Skip to main content

Study in Arezzo


Studying historical works

All students take three 4-credit courses, which are taught in English, one 4-credit Italian Language course, and an additional 2-credit Culture course implying a direct involvement in a variety of practical experiences. Language instruction is geared to meet the needs of beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. See below for course descriptions.

About the photo:
Doctor Brezzi, Director of the Biblioteca Riliana at Poppi, shows a 13th Century manuscript of Aristotle to University of Rochester Students.


Monuments of Ancient Italy: History, Structure, Form

IT 223/AH 226/CLA 223 (4 credits) Paolo Vitti and Renato Perucchio
The course will be conducted by Prof. Paolo Vitti with contributions on engineering, building technology, and Roman architecture by Prof. Renato Perucchio.

Ambiente Est

The course introduces the history and the architecture of buildings in Ancient Italy from the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD, examined through a multidisciplinary approach based on the archeological evidence, the technical and functional aspects, and the historical significance. Central to the course is the study on location of major monuments and archeological sites in central and southern Italy, including Rome, Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Baia, and Paestum. The course is divided into three parts: (1) structural engineering and technical issues, (2) the architecture of Etruscan Italy and Magna Grecia, and (3) Roman architecture.

The first part provides the technical background for the study of ancient architecture by addressing the fundamental question “How does a building stand up?” in the context of ancient building technology, and, where appropriate, ancient science. We examine the construction materials (such as stone, timber, marble, and Roman concrete) and the structural elements (foundations, walls, roofing frames, beam, columns, arches, vaults, and domes) typical of ancient architecture in Italy and throughout the Classical World. We also study the process that allows us to understand and reconstruct the history and the architectural form of ancient buildings from the existing physical evidence (through surveying of the remains of the building, the analysis of the materials, and the archaeological investigation of the site) and from the study of the ancient sources.


The Etruscan civilization in central Italy and the Greek civilization of Magna Grecia in southern Italy developed a rich architectural tradition, which exerted a major influence on Roman architecture and building technology. The second part of the course begins with an historical overview of the Etruscan, Greek and Roman worlds. Turning to architecture, we analyze the column-architrave system of the Greek temple and the architectural language of the classical orders created in ancient Greece and developed in Hellenistic and Roman architecture. We also examine the origin and evolution of the Etruscan temple and its timber structure, and its relationship with the earlier Roman temples. Major examples to be studied on location are the Neptune temple in Paestum and the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. We then explore the development of Greek military science and fortifications made possible by technological progress, focusing in particular on the city walls of Paestum and the Alexandria lighthouse (one of the seven wonders of antiquity).

Faro Acquarello Vitti

The third part is dedicated to Roman architecture. During Imperial times, approximately the first four centuries AD, Roman civilization developed and maintained a surprisingly high level of technical knowledge, especially in what we define today as architectural technology and civil engineering. This section begins by examining the Greek and Roman city, two different models of social, political and administrative organizations as exemplified by two Greek cities of Magna Grecia transformed in Roman times: Paestum and Thurii (Sybaris). To study in more details the Roman city, we consider the organization of city life and architecture around the republican and imperial forum. We then focus on Roman technology and building systems, with particular attention to the architectural revolution brought about by the introduction of Roman concrete. We examine bridges, aqueducts, bath complexes, insulae, stadia, theaters, amphitheaters, basilicas, and domes, with site visits to Rome, Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Baia. Specific examples are used to show the relationship between the architectural solution and the society in which it was developed. We emphasize the construction solution, but we also introduce the concept of stratigraphy and how it is used to read an archaeological monument with different building phases.

Art History: Art, Architecture, and Literature in the Age of Dante and Beyond

IT 244/AH 244 (4 credits) Alessandra Baroni, Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio
Tuscany, the cradle of Italian literary language and of the Renaissance, and one of the major centers of the development of medieval and Renaissance art and architecture, is both the focus and the theater of the course. Through lectures and field trips that illustrate this extraordinary legacy, students experience not only the artistic phenomena, but also the changing world view expressed through the various monuments and art forms under examination. Among the visual arts, the emergence of painting, especially in Florence and Siena with Giotto, Duccio and their contemporaries, as well as of sculpture, notably by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, lead to the flowering of the Renaissance. The development of these arts in the later fourteenth to sixteenth centuries in Tuscany highlight the area’s fundamental contribution to post medieval art. The area’s importance lies also in medieval and Renaissance architecture. Hence the dual objective of the course: teaching both the language of painting and the language of architecture. Students learn techniques of architectural analysis in terms of its form and meaning. At the same time they see the main lines of development of Classical (Roman), Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture found in the cities of Arezzo, Florence, Siena and Pisa among others. Emphasis is placed on historical and cultural settings and special attention is paid to the way in which buildings were used and how they were viewed by contemporaries. With a foundation in the material and structural aspects of building, we explore how the parts of buildings, including their decoration, form a visual complex in which form, function, and meaning are brought together.

A distinct unit on Dante completes the course by situating the language of poetry at the intersection of history, literature, spirituality, and art.

History: Italy from Napoleon to the First Republic (1796-1948)

IT 228/HIS 228/CLT 207C (4 credits) Gregory Conti
The peninsula of Italy has a history that goes back at least 2500 years. But the state of Italy, founded in 1861, is younger than the United States. At the intersection of these two facts lies the main theme of our journey from the Napoleonic invasion of Italy to the approval of the constitution of the Republic of Italy: the difficulty faced by the political leaders of united Italy in getting its citizens to identify with the Italian state.

Our main source of information and analysis on the journey will be the recently published history of united Italy, The Force of Destiny by the British historian Christopher Duggan but we will draw on literary and artistic sources to broaden and deepen our view of the evolving conflict between the ancient Italian culture and the young Italian state. Our examination of the Risorgimento will be enriched by reference to episodes of Medieval Italian history which inspired the Italian unification movement and were made popular by artists such as the composer Giuseppe Verdi (The Battle of Legnano, Sicilian Vespers, The Lombards), the painter Francesco Hayez, and writers Alessandro Manzoni and Massimo D’Azeglio. Finally, our view of the Risorgimento will also benefit from eyewitness accounts of two American writers, Margaret Fuller and John Greenleaf Whittier, who were on the scene of the Roman Republic of 1849 and the Perugia uprising of 1859, and a backward glance at the period in the novel (and film) The Leopard.

In the second half of the semester we will turn our attention to:

  • the attempt by the liberal state and ruling elite to forge an Italian national identity;
  • the rise and fall of the fascist regime;
  • the resistance to German occupation and the birth of the Italian republic.

Here again we will supplement Duggan’s account by reading and discussing Pinocchio, looking at the Futurist manifesto and paintings and sculpture produced by the movement, watching film footage of the Duce’s speeches to the masses of his cheering supporters, and reading two accounts (one fictional and one historical, one by an Italian Jew and the other by an Italian Catholic) of the fascist regime’s persecution of the Jews. Our 150-year-long journey will end with a look at the Italian Constitution of 1948 and its uncertain attempt to construct a democratic institutional framework that would attract the allegiance of the citizenry.

Italian Language: Elementary & Accelerated Italian

IT 111/IT 153 (4 Credits) L. Lupini, S. Focardi
In the Italian language courses students receive intensive training in communication skills and grammatical competence, with emphasis on speaking and comprehension. Language training is geared towards practical needs.

Italian Culture in Context

IT 150 (2 credits) Donna Logan, Federico Siniscalco
This course focuses on the cultural experiences involved in living and studying for a semester in Arezzo. Activities consist of learning how to make – and then savor – local foods, encountering traditions, practicing tandem-speaking with Italian university students, participating in international workshops and city sponsored events. Visits to industrial and agricultural sites are included.