For those of you who read Italian, here’s the full-page of coverage the wonderful folks at La Nazione newspaper gave to me on Sunday. And for those of you who don’t, below are my thoughts as a mother and a veteran journalist on our experience of living in the heart of Tuscany, Arezzo.
After nearly three years living in Arezzo, American Emmy-award winning veteran CNN correspondent and international communications trainer, Gina London, is preparing to leave her adopted hometown, for Ireland.
She took a minute to look back and ahead with La Nazione.
“Con Molti Ringraziamenti”
An American Journalist Reflects Upon Her Time in Arezzo
Here’s what brought us here in the first place:
My husband, Scotty Walsh, was enrolled in a two-and-one-half-year Masters in Fine Arts program at the Accademia dell’Arte, which is an American-affiliated school located here in Arezzo. (We arrived in July 2011.)
What surprised me about Arezzo?
Everything! The travel and guide books I consulted when I was still in the United States trying to research Arezzo, had very little to say about this town. I was delighted to learn how important Arezzo had been during Etruscan and Roman times, and especially during the Renaissance. From Vasari, to Piero della Francesca, there are many masterful works still here to enjoy. I was also excited to learn about Arezzo’s incredible Joust of the Saracen festival – which we attended four times! To me, it provides much more skills and thrills than Siena’s Palio, but unfortunately is less well-known.
Why do I think that is?
I don’t think Arezzo is actively engaged in reaching out to English speaking tourists. For example, when I arrived, the English version of the Joust brochure was unintelligible. I offered to re-write it – not only in proper English, but in an appealing marketing and conversational style – for free. Then I volunteered to rewrite the English version for Benvenuti ad Arezzo’s updated website – also for free. Unfortunately, for last year’s debut Icastica event, I learned its PR company based in Rome wasn’t planning to have any materials in English. That is a pity. Limited outreach, results in limited results. I believe I wrote the only article about Icastica printed in an American travel magazine. Arezzo is missing opportunities to reach out to a large group of tourists who already love Tuscany. If these people discovered Arezzo, they would fall in love with it too. To me, Arezzo is more authentic than many of Tuscany’s more-traveled spots.
What can be done?
Tap known resources! As a communications consultant who managed multi-million dollar issue campaigns in the US, I would suggest Arezzo form a marketing-task-force that first identifies influential stakeholders and then targets them for their ideas and support. I have had dinner with Mayor Fanfani and coffee with the Press Officer for Arezzo Confcommercio, but unfortunately I was never been able to provide workshops or training sessions to provide strategies to key decision-makers. I wish I could have.
What else did we discover about Arezzo?
In spite of what some of them told me, I happily discovered that the Aretini are a warm and welcoming people. While my daughter Lulu and I explored centro storico, we were surrounded by shop and restaurant owners who first, I think, were curious about the “crazy American woman who asked a lot of questions” (as a journalist, I am naturally curious about everything) and then, over time, have become friends and like family. It would take too much time to name every person who positively impacted our lives, but needless to say, it is the Aretini spirit that prompted me to write the book published last year about our lovely adventures here, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me.
After three years, six-year-old Lulu is now fluent in the language but I am not. However, I believe I became fluent in the Aretini soul. I truly loved our time in Arezzo and I look forward to many happy returns!