Certaldo, My City on a Hill
If you aren't in the habit of following the erratic adventures of my life, here is my friendly update to inform you that I have moved back to my beloved town of Certaldo, a small, renovated Etruscan village in the Toscane (Tuscany) region of Italy. I studied abroad for three months in Certaldo in the fall of 2013, when I was a bright-eyed art student at East Carolina University. The experience of living and studying amidst the rich history and culture of Italy fueled my desire to create, learn, and experience the fullness of life abroad. I graduated from ECU in the spring with my BFA in Illustration and, while I do work freelance, I was lucky enough to obtain a position working with the ECU Italy Intensives. So, eager to return to my Italian home, I packed my bags and boarded a plane for Rome.
We spent the first several days wandering around several hill towns in both the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy. Based in Cortona, we ventured out to Bagnoregio/Civita, Orvietto, Arezzo, and Montepulciano. Civita, which translates to "the eagle's nest" but is also known as "the city that dies," is an ancient city built on a bed of volcanic rock that is gradually eroding away. As the foundation cracks and falls off, so does the city, and many of the exterior walls are the single-wall remains of what once was a full apartment. Orvietto is famous for its olive wood, and we were fortunate enough to tour the underground cave system where ancient civilizations would press olive oil, ferment wine, and breed pigeons for food so the city could sustain life if it ever fell under siege. Montepulciano has a similar system of underground cellars for wine, and is renowned for its Nobile wine, which is not exported and only available in the city.
We arrived in Certaldo on the 15th of September, and I could not be more elated to be living here once again. The townspeople are friendly and patient as we stumble through our rudimentary Italian, and the food is out of this world. I can hardly believe it when I wake in the morning and stare out of my window at the Terra-cotta rooftops and sun-kissed Tuscan landscape. This is my life- this beautiful, quiet place that has seen so many artists and thinkers pass through its streets, breathe its air, and create incredible things in response. I understand why all the Renaissance masters took pilgrimages to Italy- there is something special about this place. Even today, the entire town donned their medieval garb and hosted a parade and medieval games to determine who was the best neighborhood- split into teams, they reenacted the traditions of their past to gain status in the present. Their culture, their history, and their traditions are ingrained in the core of every Italian- they know who they are because of where they are from. It is unlike anything we experience in America because (save the Native Americans) we are a nation of immigrants. Our families span back a mere 200 (or so) years, and beyond that we have no grasp on the ancientness of our heritage, or what that means to us now. It is incredible to watch this culture, hurtling forward with the rest of the human race, sit so securely in the beauty of its past.
I hope in the coming months to immerse myself more fully in the culture than I did last time. As a student, I was awkward in my attempts to learn and speak Italian, but I am lucky this time to have several colleagues who are fluent in both English and Italian, as well as old friends in the town who could be prevailed upon to teach me, should I be persistent enough. Our assistant, Lucy, is from America but has lived in Italy for 4 years and speaks Italian like a native. I am so inspired by her, and may prolong my trip in the endeavor to become properly proficient in the language. What use is there in doing anything if you don't give it your all? Thus far all I can manage is to ask for food, apologize when I'm dumb, and disjointedly explain my job- but you have to start somewhere, right?
I'll leave you with some pictures and fond regards to all of those I've left behind in the States. Believe me, you are all on my mind and in my heart, always. Bueno notte, miei amici.❤️