Montepulciano, May 15-21, 2005
I’ve realised that I really do need to try and learn Italian – otherwise it’s going to cost a fortune in translation fees. It’s probably unrealistic to expect to be fluent in the time I’ve got to work on this book – so that means I’m still going to need help interviewing people – but it should be possible to get to a level where I can read Italian. Or at least get by without too much help. With this in mind, I’ve enrolled in an Italian course at Il Sasso in Montepulciano. My friend, David Walsh, recommended it to me. He’s a landscape artist and ardent Italiaphile and knows this area of Southern Tuscany very well. He does speak Italian and advised me that the large industrial-sized language schools in Florence and Rome should be avoided. Il Sasso, on the other hand, is a small, more personalised school and the friend of his that studied there said it was fantastic.
In the end, David came out too. So every day for a week, I went off to school and he went off painting, then we met up again just after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I can’t get over how hard it is – I was absolutely exhausted by four every day, and am worried I don’t have a head for languages. Everyone says that you really need to live in a country to be able to speak the language properly, but that’s simply not an option, so I must learn my vocab and grammar and simply get on with it.
Had a good look around the Val D’Orcia while I was there. This was home to Iris Origo, an Irish-American who married an Italian aristocrat and who famously published her wartime diary, called, â€˜War In the Val D’Orcia.’ Even went to her home, La Foce. Great to see all the places she talks about in the diary and useful from the point of view of research too, as I’m sure I’m going to be writing about her in the book.
Got back home feeling I had the basics but that I still have a very, very long way to go. I’m definitely going to need someone to help me with the Italian interviews. Roddy is no longer in Italy and although he said he might be able to help, I can’t keep depending on my mates. I’ve been in touch with two Italian students from Bristol University but so far they’ve not been reliable – so I don’t think it’s going to work out. This is something I need to sort out, and sooner rather than later.