Lying between Siena and Firenze, Arezzo is a city with a rich historical heritage, despite not being among the top destinations for those travelling around Tuscany.
Arezzo’s roots date back to the Etruscan period. Having later developed as an independent city-state, Arezzo had several fights with Siena and Firenze for supremacy in Tuscany. One of these fights, the so-called Giostre del Toppo, fought in 1268 between Arezzo and Siena took place in Pieve al Toppo, the small village on the outskirts of Arezzo where I have lived up to the age of 9.
Nowadays Arezzo is a city of approximately 100,000 inhabitants whose centre develops along the shopping street Corso, which you should definitely visit on a Saturday afternoon when locals, young and elder alike, flock there to meet friends and have a stroll. At the top of the Corso you will reach the Cathedral and the Fortress, located on a hilltop from where you can enjoy views of the countryside surrounding the city.
Piazza Grande, Arezzo’s most valuable treasure, lies hidden in one of the Corso’s side streets. This medieval square, featured on the main picture of the post, is the charming set of:
- the famous Antique Fair, held on the first weekend of each month,
- the Giostra del Saracino, a medieval jousting context where the cavaliers of the city’s four districts have to hit a wooden figure (the Moor) with a wooden spear in order to score the highest number of points. The winning district is awarded the golden spear and enjoys a 6-month supremacy in the city.
Another event Arezzo is famous for is the Concorso Polifonico, a yearly international contest for choir singing. Arezzo has always had a very strong connection with music, as it is the birthplace of Guido the Monk who is regarded as the inventor of modern music notation. Guido Monaco Square can be one the starting point of your visit to Arezzo as it is easily reachable from the train station.
Going around the steep streets of Arezzo will surely make you hungry, but you will not be disappointed by the wide array of restaurants serving dishes belonging to the rich local tradition. I wound recommend crostini neri, toasted bread with a topping made of liver, anchovies and capers, tagliatelle with duck-meat sauce or fegatelli, grilled pork liver pieces. Only thinking about these dishes, after all these years spent abroad, makes my mouth water 🙂
In conclusion, Arezzo has a time-less charm similar to Firenze, Siena and San Gimignano, but the city can be visited at a low pace without being surrounded by hoards of tourists.
Closest airports: Firenze (FLR), Pisa (PSA), Bologna (BLQ)
Best connection if you are already in Italy: by train from Firenze-Bologna-Roma-Milano
Sights in Arezzo area: Cortona, Lucignano, Civitella della Chiana, Poppi, La Verna Monastery, Caprese Michelangelo (birthplace of Michelangelo Buonarroti), Camaldoli hermitage
Reasons to visit: history, art, food, wine