Church of San Francesco – Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy

The Finest Frescoes of Piero della Francesca

The docile, neighboring regions of Tuscany and Umbria were home to the Renaissance’s seminal masters, among them the much-beloved 15th-century Piero della Francesca, whose greatest cycle of frescoes covers the apse of Arezzo’s 14th-century Church of San Francesco

The Legend of the True Cross (La Leggenda della Vera Croce) (1452-1466), begun when the master was in his early thir­ties, depicts a legend from a 13th-century manuscript, according to which a branch of the Tree of Life was planted on Adam’s grave. The branch took root and was eventually used to make the cross on which Christ was crucified. Under wraps for close to fifteen years, the fres­coes are once again on display, brilliantly restored.

Don’t leave Arezzo without a visit to the city’s delightfully lopsided Piazza Grande, rimmed with palazzi. Arezzo is transported back to the Dark Ages with its historical Giostra del Saracino (Jousting Tournament) held on the last Sunday in August and the first Sunday in September.

An elaborate corteo (procession) wends through the narrow cobble-stoned streets beforehand, the rich costumes and authentic armor on knights and horses alike overseen by Tuscan-born filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, the joust’s biggest fan.

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