Courses in Arezzo
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.
2012 Course Descriptions
Monuments of Ancient Italy: History, Structure, Form
IT223/AH226/CLA223 (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.
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).
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) A. Baroni, D. 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.
From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance:
Nature and Spatiality in Figurative Art before Piero della Fancesca
The course covers the visual arts and architecture of several artistic centers of Italy from the end of the Ancient Roman Empire to 1450 c. with a detailed study of the main collections of art, churches, cathedrals, palaces, paintings, ceramics, and sculptures of central Italy and in particular of Pisa, Arezzo, Siena, and Florence. Illustrated lectures, readings, and assignments with visits to the historic monuments and museums of Arezzo and to other regional centers will complete the course.
As residents of Arezzo, in eastern Tuscany, students will learn of its importance for the Etruscans and Romans. They will also be able to compare the study of paintings and monuments from the late medieval period, from the early Renaissance and from the High Renaissance when the region came under control of the Florentines under Cosimo I de’ Medici, first Grand-Duke of Tuscany.
Local paintings and monuments available for study include the old archeological sites of Pionta and San Cornelio, late medieval churches such as Santa Maria della Pieve, built in the Romanesque style, and the cathedral of San Donato, one of the finest examples of Tuscan Gothic from the 13th century, as well as San Domenico, where an early crucifix by Cimabue is located.
Many of the churches, palaces, and museums feature sculptures, paintings, and ceramics by artists active in Arezzo such as Piero della Francesca who painted the fresco of The Legend of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco during the 1450s and Giorgio Vasari who was born in Arezzo and wrote the Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, one of the most influential narrative histories of Renaissance art that was first published in 1550 and, in a second updated version, in 1568. Vasari’s house, entirely decorated by himself and some pupils is still existing in Arezzo as well as the family archive with the letters written to and from Michelangelo Buonarroti.
In Terra d’Arezzo on Dante’s Footsteps
Instructor: Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio
Dept. of Modern Languages and Cultures
University of Rochester
About the photo:
Castello di Poppi
Maestro Luca Ferrotti
La Battaglia di Campaldino
This component of the course aims at an exploration of the Aretine territory along the historical and imaginative trajectories delineated in Dante’s own poem, The Divine Comedy, in Dante’s biographies, in the testimonies of those travelers who choose Dante as their guide to the discovery of Italy, and in popular culture.
Along these trajectories we will concentrate on particularly significant points of intersection of history, literature, spirituality, and art, both medieval and Renaissance, One is the Church of Saint Francis in Arezzo with the fresco cycle on the Legend of the Cross by Piero della Francesca. Another is the Casentino Valley, with its medieval castles, its historical and legendary vestiges of Dante’s times, and its famous characters immortalized in the Comedy. A third is and the Sanctuary of La Verna which, along with Assisi, is celebrated by Dante in his hagiography of Saint Francis.
Together with Christian legends codified by tradition, Piero della Francesca’s cycle evokes crucial turning points in the history of Christianity such as the reign of the Emperor Constantine, which is a steady object of Dante’s critical reflection.
The Casentino Valley is one of the most relevant places in the life of Dante first as a Florentine citizen with a prominent status in the city political and military life and then as a Florentine exile who found hospitality in the Castle of Poppi, strongholds of the Counts Guidi. Casentino is also, if not more, relevant for the stories that Dante’s literary imagination consecrated to posterity: among them the invective against the inhabitants of the Valley marked by the course of the Arno River, the story of Master Adam, the falsifier of Florentine currency at the Castle of Romena, and the death of Bonconte da Montefeltro at Campaldino. It is plausible to envision the exile Dante right there, in the castle of Poppi overlooking that very battlefield, writing about the momentous battle of 1289 that saw him as a protagonist on the side of Guelph Florence, and the mysterious disappearance of one of his major opponents, the Ghibelline leader Bonconte, whose soul he encounters in Purgatory.
In addition to maintaining alive the lore of these medieval times, the Castle of Poppi, one of the best preserved medieval castles of Tuscany, houses a rich library with a precious collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed texts. Visiting this library and learning abut its history, intertwined as it is with the history of Tuscany and of the Italian Unification in the XIX Century, provides an opportunity to reflect on both the transmission of culture from antiquity, though the Middle Ages, to modernity, and on Italian history.
After the descent in the Casentino Valley, depicted by Dante as a land of bloody conflicts and populated by evildoers, the ascent to the mountain of La Verna, one of the highest peaks of Tuscany, allows a refreshing and a thought provoking encounter with Franciscan spirituality and message. That encounter will be facilitated by both Dante’s text and the conversations with Franciscans friars about the meaning of such message at the time of Francis and now. Another vehicle of understanding will be art. While the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi contains treasures of medieval art that visually narrate the hagiography of the Saint, the Basilica of La Verna contains a magnificent collection of Della Robbia plates that interpret Franciscan theology in the artistic language of the Renaissance.
The unit instructor, Donatella Stocchi Perucchio, is native of Arezzo, and maintains both affective and intellectual ties with her territory of origin. In the course of these visits, she will introduce students to various people who are both personal friends and collaborators and who are willing to share their multiple expertise in the interest of intercultural exchange and understanding.
About the photo:
Campaldino - Monument to the Battle - Stele commemorativa della battaglia
History—Italy from Napoleon to the First Republic (1796-1948):
History & Historical Imagination
IT 228/HIS 228/CLT 207C (4 credits) G. 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) G. Convertito
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) D. Logan
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.