East Italy: Arezzo, Urbino, and Ravenna

29 November 2011: Tuesday
Gelato: Opera Italiana + Yogurt and Nutella

30 November 2011: Wednesday
Gelato: Biscotti Natale (Christmas cookie)

02-03 December 2011

This weekend we had another field trip. This time, just for students taking social science and history classes. Since I am taking History of the Italian Renaissance, I got to go!


We had to catch the bus super early, but by 8am we were in the small town of Arezzo. Fun fact: the movie “La Vita è Bella” aka “Life is Beautiful” was filmed in this cute town and Arezzo was the birth place poet, Patriarch, and of architect, Georgio Vasari (later to be the main architect of Florence and Cosimo I). We only had time to explore the walled city center. We were led through the town on a very extensive tour by one of the Art History professors. She knew absolutely everything about early Christian art and architecture.

We began our tour of Arezzo in Basilica San Francesco (there is one in almost every town in Italy) to see the marvelous frescoes that had recently been restored. These frescoes depicted the history of the true cross.

We walked to the church Santa Maria della Pieve complete with huge bell tower. The coolest part though was the interesting façade made of many different re-used columns. Behind this church was the Piazza Grande where many scenes from “La Vita è Bella” were filmed. Here is a clip from the movie, if you forward to minute 5, you can see how they used the piazza!

In the Piazza grand is also a long loggia designed by Vasari. If you compare it the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze, they look very similar. We also visited the cathedral of Arezzo and the Basilica of San Dominico. Our last stop before heading to the next town was the birth house of Vasari. The building itself and the frescoes inside were done by him. Very impressive!


Urbino has a much different feel compared to Arezzo. This town was built on a hillside and has a large fortress like palace perched at the top. The Duke of Urbino was a military superhero and good friend of the Pope during the 1500s. His palace has been turned into a museum that houses one of the most important collections of Renaissance art. The Duke’s study was beautiful, covered in perspective designed wood panels.

Renaissance painter Raphael was born in Arezzo and we were able to visit house and see some of his early paintings completed before he was brought to Florence by the Medici. Last stop in Urbino was the Oratory of San Giuseppe. Dedicated to Joseph, father of Jesus, the Oratory is made of two small chapels; one in a baroque style and the other with simple frescoes. The painter of the frescoes had a real sense of humor. He was a very good painter, but some people had strange expressions, children were causing havoc, and a dog was licking himself. Funny stuff.

Urbino was my favorite town on this trip because of its hillside location and beautiful view.
For dinner, we had a class dinner at a local restaurant. Decorated only with pictures of chickens, we were served 5 courses of different pasta and rabbit. Which I ate. And it was good, better then any chicken I have ever had. Yum.


After yet another quick bus ride to Ravenna, we began yet another day of non-stop information about this town. Ravenna was a major seaport and capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. All of the churches had beautiful early Christian eastern mosaics.

We visited so many great locations including the Mausoleum of Theodoric, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Arian Baptistery, the Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Basilica of St. Francis, and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. We went to every single building on the UNESCO world heritage site! It was interesting to compare the different mosaic styles, find the stories of Jesus, and discover mosaics of the different rulers like Emperors Justinian and Theodosius.


I also found out that Dante was buried in Ravenna. Born in Florence, Dante was exiled to Ravenna for his political writing. He wrote all of his divine comedy here and always longed to return to his Firenze.

We learned so many things and saw so many different things that the day is almost a blur!