Italy Week 2019: Spotlight on Arezzo
OU in Arezzo is the University of Oklahoma's oldest and largest International Study Center, with hundreds of students studying abroad there each year. But Arezzo, though one of the largest cities in the famous central Italian region of Tuscany, is not well known to most Americans. This is one of the many attributes that makes Arezzo special. With a central location about an hour from Florence by train, Arezzo is accessible yet not heavily traveled by tourists, making it an ideal location in which to study and learn about Italian culture.
Arezzo's rich history and serene setting offer much to explore — the surrounding countryside, visible from Il Prato, a large park near the city's Duomo (cathedral) features rolling hills, quaint homes and vineyards. Arezzo is thought to have been one of Italy's most important Etruscan cities before being conquered by the Romans in 311 BC. One can view an impressive array of Etruscan and Roman artifacts at the Archaeological Museum, which stands next to the ruins of a Roman amphitheater once used for gladiator games. Arezzo's true heyday, however, was the medieval period, during which many of its beautiful churches were built. The medieval town square, Piazza Grande, is one of Arezzo's most famous features. In addition to the many lovely restaurants and shops along its edges, the piazza hosts a number of cultural events, including the biannual Joust of the Saracens. Another hot spot is the Medici Fortress, a structure built by the Medici of Florence in the 1500s that now hosts sculpture exhibitions.
While Arezzo has a number of beautiful churches, the most famous by far is the Basilica of San Francesco (ca. 1300), which houses a series of frescoes by the artist Piero della Francesca, a major early
Renaissance figure whose work brings many day-trippers to the city. The church sits along one of Arezzo's most lively piazzas, Piazza San Francesco, where OU in Arezzo's classroom facilities are located. Here you'll find restaurants and cafes where people (and their dogs) of all ages gather at outdoor tables for "apertivo," the Italian version of happy hour during which drinks and light snacks are consumed. In fact, throughout Arezzo's "old city," where the OUA Rooney Family Residential Learning Center and classroom annex are located, you'll find an abundance of cafes, restaurants and gelato shops, the majority of which are family-run and reasonably priced, as well as remarkably delicious.
In addition to its rich history, culture and culinary scene, Arezzo is also a center of industry, affording numerous opportunities for students to pursue internships and learn from local entrepreneurs and business owners. Arezzo is a major producer of wine and olive oil, a fact OUA students learn firsthand through visits to La Striscia, a local vineyard and restaurant nestled on the outskirts of the city. Other prominent industries in Arezzo include fashion and gold and silver manufacturing.
Overall, the best thing about Arezzo to many who have studied there that it's small enough to start to feel like home — even after only a few weeks. With its quietly curving, cobblestoned streets, its friendly locals, its peaceful churches and outdoor markets, it is perhaps more inviting than a larger European city, especially for those experiencing their first trip abroad. While Arezzo may not be at the top of every guidebook's list, what OUA students tend to find out is that sometimes the secret places are the best.
Want to study abroad with OU in Arezzo and experience all of the city's charms? Visit the Education Abroad website to get started on your journey!