The province of Arezzo is divided into four valleys: Valtiberina, Valdichiana, Casentino, and Valdarno-Superiore. We have studied six different itineraries, to help you explore and familiarize with the surrounding valleys; they are all one-day trips:
Valtiberina Tour – Piero della Francesca’s homeland
Valdichiana Tour 1- Exploring the Valdichiana
Valdichiana Tour 2- The Etruscan Treasures
Casentino Tour 1- Discovering the castles and small rural churches of the Casentino Valley
Casentino Tour 2- Spiritual and sacred places
Valdarno Tour – Small medieval villages and the Balze of the Valdarno valley
Valtiberina Tour – Piero della Francesca’s homeland
- From Relais La Torre to Monterchi 26 Km (32min)
The first stop on our tour of the upper Tiber valley is Monterchi. This small pleasant town is only half an hour from la Torre. A monumental archway commemorating the casualties of the First World War greets you on entering Monterchi. A visit to the museum where you can admire the famous fresco “La Madonna del parto” painted by Piero della Francesca in 1465, is definitely a must. The museum “Museo della Madonna del parto” is in Via della Reglia, in the heart of the town centre.
- From Monterchi to Sansepolcro 14 Km (20min)
Sansepolcro is Piero della Francesca’s birthplace; today it is considered the artistic and historical heart of the valley. Walk leisurely around Sansepolcro and see the renaissance-baroque facades of the buildings in Via XX September, visit the 16th century “Palazzo delle Laudi”, today seat of the town hall and “Palazzo Pretorio” which was once the seat of the Florentine government. The ancient cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist “San Giovanni Evangelista”, where you can see the impressive crucifix known as “il Volto Santo” a wooden hand carved Christ that dates back to the 9th century cannot be missed. Other masterpieces painted by Piero della Francesca are conserved in the civic museum of Sansepolcro: the famous fresco of the Resurrection and the polyptych or painted panel of the Misericordia.
- From Sansepolcro to Anghiari 9 Km (12min)
Anghiari is a picturesque medieval town surrounded by an immense 13th century stonewall (built to defend the town). Anghiari was very important during the middle ages because of its strategic position. The famous Battle of Anghiari between Florence and Milan (that inspired Leonardo da Vinci’s work of art) took place here on 29th of June 1440. Strolling down the narrow stone-paved alleys of the town centre, you will meet up with various art and craft shops; do not be shy take a look inside. Palazzo Pretorio, “San Bartolommeo” a Benedictine abbey dating back to the 11th century and “la Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta” (a Pieve was usually the most important church of a rural area) are all worth a visit. Do not forget the museum dedicated to the battle of Anghiari and its territory, then just cross over the road and admire the various exhibits of the Museum of Palazzo Taglieschi.
- From Anghiari to Caprese Michelangelo (23min)
Before heading home, take a look at Caprese Michelangelo: beautiful village and place of historical interest. A great place for dining out and for tasting local gastronomic specialities. Michelangelo was born here and Saint Francis of Assisi often passed by Caprese on his way to and from the nearby Sanctuary of la Verna.
Valdichiana Tour 1 – Exploring the Valdichiana
- From Relais La Torre to Monte San Savino 30Km (31min)
Monte San Savino is a fascinating medieval town, situated on top of a hill that dominates the plain of Arezzo. The town is surrounded by a defensive stone wall you can still see two town gates “Porta Fiorentina” and “Porta Romana” that gave access to the medieval city. Amble down Corso San Gallo, lined with elegant buildings, like the renaissance “Loggia dei Mercanti” credited to Andrea Sansovino important architect from Arezzo, the Town hall or Palazzo Comunale with its beautiful cloister and hanging garden. Stop and take a look at Palazzo Pretorio admire the various coats of arms and heraldic stems, that represent the magistrates and chieftains that ruled over the town during the middle ages and climb up the clock tower and enjoy the breathtaking view of the town and the valley below. The Romanesque “Pieve of San Egidio e Savino”, and the church of “San Agostino” where you can see the frescoes painted by Andrea Spinello and his scholars (15th century) and a panel painted by Giorgio Vasari representing the “Assumption of the virgin Mary” are certainly worth a visit.
- Monte San Savino to Gargonza 7Km (15min)
Gargonza is a 13th fortified medieval village in the heart of the green Tuscan hills, between the Chianti area and the valley of the river Chiana (Val di Chiana). The whole family will love the castle of Gargonza, (that played host to Dante Alighieri in 1304, while he was in exile) the castle is kept to near perfection with its bell tower and the small medieval rural hamlet within the walls.
- Gargonza to Lucignano 16 Km (23min)
The small town of Lucignano has a typical medieval layout; the narrow roads built in concentric rings give the town its characteristic oval shape. Lucignano is situated on a hilltop, in a dominating position between Arezzo and Siena. Because of its favourable geographical position Lucignano has always been considered strategically important since ancient times and the many Etruscan and roman archaeological findings confirm its importance over the centuries.
While you walk around the square known as “Piazza del Tribunale” admire the church dedicated to Saint Francis, the Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo (collegiate church), and the Palazzo del Comune. The Town Hall museum hosts the ”Albero d’Oro or Golden Tree a unique piece of art created by jewel-smiths during the 14th century among the other various masterpieces on show.
Valdichiana Tour 2 – The Etruscan Treasures
- From Relais La Torre to Cortona 40Km (55min)
The enchanting medieval hill town of Cortona, sits 500 meters above sea level and offers a magnificent view of the plain below. Sandstone, was chosen to build most of the finest and most important buildings in Cortona. The medieval timber frame buildings with their jetties that project forward into the streets are another typical feature that can be admired while strolling around Cortona. Piazza della Repubblica is the heart of the town centre and the impressive Palazzo Comunale or town hall dominates the square. In Piazza Signorelli, you can visit the Etruscan museum housed in the magnificent building of Palazzo Pretorio that dates back to the 15th century. The museum has an incredible range of items on show and many Etruscan, Roman and Egyptian treasures to be discovered. Among the other exhibits: paintings by Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, and Signorelli (born in Cortona). Outside the fortified walls of Cortona, a winding country road leads you down to an elegant Renaissance church called the “Madonna del Calcinaio”, crowned by an octagonal lead-gilded cupola or dome. Il Convento delle Celle (Convent of the cells) is a 13th century Franciscan convent approximately 3,5Km from the centre of Cortona. Saint Francis of Assisi founded the small convent in 1220, you can visit the cell that the saint used, and the small church built in 1573.
- Cortona to Montecchio 8Km (11min)
The Castle of Montecchio Vesponi was built during the 12th century on a hill above the small village of Montecchio. It is one of the most interesting and well- kept medieval castles in the province of Arezzo and one of the most beautiful castles in Tuscany. The fortified walls that surround the castle are battlemented and eight turrets are built into the walls at regular intervals. A splendid Keep (or fortress) stills stand within the walls and the square watchtower (30m) built alongside makes the castle easily recognizable from the valley below.
- Montecchio to Castiglion Fiorentino 1Km (5min)
Castiglion Fiorentino is famous for its towers that date back to the 13th and 14th century. The bell tower of the towns fortress or “Cassero” is the highest of them all and offers a suggestive view of the Val di Chiana. In the Piazza del Comune do not miss the splendid arched Loggia built in sandstone by Giorgio Vasari in 1513. The loggia is decorated by the coats of arms of the chieftains or Podestà that ruled over the town and by a fresco, that represents theAnnunciation.
Casentino Tour 1 – Discovering the castles and churches of the Casentino Valley
- From Relais La Torre to Santa Maria del Bagno – Salutio 20Km (30min)
The origin of the sanctuary of Santa Maria del Bagno dates back to 1588, when according to tradition the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherdess. The first building was built by the population of Salutio (San Eluterio) helped by the Tieri Family.
- From Salutio to Castello di Poppi 18Km (23min)
Poppi is our next destination, it is considered one of the most beautiful medieval towns, and the castle of Poppi is a splendid example of medieval architecture.
- From Poppi to Castello di Romena and Porciano 12Km (18min)
Romena is only a few kilometres from Pratovecchio. The ruins of the famous castle of Romena, sit on a hilltop that towers over the casentino valley. It is one of the oldest castles and one of the most evocative architectural sites in the area. Further, down the hill the small Romanesque parish church (Pieve di Romena) is most definitely worth a visit.
After Romena, head to the Castle of Porciano, (5Km – 11 min). Visit the castle’s tower that dominates the picturesque hamlet of Porciano.
- From Porciano to Stia 4Km (8min)
The river Arno begins its journey from its source in “Mount Falterona” in Stia and it is considered one of the most important rivers in central Italy. Stia is a town rich in history and famous for its wool industry, the well-known Casentino cloth with its vivid and characteristic orange and green colours was created here. Stia is also renowned for the traditional Biennial Wrought iron-forging exhibition, every two years master blacksmiths from around the world demonstrate their high standards of craftsmanship by forging wrought iron into unique pieces of art.
The Palagio Fiorentino, Piazza Tanucci, the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, and il Parco del Canto delle rane (a small natural park that the river Arno flows through) are among other interesting sights to be seen.
Casentino Tour 2 – Spirtual and sacred places
- From Relais La Torre to the Sanctuary Santa Maria del Sasso 26Km (27min)
During medieval times, Bibbiena was a fortified stronghold that overlooked the river Archiano and the surrounding Casentino valley below. The church of San Lorenzo and the Pieve of Saint Ippolito and Donato are a must and don’t forget to visit the Dovizi Theatre in Bibbiena. It was designed and built by the Galli Family, a famous family of scenographers, known by the name of “Bibienas” that dominated stage design in Europe for over a century.
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Sasso is only kilometre from Bibbiena, and it hosts the splendid polychromatic wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary and child.
- From Bibbiena to La Verna 22Km (37min)
The sanctuary of La Verna and the Monastery of Camaldoli are among the most antique places of pilgrimage in the Casentino area. La Verna is famous because Saint Francis of Assisi received his stigmata (wounds that resemble those suffered by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion) here while he was on a spiritual retreat. The walls of the monastery built directly on the huge stone masses of Mount Penna, give us the impression that the building is all one with the mountain. The nearest town is Chiusi della Verna, only 4Km from the sanctuary.
You can reach the monastery by foot, following the antique road called “Ansilice”, once it was the only way to get to the peak of the mountain. The road leads you through a thick forest of silver fir trees, where massive boulders covered in moss create natural caverns and cavities that the monks used as cold rooms for storing perishable goods. At the end of road you will find yourself in front of “Porta Martello” that was once the main entrance to the sanctuary.
- From The Sanctuary of La Verna to the Eremo of Camaldoli 40Km (59min)
Camaldoli, is a community of Benedictine monks, Saint Romualdo founded the hermitage in the year 1000. The quaint houses, the hermitage and the monastery immersed in the silent depths of the National Park of the Casentino Forests, represent the fundamentals of monastic life: solitude and simplicity.
You can admire the care that the monks have taken in preserving the forest that hosted them during their life of seclusion as you stroll through the forest of beech and fir trees and you will be projected back in time while you walk around Saint Romualdo’s cell.
Valdarno Tour – Small medieval villages and the cliffs and crags of the Valdarno valley
- From Relais La Torre to Ponte Buriano 10Km (13min)
As you travel towards the valley of the Arno river, you will drive along the historical road (Cassia Vetus) today called Sette Ponti. The landscape here is characterized by geological formations of particular charm and beauty known as “Balze”. The sedimentary layers of sand, clay, and shingle have been shaped slowly and relentlessly in to pinnacles and ravines over the centuries by wind, rain, and land erosion.
Stop by the Romanesque bridge “Ponte Buriano” the bridge that appears in the background of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting the Mona Lisa.
- From Ponte Buriano to Pieve di Gropina 22Km (30min)
Before getting to the nearby town of Loro Ciuffenna visit the Parish church of Gropina. The pieve is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the Valdarno area and in Tuscany. It was built in the year 1016 on the remains of two previous churches. The monumental façade is simple and sober, the pieve has an elegant semicircular apse and a stately bell tower (built over a preexistent Longo bard tower). Inside the pieve is finely adorned, with a vast variety of decorations.
- From Pieve di Gropina to Loro Ciuffenna 2Km (5min)
Have lunch or dinner in Loro Ciuffenna, taste the local products and dishes. Among the many excellent restaurants, we recommend “Ristorante La Torre” (closed on Sundays and Monday Lunchtime) next to the fascinating clock tower in the center of this quaint medieval village built on the slopes of the Pratomagno.
After take a relaxing walk around the narrow stone paved roads that over look the river Ciuffenna that flows through the village, and just admire the scenery that one of the most beautiful Italian villages has to offer.
- From Loro Ciuffenna to il Borro 12Km (20min)
On your way home make a detour and head for “Il Borro”, a medieval estate owned and recently restored to its antique splendor by the Ferragamo Family.
The village centre hosts an exhibition of a famous mechanical Nativity scene and mechanical scenes that tell the story of the world’s most famous wooden puppet, Pinocchio. It is open all year round and both the adults and the kids will love it. The local artisans workshops’ are fascinating and the Tavern “L’Osteria del Borro” is the ideal place for a delicious dinner before heading home.