Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fiesole and some ramblings

Since the beginning of September I have embarked on a new adventure of a personal sort - teaching a course to American university students studying abroad for a semester in Florence. I can't believe I am doing this, but once a week I really do hop on a plane and commute to Florence in order to meet with 7 young women who are all keen on learning about ancient Etruscan pottery, how it can be studied, conserved and restored. It has been a huge challenge for me, but a great one too. Planning and prepping for and lecturing and teaching and supervising hands on activity in a flurry of 2 and a half hours, trying to get the kids inspired and enthusiastic without overloading them, staying alert, engaged, open and aware. Let me tell you all of these things that take place in the course of the week and are concentrated during these weekly meetings have been super stimulating to my underworked brain. I am doing what I love to do and sharing it with some interesting young people who seem sincerely thrilled to have this chance to restore ancient pots, and I'm thrilled to be there with them.

In between all the anxiety that comes with new responsibilities, the exhaustion that comes with long days and lots of travel, and the satisfaction of a seemingly successful lesson, there are some special moments not related to working that also come with this weekly commute. First of all I get to spend one night a week in the beautiful town of Fiesole, where some very dear American friends now live. In Fiesole the air is different, pristine as it can only be in Tuscany. Up there on a hill overlooking the city of Florence below, the view is truly inspiring. The house of my friends is instead located behind the town, reachable from a winding narrow road that curls through olive groves and tall oak trees that make the road feel like a tunnel. The house is a hidden jewel, a perfect old country house, quiet and cozy, the kind of place you dream about living in when you think of Italy. In the evenings I am fed warm, delicious food and entertained by the stories of the week and hugs from their snugly little boy. When the yawns take over my being I crawl into a comfy bed of my own and sleep oh so very soundly - there is no little boy of my own calling out for me to help him find his way to the bathroom which is what happens the other 6 nights of the week when I am in my own bed! In the morning I make my way back into the city of Florence, eat a Florentine breakfast (a brioche at the bar), and get ready for the class. 

Once the hard work is over I am rewarded by the final phase of enjoyment of these weekly visits, a good 3-4 hours of free time all to myself before I have to start heading back to the airport. I have truly grown to love this city in my weekly wanderings around town. It is so luxurious to be able to visit museums, shops and eateries on my own and to my hearts desire. Despite the many tourists, the place feels very alive and full of beauty and quality things that make me want to consume beyond my means. With so many expats living in Florence it has much more of an international flair than my Sicilian world. I ooh and awe over the authentic NY bagels I munch on, the homemade Chinese dumplings, the vintage shops, the unique handcrafted cloths and jewelry, Renaissance paintings, buses that work, artist's studios and so much more. By the end of it all my feet ache and my head is dizzy with the idea of a bus, and a train and an airplane and then a car and then finally home sweet home to the place where I really do belong. The time away is special because of the mix of work and friends and discovery, but still does not compare to the happiness I feel when I walk through the door I  call home. As usual, nothing like spending time away to make you appreciate all that you have. A few more weeks of this adventure left and I will do my best to savor all that I enjoy about it. 


  1. Sounds like a perfect little "assignment!" I didn't know you had expertise on Etruscan artifacts. Our very favorite artifact is the sarcophagus of Larth Tetnies & Thanchvil Tarnai that was excavated at Vulci and is now at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Here is my blog post about it:

  2. I've no doubt that the break from the routine of life along with the opportunity to inspire young people with something you Tuscany is just about the best thing going these days! Seriously. Kudos to you for being brave enough to take on this assignment.

  3. Thanks for sharing your own love of ancient things, Patricia, what a beautiful and romantic sarcophagus indeed! I am not such an expert on Etruscan ceramics per se, but have works with lots of different ancient pottery that's for sure.

    Dana you are very sweet, thanks so much for your supportive words, and it comes as no surprise that you really get it!!!

  4. You have been busy...finally catching up on some blog reading. Will you have some free time at home around the holidays? Would love to get together...what about latkes? let us know if you are around during the week between Christmas and New Year's!


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