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Alessandra Lucarelli photo Dario Garofalo

Here, it’s true: life is beautiful

Arezzo. Time stands still amidst history, art, fashion and lifestyles

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We’re in eastern Tuscany, surrounded by the unmistakable landscape of our territory, characterized by its four distinct valleys: Valdarno, Valtiberina, Casentino and Valdichiana.

The first stop on our Made in Tuscany itinerary is Arezzo, one of region’s most ancient art cities, founded by the Etruscans. Renowned throughout the world for its cultural heritage, Arezzo has always been famed for its gold; today it continues to uphold this tradition thanks to its numerous artisan workshops in the historical center.

Homeland of internationally significant events, Arezzo is a natural setting for Oscar-winning films; who can forget Guido, Roberto Benigni’s loveable character, who raced through the city’s alleys on his bike, during the first scenes of the prizewinning movie Life is Beautiful.

Three of Arezzo’s local events are especially worthy of mention: its Giostra del Saracino, a chivalric diversion finds its roots in medieval times. The city’s Fiera Antiquaria, antiques fair, was founded by the antiquarian and collector from Arezzo, Ivan Bruschi in the 1970s. It takes place the first weekend of every month. And what about the Guido d’Arezzo International Polyphonic Contest, a noteworthy competition dedicated to choral music that boasts over half a century of history and showcases the cities deep ties with the music scene? It was originally established by Guido Monaco, the theorist from Arezzo who lived between 974 and 1050 BC and renamed the musical notes.

Contemporary music lovers will remember the more recent tunes enjoyed during the Arezzo Wave music festival, which has since been transferred to other locations. Aficionados are now gearing up for the newly established Play Art Arezzo Festival scheduled for July. Last year’s edition brought various big names to the city including Baustelle and Belle and Sebastian.

Arezzo is a synonym for art: from Francesco Petrarca and Giorgio Vasari to Piero della Francesca, the city has witnessed the birth of some of Italy’s most influential cultural personalities. Those intrigued by contemporary art won’t want to miss getting a feel for ArteXpo, a modern and contemporary art fair. This noteworthy event runs each March and showcases works from over one hundred national and international galleries. Long spring days offer an ideal chance to visit the city as well as myriad country towns located in the surrounding area, including Cortona, Sansepolcro, Anghiari and Il Borro. Below, you’ll find a mini guide for spending 24 hours in the city.

Leave your car at the large parking lot in Via Pietri. You’ll find yourself facing the walls of the city. Take the escalators; they’ll bring you directly into Piazza San Domenico. You’ll find yourself entering the very heart of the city and, it will feel like you’ve known each other forever. In the Basilica di San Domenico, in the center of the apse, you’ll find a monumental Crucifix, created by the young Cimabue. Spend a few minutes viewing it - it’s certainly worth the time. While in the neighborhood, visit the nearby Casa del Vasari, purchased by the artist who decorated it with Mannerist flair. Currently state property, it hosts the Vasari Museum and Archive. From there, go left and you’ll find the splendid Church of Santa Maria in Gradi. Enter for a few minutes, to admire Andrea della Robbia’s stunning Madonna of Mercy. From the church, go straight until you reach Piazza Duomo. The cathedral hosts numerous works of art; don’t miss Piero della Francesca’s Magdalene and Guillaume de Marcillat’s decorated glass windows.

At this point, our itinerary will lead us toward Piazza Grande. Here, in the heart of the city, you’ll find medieval towers alongside the Loggiato Vasariano. Stop here for a great lunch at one of the square’s two historic restaurants: Ristorante Logge Vasari and Trattoria La lancia d’oro. Open since 1980, these two establishments offer typical local fare like zolfini beans, Celtica potatoes and Chianina meat and scrumptious pasta and bread.

It’s shopping time. Take Corso Italia and enjoy a pleasant walk, wandering amidst historic workshops and international multi-stores like Sugar, owned by Giuseppe Angiolini, President of the Chamber of Buyers. Since 1978, it has proven an authentic ‘institution’ and it features three shops. Two of these are dedicated to men and women’s fashion, offering the best of international fashion in a unique setting. For those who love design and antiques, take the parallel and you’ll find one of the city’s most interesting options: Spazio Lebole. This high-impact ex-industrial building is now a multi-purpose venue. In addition to classic antiques, it features Art Nouveau decorative and artistic works and Art Déco. Therein, you’ll also find a space dedicated to youngsters, a florist and a segment dedicated to ancient jewels and costume jewelry From here, our itinerary will make its way toward Piazza San Francesco.

Don’t miss seeing the inside of the Basilica di San Francesco; in the Bacci Chapel, you’ll find the fresco cycle Legend of the True Cross, a masterpiece by Piero della Francesca. In front of the church, grab a treat at the Caffè dei Costanti, one of the city’s most historic establishments, opened in 1804. Otherwise, sample a great glass of wine at Terra di Piero, a delicious wine-bar located right next to the church.

On the far side of the piazza, you’ll find one of the city’s finest restaurants. Le Chiavi d’Oro offers an intimate, delightful setting and traditional, ‘re-visited’ dishes like tagliatelle with white duck sauce or rabbit topped with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and chicory. Upon leaving Piazza San Francesco, don’t miss visiting two prize-winning sommelier spots: Osteria da Giovanna, owned by Luca Martini (Italy’s best sommelier 2009) in via Anconetana – a bit outside of the center - and La Tagliatella, owned by Cristiano Cini (Viale Giotto 45). Expect typical dishes and hand-made pasta at Antica Fonte at Via Porta Buia 18. Or try the tiny, extremely worthy wine bar Le Torri di Gnicche in piazza San Martino. Upon leaving Arezzo, foodies should make sure to visit four top names: Il Falconiere and Osteria del Teatro in Cortona, Monte San Savino’s Ristorante Belvedere and Canto del Maggio in Terranuova Braccialini.

During the weekend, end the evening at Sugar Reef (Via Setteponti 7) or Gold (Via Garibaldi 150). Expect live music on Thursdays at Castiglion Fiorentino’s Velvet Underground at Vicolo Dragomanni 1. 

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