If you're planning a trip to Italy, you should consider spending at least one day in Southern Tuscany; if you rent a car, you can reach striking places that would otherwise be inaccessible.
This Tuscany tour starts in Arezzo and will take you to:
- Monterchi – where you can admire Piero della Francesca's fresco Madonna del Parto
- Anghiari - where you can enjoy a typical Tuscan lunch
- the Sanctuary of La Verna – perched in a fairy tale setting.
A little bit underestimated by visitors, Arezzo is believed to have been one of the twelve most important Etruscan dodecapolis; archaeological evidence is represented by some parts of walls, a necropolis and two spectacular bronzes discovered in the 16th century (now housed in Florence's National Archaeological Museum): the Chimera and the Minerva. The city is filled with beautiful Medieval buildings and every first weekend of the month, since 1968, a good antique flea market is held in Piazza Grande: more than 500 vendors from all over the country! If you're in town any of those days, you can't miss the opportunity.
On the way to Anghiari (via SS73), take a detour to Monterchi: the Museo della Madonna del Parto holds the most famous depiction of the Virgin Mary shown as pregnant. Painted by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, the fresco plays an important role in Andrei Tarkovsky's film Nostalghia, 1983.
Anghiari, whose famous 15th century battle was commemorated in a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting, is a fantastic place to have lunch: situated on the border between Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and Marche, its cuisine is a mixture of various traditions. Venture in the old town alleys, look for a restaurant that best suits your needs and taste some crostini toscani, fresh pasta with game sauce (fresh truffles or mushrooms) or a big juicy Chianina steak... you won't be disappointed!
The last stop on this tour is the charming Sanctuary of La Verna located 50 minutes from Anghiari: perched on a high rocky promontory and surrounded by timeless forests, it sits on the site where it is believed that Saint Francis of Assisi received the stigmata. The Complex includes a monastery, a church, a museum, some chapels and the cave where the friar had his cell; in addition, it offers astonishing views over the valleys below.
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