Arezzo was an Etruscan city that, starting in the 3rd century AD, allied with Rome to defend itself from recurrent barbarian raids. During the next two centuries Arezzo played a major role in expanding Rome`s control of northern Italy. During the Roman civil wars in the 1st century AD Arezzo allied with Pompeo, and was later punished by the victorious Caesar, who made a colony out of the (formerly independent) city. With the disintegration of the Roman empire, Arezzo was often threatened by Barbarians and bandits, which resulted in the construction and enlargement of protective walls and fortifications.
In the 1200 Longobards, Francs and Germans left their marks in the area. The middle ages saw the buildings of many important architectural structures like the Pieve of S.Maria, S.Domenico and S.Francesco.
Wars against nearby towns, particularly Siena and Florence resulted with the defeat of Arezzo at the Campaldino battle in 1289 and its subsequent subservience to Guelph Florence. In the 1800 a powerful earthquake hit Arezzo and put the city in economic straights.
In touring Arezzo one can start at the top of the hill and visit the lovely catherdral. Here find ourselves in Piazza del Comune, with the town hall on the right and its tower topped with dovetailed Ghibelline embattlements. Facing us is the Cathedral, started some time towards the end of the thirteenth century and finished at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and representing one of the most significant monuments in the city.
On the inside there are valuable artworks like the Magdalene by Piero della Francesca and the illustrated stain glass windows by Guglielmo de Marcillat.
By walking down the outside of the cathedral as far as the apse we reach the Prato, with its monument dedicated to Petrarca, another of this city`s illustrious sons. From here we gain access to the imposing Medicean Fortress from the sixteenth century from where we can also admire a magnificent panorama over the city. It was during the rebuilding efforts that the legend of the Madonna del Conforto was born, when a soot-blackened representation of the Virgin Mary was said to suddenly become white and bright again, making it a source of veneration and hope for the citizens.
In 1900 Arezzo's history aligned with that of the rest of Italy. In the middle of the 20th century Arezzo had a financial renaissance with the expansion of gold industry: this revitalized the local economy until now.
Famous people who lived and worked in Arezzo are: Guido Monaco (first written music annotation); painter Piero Della Francesca; Petrach the poet; writer Vasari and many others. More recently Roberto Benigni shot some scenes of his Oscar winning movie LA vita è Bella in Arezzo.
The city hosts an annual medieval festival called the Joust of the Saracens (Giostra del Saracino). The contestants, horseback "knights" representing the different quartersof the town, charge a target attached to the effigy of a Saracen (representing the infidels fought in the Crusades) scoring points according to accuracy. A parade of people in medieval costumes, horses and knights take place along the main road before and after the joust.
Each July Arezzo hosts an annual popular music festival called Arezzo Wave. It attracts bands of high reputation from Europe and North America. It also features literary, theatrical and film expositions.
Arezzo`s heart is Piazza Grande, with its crenellated towers and fourteenth century wooden balconies, Romanesque apse, sixteenth century fountain, and Vasari Palazzo and Loggias. A mixture of contrasting styles, everything in this piazza is metered and beautiful, all in perfect harmony. If you venture into the surrounding streets you`ll discover the artisans of Arezzo, a world of humanity that the industrial civilisation has not destroyed, to the contrary.