As with many other areas in Tuscany, the first notable civilisation was Etruscan - about 2500 years ago. Although not immediately evident there are many examples of their remarkable history dotted around. Just to the North East of the house you may notice what looks like a large grey wall on top of a hill. This is Castelsecco at San Cornelio the remains of a 2nd Century BC Roman temple and Etruscan amphitheatre. This type of wall often forms the base of the old towns, Arezzo (as seen in Oscar Winning "Life is Beautiful") and Cortona ("Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes, only 30 minutes away) being excellent examples.
Arezzo old town (Centro Storico) is a fascinating place to visit during your stay, with the Piazza Grande a must. This town square is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy and you can enjoy a wonderful lunch, sitting under a medieval loggia, enjoying the local produce.
On the subject of lunch, it is worth remembering that almost everything stops at 1pm. The shops shut, many of the public buildings close, including churches and museums and don't re-open until about 3-4pm, or later in the summer months. Restaurants are of course open for business, but don't think that you'll be able to wander in about 2.30 for a late lunch, because they'll be thinking of closing about 3. The well informed will make sure they are sitting down at around oneish and may well have pre-booked earlier in the morning, especially in the most visited areas. So get to a restaurant early and you can be sipping a chilled Pino Grigio whilst watching all the others who didn't book, wander around in the midday sun with a bottle of warm water, looking for a sandwich bar. They'll probably be closed too.
As with other towns and villages, Arezzo has many festivals, some of which you may enjoy whilst here. The most notable being the Joust of the Saracens, held on the third Saturday in June and the first Saturday in September. Like most places in Italy, nothing stops or changes for tourism. Visitors are welcome to watch, but they would take place anyway. This is part of Italy's charm; they just do what they've done for centuries.
One event that does set Arezzo apart from all other places is the Antiques Fair. It happens on the first Sunday of every month, plus the Saturday before, without fail. Nothing gets in its way and if you are here whilst it's on, you must go there. It is the most important antiques fair in Italy and all the dealers turn up. Their wares are strewn over piazzas, side streets and buildings all over the old town. And if you fancy an evening stroll on Saturday night, go to town and walk by the covered stalls; it's all just left there for the night, with minimal police presence and nothing gets stolen. There is also a photographic fair held twice a year - September and April.
Arezzo's location makes it an excellent centre for a number of artistic, religious or historical trails. Before St. Francis of Assisi went to Assisi he founded a number of churches and monasteries nearby. La Celle and la Verna being particularly significant.
Arezzo is also rich in artistic treasures; the jewel being the Piero della Francesca's frescos in Arezzo but it also possible to visit the area Leonardo used as the backdrop in the Mona Lisa and within an hour or so is the birthplace of Michelangelo.
Arezzo was one of the 12 Etruscan cities and is now part of the wide-ranging Etruscan trail. This trail stretches through most of Southern Tuscany - and encompasses walks, monuments and museums.
There are also numerous musical events and exhibitions throughout the year in Arezzo and the surrounding area.
Italians love shopping and Aretians are no exception. The main shopping street, Corsa Italia which is in the old centre, offers you every opportunity to spend your Euros. Arezzo is Italy's gold centre and we can also arrange visits to a gold factory if we have been notified in advance.
Everyone has to eat and Arezzo has many supermarkets, Esselunga, Ipercoop, Pam, Eurospar and Conad and you will find good directions to any of these from main roads and we can also direct you. There are shops that sell local produce and we can give you directions to the nearest and the best. The shop in Bagnoro, at the bottom of the hill, has an excellent selection of just about everything you could require on holiday. It is open from 7am to 1pm and 4.30pm to 7.30 pm Mon-Sat, except Wednesday when it is only open in the morning. On Sundays it is open from 8am to 1pm and 5pm to 8pm.
There are many excellent restaurants within the locality, typically Tuscan and international, and we would be happy to direct you to them.
Arezzo is part of the Chianti wine growing area and we can arrange wine tasting at vineyards in the village. One of these produces fine D.O.C.G. wine which regularly wins awards in the Italian wine year book.
La Torre is just outside a large State park which starts about half a kilometre from here. It encompasses most of the land that you can see to the South East and makes for a very pleasant drive, or if you feel particularly energetic, a walk. If you do like walking around woods and countryside then all you have to do is go out of the gates and start walking. You could chance upon hidden olive groves, hilltop hamlets, abandoned villages or a 7th century church still in use today. Most of land here is accessible to the public and there are also many walking routes on the local map. Do remember though, that you've got to get back in good health, so try to avoid the middle of the day and take plenty of water with you. And if you take the lane down to the bottom of the mountain, (about ½ hour), bear in mind that walking back up will feel far steeper than on the way down.
Arezzo can also offer a range of sporting activities for the visitor:
- Golf - a driving range - 10 mins. from house.
- Horse riding/lessons - 15 mins. from house.
- Kayaking and Trekking in the Casentino to the North of Arezzo.
- Sailing on Lake Trasimeno (40 mins. south of Arezzo)
Although it's always nice to have late starts, if you want to make the most of your stay, leaving early to go sightseeing will allow you to enjoy much more and may also keep you just ahead of everyone else. The large cities and most favourite towns, such as Florence and Sienna, get very busy, so leaving early really pays dividends.
Florence and Sienna are about one hour away by car, so if you can get there before 9 am you'll stand a far better chance of parking nearby, sampling a fresh pastry and coffee and being first in the queue for the museums. That'll will leave you time for a well deserved long lunch, refreshed for the afternoon.
Almost all towns and cities, with the exception of Florence have car parks either very close to town or in Sienna's case - in town. The big popular towns will always try to direct you to car parks away from the centre, but be brave and head for the centre or in the case of hill towns, to the top. You may get lucky, especially if you get there early. Street parking is usually denoted by blue bays which you pay for at machines. Time units vary, so check the notices, which are on the front.
As mentioned earlier, Florence is a nightmare for parking, so if you are thinking about going there for the day, the train is recommended. Trains leave for Florence from Arezzo on a regular basis and take about ½ hour, depositing you right in the middle of town. There is a long term car park next to Arezzo station which won't cost that much and a return ticket is 14 Euros. We can give you directions to the station, which is about a 10 minute drive away.