Despite being a small town, Arezzo, Italy has been the perfect place to study abroad with its long and rich history and culture. Even though I have never taken a class about Arezzo, I have learned so much about this place through the many trips to various historical sites and events such as the Fortress and the Joust.
On the tour around Arezzo on the first day, we passed by the park with the fortress but we weren’t able to see the fortress. I just made the assumption that it would be remains of a small fortress. When we finally visited the fortress, I was amazed at the shear size of the fortress and how well preserved it was, though I know that they must have done much reconstruction. The Italians who designed and constructed the fortress had to be highly intelligent in order to even consider allowing cannons to be able to shoot at the other side of the fortress in case invaders ever took over. I know that I would have never thought about it. That fact puzzled me until the tour guide explained the logic behind the design. As I walked around the fortress, learned that the current fortress is actually a fortress built around a previous fortress, and found out that type of stone used in the fortress was found in India, it finally hit me just how old Arezzo is and how much history it has. Compared to Arezzo’s history, the United State’s history is minuscule. While the fortress may seem very barren with its large empty rooms and bare structure, I can just imagine how busy and full of people it must have been when it was active. When the tour guide was telling us that old Arezzo decided to side with the emperor during the conflict between the emperor and the pope, I was extremely surprised. Looking around current Arezzo, it is clear that the Catholic religion is a huge part of Arezzo’s identity with the many cathedrals and the blatant displays of the cross nearly everywhere. I assumed that the Arezzo people would have sided with the pope since they have such a strong Catholic presence. Through learning about the fortress, I learned that Arezzo has a long and complicated history and that what is a current major presence in the city may not have been many centuries ago. I was shocked to learn about the numerous wars and conflicts that Arezzo has been in. Current Arezzo is a small peaceful city and I never thought that it would be a place where wars were fought.
The joust is probably my favorite event in Arezzo so far. I love how competitive the four quarters of the Arezzo get. The chanting and screaming at the different quarters reminded me of my high school chant where we would yell back and forth during pep rallies. I am curious how people decided to split the city into those specific areas since someone once told me that the four areas aren’t equal in area. I also wonder if there is any special meaning to the colors of each quarter’s flags since most country flags have meaning behind the color and design. Despite the joust being hosted twice a year, the people of Arezzo are really excited about the joust. There were so many people; the standing area was packed, the stands were completely full, and there were even people standing on their balcony watching. The performers were dress in full costumes from head to toe. I wished I knew what the significance of the different costumes they wore and if there was a historical meaning behind it. The flag performance was amazing! I can’t juggle and I can’t imagine the amount of practice they put in to be able to throw a massive flag in the air and then catch it. It is very clear that the joust is a historical reminder and tradition that the people of Arezzo are very proud of. The jousters train all year for the event and there are practices every night the week before the joust. Also, the locals take their quarter flags very seriously. The morning of the joust, I was walking to the flea market with the Porta del Foro flag around my neck and this man from another quarter started to make mean comments in Italian while pointing to my flag. This shows that despite how frequently the joust occurs, the people are still very proud of Arezzo history and their quarter. People are so loyal to their quarter to the point where if a man is from a different quarter than his wife, they will both return back to their respective family homes and sleep there the night before the joust. I went to the blessing of the winner after the joust and it was definitely an unique experience. While normally it is required to cover one’s shoulders and legs when entering the Duomo, on this night, people didn’t bother to abide by that rule. In fact, there were people standing on top of the pews. The winners were blessed by the pope; it shows that religion is still a major component of their identity. In America, if someone wins a major competition, they might be able to go see the president, but most people don’t go to their church to celebrate.
Even though Arezzo may seem like a small dot on the map, it has a very long and rich history. The town has experienced many wars which is evident in the architecture of the fortress and surrounding walls of Arezzo. Like almost every Italian city, Catholicism is very significant to the city’s identity and its people. The people of Arezzo are very proud of its long history and are very competitive and loyal to their quarter. Arezzo has been the perfect city in Italy to study abroad in! I’m going to miss it very much when I have to leave.