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Like many of Italy’s towns, Arezzo’s early beginnings are quite ancient. In the 9th century BC it was an Etruscan capital named Arretium (which evolved into the town’s current name). Over the centuries Arezzo grew and prospered into one of Tuscany’s leading cities endowed with remarkable monuments, museums, historical buildings, and churches.
An ideal getaway from big chaotic cities like Rome and Florence, it’s possible to discover Arezzo and its wonders in just one day, and this travel blog will show you what to see in Arezzo.
When wondering what to see in Arezzo, Piazza Grande is the first that comes to mind! Located in the heart of Arezzo on a downhill slope, Piazza Grande is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
Centuries ago this square served as the town livestock market known as Platea Porcorum during the Middle Ages, and as the main city square known as Platea Communis during the Renaissance period.
What makes Piazza Grande unique, apart from its unique trapezoid shape is being framed by magnificent buildings from different periods of history from the 13th-century Medieval towers to Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici, and the magnificent 16th-century Renaissance Palazzo delle Logge designed by Giorgio Vasari.
Spend some time admiring the eclectic architecture that surrounds the square, enjoy a leisurely lunch or a beverage at a local restaurant or cafe with outdoor tables beneath the gracefully arched ceiling of the loggia, and browse the shops for unique ceramics, mementos, or cherished gifts for loved ones back home.
While in Piazza Grande, don’t miss the 12th-century Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta Church which you can see from the square. Although it’s located on the nearby main road, Corso Italia, its semicircular apse rests slightly askew in Piazza Grande due to the fact that it was built on the same slope as the square.
A pieve by definition is a country church with a baptismal font, which might make this church misplaced in the main square of a large city.
The current church we see today was built in the 12th century. However, it is known that there was a Pieve di Santa Maria two centuries earlier in 1008, thus making the church even older.
One of the church's most interesting features is the bell tower nicknamed Torre dei Cento Buchi “ Tower of the 100 holes” due to its many mullioned windows (buchi means “holes” in Italian). At one time there were ten on each side, making the bell tower quite unique. Considered the symbol of Arezzo, the tower dates back to the year 1330.
The church’s most striking feature is its exotic Romanesque facade embellished with decorated columns that increase with elevation, and carved reliefs called “Cyclo dei Mesi” (Cycles of the Month) representing each month of the year. Since its construction, the church underwent multiple restorations, mainly in the 16th century when it was restored by Giorgio Vasari, and then again in the 19th century.
Inside, the church’s main focus is the Tarlati polyptych created by Pietro Lorenzetti in 1320 representing Madonna and child, and Saints John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Saint Donatus, and Saint Matthew.
Also notable are mid-14th century frescoes with St Dominic and Saint Francis, and atmospheric stained glass windows behind the altar. The crypt houses a reliquary bust of St Donatus (the patron saint of Arezzo). The baptismal font dates back to the 14th century and has panels carved with stories of Saint John the Baptist.
Location: Corso Italia, 7,
Hours: 8 AM to 12:30 PM / 3 PM to 6:30 PM
Next on our list of what to see in Arezzo is Palazzo Pretorio. Not far from Piazza Grande walking towards the Cathedral on top of the town, you will pass by a very interesting palazzo whose facade is decorated with many coats of arms.
Initially, Palazzo Pretorio was the seat of the Captain of Justice (Capitano di Giustizia). The coats of arms that adorn the palazzo facade are those of podestà (chief magistrate) and the Florentine Commissaries governed the city and used the palace as their seat since 1434.
Then, at the beginning of the 15th century, the palazzo was purchased by the municipality and transformed into a prison until 1926. At that point, a long restoration commenced returning the palazzo to its previous 16th-century appearance.
On the ground floor inside the palace is a private chapel with remains of a fresco depicting the Annunciation, and a lovely courtyard with a loggia. On the second floor, there is a library where precious manuscripts are kept.
On top of Arezzo in Piazza del Duomo is the imposing Cathedral dedicated to St Peter and St Donatus.
The funding for the cathedral was generously willed by Pope Gregory X who, while in Arezzo as a guest of the bishop, passed away in January 1276 and left in his will 30,000 gold florins for the construction of the new cathedral. In November 1277 Bishop Guglielmino issued a decree to begin the work “for the honor of God, of the Blessed Virgin and of our patron St. Donatus”.
Since the facade had remained unfinished, its new appearance was given in the early 1900s.
Inside the church, admire the superb cycle of seven stained-glass windows painted by Guillaume de Marcillat between 1516 and 1524.
Location: Piazza del Duomo
Opening Hours: 6:30 AM to 7 PM
Just next to the Cathedral in Piazza della Liberta, is the Palazzo dei Priori (or as it’s known today, Palazzo del Commonue as it serves as the city’s Town Hall). In 1466 a large clock was mounted on the palazzo’s tower.
Built in the 14th century, the palazzo served as the place appointed to house the city's highest magistracies. At the heart of the palazzo is its 16th-century courtyard, with an arcade surmounted by two loggias. The interior of the palazzo is adorned with numerous works of art, including frescoes, statues, and architectural elements.
Location: Via Montetini, 4a
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM
Another notable church in Arezzo is the 13th-century San Francesco Basilica, one of the oldest and most beautiful churches. The simplicity of the Gothic church was inspired by the Franciscan movement.
A thirteenth-century Gothic building reworked in the 1300s was inspired by Franciscan simplicity, its only ornamentation is the cornice that runs all around the edge of the roof, the lancet windows and a rose window above the main entrance. While the lower part of the facade is made with travertine blocks, the rest of the basilica was constructed in bricks that have become burnished over time giving the church the appearance of an unfinished facade.
While the facade is coarse and unassuming, the interior vaunts paintings of great artistic value such as Pier della Francesca’s masterpiece frescoes illustrating the “Legend of the True Cross” painted between 1452 and 1466.
Tickets that can be purchased on-site are required to visit the Basilica of San Francesco.
Location: Piazza S. Francesco, 1
Opening Hours:Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 9 AM to 6:30 PM
Sundays: 1-6 PM
TICKETS: full tickets are 9 Euros Per Person (5 Euros Reduced ticket) to be purchased at the ticket office
Arezzo’s ancient past comes to life when you see the remains of the Ancient Roman Amphitheater of Arezzo, built between 117-138 AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian to host events and celebrations for up to 8,000 spectators.
Over the centuries, the ancient Roman amphitheater suffered the same cruel fate as most other ancient Roman monuments: centuries of plundering, quarrying for building materials, and neglect.
Churches and other buildings were also constructed over the amphitheater. All that remains of its former grandeur are pathways made of brick and sandstone, along with arches and two of the main entrances.
Connected to the Amphitheater is the National Archaeological Museum of Gaio Cilnio Mecenate, one of the most important archaeological museums in Tuscany dedicated to the treasures of the Etruscan and Roman eras in Arezzo.
With 26 galleries on two floors, there is plenty to see! The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the history of Arezzo from its beginnings in the Etruscan times to late antiquity.
The exhibitions on the upper floor focus on paleontology, prehistory, and the early Middle Ages, along with ceramics and bronze artifacts,
The museum also boasts a collection of beautiful Etruscan jewels discovered in a nearby necropolis called Poggio del Sole.
Among the museum’s collection of attic pottery are the famous Euphronios Krater and the Casalta amphora from the school of the painter Meidias. Also displayed are the unique “coral vases,” an ancient ceramic product made in Arezzo between the mid-1st century BCE and the mid-1st century AD.
ADDRESS: via Margaritone, 10
HOURS: Monday / Saturday: 8:30 am to 7:30 pm; first Sunday of the month: 8: 30-19: 30; second Sunday of the month: 13: 30-19: 30
TICKETS: € 6 full; € 3 reduced
Accessible to the disabled
The Casa Vasari Museum in Arezzo is dedicated to Giorgio Vasari, the famous homegrown Renaissance painter, sculptor, and architect. Vasari personally purchased the Mannerist-style building and oversaw its renovation and decoration between 1542 to 1548 with the assistance of his pupils. He loved his home but only lived in it for a short time as his work commitments forced him to frequently be in Rome and Florence.
The “House-Museum” boasts rooms frescoed by the master himself and offers visitors a glimpse into the beautiful home of one of Renaissance’s most accomplished artists.
Location: Via XX Settembre, 44 Arezzo
Wednesday through Saturday: 9:00 AM to 19:30, Sundays 9 AM to 1:30 PM
Closed on Tuesdays, January 1, December 25
Hours may vary off-season and on holidays
Tickets: 4 Euros Per Person - Full / 3 Euros Per Person - Reduced
Last but not least on our list or what to see in Arezzo is the Medici Fortress. Rising on the hill of San Donato where an ancient citadel once stood, is pentagonal the Medici Fortress, a 16th-century military fortress ordered by Cosimo I de Medici and designed by Santonio da Sangallo and Nanni Unghero.
Compliant with the type of military architecture of that period, originally the fortress had three gates and was surrounded by a wide moat on the west side. At the beginning of the 1800s, French troops attempted to blow up the fortress with mines, and their damaging effects are still visible.
At the turn of the 20th century, the fortress was adapted as a public garden from where visitors can admire the picturesque panorama of Arezzo and its surrounding landscape. The fortress also hosts art exhibitions and events.
In addition, you there are also historical festivals in Arezzo, antique markets, the Christmas market, and more!
We hope that this travel blog offers you some ideas of what to see in Arezzo on your next visit. Thank you for reading our travel blog and for choosing Stefano’s RomeCabs for your private Tours in Italy!
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