Guide to Arezzo and its surroundings

The City
Historical Notes
Local Events
What can I do in Arezzo
Best Towns and Sights near Arezzo
Local Food and Wine
Market Days in Towns around Arezzo
Best Restaurants

Where is Arezzo?

Located in Eastern Tuscany, just an hour’s train ride from Florence, Arezzo sits at the unique hilltop crossroads of four valleys: the Val Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana. One of the wealthiest cities in Tuscany due to its history in gold-smithery, the city is a hidden gem for the European traveller; a beautiful and vibrant city steeped in rich art and architecture. Generally free of crowds and masses of tourists, discovering all that Arezzo has to offer provides an authentic experience of Italian history that can be enjoyed at one’s own pace. No wonder that it was chosen as the setting for the film Life is Beautiful. Here, in fact, it is.

Arezzo's Saracen Joust Piazza Grande fills with colour and spectators in June and September for the Saracen Joust

History of Arezzo

Arezzo's Chimera Arezzo’s early history was a glorious and prominent one: as Aritim it was one of the 12 major Etruscan cities and as Arretium it grew to be the 3rd largest city in the Roman empire, whose artisan works reached as far as India. The bronze Etruscan Chimera (pictured) was discovered in Arezzo only in 1553.

During the Middle Ages the city retained its prestige and became part of the Carolignian Holy Roman Empire, where the ecclesiatic authority and noble powers merged. By 1098, however, Arezzo was considered a Free City and led by a Consul the city built new walls, tower houses and its many churches. Native son and medieval music theorist, Guido of Arezzo invented the system of musical notation in 1025.

Guido di Arezzo A municipality loyal to the Emperor, it was the last Ghibelline bulwark against the Pope, Florence and its French allies. Once defeated in 1289, its vast territories were divided between Siena and Florence. Over the following centuries, with few exceptions, the Aretini were controlled by the Florentines, hence the vast Medici fortress that dominates the city. Yet artists such as Piero della Francesca, Giorgio Vasari and Guglielmo de Marcillat flourished and noble residences and the sweeping Piazza Grande gave shape to the city. Until 1859 Arezzo was subsumed into the Medicean Grand Duchy of Tuscany and only with the unification of Italy in 1861 was the city’s administrative autonomy reconquered. The city itself suffered considerable damage during World War II when the Germans and the British battled in the summer of 1944, yet the city centre surrounding Piazza Grande, which sits on a steep hill above the River Arno floodplain, survived and maintains the medieval appearance visitors enjoy today.

What to do and see in & around Arezzo

Madonna del Parto Follow the Trail of Piero della Francesca and works including ‘The Legend of the True Cross’ in Arezzo's Basilica of San Francesco, ‘The Madonna del Parto’ in Monterchi, and ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ in Sansepolcro. Like all Renaissance painters, Piero della Francesca moved from one commission to another, but as this master of fresco techniques was born in Sansepolcro, there are many opportunities to view his works in this area. The Civic Museum in his hometown holds several, Arezzo's two major churches have stunning works and the small town of Monterchi has one very important piece tucked in a small church/museum.

Bird-watching in Buriano Go bird-watching in the Nature Reserve of Buriano, where against the backdrop of the famous 13th C. bridge seen in the ‘Mona Lisa’ rare species nest in this part of the Arno River. In a reserve which was the first protected area in the province of Arezzo, species of heron, buzzards, and rare owls come to a stretch of the Arno that is buffered by cultivated fields and forests of oaks, poplars and elms.

Antiquarian Market Indulge in some antique hunting in Arezzo’s vast open-air antique market spread throughout its historic centre on the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday before. Piazza Grande cannot contain all the stands that sell antique furniture and paintings, as well as smaller collectibles; hence, tables spill onto side streets and the city becomes a mecca for connoisseurs and bargain hunters alike.

Cycling to Monte Cetona Cycle from Arezzo to Monte Cetona Even taken in portions, this itinerary that traces the footsteps of the Etruscans is a close-up of natural oases and ancient habitations that will impress. Quite likely, unless a serious biker, one may not manage all of the 140 km trail, but portions of the route, which roughly follows the Sentiero della Bonifica are quite easy and will meander their way along the Canale Maestro and past Foiano della Chiana, Cortona and Torrita di Siena before heading uphill.

Casentino Forest Riding Discover the Casentino Forest on horseback or bicycle and ride past castles, abbeys and the Hermitage at Calmaldoli, all within the historic protected area of the Apennines. The park gives suggested bike trails, while local riding clubs venture out on guided excursions on horseback. No matter how you travel there are definitely benefits of traveling in the slow lane.

Best Towns near Arezzo, Tuscany

Map of towns near Arezzo


Anghiari 30 minutes from Arezzo
A medieval walled town, Anghiari is known for its artisans. Famous for their work, as well as the bright checkered tablecloths that denote a place to stop and sample the locale cuisine, it is a place to fill the day with pleasurable “slow living”.


Cortona 45 minutes from Arezzo
In Tuscany’s Valdichiana and famed for its ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ association, this town overlooks Lake Trasimeno. Encircled with stone walls dating to Etruscan & Roman times, this gracious town is full of shops, good restaurants and a good Etruscan museum.

Loro Ciuffenna

Loro Ciuffenna 40 minutes from Arezzo
Named for its plentiful laurel shrubs and the Ciuffenna river that powered its many flour mills–the earliest built in 1100 – Loro Ciuffenna finds a harmonious blend of its well-preserved historic centre and the beauty the surrounding wind-sculpted landscapes.


Lucignano 30 minutes from Arezzo
Lucignano‘s elliptical rings leave no doubt as to its medieval origins. For at a time when its strategic position between Siena and Arezzo was critical and fought over, being able to see invaders from the any direction atop a hill was a decided advantage.


Sansepolcro 40 minutes from Arezzo
The birthplace of Piero della Francesca, this lovely city of local stone in the upper Tiber valley honors their native son in both the fine Civic Museum and Romanesque cathedral. Lively but with an understated elegance, this is a charming place to linger.

Castiglion Fiorentino

Castiglion Fiorentino 25 minutes from Arezzo
Above the Val di Chiana and looking onto cattle ranches and quiet farmlands, the walled medieval Castiglion Fiorentino loves to party, be it in the Medieval Festival in May, the Palio dei Rioni horse race in June or the Days of Baccus Wine Festival in October.


Poppi 45 minutes from Arezzo
In Poppi the charming hexagonal church Oratorio della Madonna contrasts with the imposing Castello overlooking the town and once the battleground where the Ghibellines of Arezzo met the Guelphs of Florence, Dante Alighieri among them.

Sanctuary of La Verna

Sanctuary of La Verna 1 hour from Arezzo
Tucked into the side of Mount Penna in the beautiful Casentino Forest, the Sanctuary was the spiritual retreat of St. Francis and where on his last visit in 1224 he received the stigmata. Visitors come for its striking natural beauty and for the peace.

Typical Food in Arezzo

Baccelle and Pecorino As in most of Tuscany, cooks in Arezzo make the most of their nearest ingredients, some which might be new to visitors to this area. The Gobbo all’Aretina refers to the thistle, which as a member of the artichoke and cardoon family makes it fair game for cooking. Also popular is Cavolo nero, the deep green cabbage leaf usually found in hearty vegetable soups called Minestra di pane, bread stew, or Acquacotta. At the Sagra dei Baccelli in Terranuova Bracciolini in early May a much-prized vegetable is the raw fava bean usually paired with pecorino sheep’s cheese.

Brignoli In Anghiari and Arezzo Bringoli, a fresh pasta like a thick home-made spaghetti is often served with olive oil and parmesan cheese or with a meatless ‘fake sausage’ ragù, something even a Vegan would love. Those who love cheese will try the soft fresh Raviggiolo, while for meat-lovers there is Prosciutto del Casentino or ham from the Casentino forest’s free range ‘grey’ pig.

Peposo Peposo alla fornacina is a dish using beef of the famous Chianina cattle attributed to the workers who produced construction materials for Florence’s Brunelleschi Chapel. At the early September Sagra della Porchetta in Monte San Savino diners can enjoy the famous herbed suckling pig; you will be suprised how much meat can be piled between two pieces of bread.

Gnocco Dolce At the July Sagra dello Gnocco Dolce in Monte San Savino the delicious cream-filled pastry tempts anyone with a sweet tooth. And in the Autumn many festivals offer the bounty of chestnuts, often ground into flour and seen in Castagnaccia, a popular chestnut cake featuring raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary.

Good Wines from Arezzo: To accompany these dishes try:

Chianti Colli Aretini DOCG
Reds of Cortona DOC – which include white grapes grown around Cortona
Valdichiana DOC

Serious wine aficionados may head off on the Strada del Vino wine route and take part in the tastings organized at the various wineries along the route.

Market Days near Arezzo

Town Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Arezzo - - - - - YES -
Loro Ciuffenna YES - - - YES - -
Foiano della Chiana YES - - - - - -
Sansepolcro - YES - - - - -
Poppi - YES - - - YES -
Anghiari - - YES - - - -
San Giovanni Valdarno - YES - - - -
Lucignano - - - YES - - -
Cortona - - - YES - YES -
Monte San Savino - - - YES - - -
Montevarchi - - - YES - - -
Castiglion Fiorentino - - - - YES - -
Terranuova Bracciolini - - - - YES - -

MONDAYS – Loro Ciuffenna & Foiano della Chiana

TUESDAYS – Sansepolcro & Poppi

WEDNESDAYS – Anghiari & San Giovanni Valdarno

THURSDAYS – Lucignano, Cortona, Monte San Savino & Montevarchi

FRIDAYS -Castiglion Fiorentino, Terranuova Bracciolini & Loro Ciuffenna

SATURDAYS – Arezzo, Cortona & Poppi

Best Restaurants near Arezzo

Da Alighiero– Anghiari, Tel: +39 0575 788040
Buca di San Francesco– Arezzo, Tel: +39 0575 23271
La Pieve– Arezzo, Tel: +39 0575 1481622
La Torre– Loro Ciuffenna, Tel: +39 055 9172032
La Grotta– Cortona, Tel: +39 0575 630271
La Tavernetta– Lucignano, Tel: +39 0575 836568
Le Bindi– Monte San Savino, Tel: +39 338 6726591
Osteria del Borro– San Giustino Valdarno, Tel: +39 055 9772333
L’Antica Cantina– Poppi, Tel: +39 0575 529844