Existence genuinely is lovely in Tuscany’s underappreciated Arezzo

It’s taken me three 1/2 hours and almost 15 years to get here.

Standing slack-mouthed in the centre of Piazza Grande, I rotate 360 levels to gape at this arrestingly lovely sloping piazza of medieval houses, Gothic and Renaissance palazzi, a multi-arched loggia and, the pièce de resistance, the rounded wedding ceremony-cake-like apse of the church of Santa Maria della Pieve. Mentally, I kick myself for no longer having concept to break out the maddening crowds of Florence, San Gimignano and Siena years before. This oversight on my element is particularly reprehensible for the reason that Arezzo lies best one hour east by means of teach from Florence or 1 1/2 hours by bus from Siena, two towns wherein i have lived and studied.

Like most visitors to this compact regional capital, I used to be drawn here with the aid of the stimulated fresco cycle of The Legend of the authentic go by using Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca. The fresco series, located inside the Cappella Maggiore within the Basilica di San Francesco, tells the tale of how the timber from the lawn of Eden became the go on which Jesus become crucified. The frescoes, some of which stand greater than 12 metres above the floor, constitute della Francesca’s biggest paintings and are considered an early Renaissance masterpiece.

Yet it turned into now not lengthy after exiting the basilica that I became enchanted with Arezzo itself, an appeal in its own right. It speedy became apparent why Italian actor and filmmaker Roberto Benigni, who took away three Oscars in 1998 for his family love story life Is stunning, shot his movie here in the historic centre of Arezzo, a compact and atmospheric diamond inside the rough, rich in artwork and architecture. So happy with Benigni is Arezzo that in the centro storico (historic centre) you could’t help however run into posters with photos of scenes from the movie superimposed over a map, thereby allowing vacationers to orient themselves in relation to its movie units.

Now, in this specific Saturday morning in early July, the Piazza Grande is jammed with antique artwork and armoires, and the hilly surrounding streets spill over with stalls promoting the lot from antique apparel to tarnished silver candlesticks and from chipped crystal and ceramic pitchers to amazing lire banknotes. From a supplier, I soon learn that I’ve arrived during the month-to-month antiques fair, a famous occasion that’s been attracting bargain hunters and connoisseurs on account that 1968.

Adding to the air of festivity, the façades of the Piazza Grande’s palazzi are festooned with colorful crests for the biannual Giostra del Saracino, the Joust of the Saracen, whilst the metropolis’s inhabitants don medieval dress and the principle square is converted right into a jousting song. It’s a disgrace I’m too past due by means of per week, however even out of doors of the Giostra and the antiques truthful, the Piazza Grande, even as perhaps a bit pricier than other areas, is a perfect spot for people looking from a piazza-side restaurant or café terrace.

From the square, I wander up the cobblestone alleys and aspect streets toward the ruins of the Medici fort. Along the way, I’m reminded of Siena and its narrow streets shadowed via tall, sandstone-hued buildings, however, amazingly for Tuscany, without the visitor hordes. Even in July, although the metropolis buzzes with outdoors markets, weddings, baptisms and concerts, and the eating place terraces spilling out into the streets, it’s by and large locals and other Italians.

Drawing close the Prato Park, via the castle, I secret agent a newly married couple I had photographed in advance in front of the church of the Badia delle Sante plants e Lucilla, in which Roberto Benigni falls off his bicycle on top of his principessa, his princess, in lifestyles is stunning. Now, the newlyweds are wrapping up their picture shoot in the park and heading lower back to their Beetle. The park is cool and verdant, a welcome reprieve from the intense warmness. It’s a city park, but if you stand at the old castle walls, you could see out to agricultural fields and the rolling inexperienced hills of the surrounding Aretino geographical region.

Lower back within the ancient centre, I’m drawn to the boutiques, the charming little pastry and gelato shops, the town’s iconic Caffè dei Constanti, opened in 1804, and in particular to the aromatic delicatessen shop and upstairs eating place of Gastronimia Il Cervo.

Other than its artwork and splendor and easy get right of entry to the Aretino nation-state, what I like maximum about Arezzo is its cozy joie de vivre. Locals here are affable and relaxed in a manner that citizens of the tourist-heavy Tuscan towns of Siena and Florence are too harried to be. One such resident is Mario De Filipis, whose circle of relatives operates los angeles Buca di Francesco and who welcomes puppies in his eating place. The invitations me interior to view the frescoes and his series of vintage books, despite understanding I would now not be dining there. Later on, I head returned to my motel regretting that I can’t stay in Arezzo a 3rd night time. I recognize where I’ll next be taking Italian language and lifestyle guides.

It is able to have taken me 3 halves of hours from Pienza with the aid of bus and nearly 15 years to get to here, however I’m so satisfied I’ve subsequently come, for life in Arezzo is certainly stunning.