Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Arezzo and the forgotten Legend of the True Cross

Why did Estela and I choose to visit Arezzo?

Skyline of Arezzo, Tuscany, seen from the rooftop of our hotel.
One good reason for visiting Arezzo, is that we wanted to visit Roberto Benigni's hometown, and the place where he shot his 1997 feature film La Vita é Bella.

This small Piazza in Arezzo
 with its giant lamppost
was the setting for Benigni's film.

Another good reason for coming here is that like Luca and Prato, Arezzo is a major important city in Tuscany,  without crowds of tourists.

Arezzo is another well kept
secret gem of Tuscany with
its well manicured scrubs
along its boulevards
Still another reason for me was that I wanted to get to know the place where Michaelangelo spent time as an infant. Rumor has it that his mother was without milk, and that she had to recur to a wet nurse. The family of the wet nurse worked and lived on the outskirts of Arezzo,  in the marble quarry.

Michelangelo in Raffaello's
Scuola di Atene, with his
sulking face and broken nose,
Stanze di Raffaello, Vatican Museum
As an adult, when questioned about why he liked sculpture over painting, he would reminisce about his wet nurse, claiming, possibly in jest, but probably with that accustomed soar face (that Raffaello mimicked so cleverly in his Scuola di Atene, as you can see above),  that as a baby he sucked on milk mixed with marble dust.

A more hedonistic reason for visiting Arezzo, is its fine cuisine of country fair, such as roasted wild game, cooked slowly over an open wood-burning hearth.

The warmth of an open fire, in Arezzo

To meander down the fair alleyways of Arezzo is a very pleasant experience, where you might see things from the past long-since disappeared from the rest of Italy. Such was our experience as we saw this vintage red Fiat 500. As  you see, Arezzo feels comfortable with its past and present coexisting in harmony.

A well preserved classic Fiat 500

But really,  why did Estela and I decide to cut short a delightful afternoon in Florence, to drive down the snowy hills of the Apennine to Arezzo?
The fog-ridden road down the
snowy Apennine hill country.
Estela was easy to motivate.  "Did you know that the city where more jewelry is designed and made in Italy is Arezzo?" I asked her. "All kinds," I continued,  "from cute, inexpensive trinkets,  up unto the most sophisticated designer jewelry.".
Rosita, my sister-in-law and
Estela, my wife, with the
same lamppost but with a view
of a small street in Arezzo
with great shopping opportunities 

Personally, I was looking for something more sublime.  I wanted to track down an ancient legend: "la leggenda della vera croce" as "the legend of the true Cross" is called here, and that legend took us to the masterpiece of Piero della Francesca, in the Basilica di San Francesco,  in Arezzo. At the same time,  I wanted to visit the house of the greatest art expert of all times, Giorgio Vasari, author of  Le Vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori e scultori Italiani (The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects,  Painters and Sculpturers,  1550) wasn't at home to greet us personally, but Estela and I enjoyed being there, as many of his patrons and friends had before us, as if we were his personal guests. But first things first: off we go in track of our Legend of the True Cross. 

Here I was at the threshold of
the unpretentious façade of the
Church  of San Francesco, in pursuit
of the Legend of the True Cross
To visit Piero della Francesca's series on the Leggenda della Vera Croce is no easy task. Great efforts are made to keep this capolavoro or masterpiece of the quattrocento intact. Humidity controls. Light controls. Flash not permitted. Photography not permitted. Filming not permitted. Crowds not permitted. Small groups by reservations only. If you wish to make a reservation yourself, use your internet explorer and go to:
8 Euros per adult for a swift 10 minute peek.
I bid thee all farewell this evening, and take a needed rest and recommend the same to you all, because if you are will to accompany us, albeit cybernetically, we will recommence this adventure in our next post tomorrow:
Piero della Francesca and the Legend of the True Cross.


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