Arezzo: a history of arts and culture

Arezzo retains many important archaeological finds, testifying the grandeur of arts and crafts of the city over the centuries. Arezzo, an Etruscan city, strenuously opposed the expansion of Rome, securing strong alliances and friendly trade relations, sometimes also opposing the Romans with their arms or diplomacy.

At the time of the Second Punic War, Arezzo proved a loyal ally of Rome, to the extent that its inhabitants got the Roman citizenship as a recognition of their loyalty. Yet, the Roman legions militarily occupied the entire peninsula and Arezzo was forced to turn the city into a new Roman city on the Via Cassia: the ancient Etruscan walls were destroyed and basilicas, amphitheatres, baths, theaters, new roads and aqueducts were built.

The growth of trades gave impetus to the development of the art of pottery, reproducing the magnificent silver and gold pots, inspired to the Greek tradition, using terracotta. At the end of the first century b.C. the “Arretina vasa” had become so famous, to be sought for not only throughout the Italian peninsula, but in Gaul, in Spain and in North Africa. Unfortunately, the advent of Christianity set this art aside, because the decoration of the pots was inspired by the ancient myths or scenes of pagan life.

Later on, Arezzo ended up being a battlefield for the barbarian hordes from the north and the Roman armies sent to prevent their passage. Due to this, Arezzo repeatedly suffered assaults, looting and destruction. It was occupied by the Longobards and the Franks before passing under the Marquis of Tuscany.

Shortly after year 1000 also in Arezzo the democratic orders began to be established together with craft organizations that will lead to the establishment of the free medieval town.

Meanwhile, Florence, allied with Siena, was trying to expand its political influence and to acquire new markets for the sale of its products.

In 1287, Florence and Siena together failed in the siege of Arezzo and were defeated in Pieve del Toppo (1288). The following year, however, all the Guelphs of Tuscany formed a coalition against Arezzo and the other Ghibelline towns and they defeated them in the famous battle of Campaldino in 1289. The 1300s was a period of splendor for Arezzo because the best artists of the time were passing and staying there and universities were established in town. Famous poet Francesco Petrarca was born in Arezzo in 1304. From this cultural pot renowned theologians and jurists were born. But after the death of the great Bishop the city began to decline, and it was passed to rival Florence, and the Duchy of Tuscany (later Grand Duchy). There was a long period of calm, disturbed only by the invasion of the Napoleonic troops in 1799. In 1815, after the Congress of Vienna, Arezzo and the whole province returned to join again the reconstituted Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1861, when following a plebiscite they were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.


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