Arezzo is the easternmost province in the Tuscany region of Italy. With its architectural grandeur and historical structures, one should consider visiting this place.
Arezzo’s capital city bears the same name. Nestled at the center of four valleys – Valtiberina, Valdarno, Casentino and Valdichiana – the sights are spectacular. One of the main attractions of the city is the medieval square surrounded by old buildings. Due to its geographical location, the square has a sloping pavement of red bricks. Once the city’s main marketplace, it remains an important spot for locals and tourists alike. It is the site for the Giostra del Saracino or most commonly known as Joust of the Saracen, an annual medieval festival where the people of Arezzo re-enact the historical game of chivalry. Knights in medieval costumes ride their horses and charge at the wooden carving of Saracen. It is also used as a setting for several scenes in the movie “Life is Beautiful”. Go and wander the grounds of the Palace of the Lay Fraternity or Fraternita dei Laici, a 14th century palazzo by Bernardo Rossellino. Then, climb to its bell tower for some of the most exhilarating views of the city. You can also take a look at the Vasari Loggia and admire its Mannerist façade by the famous Giorgio Vasari or adore the picturesque Palazzo Cofani-Brizzolari with its Torre Faggiolana. You can even feast your eyes on the impressive frescoes of Pietro Benvenuti, Salvi Castellucci and Teofilo Torri that decorated the interiors of Episcopal Palace, or the majestic monument of Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici designed by Giambologna but made by Pietro Francavilla right in front of the palace.
One of the most famous attractions in Arezzo is the Basilica of San Francesco. The Tuscan-Gothic style church holds the Piero della Francesca fresco “History of the True Cross”, a significant piece of 14th century art, that attracts numerous tourists from different parts of the world. Other notable churches you should visit are Santa Maria della Pieve, a Romanesque church with five rows of mullioned windows on the bell tower; the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a Benedetto da Maiano Gothic sanctuary dedicated to Apollo; and the Cathedral of Saint Donatus, also known as Arezzo Cathedral, a Gothic style church known for its medieval stained glass, the Tarlati Chapel and Pope Gregory X’s Gothic tomb.
There are other architectural gems you can find here in Arezzo such as the Palazzo dei Priori, a well-maintained edifice that remains the seat of Arezzo’s magistratures until today; the Casa Vasari, an old house rebuilt and frescoed by Giorgio Vasari and the Ivan Bruschi House and Museum or Casa-Museo Ivan Bruschi. Another interesting structure is the Museo Archeologico. Built above the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater, that explains its curved design, it is one of the greatest Etruscan museums in the region.
Known for its cultural and artistic significance, and the steep narrow streets inside its walls, Cortona is another city you should visit. The stunning view of this city was even featured in Francis Mayes book Under the Tuscan Sun, that was later on made into a movie. Piazza della Republica, the city’s main square, is home to the 13th century city hall and clock tower. Settle in one of the many cafes nearby while witnessing the hustle and bustle of Cortona city life. The Cathedral of Cortona is a Renaissance church built on the site of a former Etruscan temple. Its 11th century façade and paintings from 16th to 17th century are must-sees. Two museums are worth visting: the Museo dell’ Accademia Etrusca that holds some Roman artifacts, small Egyptian exhibits and paintings in Renaissance and Baroque style, and the Museo Diocesano, a small museum that houses outstanding artworks and a Roman sarcophagus.
Another walled city you should check out is Foiano della Chiana. It is home to art and architectural masterpieces by Andrea della Robbia and other remarkable artists of the Renaissance. Some of these are Madonna della Cintola, an Andrea della Robbia work found inside Piazza della Collegiata, and Madonna of the Rosary by Lorenzo Lippi settled inside the Church of Michele Arcangelo. Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo delle Logge are two important architectural landmarks in the city. It is also famous for its annual carnival, the Carnival of Foiano della Chiana. It is Italy’s oldest and one of the most famous carnivals where the four districts of Foiano create colorful and fantastic floats. The parade is a must-see.
One of the best preserved fortresses is the village of Civitella in Val di Chiana. The city retains its strategical layouts and its massive line of walls. One of the attractions of this city are the ruins of Rocca (Fortress). It was erected around 1048 and served as German headquarters during World War II, destroyed by a bombing attack and has never been restored.