One of the options for our in flight entertainment for the flight from Vancouver to Venice was Life is Beautiful, the 1997 Oscar winner for Best Foreign film starring Roberto Benigni. It was filmed in Arezzo, in eastern Tuscany, only 30 km from where we’re staying on this trip. It is one of my favourite films and it was a real treat to watch it again on the plane with my daughter sleeping with her head in my lap. I decided right then and there that we would have to fit a visit to Arezzo into our Italy trip.
Arezzo does not seem to get a lot of attention in most guide books. Florence has the Duomo and the art masterpieces, Siena is admired for it’s perfectly intact medieval core and everyone has a favourite hill town, but Arezzo is usually tucked into the back of the Tuscany chapter with a few notes about the frescoes in the church of San Francesco and the attractive Piazza Grande but not much else. “Pleasant” seems to be the most common adjective. But it was the closest city to our accommodation and we wanted an easy day trip, so today we packed up and headed into town with only my memories from viewing “Life is Beautiful” as the sum of our expectations
Well, I think I have a rival for my favourite Italian town now. The modern city of Arezzo surrounds an inner core guarded by a well preserved town wall. Inside the wall, it is nearly traffic free with wide streets and beautifully intact medieval buildings. The Piazza Grande is almost like a steep, miniature Campo from Siena with lovely, inexpensive cafes on two sides and a fortress-like palace and a 12th century church on the others. We were able to fulfill our Italian fantasy of sipping wine in a cafe on a traffic free piazza while the kids played on the cobblestones in the square.
The highest point in town is a lovely park with a shady, grassy area for the kids to run around (a rarity in Europe) and even a small, basic playground with swings and a slide. It was great to be able to let them run and play without any worries about traffic. The edge of the park looked out over the town walls with beautiful views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Overall, it was a great place to spend an afternoon with kids. The town is very welcoming to tourists with reasonably priced shops and restaurant staff that speak enough English to get by, but it doesn’t feel overrun the way some of the more popular towns can. It’s not a tiny city, but the old town core is easy to navigate and can be crossed in 10-15 minutes. We had only planned to go to Arezzo for the one day, but I think we may need to go back again before we leave this area. If you’re ever in Tuscany with kids, don’t miss Arezzo. It really is beautiful!