All Things Italy February 2022

February 26, 2022 / Etta Madden / Subscribe

La Fine di Febbraio . . . Finalmente!

A flowering apricot tree at sunrise in rural Tuscany signals Spring’s soon arrival
Photo by Scilla Sonnino

Dear Friends:

The end of February is upon us, and that brings three things to my mind. First, March and spring are just around the corner! Second, its Carnevale time in Italy. And third, the SUNY Press 50% off sale on Engaging Italy pre-orders is ending soon. How to prioritize these three? For the purposes of this brief newsletter, I’ll start with the last–but more on the the photo above soon follows . . . .

The cover of Engaging Italy (SUNY Press 2022), featuring Caroline Crane Marsh, Anne Hampton Brewster, and Emily Bliss Gould (clockwise from lower left)

Engaging Italy Pre-Order Sale at SUNY Press

As I wrote not too long ago (apologies for the two messages in close proximity), SUNY Press is running a 50% off sale this month, which includes pre-orders. That means hardcover copies of Engaging Italy are available for the rest of February for significantly less than the list price. Pre-order at the sale price now through February 28th through this link:

(Note: Look for the Website Launch Sale promo code to apply the discount to your order. You cannot apply the code until AFTER placing the book in your shopping cart and proceeding with purchase).

Perhaps even the sale price is not for you and your budget. Understood. But you might pass along the information to your library. They can take advantage of the sale price, too! The paper edition is set to release in October at around $30, if you want to wait.

Thinking of Spring in Tuscany

Two weeks ago a friend shared a picture of flowering almond trees near Comiso, Sicily. But this week I saw that signs of spring are making their way to the hills of Tuscany. A friend who lives in the countryside not far from Siena posts photos almost every daybreak. This week, she surprised me by sharing one of a flowering apricot tree, featured above. Yes, it’s early, she wrote, and she hopes a freeze won’t hurt this year’s fruit production. Scilla Sonnino’s home near Radicondoli I would consider one of those “off the beaten path” parts of Italy. (Take a quick look on Google maps . . . ). I have not yet visited the hilltop medieval village, but I hope to meander my way there sometime this summer. Stay tuned. And thank you, Scilla, for sharing this photo and many others, which keep me in touch with Tuscany every morning.

And Carnevale

A close up of a float figure for Carnevale in Viareggio
Photo by Deborah75 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Each year since 2009 I’ve returned to my photos from the Carnevale celebrations in Sicily’s Acireale. (See image below). But many other cities and towns throughout the peninsula are known for their crazy bashes just before Lent begins. My first experience was in Viareggio, a coastal town in Tuscany, in the 1980s. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons, I found the vibrant photo above from a float under construction in Viareggio. Ivrea, just north of Turin and not far from Mont Blanc in the Alps, is also known for its celebration. And, of course, Venice has a long history of Carnevale celebrations. I have yet to experience any of those. Have you?

Americans of Protestant heritage who witnessed Carnevale in the nineteenth century had much to write about it. I don’t write much about it in Engaging Italy–only that during the mid-nineteenth century participating in Carnevale, or not, could raise concern and suspicion among those in power or resisting it. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Marble Faun (1860), where the heroine Hilda disappears amidst the costumes and chaos, he suggests his dismay with the revelry. But there are other visions recorded by Americans abroad. In Margaret Fuller’s New-York Tribune dispatches in the winter of 1847-48, she noted the value of the aesthetic and politic expressions of the season. Caroline Crane Marsh also wrote in her journal of witnessing a Carnevale parade in Turin. She noted how one float’s characters mimicked the US division over slavery in 1862. Both these women saw the value of such public expression.

Carnevale parade at Acrireale in Sicily 2009

The Bittersweet Life and other podcasts?

I guess Carnevale is not the last item on my mind. This week I heard an interview with cultural historian Wendy Pojmann on the podcast, The Bittersweet Life. Last year I wrote a brief review of Pojmann’s recent book, Espresso: The Art & Soul of Italy. But the interview allows you to hear her voice and enthusiasm as she responds with expertise to questions from an inquiring non-coffee lover, Tiffany Parks, one of the podcast’s hosts.

Wendy Pojmann, after finishing a coffee in Rome (photo courtesy of Pojmann)

Listening to this podcast, I realized how relatively new to the genre I am. The Bittersweet Life, focused on expat culture in Italy, has been around since 2012. And, I admit, I’m also rather ignorant of how many there are out there with great content. Do you have some favorites that are related to Italy? to Americans in Italy? to women’s history and/or women writers? I’m building a list and would love to add your suggestions . . . Send them via email: [email protected]

As always, I enjoy hearing from you and am open to your questions and suggestions for future newsletters. And I appreciate your passing along the newsletter to those you know who may be interested in All Things Italy.  Later this spring I’ll be doing a free book giveaway — selecting a name from new subscribers and current subscribers who recruit new subscribers. Look for details in a future newsletter!

May your March be filled with hopeful sunshine and signs of spring,


[email protected]  

Upcoming Events

Two events coming up this spring are below. Let me know if you’re part of a group that would like to schedule an event in 2022. We’ll work something out!

Utopian Visions of Food 
April 21 @ 10:30 am – 11:30 am CDT 

Part of this year’s Missouri Humanities Symposium, Sustenance and Sustainability, at Drury University. I will provide an historical overview of utopian foodways. The talk highlights dreams individuals and communities have shared about food. From dreams of Edenic abundance to the contemporary explosion of urban gardens, people through the centuries have centered their lives upon desires to eat better. What “better” means varies from person to person and group to group: having plenty, having healthy habits, eating with others, or eating less. 
This presentation draws from Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias as well as an essay forthcoming in The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures (2022). 
The talk is free and open to the public. Information on streaming the presentation will be provided as soon as possible. 

Engaging Italy: American Women’s Utopian Visions 
April 22 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am CDT

An overview of my book provided to colleagues at Missouri State University as part of the English Department’s research forum. A Zoom link will be available to any interested in watching. Contact me directly for the link. As a reminder, I’m ready to talk about Engaging Italy and other topics of my research and writing.

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Etta Madden