So the semester begins. I arrived in Pisa on Friday afternoon from London, to a landscape that was rather familiar and sepia-toned – the area near Pisa airport looks very much like Southern California. I took the train to Pistoia and left the station to find the cabs, where I proceeded to raise an eyebrow and have the cabbies laugh and say “Villa Rospigliosi?” They’d been ferrying students all day.
As I pulled up to the Villa, the sun was setting. A small figure stood near the door and waved at the cab – I recognized Gabriel, child of the director John and the painting professor Jane. He deftly maneuvered my luggage, spoke with the driver to determine how many students were left, and took me out to the garden where the others were sitting in a circle chatting near the fountain.
Before I go into how overwhelmed I was at this moment, let me describe the Villa for you. It is a solid three story building in traditional Tuscan style, built in the 1300s and stuccoed in Tuscan yellow with dark green shutters. There are five windows across the front and back. The grounds are well kept and the low wall surrounding the gardens is punctuated by several dry fountains, banked by two large fountains with lions on either side. In the front as you approach the door, there are two small ponds choked with blossoming lily pads and filled to the brim with tiny frogs who splash away as you approach. In the back, there is a large three tiered fountain in the center of a quatrefoil shaped pond, also filled with lilies. Behind this, screened by a hedge, is a very old well dug into a grotto that draws from the mountain. The arched ceiling is a mosaic of rough local stone, covered in ivy fed from the well.
I approached the students sitting under the tree, and in the golden light they all looked beautiful and confident and capable. I felt trampled and travelled and exhausted from hauling my (modest) luggage up and down the steps in the stations across Tuscany. I briefly introduced myself and fled to my room with Gabriel.
He took me to the third floor (2nd, really) and introduced me to my roommate – another lovely girl, slim and well-mannered. I think I might have been intimidated except that I caught a glimpse of the sunset landscape outside the window nearest and was too distracted by the loveliness of it to worry too much about another meeting. I had been promising myself all day that after I arrived at the Villa I had permission to dance a little jig and crow that I had arrived! I had made it! After so much work and distance, I was beginning!! So, in front of a window framing the loveliest little scene of hills and farms and low yellow villas, I danced and laughed. Welcome, Brianna, to Pistoia, and the Villa Rospigliosi.