My Italian adventure by Dana Wenger
have wanted to go to Italy and learn Italian since I was 9, when I first heard Andrea Bocelli singing an aria. Italy kept calling me – louder than Paris and louder than Southern France (which is stunning). Even my four years of French language study couldn’t displace my desire for the Italian language, the language of music and art. The art specifically became my ultimate reason and means for answering the call to go to Italy and be enchanted. The Studio Arts Centers International program, with its illustration course, would help me gain a vital piece in my education, since I intend to become a children’s book illustrator. There also was a dazzling array of other classes I could choose. When I got settled into Florence, my home for the next four months, I began to feel the weight of history so heavily it almost hurt my heart – feeling the reality that standing there, my feet were covering the footprints of the Renaissance masters. I felt it all over Italy, especially in Rome. By the time I left – I don’t know if this is really possible – I felt as though I’d almost gotten used to being overwhelmed. I knew that every time I walked up the hill to my favorite view in the Boboli gardens I would be overwhelmed again by it. Cyprus trees, the gelato, the hot chocolate, the Christmas lights, summer festivals, the broad passionate familiarity of the people, the musical rhythms of their life and speech. Strains of a woman singing opera floating on the shimmering air, drifting down the narrow cobblestone streets that glow with the light reflecting off the golden walls of the threestory shops roofed with terra-cotta tiles. By October, Florence felt like home; I could have small conversations with Italians I met, a few shop owners knew my face and name. I loved learning how to make jewelry, the soldering, drilling, sawing – all these detailed tasks perfect for a person like me. I loved
being in the three-dimensional world of construction in addition to all my drawing and illustration projects. Then there were the Italian language and history of opera classes, which thrilled me: grammar, general linguistics, history, theater, music theory and performance? Yes, please! Add to that exciting new friends, a supportive and inspiring Florentine and international church, a grand old-fashioned apartment next to the Duomo, a good city bus system, and walking-friendly streets (free from my normal struggle of having no car). At times I felt like exploding with the joy, other times I just quietly beamed at the world as I felt my soul growing bigger. Away from my almost overwhelming amount of long-term responsibilities, I could breathe. My shoulders were gradually unstooping as I tasted the most freedom I have ever had: traveling alone to a place where no one knew me, to a place full of delights and not so many deadlines. Italians take time to cook good food well, eat good
food and talk over it, sit in piazzas and chat, enjoy festivals, dance, listen to music, dress well all the time, and sleep. I used my great freedom to do all these things and more. There were so many moments and experiences that bowled me over internally; you take a kid who has grown up in lowincome apartments and put her in front of a gleaming marble cathedral topped with a dome by Michelangelo, and rightfully, it is a mind-shattering moment. Climbing to a thrilling height on a medieval tower is wonderful, but even more so in Italy. Like a
After returning to the U.S., Dana Wenger wrote and illustrated a short children’s book drawing on her experiences in Italy. The work was part of her scholarship requirements and was presented at Berry’s Symposium on Student Scholarship.
BERRY MAGAZINE • SPRING 2013