For the most dreadful reason, Italy is at the top of mind for people the world over. As I write this musing on March 19, 2020, Italy has recorded more deaths from COVID-19 than any other country on earth, more than 3,400 and 427 over the past 24 hours. And it shows no sign of slowing down. As we isolate ourselves in our homes looking for protection against this scourge, all we can do for Italians is wish them well and hope the death toll goes into a steep decline starting now.
So thinking about Italy today, I realized that our family and Raven & Gryphon Fine Books have a number of touchpoints with Italy. Our daughter, Adrienne, now hunkered down in Portland, Oregon, and late of Hawaii, speaks Italian. Or, more realistically, used to speak Italian. For the academic year, 1998-1999, Adrienne studied in Strasbourg, France, an exchange student from Mount Allison University. When her year was over she took her bicycle and backpack and left to spend a year wandering France followed by a year in Italy.
In August, 2016, our son Gregory married the beautiful Maria in Austria. Adrienne and son Dublin, flew halfway around the world from the Big Island to Milan. She wanted to show Dublin some of Italy before coming up to Austria for the wedding. For a bit of last minute sightseeing, I drove them down to Venice one morning. We walked around for half a day, walking over many little bridges and getting happily lost until they caught the train to Milan. I fell in love with Venice!
Erased from our memory now, Venice had massive “acqua alta” or “high water” flooding in November, 2019. I remember reading an article shortly after, wherein residents said their two biggest headaches were the acqua alta and the hoards of tourists swamping the city every day. There are no tourists there now.
Two years ago, I read the extremely well written book by Lt.-Col. G. W. L. Nicholson titled The Canadians in Italy 1943 – 1945. This was a brutal, ultimately successful campaign but one
most Canadians know little about, which is a shame. There are over 5,000 Canadian soldiers buried in Italy.
On February 11, 2020, I received an order for the first edition of Spoon River Anthology, Edgar
Lee Masters, 1915, US$400. This book of poetry centres on daily life in a small town in Illinois. It was purchased by an Italian who lives in Arcore, Italy. This small, historic town is only 20k north east of Milan. It is in the centre of the Pandemic. After I sent the book, I sent him an e-mail
letting him know that I posted the book and it should be delivered in two to three weeks, but I was worried about postal slow downs. We corresponded a bit. I told him that I loved Venice and can’t wait for a return visit. He said that I must also go to Ravenna. With a name like that – you
betcha! He was very worried about COVID-19. He e-mailed me on March 13, just 6 days ago, to advise he had received the book. I wish him well.
We have a customer who studied in Italy, loved the experience, and has bought some books related to Italy and Italian culture. She also has a couple on hold, but she hasn’t seen the book I bought only 2 days ago Roman Gardens, Villas of the Countryside. It will be hard to resist!