- Introduction to Arezzo
- Brief History
- Geographical Features
- Current day Arezzo
- Best Time to Visit
- Getting To and Around Arezzo
- By Air
- By Rail
- By Road
- Public Transportation within Arezzo
- Major Attractions in Arezzo
- Piazza Grande
- Cathedral of San Donato
- The Roman Ampitheater
- Medici Fortress
- Cultural Experiences in Arezzo
- Saracen Joust
- Antique Fair
- Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Choral Festival
- Local Traditional Cuisine and Wine tasting
- Accommodations in Arezzo
- Luxury Hotels in Arezzo
- Mid-Range Hotels in Arezzo
- Budget Options
- Local Home Stays
- Tips for Travelers
- Local Etiquettes
- Recommended Itineraries
- Do's and Don'ts while visiting
- Essential phrases in Italian
- Shopping and Souvenirs in Arezzo
- Antique Market
- Traditional Crafts
- Local Boutiques
- Gourmet Food Shopping
- Why you should visit Arezzo
- Recap of travel guide
- Farewell note to readers
Introduction to Arezzo
Arezzo, tracing its roots back to pre-Etruscan times, was one of the leading cities of the Etruscan League. In the Middle Ages, it became a significant hub for trade and culture, renowned for its painters, goldsmiths, and thriving textile industry. Its turbulent history saw periods of prosperity but also devastation and decline, greatly exacerbated by World War II's fierce battles. Today, it stands as a charming city elegantly fusing its ancient past with the modern era, renowned for its art, vibrant festivals, antiques market, and gastronomy.
Located in Southeastern Tuscany, Arezzo lies at the intersection of four valleys - Val Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno, and Valdichiana. It is a mountainous region, dotted with rolling hills and verdant landscapes. The Arno River, which flows through the city, provides a picturesque backdrop to this medieval town. The city's elevation ranges from 296 to 1,083 meters above sea-level. This diverse terrain contributes to Arezzo's unique climate; mild winters are followed by hot summers. With its mesmerizing vistas and a perfect blend of manmade and natural beauty, Arezzo enchants every visitor.
Current day Arezzo
Today, Arezzo serves as an engaging amalgamation of ancient history and modern-day charm. Its enveloping Medieval walls house an impressive range of museums, galleries, and churches adorned with the masterpieces of famous artists like Piero della Francesca. Its thriving culinary scene boasts traditional Tuscan delights, while bustling local markets echo with the vibrant spirit of local artisans. Despite its rich historical appeal, Arezzo's heart beats with contemporary vibrancy, making it a captivating destination for a myriad of spectators.
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time to visit the medieval city of Arezzo is between April and June, when the weather is warm and the countryside is in full bloom. The temperatures are also pleasant from September through October. However, the first weekend of every month also attracts antique lovers and collectors as Piazza Grande becomes the site of Italy’s most important antique fair. To experience Arezzo’s traditional "Giostra del Saracino", plan your visit in June or September. Regardless of when you come, Arezzo will charm you with its timeless appeal.
Getting To and Around Arezzo
The nearest major airport to Arezzo is Peretola Airport in Florence, approximately 90 kilometers away. Regular flights connect it to many European cities. Other options include Pisa's Galileo Galilei International Airport and Rome's Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport. From these airports, you have several options for reaching Arezzo. Rent a car, take a bus, or go by train - Florence and Pisa have direct rail connections to Arezzo. Consider planning ahead to make the transfer smoother. It's recommended to check train and bus schedules ahead, or pre-book a rental car.
Arezzo is well-connected with Italy's rail network and makes for an easy journey from major cities. Direct trains from Florence or Rome typically take an hour or two, respectively. You can easily book tickets online or at the train station. Upon arrival at Arezzo Train Station, it's a brief walk into the city center. The station also has taxi services and public buses available. For traveling within the city, your best option might be on foot due to its compact size. However, local buses are also available for farther journeys.
Reaching Arezzo by road is relatively easy as it is efficiently linked to Italy's autostrada (highway) system. From Florence, take A1 towards Rome and exit at Arezzo. The drive will take approximately an hour. Traveling regionally, Siena is just an hour to the west, while Perugia is an hour south. Remember, in Italy, highways are toll roads. Car rentals are available at most major airports if you prefer driving and exploring the landscape at your own pace.
Public Transportation within Arezzo
In Arezzo, the public transportation system consists primarily of buses managed by Etruria Mobilità. The bus routes cover almost all neighborhoods and points of interest, including the Basilica of San Francesco and the Cathedral of Arezzo. For those interested in biking, Arezzo also has a bike-sharing system, CicloPi. It's an easy and eco-friendly alternative to explore the city. There are several CicloPi stations throughout Arezzo, making it very accessible for tourists. Taxis are also available, but are less cost-effective for short distances due to their metered fare system. Make sure to have the address ready for the driver as not all of them speak English.
Major Attractions in Arezzo
Piazza Grande is Arezzo's medieval heart, stunningly set on a sloped landscape. This square exhibits a unique blend of architectural styles, from the Romanesque Apse of Santa Maria to the Renaissance style Loggia del Vasari. Must see events include the vibrant Giostra del Saracino horse race and the renowned Antiques Fair. Offering charming boutiques and cozy eateries, Piazza Grande truly embodies the spirit of Arezzo.
Cathedral of San Donato
The Cathedral of San Donato, also known as Arezzo Cathedral, is a must-see attraction steeped in medieval history. The church's construction began in the 13th century and offers an exquisite blend of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. Within the cathedral, the majestic stained-glass window by Guillaume de Marcillat and the tomb of Pope Gregory X are main highlights. Despite its understated exterior, this cathedral offers rich interiors that tell stories of the past. The panoramic views of the city Arezzo from the cathedral site is truly breathtaking.
The Roman Ampitheater
The Roman Amphitheater in Arezzo is an exhilarating representation of the city's vibrant history. Built in the second century AD, these ruins provide a vivid glimpse into the era of Roman civilization. About two-thirds of the amphitheater is intact, including a garden now occupying the central arena. The elliptical structure, initially hosting gladiator contests, could accommodate up to 8,000 spectators. Today, it forms a part of the Archaeological Museum's complex. The arena is picturesque, with its olden stone architecture and a live testimony to Arezzo's historical affluence. Don't miss the opportunity to step back in time.
Perched atop San Donato Hill, the Medici Fortress is a 16th-century monument offering panoramic views of Arezzo. Constructed under the orders of Cosimo I de’ Medici, it stands as a symbol of the Medici family's power and influence over Tuscany. The fortress's polygonal structure with sloping walls and corner bastions is a splendid example of military architecture. Although the interior is not open to the public, its surroundings provide a peaceful place for walks, picnics or simple admiration of timeless Italian panoramas.
Discover the iconic Piazza Grande, situated in the heart of Arezzo. Steeped in rich history, it is surrounded by striking medieval buildings like Palazzo delle Logge and Santa Maria della Pieve. Incite your artistic sense at the Basilica of San Francesco, housing Piero della Francesca’s magnificent frescoes. Visit the Roman Amphitheatre and the Archaeological Museum for a glimpse into the past. Refresh your senses at Prato Park, offering breathtaking views over Arezzo. The city's charm lies not only in its art and history, but also its streets, lined with quaint shops and fine dining experiences.
Cultural Experiences in Arezzo
The Saracen Joust is a re-enactment of a medieval knight tournament that is held twice a year in Arezzo. Held in June and September, this competition sees four city quarters compete in a historical pageantry seen nowhere else. The jousting tradition traces back to the Middle Ages, bringing color and rhythm to the town square. Knights representing their quarters charge a wooden target representing the "Saracen," bringing history to life. Make sure to book a seat to enjoy this unique experience. The Saracen Joust is an unmissable glimpse into the past and a living expression of Arezzo's storied culture.
Every first weekend of the month, Arezzo springs to life with Italy’s largest and oldest antique fair, Fiera Antiquaria. The fair is nestled in the historic city center, transforming its streets and squares into a treasure trove of vintage and antique delights. Browse through a diverse collection of furniture, artwork, jewelry, and more, dating as far back as the Renaissance era. Whether you're an antique aficionado or a casual browser, this monthly fair lends unique flavors to Arezzo’s cultural scene, giving you a tangible feel of Italy’s splendid past.
Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Choral Festival
Experience the magic of harmony at the Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Choral Festival. This annual event celebrates Guido d'Arezzo, a medieval music theorist who revolutionized the world of music with his innovative notations. The festival hosts choirs from around the world, creating a vibrant atmosphere that echoes with harmonious melodies. It's a must-visit for music enthusiasts wanting to experience Italy's rich musical heritage. Clap, cheer, and lose yourself in the powerful performances that unite different cultures through the universal language of music.
Local Traditional Cuisine and Wine tasting
Experience the rich flavors of Arezzo's traditional cuisine at local trattorias. Tuck into regional specialties like “Panzanella”, a refreshing bread salad, or “Acquacotta”, a hearty soup. Don't miss out on traditional “Chianina” steak, sourced from local cattle. As for the wine, Arezzo sits in the heart of Tuscany, one of Italy's premier wine regions. Wine-tasting tours are readily available, offering you a chance to sample renowned labels such as Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and more. A sensory delight, revealing the true essence of Arezzo's inviting culture.
Accommodations in Arezzo
Luxury Hotels in Arezzo
Arezzo boasts several upscale accommodation options for a lavish stay. Two of the city's most prestigious hotels are the AC Hotel Arezzo by Marriott and the Badia di Pomaio. The AC Hotel offers delightful scenic views of the city and spoils its guests with plush rooms and gourmet dining facilities. Meanwhile, the Badia di Pomaio offers a taste of Tuscan elegance and rural serenity combined with modern luxury, surrounded by its vineyard and beautiful gardens.
Mid-Range Hotels in Arezzo
Arezzo offers a range of mid-priced hotels providing comfortable lodging and friendly service. Hotel L'Aretino, in the heart of City Centre, close to major attractions, offers clean rooms and sumptuous Italian breakfasts. On the outskirts, Etrusco Arezzo Hotel, a part of the renowned Best Western chain, offers modern comforts and top-notch amenities. For those who prefer the charm of bed & breakfast, Casa Voltole offers a unique ambiance and a superb regional cuisine to relish.
For budget travelers, Arezzo has several affordable options. The Ostello Piero della Francesca offers low-cost dormitory style lodging in the city center. It's ideal for backpackers seeking to socialize and explore the city's historic sights on a budget. If you prefer privacy, consider B&B Tarussio or Hotel Cecco, both deliver decent comfort for a modest price. Numerous budget-friendly apartments are also available through rental platforms like Airbnb. Regardless of where you choose to stay, the romantic charm of Arezzo is just a short walk away.
Local Home Stays
Explore authentic Tuscan living by opting for homestays in Arezzo. Here, the properties range from rustic farmhouses to cozy apartments set in medieval structures. Local families offer warm hospitality and often share insights into cultural traditions and the best local spots. Staying in a local home not only gives you a different perspective of Tuscan life but also an opportunity to taste home-cooked local cuisine. Many hosts are known to offer cooking classes, perfect for foodies wanting to try their hand at Tuscan recipes. This offers the perfect blend of comfort and cultural immersion. Remember to book in advance as these intimate accommodations are highly sought after, especially during the festive season. Some reliable platforms to find local homestays are Airbnb, Homestay.com, and Booking.com.
Tips for Travelers
In Arezzo, manners are essential. Always say 'buongiorno' (good morning) or 'buonasera' (good evening) when entering or leaving places. Ques are strictly observed, and cutting in line is frowned upon. Additionally, remember to dress modestly when visiting religious sites. Tip at cafes and smaller restaurants is often appreciated but not mandatory. However, leaving a tip at upscale dining establishments is customary. Remember, an elegantly casual dress code generally prevails at fine dining spots. Finally, maintain a respectful volume when conversing in public. Overly loud and unrestrained behavior is seen as disrespectful.
Begin your journey at Piazza Grande, the heart of Arezzo's historic center. From there, stroll the Corso Italia, a shopping street dotted with medieval and Renaissance structures including the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve. Don't miss the San Domenico Church and its magnificent Crucifix. For a change of scenery, go to Arezzo's lush Prato Park, a refreshing place to relax. Lastly, make your way up to the Medici Fortress. It's a bit of a hike, but the panoramic views of the city will make it all worth. The ideal end to your storybook day in Arezzo awaits.
Do's and Don'ts while visiting
Do enjoy Arezzo's historical attractions - from the impressive Roman Amphitheatre to the mesmerizing frescoes in Church of San Francesco. Ensure to try the city’s rich culinary offerings such as the panzanella salad and pici pasta, and don't forget to sample local Tuscan wines. Don't ignore local customs. Standard European etiquette applies in Arezzo: being polite and respectful goes a long way. Also, avoid visiting museums and churches in shorts or revealing clothes as Italians generally dress conservatively for these sites. Try not to pack your schedule too tight, the charm of Arezzo lies in its relaxed pace.
Essential phrases in Italian
When in Arezzo, knowing a few phrases in Italian is beneficial. Greetings like "Buongiorno" (Good day), "Buonasera" (Good Evening), and "Buonanotte" (Good Night) are common. To show gratitude, use "Grazie" (Thank you), and when you need help, "Potreste aiutarmi?" (Could you help me?). When dining, "Posso avere il menu?" asks for the menu. If you like something, say "Mi piace" (I like it). If you need directions, ask “Dove si trova...?” (Where is…?). Finally, a polite goodbye is "Arrivederci" (Goodbye). Remember, locals appreciate your effort to speak Italian, even if you make a few mistakes.
Shopping and Souvenirs in Arezzo
Arezzo is famous for its grand Antique Market, held on the first Sunday and preceding Saturday of every month. The market fills the Piazza Grande and spills into the surrounding streets, making it not just the oldest, but also one of the largest antique markets in Italy. At the market, you'll discover a vast selection of items from antiquated bric-a-brac to valuable treasures. Whether it's ornaments, jewelry, art or furniture, there's something for every taste and budget. This is an ideal place to hunt for unique souvenirs encapsulating the rich history of Arezzo.
In Arezzo, the traditional crafts bear the city's historical charm and culture. The most celebrated craft is goldsmithing, a skill that dates back to the Etruscan period. Special workshops offer intricately designed gold jewelry, often adorned with precious gems. For ceramic lovers, Arezzo's artisans produce beautiful Tuscan pottery using traditional techniques. Also, explore antique stores for unique finds. Leather goods, another Italian specialty, can be found in various stores, offering an array of shoes, bags, and jackets. These treasures from Arezzo make for delightful souvenirs.
Strolling through Arezzo's labyrinthine streets reveals a wealth of characterful local boutiques. They offer an eclectic mix of locally made products such as ceramics, woodwork items, artwork, and exquisite Tuscan linens. Be sure to visit Mercatale di Arezzo which showcases Arezzo’s vibrant local craft scene. Semi-precious jewels from "Unoaerre" and unique Italian fashions from "Alter Ego" make for beautiful, memorable gifts. For foodie souvenirs, try popular boutiques "Buccelletti" or "La Bottega di Assu" for quality Italian olive oils, truffle products, and locally produced wines. These are ideal to recreate a Tuscan dinner back home.
Gourmet Food Shopping
From local wines to sweet treats, shopping for gourmet food in Arezzo is an experience in itself. This Tuscan city offers a variety of specialty stores where you can find high-quality olive oils, fine truffle products, and delicious pecorino cheeses. Don’t miss the chance to buy the renowned Chianti wines in local Enotecas and try delicious cantucci (Tuscan almond cookies) at traditional bakeries. The Arezzo's monthly Antique fair also features a section for local products where you can find traditional Tuscan culinary delights.
Arezzo offers unique buying experiences for everyone. The Antique Fair offers collectables and curiosities, held once a month. The Corso Italia and Via Roma are the city's shopping streets lined with international and local boutiques. For souvenirs, You can hunt for classic Italian leather goods and jewellery, especially gold as Arezzo is one of Italy's primary gold jewellery production areas. Also, local wines and olive oil are must-buy items, typical of Tuscan region. Don't miss the artisanal crafts in small local shops.
Why you should visit Arezzo
Arezzo, steeped in history and brimming with spectacular architecture, offers a truly authentic and intimate Italian experience. It's a haven for lovers of art and culture, with its numerous galleries, museums, and the iconic Piero della Francesca frescoes taking center stage. But there's more to Arezzo than just art. Its culinary scene is robust, with traditional Tuscan cuisine that'll make your taste buds sing. Also, shopping for local arts and crafts at Arezzo’s famous antique market is an experience not to be missed. Visiting Arezzo lets you dive in the delightful rhythm of Italian life.
Recap of travel guide
In exploring Arezzo, we discovered a thriving city rich in history, art, and Tuscan charm. With its various attractions from Piero della Francesca's frescoes, Petrarca's House, and Piazza Grande, to the vibrant cultural scene and delectable culinary offerings; the city offers a unique Italian experience. Excursions around the city added further value to the trip by offering a glimpse into Tuscany's enchanting countryside. In summary, whether you're an art enthusiast, history buff, or food lover, Arezzo is definitely worth a visit.
Farewell note to readers
As our journey through the enchanting city of Arezzo concludes, we hope this guide has ignited your wanderlust. This city, with its vibrant history and divine natural beauty, is a must-visit when exploring Italy. Remember to indulge fully in the local cuisine, art, and culture, harmoniously encapsulated in this charming city. Enjoy a sunset by the Piazza Grande and let Arezzo etch an everlasting memory in your heart. Thank you for choosing our travel guide. May your journey be full of wonderful experiences and memorable moments. Arrivederci!
Have a good trip!