Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Trollopes: A family of writers in Tuscany


This was the title of the international conference held in Bagni di Lucca on the weekend of 23rd and 24th October. I sadly, because of work commitments, could only attend the Sunday morning session but really enjoyed dipping my toes into the golden age of the Anglo American community in Tuscany of the mid 1800s. The setting was perfect: the ’Chiesa Inglese’ in Bagni di Lucca. The church is now the local library and also houses a collection of books donated by Charles Greenleaves, an English diplomat. 


Bagni returned to its hay day when literary discussion was in the air between the expatriate community exiled from the hot summers in Florence, such as the Brownings, Byron and indeed we must not forget Fanny who spent two months in Bagni di Lucca. Shirley Foster described this episode in her paper titled ‘Fanny Trollope at Bagni di Lucca: being a tourist.  I was very sorry to miss this slot, so happy that my beautifully prepared conference pack contained a summary of her paper. It seems Fanny enjoyed her time in this little spa town but found it hard to mix with the locals and missed the grandeur of Florence. On the Saturday evening I heard conversation continued over a long Italian dinner.


For me this conference was also about meeting friends. A dear friend, Pam Neville-Sington, gave the first paper on Sunday morning. I was I admit slightly abashed when I received the program and discovered that her paper was at 9.30am on the Sunday. However, it meant I was able to attend and it is always a joy to meet up with old friends. The whole family arrived therefore on the wettest Sunday you can imagine. My heart went out to the English contingent that as well as literary delights were probably also hoping for a bit of Sun. Pam brought alive the expat life in Florence against the backdrop of The Risorgimento. She explained that the Anglo Americans were “all equally Italianissimi” and these events are covered in Fanny’s novel “The Old World and The New“, also by her son Tom with whom she lived in Florence in “Tuscany in 1849 and 1859" and his wife Theodosia in her “Social Aspects of the Italian Revolution”. However the highlight was her imaginary conversation between the Trollope family on the subject over the breakfast table. The chairman asked Pam if breakfast discussions were as stimulating in her house and I can confirm that they certainly are!!  Two other joint friends who are English teachers in Florence were also able to come so we all joined up for a wonderful post conference Tuscan lunch which is always a perfect way to celebrate.  









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