The town lies on a low hill of the Poti Alps and fans out onto the broad, fertile depression in the Apennine mountains, where the upper Arno, Tiber, Casentino, and Valdichiana meet. Arezzo is the administrative and economic capital of the large province of the same name, and has over the last fifty years been transformed from a mainly farming economy into one based on industry. Growth has been rapid, enabling Arezzo to become, amongst other things, a major goldsmiths center. The town’s other vocation as a leading tourist attraction, and its ability to combine a long and great cultural tradition with its modern entrepreneurial identity, make it a major point of reference for the whole of eastern Tuscany.
Up at the top of the hill, Piazza Grande is, and always has been, the town’s pulsating heart. The forum of the Roman city was in or near this square. Like the walled Etruscan settlement before it (6th –5th cent.BC), perched between the hills of San Pietro (where the cathedral now stands) and San Donato (today occupied by the Fortress), Arezzo used to be a major center for farming (celebrated for its spelt wheat) and industry, and is indeed believed to have been one of the most important in the ancient word, together with Rome and Capua. It was famed for its bronze statues and terracotta items, and the works that have come down to us (including the bronze Chimera, now in Florence) show the level of technical and aesthetic sophistication the local school had achieved. In Augustan times, items made of “sealed Arezzo earth”, a high-quality ceramic, were much sought-after items.