“Guida della Basilica Papale del Sacro Convento di San Francesco d’Assisi” were the only words I knew when I got off the boat in Venice in August of 1963. I could say them with perfect Italian rhythm and accent, but I didn’t know how to ask for directions to the nearest toilet. My teacher Barry in Boston had given me “private” Italian lessons and had insisted that if only I could repeat the title of the guide book to the papal basilica of the sacred convent of Saint Francis of Assisi without an American accent, I could learn to speak Italian well. I had sold most of my Filene’s Bargain Basement designer clothing for a profit to my wealthy Bennington College classmates in order to pay for my ticket on the Saturnia that sailed for 14 days from NYC to Italy.
I stayed with nuns in a convent for a few days before heading north to Bressanone in the alps for Italian lessons, then soon made my way to Florence in time to start my junior year abroad at the Academy of Fine Arts inside the building where Michelangelo’s statue of David stands today. I was a nineteen-year-old woman eager to study painting and devour Italy.
A broadside on the locked door of the school said “sciopero” which meant “strike.” And there was no opening day in sight. I had rented a bicycle to find my way around Florence. Overwhelmed by the number of museums, I hung out at Upim, the local department store, gorged on Italian pastries—the gooiest I could find, and immersed myself in the language by spending afternoons at the movies. I saw Fellini’s 8.5 three times. It was pretty lonely and my Italian was pathetic. At least I had a good accent going for me, but a very limited vocabulary.
Studying under teachers who had no interest or enthusiasm for expressive art, I soon found myself switching to the printmaking studio where I learned the technique of etching. Outside of class, I immersed myself in the music of the Italian language, the suede-like splendor of the terra cotta-colored walls, the suffocating streets, and the flesh made stone in the piazze. The city’s artistic pulse flowed through my veins as though I'd lived there before. The Uffizi— home to Botticelli's Primavera — became my cathedral.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that first year in Italy planted invisible seeds of inspiration in me, seeds that did not blossom until my 50s after my creative passions had turned from visual arts to writing. That’s when I conceived, with the help of the Emerson MFA program, my debut novel Botticelli’s Muse.
Written by author, Dorah Blume.
An Italophile since the age of nineteen when she studied painting at Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy, Dorah Blume has published short fiction and nonfiction in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for “Hunger for Learning.” Considering herself a late bloomer, she expanded her artistic reach from visual to the written word in her forties with an MFA in creative writing from Emerson, and has navigated between the two ever since.
As a certified Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) facilitator, Dorah has led Juiceboxartists writing workshops for adults in Greater Boston as well as in Tuscany. She divides her time between Boston and Los Angeles with frequent trips to Italy. If she could possess one superpower, it would be to understand and speak every language on the planet.
You can read more about Dorah on her official website: dorahblume.com
Botticelli's Muse is available for purchase on Amazon.
Dorah has also designed three separate adult coloring books with images from the novel that can be purchased on Amazon as well, so click above to check those out!
Guest Post: How I Followed My Dreams of Becoming a Writer in Rome
Guest Post: My Story with the Italian Language
THE ITALY EXPERIENCE: Canadian Expat vs. American Exchange Student
If you books and Italy are what do it for you, check out these posts:
Book Buzz: Return to Glow by Chandi Wyant
Book in Progress: Italian Ways by Tim Parks
Recommended #Italy Reads: At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell
Recommended Reads: A Zany Slice of Italy by Ivanka Di Felice
And finally, if writing intrigues you, read ten very short stories which are now available as a cute collection in my first eBook: This Sweet Life. You can download it for FREE in my store! Or read the included pieces as individual posts:
Creative Writing: The Butterfly Effect
Creative Writing: The Letter R (Explicit)
Creative Writing: Dear Italy (A Love Letter)
Creative Writing: Airport Arrivals
Creative Writing: Tanqueray and You
Creative Writing: A Thousand Lives
Creative Writing: A Sunday Kind of Love
Creative Writing: Perfect Strangers in Switzerland
Creative Writing: Rooftops and Rome
Creative Writing: The Morning After in New York
Creative Writing: Mulberries in Sicily