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Arezzo (Arezzo province)

A town of eastern Tuscany: 43°28N, 11°52E. Altitude: 296 m. Population in 2003: 92,400.

[image ALT: A steep upwards view of a tall stone building; the ground floor cannot be seen: we see three stories with arcades, each one of more tightly spaced slender columns; surmounted on the right by a 5‑story tower with two pairs of windows, each one in turn divided in two by a column. It is the church of S. Maria della Pieve in Arezzo, Tuscany (central Italy).]

The façade of the Pieve S. Maria.

Arezzo, a small city 77 km S of Florence, 64 km ENE of Siena, and 41 km W of Città di Castello, is the capital of the easternmost province of Tuscany, a beautiful area of rolling hills gradually merging into the Apennine backbone of the peninsula.

An Etruscan town said to be older than Rome, in Antiquity Arretium was the birthplace of Maecenas, the famous adviser to Augustus. In something closer to our own time, Arezzo was the birthplace of Guido d'Arezzo who invented the basis of Western musical notation, of the architect and writer Vasari, and of the satirical poet L'Aretino as well as of the much greater Petrarch. In antiquity it was famous for its ceramics — a good selection of which can be seen in the museum near the Roman amphitheater — and by the Middle Ages it became known for its gold-working, which is still one of its industries today.

Among its other monuments, three churches should be especially mentioned: the cathedral of S. Donato (also: S. Pietro Maggiore), set in a large park at the top of Arezzo's main hill, unusual for its stained glass (not an Italian specialty by and large); the striking Romanesque church of S. Maria della Pieve the façade of which you see above, and the equally unusual apse of which sits on one of the most steeply inclined piazzas in all of Italy; the church of S. Francesco much admired these days for frescoes by Piero della Francesca, but with other good frescoes as well.

A proper website will eventually appear here, since I've been to Arezzo a couple of times, and tromped around town taking lots of photographs, if by no means exhausting its sights. For now, you may find it useful to read the Oct. 1, 1997 and Apr. 13, 2004 entries of my diary, which include 2 more photos; for a formal if brief summary of the town's history and monuments, see the article Arezzo of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, and for the town's Roman history, the article Arretium; and then there are the sites in the navigation bar at the foot of this page.

Here are my first steps toward that proper website:

[image ALT: A slightly ogival semicircular space of carved stone showing a man with a halo pouring water over the head of another, with four angels in attendance. It is a tympanum on the Pieve S. Maria in Arezzo, Tuscany (central Italy), and depicts the Baptism of Jesus.]

[ 2/17/07: 8 churches, 1 page, 9 photos ]

The churches of Arezzo are many, beautiful, and architecturally and historically important; making a website on them long and difficult to write. Still, the thing is to start: so for now, a photosampler; little by little it should turn into a series of detailed pages; there's a lot to see in town.

[image ALT: A stylized representation of a metal hand-mirror, taken from the binding of a book. It is an Etruscan mirror motif representing that book, George Dennis's 'Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria'.]

The serious student with an interest in the Etruscans will enjoy the Arezzo chapter of George Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, in which he talks about the city's famous pottery, the even more celebrated statue of the Chimaera (carted off to Florence long ago), and disagrees that Arezzo was Arretium after all.

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Page updated: 3 Nov 17