Pick up a map at the tourist information centre right outside the station. From here, make your way to Piazza San Iacopo and to Corso Italia, one of the most beautiful streets is the town, dotted with boutique shops and antique sellers. Turn left into Via Cavour with its impressively frescoed buildings.
The first stop is in Piazza San Francesco, where you’ll see the statue of Arezzo’s son VIttorio Fossombroni. A genius in the field of hydraulics, he was the overseer for the reclamation works in Val di Chiana and in the Maremma at the end of the 18th century, under the Lorena rule.
You’ll also find the very modest looking San Francesco Church, built by the Franciscan order in the 13th century. Inside, there’s the masterpiece by Piero della Francesca, the fresco cycle “Legend of the True Cross” that, in itself, is worth the trip to Arezzo. It might be advisable to book in advance to see the frescoes, if you’re travelling in high season.
Retrace your steps to Corso Italia where you’ll pass Busatti, an historic shop with top quality textiles. You’ll spot the bell tower of the splendid Romanesque Santa Maria della Pieve Church. Opposite the church there’s a fountain and the Museum Casa Ivan Bruschi. This is particularly interesting for anyone who likes antiques as he’s the brains behind the famous Antiques Fair in Arezzo.
From here carry on to the splendid Piazza Grande, which is the town’s main square. Here you can visit the Lay Fraternity Palace and its famous clock (they’ll demonstrate how it works). Stop for lunch under the elegant Vasari’s loggia. Then walk along the loggia towards Via dei Pileati, where you’ll find the Palazzo Pretorio, covered in coats of arms, which hosts the city library.
From here take a short walk uphill along via Ricasoli to the square with the imposing Cathedral of San Donato, and the severe looking Palazzo Comunale. Once you’ve visited the Duomo stroll over to the green area Il Prato for a rest. If you’re up for more sightseeing, you could stop at the Casa Vasari or Santa Maria delle Grazie Church.
What to see in Arezzo:
Piazza Grande: Arezzo’s main square is not as famous as the one in Siena, but its every bit as impressive. A sloping trapezoidal expanse bordered by beautiful buildings from different eras, it is all surprisingly harmonious: from the crenelleted medieval tower to the richly decorated Palazzo della Fratenita’ dei Laici with its 16th century Astronomical clock (built according to the ptolemaic vision, which fixed the earth at the centre of the universe.) The long loggia, planned by Vasari in 1573, brings light and elegance to the mix.
The Church of Santa Maria della Pieve has an incredible facade with thin sandstone columns. Its bell tower is known as “delle cento buche” (the tower of a hundred holes , 1330). The interior houses a wonderful polyptych by Pietro Lorenzetti (1320). In the crypt there is the skull of San Donato, the town’s Christian patron.
San Francesco Church: this 13th century church contains the splendid “Legend of the true cross“, one of Italy’s greatest frescoes cycle, by Piero della Francesca. Also notable a fresco by Luca Signorelli and the central Cross by Maestro di San Francesco.
Church Santa Maria delle Grazie: situated on a hill, just outside the centre near the Medicean Fortress. The church was built on a site that has been used for devotional purposes since Etruscan time. It’s surrounded by an expanse of grass and has a very elegant loggia.
Other churches: Santa Maria in Gradi (with works by della Robbia), Badia SS. Flora e Lucilla for the characteristic bell tower, Duomo for its gothic interior.
Casa Vasari: The other big cultural draw in Arezzo is the House of Vasari, whose “Lives of the Artists” chronicles Renaissance creativity and who was a talented artist and architect in his own right. He bought the house in 1541, and decorated the walls with allegorical frescoes on subjects such as “Virtue beating up Fortune and Envy” . This is the central rosette – painted so that as you walk around the room sometimes virtue seems to be winning, and at other times fortune or envy. It’s a shame that none of Vasari’s furniture or tools of the trade are still here to get a sense of the life and artistic activity that went on inside, but the handsome structure has been well preserved.
Medieval and Modern Art museum: Enjoy some great masters in perfect tranquillity: Della Robbia, Vasari, Pietro Lorenzetti, Parri di Spinello, Telemaco Signorini, plus a collection of ceramics. It’s in via San Lorentino 8, 800 mt. from Piazza Grande, following via Piaggio di Murello.
Did you know? A square fit for an Oscar
The film “Life is Beautiful“ by acclaimed director and actor Roberto Benigni was filmed in Piazza Grande.