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What to See and Do

What to See and Do

The tourist information office is at Piazza della Repubblica 28 (open 9 am-1pm and 3-7pm Apr-Sep, 10am-1pm and 3-6 pm Mon-Sat, 9am-1pm Sun rest of the year). If you are travelling on a tight budget at the office there is a representative from Colori Toscani who organizes accommodation and tours for free.
The Chiesa di San Francesco located in Piazza San Francesco was constructed in the 14th century. Its magnificent apse was painted by Piero della Francesca who was commissioned to paint a fresco cycle of 10 scenes of the cross. It is named the Legend of the True Cross. The pictures show characters related to this medieval legend such as Helena, Constantine’s mother, and Emperor Khosrow. His creativity in perspective make Piero della Francesca’s frescoes the main feature of the church.
Fortunately the fires, earthquakes and bombing have not been able to prevent us from seeing everything. However, strangely enough, when the Dream of Constantine by della Francesca was under restoration it was discovered that dirt covering it  had made people believe that the artist had painted a night scene when in fact it depicted dawn.
There are two options for viewing the frescoes. You can just observe them from a distance behind a cord or reserve a visit with  an audio guide (tel. 0575 35 27 27; www.pierodellafrancesca.it; available from 9am-6.30 Mon-Sat, 1-5pm Sun Apr-Oct, 9-5.30 pm Mon-Sat, 1-5pm Sun Nov-Mar) which lets 25 visitors every 30 minutes.
The ticket office for Piero della Francesca’s frescoes can be found at Piazza San Francesco 4. Combined tickets which include visits to the frescoes in the Chiesa di San Francesco, the Museo Archeologico, Museo Statale d’Arte Medievale e Moderna and Museo di Casa Vasari can be purchased at any of the places mentioned.
The Church of Saint Mary (Pieve di Santa Maria) (Corso Italia 7; open 8am-1pm and 3-7pm May-Sep, 8-midday and 3-6pm rest of the year) is fronted with a Romanesque porticoed façade, similar to Pisa’s but smaller and without its marble covering. The central doorway is capped with reliefs depicting the months. The bell tower constructed in the 1300s is a landmark for Arezzo, since it is visible from quite a distance.
The interior is covered in monochrome stone which makes the Madonna and Saints by Pietro Lorenzetti  stand out.
Among the highlights inside are San Donato’s reliquary made in silver in the 14th century, Margherito di Arezzo ‘s 13th century crucifix and the Adoration of the Magi, a bas-relief of marble.
Just crossing the street on exiting the church is Casa Museo di Ivan Bruschi (tel. 0575 35 41 26; Corso Italia 14, 10am-1pm and 3-7pm except Mon Apr-Sep, 10am-1pm and 2-6 except Mon rest of the year). It showcases a collection of artwork and antiques built up by the founder of Arezzo´s antique fair.
The cobbled Piazza Grande is where the Giostra del Saracino and the monthly antiques fair is held. The 16th century Palazzo delle Logge Vasariano and the Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici dominate the square. This palace features a façade which resembles that of a church and is a patchwork of styles as its building was started in the Gothic style in the 14th century and finished in the Renaissance style.
The Casa di Petrarca is along Via dei Pileati. A little museum, a library, research centre and the Accademia Petrarca share the building. Only upon reservation and backed by real interest visitors are allowed to enter. The tourist information office can provide further information about it.
The cathedral (Piazza del Duomo; open 6.30am-12.30pm and 3-6pm) took 2 centuries, from the 13th to the 15th to be completed. The ornate altar is flanked on the left by a precious fresco of Mary Magdalene panted by della Francesca and the tomb of Bishop Guido Tarlati adorned with marble reliefs set on different levels representing priests and an acolyte.
Some highlights in the Cappella della Madonna del Conforto, near the north aisle, are the glazed terracotta images by della Robbia’s workshop and Pope Gregory X ‘s tomb.
From the cathedral climb up the hill towards the Passeggio del Prato where the Fortezza Medicea is located (open 7am-8pm Apr-Oct, 7.30am-6pm rest of the year). Here are the best views of the surrounding area and city from above.
The Chiesa di San Domenico on the eponymous piazza (open 8.30am-7pm) is a worthy visit. It is fronted with an irregular façade. Check out the Crucifixion by Cimabue inside, one of his first pieces, Spinello Aretino’s frescoes, kept in very good condition, and a statue of San Pietro Martire sculpted by the workshop of della Robbia in which Saint Peter is represented with a sword through his head.
Head west to Casa di Vasari (tel. 0575 40 90 40; Via XX Septembre).
Also to the west the Museo Statale d’Arte Medievale e Moderna (tel. 0575 40 90 50; Via San Lorentino 8) displays pieces by local artists. On the ground floor it displays sculptures of Arezzo´s churches. On the first floor there are paintings from the Middle Ages, among which are Bartolomeo della Gatta and Domenico Pecori’s pieces, the della Robbia family’s  terracotta and majolica plates. On the second floor are Signorelli’s and Vasari’s work besides 19th century pieces.
The Museo Archeologico (tel. 0575 2 08 82; Via Margaritone 10) is housed in what was once a convent. Its collection includes Etruscan and Roman finds, ceramics and bronzes. Look for the Etruscan Cratere di Euphronios depicting Hercules, which dataes back to the 6th century BC. From the museum it is possible to so see the vestiges of the Roman amphitheatre which could seat 10,000 people.
Arezzo’s antique fair attracts about 500 stall holders monthly who set up their stalls on Piazza Grande and nearby streets.
Arezzo Wave (www.Arezzowave.com) gathers performers from Italy and the international music sceme. From time to time celebrated international artists take the stage in this July festival.
The Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen) is another example of the medieval jousting tournament and celebrations held long ago, in which people dress in typical costumes making a multicoloured sight and lively competitions are held between the 4 neighbourhoods of Arezzo. After an announcement read by a herald, there is a parade of people and horses. The bishop then blesses the jousters who will enter the competition. On Piazza Grande the knights representing each neighbourhood throw their lances at the buratto, a representation of the Saracen. The team winning the competition is prized with the Golden Lance which is the best reward for the neighbourhood represented. This division into neighbourhoods named after Arezzo’s city gates has existed for about 10 centuries and still gives its inhabitants a strong feeling of community and comradeship. Each neighbourhood is distinguished by its colour. To enjoy this magnificent show make sure you´re in Arezzo in June or September.