Arezzo-Ancona-Arezzo-Ancona

An abortive attempt to catch the ferry to Greece gives us the chance to check out Arezzo.

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We leave Arezzo with hardly a backward glance. Sorry. But we’re not such philistines we don’t appreciate what a beautiful old place Arezzo is even if we only see it from the hotel’s roof top terrace on our fascist square.

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Nothing complicated about driving out of Arezzo though it was already busy by 8am, with school kids mainly (as it was on Saturday morning too).

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There’s no direct route between Arezzo and Ancona. We’re aware of the potential for delays on the mix of roads hence the early start. It’s only 120 miles and should take 2h32 according to Google Maps. The ferry leaves at 14:30 with a minimum two hour check-in for international passengers.

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Quickly back into the hyper green countryside.

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There is a bit of navigating to do but well before half way Ancona is signposted. It’s expressway from then on.

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Now ahead of schedule we can relax and enjoy the fine scenery. SS76 is being upgraded on the final run-in to Ancona.

The brilliant sign-posting continues after check-in on the roundabout way to the boarding lanes. Considering it's a commercial port, one of the biggest in the Adriatic, Ancona certainly has its architectural flourishes.

The ferry terminal is brilliantly well signposted from a few miles out. It’s only as we get ready to check-in we realise our passports are still back at the hotel in Arezzo.. Thankfully Minoan Lines don’t charge us to change the booking, and while the Greece ferry only departs on alternate days in the week, it leaves on both days over the weekend so we are not losing as much time as first feared.

The moral of this story: he who checks in to the hotel should also check out.

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Re-tracing our steps so soon is unbearable so we join the coastal A14/E55 motorway north to Bologna then come off just past Rimini – and San Marino – on the E45 expressway southwest back to Arezzo. This way is 170 miles and should take about 3h30.

A14/E55 is being completely overhauled, roadworks most of the way, but it’s not that busy on this early afternoon Friday. Otherwise it’s a typical italian motorway: narrow lanes, very fast and nice scenery though there isn’t much of a sea view.

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Initially the E45 expressway Via Tiberina is in shocking condition, lots of potholes and very bumpy but it smooths out later on.

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The scenery is very rewarding.

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On the way into Arezzo we cross paths with the Lamborghini Grand Tour. A policewoman stops traffic as a line of Lamborghinis approaches. They are on their way to do what we did yesterday only in reverse order, before a night in Bologna.

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It lacks imagination to stay in Arezzo again – Siena is only 40 miles south west – but we feel bad for not having had a proper look round; we’re here; the Continentale has a room available – that roof top terrace is a bit attraction – it’s religiously clean and not bad value, even if breakfast is terrible (anything hot is extra).

Considering the kind of place it is, there are not that many hotels in Arezzo, certainly not parades of five stars as you might expect: ancient and beautiful but not chi-chi.

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Arezzo Cathedral sits at the top of the – surprisingly – steep hill on which the old town is built. Started in the late 13th century, the façade was finished in the early 19th century. This site has been continually occupied by a Bishop since the 4th century.

The cathedral is the largest but least impressive of the churches. Most intriguing is the square-towered Santa Maria della Pieve with rows of tiny cloisters (loggias) up the west wall, and the Episcopal Palace with random stone shields of various designs attached to the façade. Stunning, but hard to photograph in fading light.

The Early Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca (b.1415) was born and lived in Arezzo and one of his frescos can be seen in the rough faced Basilica of San Francesco. Another notable was the humanist poet Petrarch, born in 1304, who coined the term ‘Dark Ages’ and heavily influenced the development of the modern Italian language.

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It’s a classic historic town to wander around though there’s an uneasy alliance between cars and pedestrians in this completely pavement free zone.

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Arezzo was founded by the Etruscans, the ancient Italian civilisation who lived here in the millenium before Christ and gave the regions its name: Tuscany.

Renamed Arretium by the Romans, the town became an important staging post on Via Cassia, the major (round-about) road between Rome and Genoa in north west Italy.

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Piazza Grande: at the top of the hill behind the cathedral is the main square (one of several). There were a few restaurants but nowhere obvious to sit for a beer. That said, the other half of the hill is a formal park which we didn’t check out, probably full cafes, and nice views of the Arno flood plain too we suspect. So it’s back to our roof-top terrace.

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Next: catching the ferry from Italy to Greece – how much, how long, what’s it like? And the sunset.

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