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Some ideas for the Easter weekend between Siena and Arezzo

Arezzo and surroundings, Casentino, Cortona and surroundings, Siena and surroundingsPost consigliato per: da 2 a 5 giorni

What do you know about Easter in Italy and Tuscany? Are you aware that Easter is here the second most important religious holiday after Christmas, and many traditions are related to its celebrations? I’ll  try to open a window on this period of the year and give some suggestions for places to visits and activities to do if you’re in Tuscany these days.

From a religious point of view, being Easter the resurrection of Christ, its celebration is the basis of the Christian religion and Italians consider this day very important. Schools close usually from the Thursday before Easter (Holy Thursday) till the Tuesday after.

Good Friday (Venerdì Santo in Italian) is the day on which Christ was crucified, and the Church – stripped of its ornaments, the altar bare, with the door of the empty tabernacle standing open, – is as if in mourning. Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Midnight Mass at Easter Eve, as are all bells or other instruments.  In many villages and towns, at night priests lead the torchlight procession of the via crucis (way of the Cross), the biggest and most popular one being that in Rome, led by the Pope at the Coliseum. Easter tradition means that several Italians don’t eat meat on Good Friday, even if restaurants serve any kind of food.

Easter Eve represents the one full day when Jesus is dead and churches don’t have any service until the Midnight Mass that starts the Easter celebrations. Easter Day is finally a happy and joyful day after the long period of Lent! In Tuscany, it starts in Florence with the traditional “explosion of the cart” (Scoppio del Carro) having its roots in the pagan ritual of ensuring a good harvest and considered a symbol of good luck for the city.

After the solemn Mass, on Easter Day food plays a big role in traditional lunches, both at home or restaurants. Recipes vary according to the regional traditions, but eggs are common everywhere as represent life, fertility, and renewal, all essential symbols of Easter. Hard-boiled eggs – often dyed  – are blessed by the priests during the Mass at Easter Eve, and then accompany breakfast and lunch of many Italian families. Also, the most popular Easter tradition are beautifully decorated chocolate eggs, that everyone gets for friends, dearest persons and children.

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Passing to things to do in the Easter weekend between Arezzo and Siena, here are our recommendations:

1) You should definitely visit the beautiful Arezzo, whose medieval historic centre boasts  many splendid works of art:  the most famous one is “The Legend of the True Cross” fresco cycle painted by Piero della Francesca in the Church of St. Francis, but many others are the monuments and the museum that are worth a visit (from the main square Piazza Grande, to the Cathedral and the minor churches, to the archaeological museum). From the town, you can easily move to one of the marvellous valleys of its countryside, such as the green Casentino, with its magnificent Park of Forests where you can walk and hike in an enchanted natural environment,  or the Valtiberina, where you can visit the beautiful medieval hamlet of  Anghiari. Find out what else to see around town in our post.

2) just a few kilometres away from Arezzo,  Cortona is a splendid hamlet you can’t absolutely miss. Dating back to the Etruscan times,  made famous all over the world by Frances Mayes book “Under the Tuscan Sun”, it offers many things to do: visiting  the Archaeological Park and the Etruscan Museum, strolling around the splendid medieval centre,  hiking to the Sanctuary of St. Margherita, all are excellent ways to discover this fascinating hill town.

3) on Monday, April 6th (the day after Easter, that in Italy is a festivity)  the fascinating steam train of the Sienese Crete will depart from Siena railway station to reach Buonconvento, near Montalcino, for the Antiques Fair through the streets and alleys of the nice hamlet. Travelling on board of an authentic historic train, with a background noise made of whistles, puffs, squeaks and the pumping of the pistons will be a great experience for adults and an unforgettable day for children! All the detailed info here!


4) finally, in the countryside of Siena, an itinerary in the splendid Val d’Orcia is always the perfect decision:  since 2004 its landscape has been a UNESCO World Heritage site to be is “an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures”. Its smooth hills, cypress trees that line its winding roads, lovely farmhouses and hilltop hamlets like Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni correspond, in the mind of many people, to the image of Tuscany itself. In Spring its picture postcard views are dominated by the intense green that make the landscape bright. Here the complete itinerary through one of the most beloved areas of Tuscany.

In conclusion, “Christmas at home, Easter with whomever you want” is an old Italian saying, even though many people pass  Easter Day with their families. On the other hand, Easter Monday, is traditionally spent outside, with family and friends either picnicking or visiting the towns, hamlets and typical corners of the territory.

Arezzo is a beautiful city in Tuscany, and like the rest of the region it offers a spectacular scenes of medieval buildings and harmonious architecture, right in the middle of four gorgeous natural valleys. 

Among the main attractions are the Duomo, with the frescos from Piero della Francesca, Cimabue's Crucifix, Santa Maria della Pieve, with its tower that is 59 meter high, and many other churches. But, the true beauty of Arezzo is its simplicity and elegance, which is a acknowledged throughout Tuscany, where each city competes with the others regarding their beauty. Anyway, while there, it is definitely worth stopping to visit the Roman Amphitheatre and the house of Francesco Petrarca, by many considered the second most important Italian poet after Dante Alighieri. 

Arezzo's typical regional food products are based on Tuscan fare:

Tuscan food is a triumph of nature; simplified country cooking, it lacks imagination, but expresses an almost mystical symbiosis between a people and their land. The elaborations exported to France by the Medici are long gone and mostly forgotten. Also vanishing, sadly, are the inspired dishes that used to take cheerful Tuscan mammas all morning to create. But the basics are still there: country bread baked in wood-fired ovens and the emerald-green extra-vergine olive oil that combines so well in bruschetta and pane unto; exquisite vegetables and greens that make a minestrone easy (Tuscans have always been more resourceful with hearty thick soups than pasta); the rosemary, garlic, onion, sage, basil, bay leaves, and tarragon that heighten flavour; and, of course, the bean, so adored that when detractors couldn't think of anything worse they called Tuscans mangiafagioli (bean eaters).

Tuscans are big meat eaters and Tuscan food is greatly characterized by grilled or roasted meats: chicken, pork, duck, pigeon and Florence's legendary bistecca alla fiorentina (hefty slab of Chianina beef - a real one weighs about 1kg with bone and all)). Boar and game birds are also prized in this most wooded Italian region. Some of Italy's tastiest Pecorino cheese comes from sheep grazed in the stark hills of Siena.

Today Arezzo's economy is very successful and is based mainly on gold, therefore it is possible to find many workshops and jewelry stores. 

"Tuscan people? Arrogant and rude" ... word of the French newspaper "Le Figaro" ...

What can I say? It colud be, maybe they're right ... but history teaches us something else, starting from one of the basic points of table manners ... the use of a fork. This "tool" did not receive a great success in Italy and in Europe, and only in Florence was welcomed. 

Proof of this is the attempt from Catherine de 'Medici to make her husband Henry II of France and other diners try the unusual piece of cutlery ... the picture given to us by historians is hilarious ... "In bringing the fork to his mouth, they protruded on the plate with the neck and body ... it was great fun to see them eat, because they dropped on the plate, on the table and on the ground, as much as they could put in their mouth ".... so just to inform ... the first version of "Etiquette" was written around 1555 by Monsignor Giovanni della Casa, Catholic Archbishop of Borgo San Lorenzo ... A Tuscan, just to be clear …

AREZZO - visit the Etruscan city during the Saracen Joust... Are you a warrior ?... this is your trip ....





Located 40 miles from the historic center of Arezzo, in less than one hour by car from our hotel, deep in the splendor of our forests in Casentino, you will find one of the best places in the whole province of Arezzo: the Sanctuary of La Verna. Located on the top of Monte Penna, part of the Tuscan Apennines, the sanctuary is built at the height of 1128 meters above sea level and is still a popular pilgrimage site. Its popularity is due to the close link with the cult of Saint Francis. It is said that in the spring of 1213, St. Francis of Assisi was traveling with Brother Leo in Montefeltro area, when he heard music coming from the castle of San Leo. As he approached, he saw a party in the square and, seeing it as an ideal opportunity to spread the Gospel, he jumped over a wall and sang a love song. Listening to him in the audience was the Count of Chiusi in Casentino, Orlando Catani, who was deeply impressed by the words of St. Francis and he wanted to talk with him. The sermon of St. Francis enlightened him so much that he wanted to thank him, offering him the gift of the Sanctuary of La Verna, that at that time was his property, "I have in Tuscany a devoted mountain which is called the mountain of Vernia, which is a very lonely and savage place and it's suited to the ones who wish to do penance in a place faraway from people, or for those who want to stay alone. If you like it, I will gladly give it to you and your mates for the health of my soul. "St. Francis gladly accepted and the Sanctuary of La Verna, as well as becoming a destination for many periods of his retirement, was also the place where, in the summer of 1224, he received the stigmata. Since then the popularity of the Verna has never known a period of crisis and is still a sacred place of pilgrimage.


If you do not have a car, you can easily reach the Sanctuary of La Verna from the center of Arezzo by public transport. From Arezzo railway station, you need to take a train to Bibbiena and then a bus to take you to Chiusi della Verna, the nearest village. From the town, you should get to the Sanctuary on foot, as did the pilgrims of the old days, by the ancient road dell'Ansilice: it surely will be worth!


The Sanctuary of La Verna offers so much from the atristic point of view. Inside the Sanctuary, you can admire one of the most important works by Andrea della Robbia, one of the leaders of the Della Robbia family, famous sculptors and potters lived in 1400. At La Verna you will find about one-third of the entire artistic heritage left to us by Andrea della Robbia, among them the Annunciation, located in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, along with the Nativity and the Ascension. Other masterpieces can be traced in the adjoining church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, not so famous, but definitely worthy of attention. The Sanctuary of La Verna also houses an interesting museum (admission free, 10,00-12,00 hours / 13.00 to 16.00), which includes significant paintings from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, including paintings by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, and a curious Pharmacy.


In addition to being the heart of the Franciscan religious, La Verna is also an ideal destination for nature lovers, or those who simply want to get away from the gray of the city. Immersed in the National Park of Casentino Forests, the Sanctuary of La Verna is surrounded by lush greenery and breathtaking scenery. There is possible to make a leap of nature through hiking in the woods, and come with a path that take about 40 minutes to get the summit of Monte Penna, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the park, of Romagna and of Lake Ridracoli. A perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature and with yourself! Another must-see is the Sasso Spicco della Verna, which leads down from the main square. Curious Case of nature, Sasso Spicco consists of a huge boulder that protrudes from the wall of rock, creating cracks and passages (walkable) into the mountain.


Just visit La Verna, which will welcome in a special atmposphere of spirituality, art and nature!


Piero della Francesca revival: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (c.1452 Church of San Francesco, Arezzo)

When in movies frescoes are shown ..... past and present come together .... and then Piero is revived ... as happens every time that someone admires his paintings. We are talking about Piero della Francesca’s fresco with Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, though represented with a different way. The difference is mainly related to the representative way of movies, far from Piero’s phlegm, but the link exists, as seen in the pictures below



This is one of the most famous scenes from the film shot in Arezzo, the English Patient, starring Hana, the nurse. One night she is led by her lover, an Indian Soldier, to see the paintings of a nearby church which, actually, are nothing more than the frescoes of Piero della Francesca depicting the "History of the True Cross" in basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo. Here, harnessed and hoisted on a rope, Hana can go literally flying from wall to wall of the apse, and in the light of a torch, get to a close view of the images. A really charming scene, an oasis in the heart of the story of infinity, where the charm of the great art is reflected in facial expression of Hana - the beautiful Juliette Binoche – in the freshness of his rapt glanec while she faces with the Beauty.