University of Rochester

Research in ATHS

Summer Program in Italy

Ancient Arezzo and Its Aqueduct

Arezzo, which first developed in about the sixth century BC, was in origin one of the most prominent cities of ancient Etruria.  After falling into the orbit of Rome, Arezzo became, by the first century AD, the center of the largest and most important pottery manufacturing industry in the Roman Empire.   Cities of the Roman Empire were typically endowed with a basic infrastructure that included roads, bridges, a central forum or plaza, public buildings, and aqueducts, and, as an important city, Arezzo was certainly no exception.  In the case of an aqueduct at Arezzo, however, there is little direct evidence: no ancient text records the presence of such a structure, and there are no obvious and undisputable extant physical remains. 

Nonetheless, it seems likely that a city of Arezzo’s stature would have needed and indeed had an aqueduct, and there is some physical evidence that may pertain to such a structure.  Possible remains include a large underground cistern in the area of the ancient settlement and, in the city’s hinterland, what may be part of a conduit bridge and isolated elements of Roman masonry and concrete.  A possible water source has also been identified.  Great lengths of Roman aqueduct channels were routinely directed underground, with no visible surface markers, and it is thus quite feasible that underground elements of Arezzo’s aqueduct still exist even though the aqueduct as a whole is no longer readily evident.

Working from our current hypothesis concerning the route of the aqueduct based on engineering and hydrological requirements—that is, having identified an appropriate water source and, in general terms, a path that meets the engineering specifications of a structure that must move water along a very steady and gradual slope to a suitably elevated entry point into the city and very likely involved the presence of an extended inverted syphon—we are using geophysical and archaeological methodologies to test and refine this initial hypothesis.  The ground-penetrating radar and magnetic imaging studies focus on the identification of regular, man-made structures in the subsurface (and thus currently invisible) along the proposed path of the aqueduct.  The archaeological component of the project includes: cleaning, inspection, and analysis of the possible remains currently known; intensive pedestrian survey as appropriate; and limited scale excavation of potential elements of the aqueduct (including those identified through geophysical survey) to uncover them and establish their technical functions and dates of construction.  As we gain further information about the path of the aqueduct through geophysical and archaeological means, we will refine our hypothesis about the route and functioning of the aqueduct in engineering terms.

Further reading on the ancient Roman aqueduct of Arezzo:

A. Ademollo (1989), “L’acquedotto romano di Arezzo” in Atti e Memorie della Accademia Petrarca di Lettere, Arti e Scienze 51: 215-228

Modern Arezzo

During their stay in Italy, participants will be housed in the Seminary of Arezzo, in the city’s historic center.  Arezzo is located in the scenic and historical region of Tuscany, and the city itself has both a storied past and a vibrant present.  The hometown of famous intellectuals such as Petrarch and Giorgio Vasari, Arezzo is filled with important artistic, architectural and historical monuments.  It also has an active modern cultural scene, and visitors are regularly drawn there by its famous Fiera dell’Antiquariato (Antiques Fair) and the Giostra del Saracino (Saracen Joust).  The historic center is easily navigated on foot, and program participants will enjoy exploring this beautiful and charming area both as a part of the program and on their own.  Participants do not need to have any knowledge of Italian, but those who have studied Italian will find that Arezzo, with its friendly atmosphere and small-town feel, is an ideal setting for practicing their Italian.

All services are readily available in Arezzo, and a number of small shops where essential supplies can be purchased are located near our lodgings.  Many cafes and good restaurants serving local Tuscan fare are also in close proximity.  Arezzo is an hour-long train ride from Florence, and it is also relatively close and well connected to other Tuscan cities such as Siena and Pisa. 

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