Arezzo is located in central Italy in the region of Tuscany. It is an old city and capital of the province of the same name. Arezzo is about 80 km south-east of Florence. It is set on a steep hill rising from the flood plain of the Arno. In the upper part of Arezzo is the cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), from which the main streets branch off towards the lower part as far as the gates. The upper part of the town maintains its medieval aspect despite the addition of later structures.
The Piazza Grande is the most noteworthy medieval square in Arezzo. Opening behind the thirteenth-century Romanesque apse of S. Maria della Pieve. Once the main marketplace of the city, it is currently the site of the Giostra del Saracino (”Joust of the Saracin”). It has a sloping pavement in red brick with limestone geometrical lines. Aside from the apse of the church, other landmarks of the square include:
- The Palace of the Lay Fraternity (Fraternità dei Laici): 14th-15th century palazzo, with a Gothic ground floor and a quattrocento second floor by Bernardo Rossellino.
- The Vasari Loggia along the north side, a flat Mannerist façade designed by Giorgio Vasari.
- Episcopal Palace, seat of the bishops, rebuilt in the mid-13th century. The interior has frescoes by Salvi Castellucci, Teofilo Torri and Pietro Benvenuti. In front of the Palace is the Monument to Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici (1595), by Pietro Francavilla, following a design of Giambologna.
- Palazzo Cofani-Brizzolari, with the Torre Faggiolana.
- Remains of the Communal Palace and the Palazzo del Popolo can also be seen.
- Roman amphitheatre and museum
- Palazzo dei Priori, erected in 1333, has been the seat of the city’s magistratures until today. The edifice was numerous times restored and renovated; the interior has a court from the 16th century, a stone statue portraying a Madonna with Child (1339), frescoes, busts of illustrious Aretines, two paintings by Giorgio Vasari. The square tower is from 1337.
- Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and completed in 1538-1560. It was partly dismantled by the French in the early 19th century.
- Palazzo Camaiani-Albergotti (14th century, renovated in the 16th century), with the Torre della Bigazza.
- Palazzo Bruni-Ciocchi, Renaissance edifice attributed to Bernardo Rossellino. It is seat of the State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art.
- Palazzo Pretorio, which was seat of the People’s Captain until 1290. The façade has coat of armas of the captains, podestà and commissaries of the city from 14th to 18th century. Only one of the two original towers remains.
- House of Petrarch (Casa del Petrarca)
- Casa Vasari, (via XX Settembre) an older house rebuilt in 1547 by Giorgio Vasari and frescoed by him; now open as a museum, it also contains sixteenth-century archives.
- Ivan Bruschi House and Museum (Casa-Museo “Ivan Bruschi”)
- Gaio Cilnio Mecenate Archeological Museum
- Civic Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
- the Gothic Cathedral of S. Donato (13th-early 16th centuries). The façade remained unfinished, and was added in the twentieth century. The interior has a nave and aisles divded by massive pilasters. The left aisle has a fresco by Piero della Francesca portraying the Madeleine. Noteworthy are also the medieval stained glass, the Tarlati Chapel (1334) and the Gothic tomb of Pope Gregory X.
- church of S. Francesco (13th-14th centuries), in Tuscan-Gothic style. Of the projectd façade cover in sculpted stone only the lower band was completed. The interior has a single nave: the main attraction is the History of the True Cross fresco (1453-1464) cycle by Piero della Francesca in the Bacci Chapel. Under the church is another Basilica with a nave and two aisles (Basilica inferiore), today used for art exhibitions.
- Basilica of San Domenico (founded in 1275 and completed in the early 14th century).
- church of S. Michele, with a modern façade. Traces of the original Romanesque edifice and the Gothic restoration can be seen in the interior.
- Santa Maria in Gradi is a medieval church from the 11th or the 12th century, but was rebiult in the late 16th century. The interior has a single nave with stone altars (17th century) and a Madonna of Misericordia, terracotta by Andrea della Robbia.
- Church of St. Augustine, founded in 1257, modified in the late 15th and the late 18h centuries. The façade and the interior decoration are largely from Baroque times. The square plan bell tower is from the 15th century.
- Badia di SS. Flora e Lucilla (12th century). Built by Benedictine monks in the 12th century, it was totally restored in the 16th century under the direction of Giorgio Vasari. The octagonal bell tower is from 1650. The interior, in Mannerist style, has an illusionistic canvas depicting a false dome by Andrea Pozzo (1702).
- Romanesque church of S. Maria della Pieve
Arezzo is home to an annual medieval festival called the Joust of the Saracens (Giostra del Saracino). In this, “knights” on horseback representing different areas of the town charge at a wooden target attached to a carving of a Saracen king and score points according to accuracy. Virtually all the town’s people dress-up in medieval costume and enthusiastically cheer on the competitors.
Arezzo is also home to an annual popular music and culture festival, each July, called Arezzo Wave. Publicly funded, it attracts bands of high repute and attendees from all over Europe and North America. It also features literary and film expositions.