What a fun, exhausting day. I have never been to Arezzo. Stepping off the train, I like to remember my favorite Cavafy quote from the poem, “Ithaca.” “May you always enter ports seen for the first time with such pleasure, with such joy.”
Arezzo is in eastern Tuscany. It’s about 87,000 people but was heavily damaged in bombing raids during World War II. Still, it has a charming old town and the famous fresco cycle: Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca. He was one of the earlier Renaissance painters who made great strides in naturalism and perspective. Before viewing the fescoes at our appointed time, we walked around and up to Piazza Grande, which is at the top of the hill and sloped. We finally got our picture taken together, so it will no longer look as if we’re taking turns traveling in Italy.
We sat and had cappuccini at Caffe dei Costanti in Piazza Della San Francesco right in front of the cathedral. There was cabal of older gentlemen sitting near us, chatting and reading giornali. In fact, the town is populated mostly by older men sitting in small groups and chatting leisurely among each other and high school students touring in groups. Luckily, we ended up with a high school group as we viewed the frescoes, and I was able to understand the different points the guide was making about the details of the fresco in Italian!
Here is my favorite fresco panel, The Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon. I love the woman in the green dress and the way her hand is behind her back, the groundbreaking perspective.
I also love this one of the Annunciation. Gabriel is holding a palm instead of the usual lily.
And also the marvelous hats and dress of Piero’s contemporaries.
We ate lunch at Trattoria Il Saraceno that Aldo recommended. The walls were lined with old photographs of the Giostra. Similar to Siena, this medieval town is divided into four quartiere (more in Siena, and they are called contrade). Twice a year, once in June and once in September, the four neighborhoods compete in a jousting match in Piazza Grande. They take turns jousting at a metallic doll that pivots and is nicknamed Saraceno after the Arab soldiers in the Crusades. I tried to take a photo of this, but my flash bounced back. Still, you can see the Saraceno with his arm outstretched in the foreground and the jouster, if you look carefully.
Arezzo is only an hour’s train ride from Florence, so we wandered around the streets and then rode home. We walked home over our second favorite bridget, the Santa Trinita Bridge, and young people were sitting out on the stone parts that jut over the Arno. Right where they’ve jumped the wall, a plaque states clearing in Italian and English that they are forbidden to do this. We saw the same thing when we were here in 2010, but the young people then were laughing and passing around bottles of wine!
Tonight we are eating in. I’m making my famous fried zucchini flowers and pici with pesto again. Ciao.
Oh, I heard from Tim, the letters editor of the Wall Street Journal, and I have a letter coming out tomorrow/Saturday.