I marked my friend Lucia's presentation on my calendar weeks ago and even though I just returned form a long one-day trip to Liverpool, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. She presented her new book, L'Unità debole: Lettere dell'ambasciatore americano George P. Marsh sull'Italia unita, which I had the honor to review in The Florentine this week as well. The presentation took place in the Sala Ferri del Gabinetto Vieusseux in Palazzo Strozzi, which is an extraordinary library.
As with most book presentations in Italy, I've learned, the author doesn't just come out to talk and read a passage from his or her book. The author is accompanied by a group of people who talk about the book from their perspective or expertise. For Lucia's presentation, there were a couple of professors each focusing on a different aspect like Italian politics or American history. I enjoyed listening to each person talk a little more about Marsh and his stay in Florence.
I am grateful for Lucia for having given me her book because I was able to see another aspect of Florence that I didn't even know existed. I hadn't been aware that Florence was the capital of the Italian kingdom for five years. I have never been that interested in history because I always felt it was a memory game of names, dates, and places. But when things are given in context, they are much more interesting. For example, Marsh was appointed as the Ambassador of Italy by Abraham Lincoln. In 1865 when Florence became the capital, Lincoln was assassinated and the KKK was created. The United States was going through its own unification at the same time that Italy was.
I also learned that other expats have been coming to Italy for centuries. I was misled to believe that the first expats came in the early 20th century, like Hemingway.
What I loved about reading Lucia's book is that I was able to learn more about my beloved city from the perspective of an American who lived here. I already know bits and pieces about Florence's history as the birthplace of the Renaissance, but to know more of its modern history only makes me appreciate it even more. I now realize that history allows us to gain a deeper understanding of a place as well as its culture. It was interesting to find out that my city wasn't just important between the 14th to 17th centuries, but that it had a pivotal role in Italian history.
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