In this guide, you will find a complete itinerary to visit Arezzo in one day, or to stay even longer if you want to discover its hidden corners and explore its surroundings.
Arezzo stands on a hill 290 metres above sea level in the easternmost part of Tuscany, in the middle of four valleys of Val di Chiana, Valdarno, Valtiberina and Casentino, in an ideal location as a base for visiting nearby villages, spas and excellent food.
The town attracts many visitors for its artistic wealth, especially in autumn, spring and early summer, when the weather is most inviting, to wander around the historic alleys and squares.
From November until January runs the busiest period for Arezzo, which becomes the “City of Christmas” with events, markets, street food and shows held in the old town centre. Maybe you don’t know but in Arezzo there is also Santa’s house, with a giant Santa Claus!
Actually, there are many things to see in Arezzo during the whole year and also many curiosities to know about this city.
Arezzo is a city of art with a very ancient history, which seems to date back to prehistoric times, to the Villanovan populations, then absorbed by the Etruscan. Many findings in the area testify to its origins. In 1553, for example, during some consolidation work on the defensive perimeter walls of Arezzo, a bronze statue dating back to the 4th century BC was found almost six metres underground: the Chimera of Arezzo, recognised as the symbol of Etruscan sculpture art.
Another art that comes from the Etruscans is that of gold craftsmanship that Arezzo has continued over the centuries, becoming famous as the “City of Gold”, as well as the “City of Fashion”.
Artists and poets were born here, great personalities, illustrious citizens of Arezzo such as Francesco Petrarca, Giorgio Vasari, Guido d’Arezzo, Guittone d’Arezzo, Pietro Aretino, the biologist Francesco Redi and the music theorist Guido Monaco.
But Arezzo is also popular for more modern reasons, having been the location for two films shot in some of the city’s locations: Roberto Benigni’s multi-award-winning “Life Is Beautiful” and Leonardo Pieraccioni’s “A fantastic coming and going”.
You can find them included in our itinerary with the best things to see in Arezzo in one day or for a longer holiday, including excursions, events, food and wine tastings.
What to see in Arezzo in one day?
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If time is short but you don’t want to miss out on the best, you can follow this concentrated and complete itinerary to visit Arezzo in just one day, starting from the old town centre.
To see all the other attractions, including the main museums, you will ideally need 2 or 3 days.
You can visit Arezzo on foot, easily.
Leave your car in one of these car parks:
- Parking Pietri – free but not guarded
- Parking Cadorna: unattended, with a fee (1.50 €/h from 8.30 to 20.30)
- Parking Central Parking: guarded for a fee, rate €10/day with the possibility of car valet for €2
and then access to the historical centre surrounded by the ancient mediaeval walls, characterised by gates including Porta San Lorentino, Porta del Foro, Porta Santo Spirito and Porta San Clemente, Porta Pozzuolo, etc.
1. Piazza del Duomo & Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato
In Piazza del Duomo on the highest part of Arezzo’s hill, near the Fortezza Medicea, is the imposing Gothic-style Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato (1278), built on an ancient early Christian church.
It is well worth a visit: inside, the Cathedral houses precious works of art, such as the seven beautiful stained-glass windows made by the French master glassmaker Guillaume de Marcillat; Piero della Francesca’s “Magdalene” and Della Robbia terracottas in the Chapel of the Madonna del Conforto; the relics of Pope Blessed Gregory X; on the high altar, the marble Ark of San Donato; the wooden choir and the painting depicting the Baptism of Christ, 16th-century works by Giorgio Vasari.
2. Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art
Directly opposite the Cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace (13th century), still the seat of the Bishop of Arezzo, built by Guglielmino degli Ubertini.
The building is a 16th-century structure, after renovation, and nowadays houses on the ground floor of the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art a collection of sculptures, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, wall hangings and gold work from the territory of the diocese.
3. Petrarch Theatre
It is worth visiting this 19th century building that houses the Teatro Petrarca. For lovers of the genre, programming runs throughout the year bringing to the stage operas, concerts and plays by internationally renowned artists. The theatre houses 85 boxes in four tiers and a 600-seat auditorium against a backdrop of pastel-coloured decorative elements and dramatic crystal chandeliers.
4. Petrarca Birthplace Museum
Francesco Petrarca was born in Arezzo in the Borgo dell’Orto. We remember him because together with Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio, he is recognised as one of the fathers of the Italian language and literature. The house where, according to tradition, Petrarca supposedly lived is located in a 17th century palazzo, guardian of three centuries of history.
It is possible to visit the Petrarca House as a museum and the seat of the Academy of Letters Arts and Sciences of Arezzo, to admire large Renaissance canvases by Tuscan painters, a collection of 250 antique coins and a library full of works and volumes on Petrarchism, the Italian cultural movement of the 1600s.
5. Piazza Grande or Piazza Vasari
Piazza Grande is the central square of Arezzo, the oldest in the city (1200). What strikes you is its atypical trapezoidal shape and the slope with a difference in height of about 10 metres to favour the drainage of rainwater.
But if you look around, you realise that Piazza Grande is overlooked by some of Arezzo’s most important monuments, historical buildings from different eras, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance:
- Torre dei Làppoli, a medieval tower about 37 metres high that has been used over the centuries as a prison, weapons depot and astronomical observatory. Currently, the tower is open to the public.
- Palazzo del Tribunale from the 1700s, between the Palazzo di Fraternita and the apse of the parish church of S. Maria.
- Church of Santa Maria della Pieve in Romanesque style. The part facing Piazza Grande is the rear part, the semicircular apse. The interior of the church houses works of art including the 14th century polyptych by Pietro Lorenzetto and the relics of San Donato, the city’s patron saint.
- 14th century Palazzo della Confraternita dei Laici: characterised by a mix of styles, from Gothic to Renaissance, a bell gable with a 16th-century clock designed by Giorgio Vasari. Here you can visit the museum open to the public.
- Loggia del Vasari: Palazzo delle Logge (second half of the 16th century) commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici, designed by Giorgio Vasari, is located on the highest side of Piazza Grande, recognisable by its beautiful portico with traditional bars and restaurants.
6. Piazza San Francesco, Basilica di San Francesco and Bacci Chapel
In Arezzo, the Basilica of San Francesco (1275) in the square of the same name is worth a visit. The small stone church from the outside does not let you imagine what it conceals inside: a single wide nave, the interior walls of the main chapel decorated with a cycle of marvellous 15th century frescoes: “The Legend of the True Cross” by Piero della Francesca, inspired by a popular medieval legend about the wooden cross of Jesus.
7. Basilica of San Domenico
The Basilica of San Domenico is one of the oldest in Arezzo, dating back to the 13th century. The Romanesque Gothic church is located just outside the city centre. It overlooks the Piazza di San Domenico, in a more secluded and quiet location. Inside the Basilica there is a single nave with walls decorated with frescoes and a wooden Crucifix by Cimabue, one of the masterpieces of the 1200s.
8. Vasari House Museum
The Museum of Casa Vasari is located in a building that was the residence of Giorgio Vasari – an Italian painter and architect from the 16th century – during the periods when he stayed in Arezzo. He was responsible for the most beautiful monuments in Arezzo. Casa Vasari is spread over three floors; the stately flat occupies the second floor and embodies a fine example of mannerist art.
9. Gaio Cilnio Mecenate National Archaeological Museum and Roman Amphitheatre
A must-see in Arezzo is the Archaeological Museum named after Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, a Roman politician and patron during the reign of Emperor Augustus. The second most important museum in Tuscany, second only to that of Florence.
The museum is located in the medieval monastery of Monte Oliveto, built on the remains of the Roman amphitheatre (first half of the 2nd century AD). It consists of 26 rooms on two floors.
On the ground floor you can see exhibits tracing the history of Arezzo from its foundation from the Etruscan Age to the Late Antique Age. The upper floor houses the palaeontology, prehistory, early Middle Ages and the ceramics and bronze sections.
The museum houses finds from the necropolises in the area. The Roman section is also rich and includes mosaics, small bronzes, sculptures, inscriptions, funerary monuments and portraits.
The museum houses the world’s richest collection of Aretine terra sigillata vases, formerly known as Arretina vasa (between the middle of the 1st century BC and the middle of the 1st century AD).
10. National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art
The museum is located in the historic Palazzo Bruni-Ciocchi (mid-15th century), now owned by the state, one of the city’s most beautiful Renaissance palaces in the San Lorentino area.
In the rooms of the museum, you can follow a tour lasting about an hour to see paintings from the 13th to the 19th century, displayed in chronological order, such as those by Vasari, including the fantastic “Wedding of Esther and Ahasuerus”; collections of ceramics, coins, medals, swords and urns.
The works on display are by important artists, including Tommaso Sebastiani, with his canvas depicting the encounter between Lorenzo the Magnificent and a young Michelangelo, and then Lorenzetti, Giovanni D’Agnolo, Spinello Aretino, Parri di Spinello, Neri di Bicci, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Luca Signorelli, Cigoli, Santi di Tito, Salvator Rosa, etc. In all the rooms there are explanatory panels accompanying the works on display.
11. Prato Park with the Medici Fortress
From Piazza Grande you can reach the Prato, the public park, Arezzo’s green area perched on the Colle di San Donato. Here the people of Arezzo and visitors come to stroll, relax, attend events and concerts, or to appreciate the beautiful view of the historical centre and surrounding countryside. In the centre of the park there is a little square dedicated to Francesco Petrarca.
Along the Passeggio del Prato there is the Fortezza Medicea, a stone military construction on the site of a fortified citadel dating back to medieval times. In the 16th century, it was the Medici who commissioned the defensive fortress, which has retained its current appearance from the design by Giuliano and Antonio da Sangallo.
12. Palazzo dei Priori or Palazzo Comunale
In Piazza della Libertà, opposite to the cathedral of Arezzo, stands Palazzo dei Priori, currently the seat of the Municipality. The building, which dates back to the first half of the 14th century, is flanked by a square clock tower that dominates the square with its characteristic Ghibelline battlements.
Its interior houses statues and frescoes by Parri di Spinello and Teofilo Torri, paintings by Giorgio Vasari and other artists from Arezzo. The palace has a 16th-century courtyard with a portico surmounted by two loggias.
13. Pretorio Palace
In Via dei Pileati is the Palazzo Pretorio, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, inhabited for centuries by Arezzo’s noble families, and now home to Arezzo’s library. Note its façade covered with the coats of arms of the Florentine Podestà and Commissari who governed the city.
14. Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Among the things to see in Arezzo, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is located about two kilometres from the historical centre, immersed in nature where once stood the Fonte Tecta, a place dedicated to Apollo where pagan rites were performed. In 1428, an oratory dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie was built in place of the spring.
Don’t miss to look at the Renaissance loggia resting on seven arches supported by Corinthian columns, designed by Benedetto da Maiano. Inside, there is a single nave with a marble high altar by Andrea della Robbia. In the centre, the painting of the “Madonna of Mercy” by Parri di Spinello.
15. Historical Gold Museum – “Oro d’Autore”
In Arezzo, in the Palazzo di Fraternita in Piazza Grande, there is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the art of goldsmithing and jewellery design, with a “Oro d’Autore” collection, the work of the most important contemporary artists and designers. On display, old equipment and machinery for working gold, jewellery designed by designers and artists in the second half of the 20th century.
For Arezzo, gold has always represented a fundamental resource from a historical, artistic and economic point of view. Arezzo’s gold manufacturing tradition has very ancient origins and its thousand-year journey is told by the jewellery collected and exhibited in the museum.
10 things to do in Arezzo in one day: the must-see attractions
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Visiting Arezzo in a day is possible with a well-defined itinerary in hand: here is what to see in Arezzo:
- The Cathedral
- Piazza Grande
- The Prato Park
- The Medici Fortress
- The Church of Santa Maria della Pieve (Pieve di Santa Maria)
- The Basilica of San Francesco
- The Church of San Domenico
- House of Petrarch
- Palazzo dei Priori
- The Praetorian Palace
What to see in and around Arezzo
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If you have more time to dedicate to your holiday, you can also visit the surroundings of Arezzo starting from the nearest town, depending on the days available.
The closest to Arezzo, only 20 minutes by car, is Castiglion Fiorentino, a medieval village in the Val di Chiana with many folkloristic events and festivals all year round.
Half an hour away is Anghiari, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, remembered in history for the Battle of Anghiari between the Florentine and Milanese troops, celebrated in Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting.
A 40-minute drive takes you to Cortona, which can also be visited in a single day due to the size of its historic centre. The town of Etruscan origin still preserves its ancient walls.
Going further than 44 km, we find Rapolano Terme. If time permits, you can stop here for a couple of days to visit the famous thermal centre dating back to Roman times. The thermal spring waters are the Terme di San Giovanni and the Antica Querciolaia.
Less than an hour from Arezzo we are in Montepulciano, a medieval town of Etruscan origin from which to explore the Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia (UNESCO World Heritage site), now famous for its Nobile di Montepulciano wine.
From Arezzo, you can also reach Lake Trasimeno, the fourth largest lake in Italy, in 50 minutes.
What to do in Arezzo
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There are several things to do in Arezzo in one day:
- Shopping in the streets of the centre. Arezzo, in fact, is the city of gold and haute couture, with many artisan shops, boutiques and famous national and international griffes. A culinary break at the city’s historic cafés.
- Panoramic photos from the highest points of the city (the panorama of Arezzo can be admired from the Parco della Fortezza Medicea).
- Film itineraries: the locations of the film “Life is Beautiful”: the Cathedral, Palazzo della Provincia, Piazza Grande, Palazzo della Fraternita dei Larici, Cartolibreria Orefice, Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla, Via Garibaldi, Basilica di San Francesco, Caffè dei Costanti and Teatro Petrarca. The locations of the film “A fantastic coming and going”: Piazza della Libertà, the Prato, Teatro Pietro Aretino, Piazza Grande, Piazza San Francesco, Via Mazzini, Via Borgunto, Via Madonna del Prato, Piazza Sant’Agostino, Piazza San Jacopo.
- Trekking and excursions
Trekking and excursions in Arezzo
In the territory of the four valleys – Val di Chiana, Valdarno, Casentino and Valtiberina – that characterise the province of Arezzo, you can go trekking and hiking.
The Casentino, for example, is home to the National Park of the Casentino Forests.
Between Casentino and Valdarno rises the imposing Pratomagno massif, also an excellent place for hiking.
Also in Val Tiberina, where the Tiber River flows, are the Alpe della Luna Nature Reserve and the Sasso Simone and Simoncello Regional Nature Park.
In the Val di Chiana, the Sentiero della Bonifica (Land Reclamation Trail), which connects Chiusi and Arezzo, is worth a walk. For the more “daring”, you can climb to the summit of Monte Lignano from where you can admire the Val di Chiana.
Local food and wine
All of Tuscany is characterised by a rich local production of wine and extra virgin olive oil.
It is no coincidence that one of the most popular activities in Tuscan villages is the local food and wine tasting, which can be done in wine cellars, inns and dedicated agritourisms.
Typical Aretine cuisine is characterised by the simplicity and authenticity of its products. In addition to wine and olive oil, Tuscan bread, egg pasta, fresh and seasonal vegetables.
Among the typical dishes and desserts to taste in Arezzo:
- Local cheeses and cured meats, as chopping boards for typical hors d’oeuvres.
- Black or Tuscan croutons made with meat sauce and chicken liver pâté, anchovies and capers on roasted bread croutons soaked in broth.
- Soup of stale, toasted bread served with vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, celery, carrots, onions, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil.
- Pappa al pomodoro, a first course of peasant origin made with stale Tuscan bread, tomatoes, vegetable broth, onion, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Pappardelle with hare sauce
- Macaroni with sauce made with typical Tuscan fresh pasta and served with ocio (goose), nana (duck), rabbit or wild boar sauce.
- Grifi all’aretina: an ancient dish typical of Arezzo prepared with veal cheeks stewed with herbs and tomato, also in a street food version: Pan co’Grifi.
- Pork livers
- Chianina steak, the famous also known as ‘Fiorentina’, originating in the Val di Chiana.
- Cantucci and vin santo: cantucci are the Etruscan dry biscuits, with almonds, that go hand in hand with vin santo.
- Baldino or Castagnaccio, a typical autumn cake made with a dough of chestnut flour, water, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts and sultanas, served with ricotta or chestnut honey, vino novello or vin santo.
- Gattò (cake) all’Aretina: typical cake from the province of Arezzo made of a rolled biscuit dough soaked in Alchermes liqueur and filled with custard and chocolate cream.
Events not to be missed in Arezzo
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Among the most important events in Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino is the traditional historical re-enactment that takes place in Piazza Grande on the penultimate Saturday of June and the first Sunday of September.
The challenge sees the participation of the four Quarters into which the city is divided: Porta S. Spirito (yellow and blue), Porta S. Andrea (white and green), Porta Crucifera (red and green) and Porta del Foro (yellow and crimson).
Piazza Grande also hosts the Arezzo Antiques Fair, one of the most important and largest antiques fairs in Italy, where are displayed art objects, furniture, jewellery and bijoux, watches, antique books and prints, scientific and musical instruments, toys, etc.
“OroArezzo” is the international exhibition dedicated to Gold, Silver and Jewellery, presenting the best of goldsmith production from Arezzo and Italy.
How to get there
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You can reach Arezzo by car, taking the Autostrada del Sole motorway (A1 Milan-Naples) and exiting at the Arezzo exit; by train: the Arezzo railway station is on the Bologna-Rome line, served by daily Intercity trains to Florence, Rome and the rest of Italy.
By plane: land at the nearest Tuscan airports to reach Arezzo, namely Pisa and Florence.
Now that you know the best things to do in Arezzo and its surroundings, we wish you a fantastic trip to Tuscany! Remember that Italia Delight allows you to book tailor-made food and wine experiences and trips directly with Italy’s best Food Experts. 😍
Cover photo: alexander-henke, unsplash
Featured photo: pixabay, wolfgang1663