Exploring Arezzo in the writing of Henry James

Exploring Arezzo in the company of Henry James in order to find the poetry of this adorable town in Tuscany.


I have a real bad habit of consulting guidebooks after I have visited a place – a negligence leading to great regrets over opportunities lost, photos not taken and sights not seen.

Like Henry James, I spent my day in Arezzo in an “uninvestigating fashion …. systematically leaving the dust of the ages unfingered on the stored records”. I did see Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle on “The legend of the True Cross” and glimpse Santa Maria della Pieve from a distance, while haunting the fashionable shopping district, but I seemed to miss the poetry of the place.

Fortunately, James kept a record of his Arezzo stay in 1873, and it is a great pleasure to explore the city through his writing:

“Adorable Italy in which, for the constant renewal of interest, of attention, of affection, these refinements of variety, these so harmoniously-grouped and individually-seasoned fruits of the great garden of history, keep presenting themselves! It seemed to fall in with the cheerful Tuscan mildness for instance – sticking as I do to that ineffectual expression of the Tuscan charm, of the yellow-brown Tuscan dignity at large – that the ruined castle on the hill (with which agreeable feature Arezzo is no less furnished than Assisi and Cortona) had been converted into a great blooming, and I hope all profitable, podere or market-garden. I lounged away the half-hours there under a spell as potent as the “wildest” forecast of propriety – propriety to all the particular conditions – could have figured it. I had seen Santa Maria della Pieve and its campanile of quaint colonnades, the stately, dusky cathedral – grass-plotted and residence about almost after the fashion of an English “close” – and John of Pisa’s elaborate marble shrine; I had seen the museum and its Etruscan vases and majolica platters. These were very well, but the old pacified citadel somehow, through a day of soft saturation, placed me most in relation. Beautiful hills surrounded it, cypresses cast straight shadows at its corners, while in the middle grew a wondrous Italian tangle of wheat and corn, vines and figs, peaches and cabbages, memories and images, anything and everything.” (From Italian Hours)

I really must go back sometime soon to look for those memories and images.

More on exploring Arezzo and southern Tuscany

The beautiful frescos in Arezzo Italy

What If Italy Lost Its Beauty?

Unique hotels Tuscany

exploring arezzo


3 replies
  1. Alessandro
    Alessandro says:

    Good afternoon,

    my name is Alessandro I saw your profile as well as this post through Twitter. I would like to say, “Thank you so much”! You did something beautiful for my town Arezzo. I start working hard across the web one year and half ago but it’s the first time that I can read about my medieval town in another pespective. It’s great! Nearly nine months ago, I began writing on my Blog around Arezzo and Tuscany and I’ve found this experience very important for myself. I wish that one day I can become a blogger even if I’m aware that I have to do a lot for increasing my “audience”! I’m also the owner of a B&B in Arezzo. During last ten years I’ve given hospitality to many travelers from north of Europe and I’ll be very pleased if you’d like to be my guest if you’ll come back in Tuscany.
    Any suggestion, advice or whatever you want to talk around ny Blog it’ll be welcomed.

    All the best.
    Bye for now.


    • Alessandro
      Alessandro says:

      Thanks a lot for your suggestion around Arezzo and I’m glad that you’ll take a look at my Blog!
      I like so much English language and each time I have the chance to chat, write, speak in the language of the world I’m really happy! Thanks to my activity as well as my curiosity for life I’ve had the possibility to keep in touch with travellers from all over the world!

      Thanks for your time.

      Bye for now.


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