Our second weekend in Italy, Emily, Nicole, Polly, Erica, Daniel and I went on our first solo trip out of the city.  By that time, I had realized there are no trees in the city center (except in Piazza Santo Spirito, which is a little out of the way), and this is kind of a big deal because I grew up in South Pasadena, where trees dominate the skyline, and go to school in Humboldt, which is famous for trees (and weed but we don’t talk about that).

Anyways, I got a text either the night before or early that morning from Emily saying they were going Arezzo and did Erica and I want to go?  We all packed lunch for ourselves–Erica and I had a ton of plums because we had gone to the fresh market after class that week and the lady whose produce we were looking at gave us a bunch of free plums even after we had bought like two bags of them.  So we stuck everything in our backpacks and walked to the bakery near Emily’s apartment that sells pastries for super cheap, and then walked to the train station to buy our tickets.  Stazione Santa Maria Novella was built in the Functionalist style in the 40s when the Fascist party was rising to power in Italy.  It’s all straight lines and block lettering, very austere looking.  At first it seemed intimidating and I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, but I came to love that place.  I included it on my walks around the city, partly for people watching but also because of the shopping mall beneath the streets outside of the station.

It was here that I had my first experience with gypsies.  I saw these people everywhere, and occasionally they would come up to me with a cup and ask for change.  I always managed to say I didn’t have any change, but this woman ambushed me while I was counting my euro coins.  So I gave her twenty cents and turned back to the ticket machine.  She then pushed me and started rambling in Italian.  Emily and I both started yelling until she went away.  I didn’t even feel bad about it.  We conveniently learned how to say Fuck Off in Italian the next week.

When we got to Arezzo, we first walked to the visitor’s center around the corner from the train station.  We got a couple maps and started up the street to the old Roman amphitheater.  We couldn’t go inside but it was cool to look at.



Walking through the streets up the hill towards Piazza Agostino, I was struck by how un-touristy Arezzo was.  There were no gypsies, no street vendors crowding the streets, which were narrow and winding.  The quiet was broken only by the six of us talking about how magical it was.  We finally made it up the hill to Piazza Agostino, where we rested and took pictures.  I really wanted to lie down in the shade because it was so hot.  Or maybe sit in the fountain.



We walked further up the hill through Piazza Grande, to a park at the top of the hill where we ran around and had our lunch.  There were huge stone walls where a Medici fort used to be, and we sat on the walls with an amazing view of the Tuscan countryside.


We pretended to be gargoyles on the wall (a picture I’m sure I would not be permitted to share) and walked further to an area that had good climbing trees.  It was really nice to sit in the shade and drink water and listen to kids playing in the parkThe park was so nice, it was the most green I had seen since I’d come to Italy.  We climbed up on one of the low hanging branches and Daniel took a picture of us girls.

the tree

Then we walked over to Arezzo’s Duomo at the other end of the park that was closed, but had a simple Gothic façade and Latin carved into the doorframe.  It was hot there, really hot and unbearably humid, so we kept walking until we got to the top of the hill to San Domenico.

San Domenico

inside San Domenico

San Domenico, founded in 1215 and completed in the 14th century, is home to a Crucifix by the pre-Renaissance artist Cimabue.  From the outside the church looks like it was never actually finished, and maybe it wasn’t.  It is so beautiful on the inside though.  The walls have frescoes on them and there are arched windows with green and white marble stripes.  While most churches in Italy have arched ceilings, San Domenico has a wooden ceiling that is a little arched, but also has flat beams, which is pretty unique in churches.  It was so peaceful there.  We all sat in the second row of pews and looked up at Cimabue’s cross.  It’s times like this that you realize how old Europe is, and what a baby the US is in countryhood.  This piece was made in 1268, 224 years before Columbus had even reached the New World.  We’re babies, you guys.

Cimabue's Crucifix

After we left San Domenico, we walked down to Piazza Grande and looked for more food.  No one wanted to eat at one of the restaurants because of the coperto, the cover charge that is usually used at restaurants on unsuspecting tourists.  Of course the coperto is only €1,50, but we didn’t know that then.  The piazza was huge and empty, with shields displaying the emblem of various guilds in Arezzo.

Piazza Grande

I fell asleep on the steps of a well that was on the far side of the piazza while Emily and a couple other people walked up to a lookout point or something.  When they came back, we walked around the town more–we had gotten up pretty early so we were kind of tired.  Basilica di San Francesco was closed, but the doors were glass–what?–so we got to peek inside.  Then we found an amazing little market that sold a bunch of pasta stuff–sauces, dried pasta, onions.  It was like walking back in time.

On our way back to the train station we went to a little gelato shop that was unanimously agreed to be a tourist trap but good nonetheless.  We sat in the square in front of the train station, eating gelato, enjoying the last moments of our first trip outside Firenze on our own.