fbpx

Episode #124: Enchanting Arezzo – Tuscan Town of Your Dreams

This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here

 

LISTEN ON APPLE LISTEN ON STITCHER LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

There’s so much more to Tuscany than so many visitors get to see – hidden places where you’ll find a Tuscan experience that you may have had in some of the more famous places 20 or 30 years ago.  We pay a visit to Arezzo – a charming city to the east of Florence where life continues, Italian style, without much bother from tourists. It’s so easy to get to, it’s amazing that few people head here and those that do are rewarded with a truly authentic Tuscany, as well as one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy. 

Show notes

We talk to Arezzo born and bred Debora Bresciani about the lesser-known Tuscan city she calls home, which offers an authentic and unique experience for those looking to go off the beaten track. Arezzo has been the setting for several Oscar-winning movies and in its beauty and way of life, shows any visitor that La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful)! We talk gold, jousting, a musical monk, and big garlic. 

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Debora is born and bred in Arezzo and her enthusiasm for the city and for sharing its history, food, art, and culture, finally led to her going through the many years of training it takes to become a registered tour guide in a region. It’s a very intense and region-specific subject to study and we have nothing but admiration for the process these guides go through to get certified and become guardians of their culture – not just for visitors from overseas, but for people within Italy, too. Even after the intense study and after they have qualified, tour guides never stop having to refresh their knowledge and learn new things
  2. Arezzo is between two rivers, Arno and Tiber. It is an Etruscan town. originating from the 8th century BC
  3. The city is is a 1-hour train ride north of Florence (with a train every hour) making it an excellent choice for a day trip and Perugia is less than an hour’s drive away to the south. Rome is 2 hours away by car and the fast train is only an hour and a half. This makes Arezzo a great base for a trip to Tuscany and further afield
  4. Arezzo to Rome is a fantastic day trip because you can leave in the morning around 7 or 8 am – so you can enjoy breakfast in Rome and in the evening if you left Rome at 9 pm – you’ll be back in Arezzo at 10.20. A perfect day trip with the fast train
  5. The Val d’Orcia or Siena are all around an hour away, but for those, you are better to rent a car
  6. Arezzo has an enchanting mix of Renaissance buildings and medieval alleyways, with lots of squares and churches. It’s also very rich with artisan shops and it has an ancient tradition of gold
  7. You can really breathe in the authentic Tuscan atmosphere compared with other more touristy parts of Tuscany. In Arezzo, it is less common to find people speaking English and you will hear local dialects spoken. You get fewer touristy restaurants so get to eat what the locals eat and surrounded by locals in one of the gorgeous piazzas
  8. Arezzo has not historically been on the tourist trail in Tuscany. Until the 80s/90s there was barely any tourism. People would come for the gold and then they would have taxi tours to the Prada outlet as the owner of Prada lives here in Arezzo, but in the last 20/30 years, Arezzo has improved its businesses – agriturismi, restaurants etc to welcome tourists.
  9. Sometimes it seems that for the locals it’s hard to get visitors’ attention to go to Arezzo. But then when they come they undoubtedly fall in love and straight away plan to go back. People are wowed by the beautiful city, the friendly people, the traditional food, the genuine feel as well as being fantastic value for money
  10. The movie La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) directed by Roberto Benigni was filmed in Arezzo and shows the beauty of the city – in particular, Piazza Grande
  11. Guido of Arezzo was a monk who developed the techniques for teaching with use of the “ut–re–mi–fa–sol–la” (do–re–mi–fa–so–la). Many of the origins of music are from Italian, ‘lento’, ‘piano’, and ‘adagio’ all mean slowly, and ‘forte’ – meaning loud
  12. Inside the church of San Francesco, there is a fresco by Piero della Francesca of the History of the True Cross – you can see this fresco in the movie The English Patient (Paziente Inglese). You are free to go inside the church however long you want, but inside the chapel where this fresco is you can only stay just 25/30 minutes so you need to make a reservation
  13. Local foods include hearty bread-based soups like pappa al pomodoro and ribollita, pasta with rich meats like wild boar and duck, the famous Florentine beef steak, with cows from the nearby countryside, as well as pici all’aglione pasta with ‘big garlic’
  14. Sweets include gattò – a specialty of Arezzo, a rolled sponge with cream and chocolate inside and cantucci which are the oblong, crunchy, orange flavored, and nutty biscuits, generally known as biscotti in the US. “biscotti” is actually the generic term for all twice baked cookies in Italian
  15. Rolled and roast Porchetta is also popular there. As well as the Porchetta with roasted pork, they are also  famous for mixing the roast meats – a mix of chicken, duck, and pork, served with potatoes
  16. There are a lot of wineries in the Arezzo region – so you don’t need to go off to Chianti, Val d’Orcia, or Montepulciano if staying in Arezzo – tour guides like Debora can organize trips to lots of wineries to experience different kinds of landscape – even in the forest. The local specialty wine is Aretini
  17. If anyone’s looking for a smaller winery experience, then it is a great area to go because sometimes in Chianti it can be quite busy and big and you may not get some personal attention you will get from these smaller family-run wineries, where you can be hosted by the family, visit the cellar, enjoy the countryside, have lunch with local produce
  18. There is a famous Antique market held in Arezzo – every month, on the first Sunday and the Saturday before in Piazze Grande, and along the little streets in the historical center.  Lots of little stalls in the street where we can find everything, from furniture, to old books, old dresses, and some original old jewelry. This market is full of  color, with a lot of unique, little treasures
  19. Twice in the year, the third Saturday in June and the first Sunday in September, they have the Giostra del Saracino, the Joust of the Saracen. Here you will find the knights on horses, the flag-wavers, and parades with the medieval dress. The week leading up to the joust, there is training, music,to and festivities
  20. In May, in Lucignano, there is La Maggiolata. La Maggiolata is a flower parade – a big like Carnivale, but everything is made with flowers
  21. In September, in Monte San Savino there is a fiesta, la Sagra della Porchetta – the town fills with lots of artisan stalls and amazing gastronomy
  22. The tradition of gold in Arezzo dates back to the Etruscans. You can arrange a tour/visit to a shop in the city where the old, artisan traditions continue to observe how they make things still by hand. Artisan gold is, of course, expensive but in Arezzo, if you compare to  the shops on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, you’ll find things about half price
  23. At Christmas, you have the impressive digital light displays in the town center. Projections of images from the old Arezzo –  Etruscan,  Roman times, from times during the Medici – lots of things that have a connection with the history of Arezzo. This is known as giochi di luce – the light play, which you can find around the cathedral,  the town hall, and the Piazza Grande as well as other squares

About our guest – Debora Bresciani

Debora Bresciani was born and raised in Arezzo, in the heart of Tuscany.  Driven by curiosity and interest in getting to know the cultural and historical aspects of her city better, 2017, she became a licensed National Tourist Guide in Italian, English, and German.

She shares the art, history, monuments, food and wine traditions, and folklore that the Arezzo area has to offer. And as well as sharing the treasures of her city, she also can help visitors explore further around the territory of the Province of Arezzo – with the beautiful valleys of Casentino, Valdarno, Valtiberina, and Valdichiana and the famous villages of Anghiari, Lucignano, Stia and Castiglion Fiorentino. Debora can create the perfect personalized itinerary according to your interests and needs.

You can find Debora on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • River Tiber, River Arno – both rivers run through the Province of Arezzo 
  • Piazza Grande, Piazza della Badia, Piazza San Francesco – beautiful piazzas in Arezzo
  • Sansepolcro – a town and comune founded in the 11th century, located in the Italian Province of Arezzo
  • San Domenico – church in Arezzo 
  • Crucifix (Florence) – mosaics artwork by Cimabue in the Florence Church of Santa Croce. Now restored, having been damaged by the 1966 Arno River flood
  • Crucifix (Arezzo) – a large wooden crucifix painted in distemper, with gold leaf by Cimabue in the San Domenico church
  • Siena – gorgeous city and one of the most important cities in medieval Europe with a historic center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Val d’Orcia – a region of Tuscany, central Italy, which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata
  • Poppi – in the Province of Arezzo, famous for its Castle – the Castello dei Conti Guidi
  • Montepulciano – a medieval hill town in the province of Siena famous for its wine
  • Lucignano – medieval walled hill-top village known as the “pearl of Valdichiana” – built in an elliptical shape
  • Monte San Savino – town on the Essa stream in the Valdichiana
  • Ponte Vecchio – famous bridge in Florence, known for the shops built along it –  jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers
  • Bolzano – city in northern Italy, in South Tyrol

Food & Drink

  • pappa al pomodoro – a thick Tuscan bread soup typically prepared with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, and stale or leftover bread and served hot, room temperature, or chilled
  • ribollita thick soup made with bread and vegetables, often made from leftovers
  • pappardelle with duck or cinghiale ragù – pasta served with a rich, slow-cooked sauce of duck or wild boar
  • cinghiale in umido – a Tuscan stew prepared with wild boar and tomatos 
  • pici all’aglione –  Tuscan hand-rolled pasta with tomato and garlic sauce –  “all’aglione” means “big garlic
  • crostini & liver – a popular appetiser
  • gattò – a speciality of Arezzo with rolled sponge with cream and chocolate inside
  • torte della nonna – granny’s cake, a custard pie with pine-nuts
  • cantucci – oblong, dry, and nut-studded, cantucci are often called biscotti in the US. “biscotti” is actually the generic term for all twice-baked cookies in Italian
  • crostata – an Italian baked tart or pie
  • porchetta – slow-roasted pork sliced and served in a panini or bread roll
  • Chianti Colli Aretini – red wine from Arezzo
  • Bianco Vergine – white wine from Valdichiana
  • Vin Santo – meaning ‘holy wine’ this is a famous sweet wine from the area
  • Sagra della Porchetta – food festival in Monte San Savino in September

Resources

  • Etruscan civilization – civilization of Italy, with the earliest evidence of a culture dating from about 900 BC
  • La Vita è Bella  famous movie from 1997 set in the 30s
  • Giorgio Vasari – an Italian painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian
  • sensazione – Italian for sensation
  • Piero della Francesca – Renaissance painter born in Arezzo who did the frescos The History of the True Cross
  • Cimabue – was an Italian painter and designer of mosaics from Florence
  • Guido Monaco – was an Italian music theorist and pedagogue of High medieval music who created the notes ut–re–mi–fa–sol–la (do–re–mi–fa–so–la)
  • The English Patient, Il Ciclone – movies set in Arezzo province
  • The Battle of Anghiari – a planned painting by Leonardo da Vinci, often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo”. Its central scene would have depicted four men riding raging war horses engaged in a battle for possession of a standard at the Battle of Anghiari in 1440
  • Under the Tuscan Sun – book by Francis Mayes, turned into a movie
  • Chianina – the white cattle breed from which they make bistecca alla fiorentina found around the area of Manciano, Castiglion Fiorentino
  • Giostra del Saracino – the Joust of the Saracen held twice yearly in Arezzo
  • La Maggiolata – flower festival in Lucignano in May
  • Giochi di Luci – meaning light play, it’s the Christmas lights that move and change

Resources from Untold Italy

Planning a trip to Italy?

We love travel in Italy and sharing our knowledge. Read our Italy trip planning guide or join our FREE Italy travel planning community. Our 85,000+ members are happy to answer questions about your itinerary, how to get from place to place, the best places to stay and fun things to do.


Sign up for our news and podcast updates where we share mini guides, tips, exclusive deals and more and we'll send you our Italy Trip Planning Checklist to say grazie! >> click here to subscribe

Transcript

Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.

Disclosure: Untold Italy assists our readers with carefully chosen product and services recommendations that help make travel easier and more fun. If you click through and make a purchase on many of these items we may earn a commission. All opinions are our own – please visit our disclosure page for more information.

Please share if you found this article useful