Every year, a tide of visitors descends onto the city of Florence for a chance to feast on world-class art museums brimming with paintings and sculptures by Botticcelli, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, to name just a few.
Once a cradle of high Renaissance art, an incubator for the powerful Medici family and the birthplace of fashion powerhouses such as Ferragamo and Gucci, yes, Florence is magnificent in all its glory, but swap this urban-packed metropolis for an enchanting and historically rich city like Arezzo, and you’ll find your experience to be unexpectedly enjoyable and more importantly, authentic.
Older than Egypt’s Alexandria, Arezzo was once a vibrant Etruscan trading post who grew the city to be an independent republic from as early as the 10th century. In support of the Ghibelline cause in the violent battles between pope and emperor, Arezzo was eventually subjugated by Florence in 1384. Nowadays, while Florence’s economy has become over-reliant on tourist traffic, Arezzo has been going on its own path and in recent years has been taken more seriously as a place to visit in Tuscany.
Adorned with impressive churches, museums, a monthly antique fair (the biggest in Italy) and a central piazza that appeared in Roberto Benigni’s classic film La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful), Arezzo is a fabulous Tuscan affair. Watch the locals spill along the length of shop-clad Corso Italia for the ritual late-afternoon passeggiata (stroll) whilst sipping on your aperitivo.
What to see:
Basilica of San Francesco
Piero della Francesca’s frescoes, considered one of the most treasured Renaissance artworks in Italy, can be found at this very cathedral.
Dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, this Gothic-style Basilica is considered to be the main focal point of Arezzo especially because it houses the fresco cycle Legends of the True Cross. The painting of the chancel began with a commission by the Aretine family Bicci, who called the painter Bicci di Lorenzo to paint the large cross-vault. In 1452, at Bicci’s death, only the four Evangelists had been painted in the vault, as well as the triumphal arch with the Last Judgement and two Doctors of the Church. Piero della Francesca was called in to complete the magnificent series of interior frescoes depicting Cupid, St. Louis, St. Peter, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose and St Mary Magdalene which are still in near-perfect order.
Museo di Casa Vasari
Built and sumptuously decorated by Arezzo-born painter, architect, and art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511–74), this museum is where Vasari lived and worked, and where the original manuscript of his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1550) – still in print under the title The Lives of the Artists – is kept
The Antiques Fair
Held the first Sunday of the month and then every subsequent Saturday, the Arezzo Antiques Fair draws dealers from across Italy and takes over the Piazza San Francesco, Piazza Grande, and Logge Vasari. Launched in 1968 by Tuscan collector Ivan Bruschi, it’s far more than just a flea market: There are 500 exhibitors selling furniture, paintings, books, historic prints, modern antiques, toys, watches, porcelain, glass, fabrics, iron and copper objects, as well as unexpected treasures that defy categorization. Don’t leave without a beautifully bound book.
The Saracen Joust is a tournament that takes place in June and September in which locals wearing colourful costumes, horses accompanied by the town’s ancient banners and the sound of trumpets create a festive medieval atmosphere.
Date: Sunday, 5 September 2021.
Where to eat:
Ristorante La Lancia d’Oro
Lunch on the terrace is a must. Dessert is the best and just trust in the chef’s hands and you won’t be disappointed.
Where to stay:
Podere Bocci is about a 30-minute drive from Arezzo where you can experience the undulating terra of Tuscany. Deep in the mint green countryside, Podere Bocci the perfect spot for a group of foodies where you can cook in the kitchen and enjoy the long summer evenings in the shaded area, sipping on your first Negroni of the night. A great place to relax and enjoy all that Tuscany has to offer, you can easily take day trips to explore the nearby towns of Poppi, Romena and Stia
Podere Bocci sleeps a total of 12 people when rented in exclusive use.
Prices start from €180 per night
Minimum stay of 5 nights.
You absolutely need a car.