The beautiful city of Arezzo (known as Arretium during the Roman Empire), is located in Tuscany, about 60 miles southeast of Florence. Set on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the Arno river, the well-preserved old town has the perfect pedigree for an opera program as the birthplace of Guido of Arezzo, who is credited with inventing modern musical notation in the early 11th century.
Its history goes back to before the 9th century B.C during Etruscan times, when it was one of the “12 Cities”, the most important Etruscan settlements, as evidenced by perhaps the best known example of Etruscan art “Chimera of Arezzo," which was found just outside the medieval walls of the present city. Much of the Etruscan past can be found in the city’s Etruscan Museum just beside the remnants of the Roman amphitheatre.
Romans conquered the city in 311 B.C., and it continued to flourish until it became the third largest city in Italy during the reign of Augustus. In the Middle Ages, Arezzo became an episcopal seat ruled by its bishop until 1098, when the city became an independent city-state. In 1384 the Florentines - subsequently the Medici family – gained control of the city. The following slow decay of the city’s economic and cultural life helped preserve the medieval city centre until the present day.
Among the city's main sights are its 15th century Medicean fortress, the perfectly preserved medieval town square, Piazza Grande, and the 11th century Romanesque cathedral, the recently restored "History of the True Cross" frescoes by Piero della Francesca (begun 1452) in the Basilica San Francesco; and the church of Santa Maria della Pieve with its rows of colums supporting its façade, most of them dating back to Roman times. With its Gothic and Romanesque churches, towers and palaces, the beauty of Arezzo’s artistic past can be seen everywhere, creating a cinematic commute to rehearsals, concerts and Italian classes. And cinematic is an appropriate word in the context of Arezzo, since Arezzo forms the backdrop to Roberto Benigni’s 1997 movie, “La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful),” which won 4 Oscars, including “Best Foreign Film” and the “Best Actor” Academy Award for Benigni himself.
Arezzo boasts many illustrious native citizens. Among them are Vasari, the biographer of the Italian painters; Guittone, one of the first Italian poets to write in the Italian vernacular; Guido of Arezzo; one of the greatest Italian poets and Dante’s contemporary, Petrarca; Pietro Aretino, friend of Tizian and perhaps the most famous Renaissance man of letters (and a writer of licentious poetry in his spare time); and, Michelangelo, who was born in a castle near Arezzo.
Thus Arezzo, with its rich artistic and musical history, easy access to Tuscany and Rome and its charming shops, cafes and piazze, provides a perfect backdrop to an unforgettable summer of Italian culture, music, and art.
Read Wikipedia’s History of Arezzo