Arezzo sits high on a hill on the western side of the Apennines toward the border with Umbria and is Tuscany’s third largest city and one of the wealthiest located in southeastern Tuscany and feels like a more modern city than some we have seen elsewhere in Tuscany founded in the 9th century and really caters to the locals. It has high end shopping and the economy here has had a hand in gold and jewelry design worldwide since Etruscan times when it was a great town and a strategic Roman city. I have a sister in the jewelry business and she travels frequently to Arezzo. I think I need to tag along!!
There were Renaissance town palaces, Romanesque and Gothic churches and medieval squares in the upper town area of the Duomo. We started at the top of the city and worked our way back down to our car at the bottom. If you so chose you can do it in reverse! The upper part of the town is very medieval and is the site of the Cathedral and the Medici Fortress.
The Arezzo Cathedral with its splendid stained glass windows sits high on a hill in the Piazza Duomo San Donato with views over the countryside on the site of an earlier Benedictine chapel begun in 1277. The bell tower of the Duomo has been visible from all over since 1337. This church dates from the 14th century and sits in a square with medieval towers and a white marble statue. Even the side entrance is very elaborate and is from the original medieval building. The door in the center is a 14th century portal in the Florentine style with 2 columns taken from an ancient temple.
Santa Maria della Pieve found in the Piazza Grande was constructed over the remains of a Roman temple. The facade is from the 13th century and has a Romanesque exterior with granite Roman columns and a Gothic interior. It has a massive bell tower built in the 12th century with a nave and two aisles and a Hundred Holes with 40 double arched mullioned windows. It sits almost 60 meters high! Both the front and back facades contain a mix of columns and is one of the best known examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany.
The Piazza Grande, a medieval square has an irregular shape and assorted buildings constructed over time and is reminiscent of Siena’s Il Campo. Originally, it was the city’s marketplace. The main street is Corso Italia where we found some great shopping, restaurants and it takes you up to the top of the town and backdown.
About halfway down the street is the Loggia designed by Vasari with high arches and antique doors that now has several cafes and restaurants and is a fun spot to people watch over the sloping Piazza Grande. The slope was obviously designed to funnel rain water out of the square. It is said that this Piazza was built on top of the Roman forum.
The Basilica of San Francesco is a late medieval church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. This is another church built by the Franciscans. The design is very simple and the decoration of the facade was never completed.
A walk up through the gardens surrounding the Medici Fortress reveals striking views of the city and countryside and also of the cemetery which we found fascinating. The fortress was in the form of a 5 point star built by Cosimo I . It was one of three fortresses built to defend the city and the most important because this is where the city’s ancient center was situated.
Walking along the exterior wall thru the French styled park affords some great panoramic views towards the Casentino Valley, surrounding vineyards and olive groves. (see Featured photo at beginning)
My advice: When in all these lovely towns in Tuscany try to plan some time to just relax and enjoy the place, the people and the food. Do not be in a hurry to cross each site off your bucket list or you’ll miss the very essence of Tuscany! Did you miss Lucca or Pienza? You can search the blogs by category so if you are looking for something in particular just search for it there.