Detail from the Legend of the True Cross showing adoration of Sacred Wood and meeting of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, by Piero della Francesca, 1452-1466, fresco

Getty Images/DeAgostini

Cappella Bacci

Top choice in Arezzo

This chapel, in the apse of 14th-century Basilica di San Francesco, safeguards one of Italian art's greatest works: Piero della Francesca's fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross. Painted between 1452 and 1466, it relates the story of the cross on which Christ was crucified. Only 30 people are allowed in every half hour, making advance booking (by telephone or email) essential in high season. The ticket office is down the stairs by the basilica's entrance.

This medieval legend is as entertaining as it is inconceivable. The illustrations follow the story of the tree that Seth plants on the grave of his father, Adam, and from which the True Cross is made. One scene shows the long-lost cross being rediscovered by Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine; behind her, the city of Jerusalem is pictured as a medieval view of Arezzo. Other scenes show the victory of Heraclius over the Persian king Khosrau, who had been accused of stealing the cross; Constantine sleeping in a tent on the eve of his battle with Maxentius (note Piero's masterful depiction of the dawn light); and Constantine carrying the cross into battle.

Two of the best-loved scenes depict the meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. In the first half she is kneeling on a bridge over the Siloam River and meeting with the king; she and her attendants are depicted wearing rich Renaissance-style gowns. In the second half, King Solomon's palace seems to be modelled on the designs of notable architect Leon Battista Alberti.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Arezzo attractions

1. Galleria Comunale D'Arte Contemporanea

0.02 MILES

Showcasing the work of contemporary visual artists – many based in the Arezzo region – this multifloor art gallery in a building next to the Basilica di…

2. RICERCA Restoration Studio

0.07 MILES

Art lovers will adore visiting this conservation laboratory. The base of Art Angels Arezzo (, a group of professional art…

3. Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla


This 13th-century abbey was rebuilt to a design by Vasari in the 16th century, and its austerely elegant Romanesque exterior stands in extreme contrast to…

4. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieve

0.11 MILES

This 12th-century church – Arezzo's oldest – has an exotic Romanesque arcaded facade adorned with carved columns, each individually decorated. Above the…

5. Casa Museo di Ivan Bruschi

0.11 MILES

Ivan Bruschi, a wealthy antiques dealer, restored 13th-century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo in the 1960s. After his death, the palazzo (mansion) became…

6. Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici

0.16 MILES

Construction of this palazzo commenced in 1375 in the Gothic style and finished in the late 1550s after the onset of the Renaissance. Delve into its small…

7. Piazza Grande

0.16 MILES

This lopsided and steeply sloping piazza is overlooked at its upper end by the porticoes of the Palazzo delle Logge Vasariane, completed in 1573…