As many of you know, I have been studying in Italy for about four months now. As my time here comes to a close, I thought I would describe the city to those who may want a glimpse into my daily life. Although Arezzo appears to be a small untouched Tuscan town, there is a rich history that makes the city what it is today. From the architecture to the art to the medieval and fascist history, many factors contribute to modern day Arezzo. This creation of Aretinian culture cannot be defined by a stereotype because every person is individual. However, the more one knows about the history of a city, the more one can integrate and understand the mores of its people.
Arezzo has been ruled by many different groups: The Etruscans, Romans, Florentines, Medici and fascists to name a few. Throughout time, the city was built upon itself. This explains why the architecture throughout Arezzo varies from place to place. In one quarter you can find a Roman amphitheater, in another a medieval fortress and in yet another, fascist statues. This architecture is frozen in time and gives us a glimpse of what life was like in Arezzo at any given point. The presence of this architecture in everyday life is important to understanding the community. Architecture makes Arezzo stand out from different cities and reminds citizens that they are tied to the past. The history of the city permeates, not only architecture, but also, traditions. When I first came to Arezzo, all anyone could talk about was the Saracino Joust. After observing the pomp and pageantry of the event, I understand that it is the main bonding event for the city. Even though the quarters battle for the most points, everyone from Arezzo can share in parades and food and the joy of the event. Even more important are the historical ties. The event began in the Middle Ages as an actual battle training against the Turks. The event was reconstituted under Fascist rule to bring tourism to the city and promote Italian camaraderie.
This event is a part of a rich history that explains Tuscan life and Italian culture. Because Arezzo was on its own on top of a mountain, the city was ruled by particular groups for long periods of time. This seclusion from the rest of the Italian peninsula caused Tuscans and, more specifically, Aretinians to have a strong sense of local pride as opposed to Italian pride. Furthermore, the late unification of the province of Italy perpetuates further the variations in not only Italian regions, but also Italian cities. As expected, Italian cultural stereotypes cannot exist in a reality outside of movies and television. The differences among Italians from different regions proves that Italians have unique histories that shape who they are; they cannot be put into a simple one-size-fits-all box that stereotypes create. Needless to say, the Arezzo I expected before I arrived is not the Arezzo I have come to know and love. Even more interesting is the fact that Arezzo is so different from other cities that I have visited outside of Tuscany.
I have learned that every cultural norm in Arezzo is not the same throughout Italy, but that everything is attached to history. There is no mafia crime in Arezzo because of the history of wealth in the city. Citizens are learning English in droves due to the growing tourism industry fueled by architecture. Parents bring their children out late at night when they drink or visit with friends because the prominence of wine in Italy takes away the taboo of alcohol that would be present in the United States. In the recent past, Arezzo took in major economic gains from the gold business; this span of wealth gave the city a reputation for being the “new rich.” Americans I have talked to outside of the University do not appreciate the “new rich” lifestyle and attitudes. However, I have found Aretinians to be nothing but accommodating. Learning about the history and architechture of this city has opened my eyes to why the people of Arezzo have such a complete sense of culture.