“Florence without all the crowds” is how someone once described Arezzo. And it’s true. Arezzo is home to upscale shops, fine restaurants and quaint cafés. Yet it can boast of Renaissance Art and amazing Etruscan history that seems to pop out at you wherever you are in the city. Because it sits in the shadow of the more well-known and larger city of Florence though, many people miss the opportunity to check out this jewel of a city.
Here are just four of the many reasons why a trip to Arezzo is definitely worth it.
PIAZZA GRANDE – The movie Life Is Beautiful made this sprawling piazza famous, but for those who live in Arezzo the piazza has always been the heart of the city. You can enjoy a leisurely lunch on the piazza or be swallowed up in the activity of the monthly fiera antiquaria, an antique fair, or the biennial Giostra del Saracino, a reenactment of a medieval jousting tournament.
Where else can you hear a herald proclaim the coming event and then watch as knights on horseback thunder across the red-brick plaza? And all while being surrounded by the historical structures that inspired the event?
ITALIAN GOLD – Arezzo is one of the wealthiest cities in all of Tuscany. That wealth comes from being one of the most important centers of gold manufacturing in the world. Jewelers and goldsmiths create intricate designs. Artisans here are known for creating works of art with their jewelry. They weave fine threads of gold together, threads that are at times finer than a human hair.
CENTURIES-OLD FRESCOES – Piero della Francesca was a Renaissance painter who painted in pale pastels. His fresco cycle (1466), The Legend of the True Cross, in Arezzo’s Basilica of St. Francis is a masterpiece. The True Cross refers to the actual cross on which Jesus died. Its story is told in pictures described by famous art historian and architect Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) as “so well executed that but for the gift of speech they seemed alive.”
STORIES – Arezzo is so much more than what you see. It’s the story behind what you see, and honestly what you often don’t notice. Wander the streets of Arezzo and you’ll see distinct angles on some of the buildings. In ancient times, someone traveling to Arezzo could tell by the angles (whether straight up and down or V-shaped) which political party was in control. When a new party came into power, they destroyed the old buildings. Why? To build ones with their own distinctive edge, asserting their influence and domination.
Those are the kind of interesting details that are hard to learn on your own. So definitely explore with a guide and uncover the hidden stories
Traveling to Italy? Make sure Arezzo is on your itinerary. It’s well worth it!