable proof of the address of the house where he was born. However, it remains an attraction worthy of interest.

The palace houses a museum open to the public and theAccademia Petrarca di Lettere, Arti e Scienze, a centre that promotes historical studies related to the poet and organises numerous cultural events.

Basilica di San Francesco

9Piazza S. Francesco, 1, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

The Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo certainly cannot compete in monumentality with the one in Assisi, but even this small stone church has something up its sleeve.

The interior walls of the main chapel are entirely decorated with a cycle of frescoes from the 15th century that is considered a masterpiece in the history of Italian art. We are talking about the cycle“The Legend of the True Cross” by Piero della Francesca, inspired by a well-known legend from the Middle Ages related to the wood from which Jesus’ cross was built.

Duomo dei Santi Pietro e Donato

10Piazza Del Duomo, 1, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

Another interesting church to visit in Arezzo is the Duomo, or Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato. Overlooking the square of the same name, it was built on the remains of an earlier early Christian church after the death of Pope Gregory X in Arezzo in 1275. The exterior façade remained incomplete for centuries: the current appearance dates back to the 20th century.

The artistic masterpiece of the cathedral are the seven stained glass windows of the Marcillat cycle, created in the 16th century. Here too we can find works by Piero della Francesca (the fresco decorating the left aisle) and Giorgio Vasari (the wooden choir and organ base).

Palazzo Dei Priori

11Via Montetini, 4a, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italia

Palazzo dei Priori is a magnificent 14th-century building flanked by a square tower dominating Piazza della Libertà, another focal point of the centre of Arezzo. It is currently the seat of the Municipality.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Film itineraries in Arezzo

The historical centre of Arezzo has been an exceptional set for two blockbuster films in the history of Italian cinema: Roberto Benigni’s exciting, multi-award-winning ‘La vita è bella’ and Leonardo Pieraccioni’s hilarious comedy ‘Un fantastico via vai’.

The tourist board has produced two maps with the locations where the filming took place: below are brief descriptions of the two film itineraries.

You can use them as a guide for an unusual walking tour of Arezzo, to look for the spot where Benigni first performed his now famous greeting “Buongiorno principessa” or to relive the funny gags of Pieraccioni and company.

The locations of ‘Life is beautiful’ are: Cathedral, Palazzo della Provincia, Piazza Grande, Palazzo della Fraternita dei Larici, Cartolibreria Orefice, Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla, Via Garibaldi, Scuole elementari Gamurrini, Basilica di San Francesco, Caffè dei Costanti and Teatro Petrarca.

The venues of  ‘Un fantastico via vai’ are: Piazza della Libertà, Il Prato, Teatro Piero Aretino, Piazza Grande, Piazza San Francesco, Via Mazzini, Via Borgunto, Via Madonna del Prato, Piazza Sant’Agostino and Piazza San Jacopo.

Where to stay in Arezzo

Arezzo is not a very popular choice for a stay in Tuscany and this has two consequences, negative and positive, which are important as far as accommodation is concerned.

On the one hand, one cannot expect the choice of hotels and b&b’s of the most visited cities of art; on the other, prices are on average lower, the quality is generally very good and it is not difficult to find a room. Exceptions are some important events during which hotels in Arezzo sell out.

In the old town centre, the most charming establishments are concentrated: you can find flats and guesthouses in historic buildings and furnished with great care or cheaper accommodation.

If you have a car, you can drive a few kilometres from the centre in one direction or another in search of modern business hotels, including some belonging to major international chains, or charming farmhouses and country houses.

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How to reach Arezzo

Arezzo is well positioned along important road and rail routes and is therefore fairly easy to reach.

To arrive by car, simply take the A1 Milan-Naples motorway, exit at the Arezzo tollgate and follow the signs for the centre for about 10 km.

The railway station in Arezzo is located along the Rome-Bologna line, served by intercity and high-speed trains; there are also numerous regional trains to Florence and other places in Tuscany. If you take trains to Arezzo from Rome or Florence, pay attention to the station of departure because in some cases it is not the central station but Tiburtina in the first case and Rifredi in the second.

A valid alternative to the train is the bus: Arezzo is served by extra-urban buses that connect it to the most important towns in south-eastern Tuscany and by some long-distance buses for national destinations.

The train and bus stations in Arezzo are located in the lower part of the city. The distance to the centre is short and can be covered on foot, but bear in mind that it is uphill. Alternatively, you can take a city bus.

Arezzo Weather

What's the weather at Arezzo? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Arezzo for the next few days.

Saturday 20
14°
Sunday 21
13°
Monday 22
13°
Tuesday 23
11°
Wednesday 24
14°
Thursday 25
16°

Where is located Arezzo

Arezzo is a municipality in south-eastern Tuscany; it is the capital of the province of the same name. It is about 75 km from Florence, 70 km from Siena and 175 km from Pisa; the nearest is Lake Trasimeno, only 60 km away.

Province of Arezzo: places to visit

Anghiari

Anghiari

The site of the legendary battle of Anghiari painted by Leonardo da Vinci really exists: it is located in the province of Arezzo, among hills and vineyards.
Cortona

Cortona

Medieval Cortona is located in the heart of Valdichiana, a sunny region of Tuscany set in a magnificent landscape.
La Verna Sanctuary

La Verna Sanctuary

In the heart of the Casentino, the Sanctuary of La Verna is a well-known pilgrimage destination, since it was here that St Francis received his stigmata.

Location around