Trattoria Il Saraceno


Piazza Vasari
Piazza Vasari (Vasari Square) during the Saracino Jousting Tournament

Dominating the fertile valleys of the Valdichiana area (the Chiana Valley), between the River Tiber and the River Arno, against the backdrop of the Casentino hills, Arezzo still retains the glory of its ancient past beneath its outward appearance of simplicity.
Gabriele D’Annunzio described the characteristics of Arezzo in a mere few verses: a beautiful, peacefull, artistic and creative town, but at the same time alert, attentive and with a fighting spirit. Such is the character of Arezzo and its inhabitants, unchanged by the passing centuries.
We can still sense and savour this atmosphere of history and art while walking round the historic town centre, a labyrinth of streets and alleyways where the craftsmen's workshops still produce precious goods which are steeped in history.
If we close our eyes we can still breathe in the smells, hear the clattering of the horses’ hooves, the hammering of the blacksmiths and the sound of the carpenters chiselling.
Everything has remained as before. Nothing has changed.
And it is precisely here, in this historic framework, that Virgilio Dragoni has been practising his art for the past 30 years: an art which has links with history, with tradition but also with creativity.
His restaurant "IL SARACENO" ("THE SARACEN") is one of those craftsmen’s workshops, where the cuisine is a picture painted in the colours of the ancient local tastes and flavours and represents a true creativity in combining the ancient and the modern.
Scorcio del locale.His splendid wine cellar, amply supplied with wines ranging from those of the highest quality to the less noble, serves as a wonderful setting to the charming restaurant. It is an old craftman’s workshop, transformed (but not greatly) into a delightful and welcoming restaurant where, by sampling Virgilio’s delicious culinary creations, we can savour an atmosphere of past tradition.
Here, only a very short distance away, in the Basilica of St. Francis, another Arezzo artist, Piero Della Francesca, produced one of the greatest, most important and most magical works of art in the world:the magnificent cycle of frescoes based on "The Legend of the True Cross", which has recently been restored.
And similarly at only a very short distance away we can find the Cathedral with its splendid stained-glass windows by Guglielmo de Marcillat (1520) and the superb terracottas by Giovanni and Andrea Della Robbia.
Furthermore, we are only a few steps away from the Pieve Church of Saint Mary (XI Century) where, in addition to some works by Giorgio Vasari, we can also admire a magnificent poliptych by Piero Lorenzetti (1320).
Piero della FrancescaBasically we are only one step away from the Vasari Square (Piazza Grande), the vibrant heart of Arezzo.
It is here that once a year (on the first Sunday of September) the inhabitants of Arezzo compete against each other for the conquest of the prestigious trophy: The Golden Lance.
This is the prize that is awarded to the winner of the "Saracino Jousting Tournament".
It is a commemoration and re-enactment of a chivalrous joust which has been held since the Middle Ages, and which, in one of the cantos of his "Divine Comedy" Dante Alighieri himself declares to have withnessed.
It is the commemoration and the re-enactment of the batle against the Saracens which, however, represents the eternal battle between good and evil. The horsemen of the four districts race on horseback, "couching their lances", towards a target held by the replica of a Saracen: "Buratto King of the Indies" (a life-size figure). This results in a most violent impact! The winner is he who attains the highest score, and there will subsequently be great celebrations right through until dawn! But it is still always Arezzo that wins! To fight the "Buratto" you need steady hands and strong arms and such are the hands and arms of the inhabitants of Arezzo: firm, strong hands which at the same time know how to be gentle, light and magical!
Il Cavaliere contro "Buratto" Re dei saraceniAnd indeed it is from the magic of these same hands that the goldsmiths' jewellry is produced, jewellery that is among the most prestigious in the world. Since the Etruscan era, the inhabitants of Arezzo have been transforming the goldsmith’s trade into a craft rendered even more precious by the nobility of the metal.
And even today there exist about 2000 industrial and artisan goldsmiths’ companies, where the methods of production by the highest technology are happily combined with the art and the creativity of manual skills, which can extract a whole range of emotions from one piece of "rough gold".
"OROAREZZO", the world famous exhibition of the goldsmiths’ craftmanship, which is held every year in the town, is the most prestigious showcase for these emotions and allows the whole world the opportunity to get to know Arezzo gold.
Similarly well-known throughout the world is the Arezzo "Antiques Fair" which is held on the first Sunday of every month. On that day antiques dealers and non-specialists alike arrange to meet in Arezzo, in the splendid backdrop of the historic town centre. Here you can find objects with an antique flavour or others that are of more recent origin, from the most prestigious collectors’ items to those more simple and common; from the most highly valued antiques to the less valuable "knick-knacks".
And how could we forget to mention the surroundings of Arezzo? The small towns of Cortona, Monte San Savino, Lucignano; the magic of the Valdichiana (Chiana Valley); the mystical nature of the Casentino hills with their religious jewels: the hermitage of the friars at Camaldoli and the Francescan Sanctuary of La Verna, as well as such little known gems as Lierna and Talla, the birthplace of Guido Monaco. And from there we must take the road which leads towards the River Tiber to find Monterchi, which is home to possibly the most controversial work of art by Piero Della Francesca, "La Madonna del Parto" (The Pregnant Madonna); continuing until we reach Sansepolcro, Piero Della Francesca's birthplace; and from there, heading on upwards towards the source of the River Tiber, we come across Caprese, birthplace of Michelangelo Buonarruoti; then finally arriving at Pieve S.Stefano, world capital of the "Diario" (Diary).
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Via Mazzini, 6
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Scorcio del locale.