Writing Places & Bagni di Lucca, Italy

Six years ago this week, I was in one of my favorite Italian towns—Bagni di Lucca. I’ve written about this spot in Tuscany before. It’s nestled high above the often-visited town of Lucca, in a mountain valley formed by the Lima River and, below it, the larger Serchio. Known since the Roman era for the…

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Margaret Fuller: Writing and Social Activism in Massachusetts and Italy

Fireflies, Fourth of July, fireworks, family reunions–the month has flown by–with lots of U.S. memories-in-the-making for me. Meanwhile, I have had little time to think about “All Things Italy.” Earlier in the month, however, a trip to Boston brought Italy immediately to mind. And it wasn’t Boston’s North End, known for its Italian heritage and eateries. The trip was for the American Literature Association conference, where I participated in Margaret Fuller Society events. The…

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Mothers Without Borders: A Tribute to Surrogacy

Today I’m thinking of all those who “mother” — beyond those who have born biological children. Think Mother Teresa, for example, or Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers, known for their communal living and celibacy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Consider also the works of Irena Sendler, biologically childless, but celebrated in…

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After Pasqua and Pasquetta . . . Liberation Day

Pasquetta–one Italian spring tradition I wish we could import to the US–blurs sometimes into another holiday, Liberation Day. Pasquetta, or “Little Easter” (since Easter is Pasqua), follows on the heels of Sunday’s colomba, Easter sweet bread with almonds, and gigantic, cellophane-wrapped chocolate eggs. Pasquetta engages Italians with Monday outings to the countryside, where the renewal…

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Utopian and Dystopian Visions: Sicily and Engaging Italy

Emeralds in a sea of sapphire—gems among gemstones—to a romantic dreamer. To those who have removed the rose-colored glasses, perhaps they emerge more like mounds of painted paper–mâché, conjuring memories of childhood social studies projects.  Or maybe other memories come into focus—the 1970s TV drama Fantasy Island, where Ricardo Montalban welcomed guests seeking secret desires. For one who lives most days in a…

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A Sicilian Memoir: Simeti’s On Persephone’s Island

Mary Taylor Simeti’s memoir of Sicily as an American expat will not be for everyone. But if you like poetic prose, peppered with references to classical Greece –think, Persephone, of the book’s title, or Pindar’s odes, from which the epigraph is drawn—this book’s for you.   If you like rich descriptions of rustic, rural life, even with the realism of…

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Riding the Winter Waves: Reading for Health 

Here’s the second part to a post from just after Thanksgiving 2020, “Riding the Holiday Waves: Writing for Health.” Because some consider early January as post-holiday, I have changed the title slightly to “Winter Waves.” Certainly, the waves of winter weather and emotion are here. I am feeling them. You?  Since that post, prompted by Janice Nimura’s PBS News Hour video on the topic, and in which I confessed my own…

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Coincidence or Signs? Waldensians in the News

Twice in less than 24 hours—actually, within about 12 hours—I received notice from two friends* of two recent but very different news stories about the Waldensians. One was in here, in Friday’s New York Times, and the other was in here, in Ozarks Alive, only a few days before.  Coincidence or signs? To me, it…

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Riding the Holiday Waves: Writing for Health

Hello, friends. How have the first of the holidays been for you? Have the emotions of 2020’s elections and COVID caused these past few days to seem calm, by comparison? Or are you riding those holiday waves that are common to many of us? Do you slide from peak to valley, with ups and downs…

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The Past Hauntingly Repeats Itself? National Elections of 1844

Title Page of Life & Letters of George Perkins Marsh (1888) As presidential election news was pouring into Washington, DC,  in early November, 1844, a junior US congressman captured visions of the city: “The excitement was intense. Torch-light processions paraded the streets with wild hurrahs; heavy guns were firing, now by one party, now by…

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Coffee Passions: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

One afternoon this week my desk work demanded a break. A good strong coffee called to me, as I sat staring at the computer. I had skipped my usual morning dose — two strong cups of bold espresso to fulfill my passions. “Un doppio,” I would order in Italy, usually “macchiato”–stained with milk. In Missouri, instead…

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