The ancient hilltop city of Arezzo is a must see for culture and history lovers. This often forgotten gem is rich in art and architecture, but mostly free of crowds. Stop off here and you will find an affluent, cosmopolitan town full of high-end boutiques, fine dining and famous antique markets. It's also a great starting or stopping off point for exploring the beautiful, surrounding Castieno valley, or further afield the towns of Cortona, Montepulciano, Pienza, Siena and Florence.
What to do
Most visitors are drawn to Arezzo by the famous fresco depicting The Legend of the True Cross by painter Pierro della Francesca. This fresco dating from 1466 is considered an early Renaissance masterpiece. Find it in the Capella Maggiore in the Bascilica di San Francesco, one of the many stunning churches in Arezzo's hictoric centre. Another cultural must is the Casa di Vasari, the house built and sumptuously decorated by Arezzo born painter, artist and histrian, Giorgio Vasari, in 1541.
In the historic centre you will find the Piazza Grande. Built on a slant and surrounded by an attractive jumble of palazzos, towers and churches, this is the town's focal point and where you will find it's famous antique fair. Also in the Piazza, the town's medieval jousting competition is held every June and September. The square is transformed into a jousting track and it's buildings festooned with colourful crests. Watch this amazing spectacle and join in the lively street parties that happen for days before and after the main event.
You might recognise some of Arezzo's ancient streets from the Oscar winning film, La Vita e Bella (life is Beautiful) Many of it's famous scenes were filmed in Arezzo and the city is dotted with signposts directing you to their locations. Another treat for film fans is Arezzo's very own outdoor cinema, which you can find at Eden Garden. This stylish restaurant features an outdoor terrace offering outdoor screenings throughout the summer months.
And finally, no visit to Arezzo would be complete without a trip to its famous shops and markets. Shopping in Arezzo is a stylish affair. Its affluent town centre is stuffed with high-end boutiques selling fashion, furniture and more. You will also find plenty of art and bookstores as well as the curio and antique stores and markets that Arezzo is famous for.
What to eat
You will find many tasty and varied dining options in Arezzo. Local delicacies include scottiglia (a meat stew) and acquacotto (a soup of onion, tomato, bread, egg and cheese).
For one of the best restaurants in the city, head to Gastronomia Il Cervo. Located just around the corner from the Basillica di San Francesco, this restaurant doesn't fall into the usual tourist trap category, despite its second to none location. Instead you will find fantastic meals and generous portions at a reasonable price.
Just a few blocks from the main square you will find Ristorante Cio Che Piace, A high quality sefood restaurant, which can be difficult to find in this part of Tuscany. Although this small restaurant doesn't look much from the outside, the charmingly decorated interior and extensive sefood menu will wow you.
For an informal setting with gourmet food, head to bistro 31. Despite it's lovingly put together menu and passionate staff, the prices remain very reasonable.
How to get there
Arezzo is located approximately 60km south of Florence and 30km west of Citta di Castello. The easiest way to arrive is by car, coming from the north or the south, the Autostrada del Sole has an exit for Arezzo. Another easy way to arrive, especially if you are based in Florence or Rome, is to take one of the frequent trains. If arriving by train, avoid the traffic lined main route into town and instead head east through Piazza Risorgimento until you pick up the pedestrianised Corso Italia.
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