The “Italian Odyssey”: Florence and Arezzo

 In Diary, News

We arrived in Florence around midday on Thursday the 15th November.
I hadn’t been there before and my first sight of the Duomo is something that will always remain with me.


The façade gleamed in the cold sunshine, the vivid green and white of the marble symbolising hope and faith: an architectural language, I later learned, that the faithful of centuries past would have known well how to interpret.

They would have known, too, that red marble symbolised charity. The whole magnificent structure of the Cathedral reached towards a sky that was almost unnaturally blue, telling its ancient, graphic stories of duty, suffering, and salvation.

Even though it was mid-November, the city was thronged with visitors. I escaped into the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, a wonderfully restored interior that houses many of the original works of art created for the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

It is nothing short of magical. There is a real sense of stepping back in time: of understanding the many parables that were communicated to the faithful through the sculptures, the paintings and even the door panels that adorned the Cattedrale.

Our guide was Monica and she made the entire experience come alive.

And then it was time for work – and very pleasurable work it was, too.

The warm and welcoming Antonella of Enoteca Alessi had enthusiastically agreed to host a literary event in those intimate and inviting surroundings. The Enoteca is an Aladdin’s cave of food and wine and all sorts of exquisite things, and it was a real treat to be there.

Thanks to Antonella’s hospitality, we had a lovely, relaxed afternoon talking about books and sipping some excellent Prosecco.

Approximately twenty readers arrived throughout the afternoon and we sat around an enormous polished wood table, sharing experiences and getting to know one another. It was a great pleasure for me to sign copies of my books, too, particularly as many readers arrived with first editions, going back to 1998!

Massimiliano Roveri, as ever, did an excellent job translating for all of us and made the whole event run smoothly. I was sorry when we had to finish, but we needed to make our way back to Arezzo, where a busy day awaited us on the 16th…

Liceo Redi reminded me so much of the school where I used to teach.

The buildings weren’t similar, not at all – but what was similar was the buzz of youthful energy that I could feel as soon as I stepped through the door.

I felt as though twenty years had suddenly slipped away and I was about to walk into my own classroom, to greet my own students…almost five hundred of them, on this occasion!

And it was great to be there. I met so many committed and enthusiastic teachers who reminded me all over again how important education is. An education that nourishes the ability to read critically, to think for oneself, to articulate our view of the world and to navigate our way through difficult waters: this is the stuff of true learning.

And the students of Liceo Redi were well able for the task we set them for the day. I was most impressed by their standard of English, and by their courage in asking questions in a language that was not their first, their native language.

We discussed, among many other topics, the trauma of cyber-bullying, the challenges of living without the certainties of a job and an income, and the dangers of feeling vulnerable. Students had read Heart of Gold and The Things We Know Now and the insights they brought to their reading were fresh, informed and original.

Later that evening, at an event in the Feltrinelli Bookshop in Arezzo, I said something that I will repeat here, again:

that these young students, struggling to find their place in the world and to make a difference for themselves and others, represent real hope for the future.

And in these dark and volatile days, hope is what we need most of all.

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Thanks for Florence and Arezzo Events


Enoteca Alessi,  Ruggeri Valdobbiadene.


A special Thank you to Maurizio Roveri, who “connected all the dots”.

Regione Toscana, Provincia di Arezzo, Liceo Scientifico F. Redi – Principal Professor Anselmo Grotti,  Professor Angela Marangio.

Non-profit companies Sempre Positivi and Coordinamento AffidarMarco Patrussi, Manuela Naccari, Gloria Belardinelli and Giuliana Aquilanti.

Etrusco Arezzo Hotel – Director Mauro Mamini and staff.

Stefano and Linda Rosadini – Fiori e Piante, Cocoa Restaurant, Profumi e Sapori Gastronomia – Marta Nucci and Kiara Nucci.

La Feltrinelli Point Arezzo.

All the students and teachers involved at Liceo Scientifico F. Redi , Liceo Vittoria Colonna, Liceo Classico Francesco Petrarca.

Tsd Comunicazioni, Lorenzo Magistrato photograher.

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