Anne's Blog

Scheggino to MIT: a Long Reach (Mar 11, 2011)

Date: March 21, 2011 - categories: , - 3 Comments

Sharing Italy’s language of gestures with an attentive MIT audience.

Sharing Italy’s language of gestures at MIT

Che strano! What an odd sensation to connect with Ginny at MIT: we had first met in a bucolic setting in Italy, in Scheggino, a tiny mountainside village on the Nera River in Umbria’s breathtaking Val Nerina. Ginny, host of my mid-March talk at MIT, had participated in the Berkshire Choral Festival group musical week in Umbria last September. The BCF group toured with me in the mornings and sang in the afternoons with their choir director, preparing for their two concerts in Spoleto at the end of their stay. Their group was about a third of the size of the village – and merged right into village life, even singing at a funeral in the town. My days touring with this diverse, highly-musical group was a joy.

When Ginny received news of my U.S. tour, she wrote to ask if I would give a talk at MIT. Si! Ginny welcomed MIT faculty and students, former Umbria tour guests of mine, future tour guests of mine, Slow Travel fans, junior-year in Rome friends and my cousins to my Power-pointed talk “Italians, HANDS ON.” Using Italian gestures, this talk zeroes in on the multiple facets of the Italians including the importance of “la famiglia,” the Italian lack of faith in institutions (Church and state), their creative inventiveness, innate aesthetic sense and their optimism and resiliency.

With resiliency, the MIT audience will continue to perfect their use of Italian gestures… I hope!

Mille grazie, Ginny!


“A really fun lecture – you so captured the Italian spirit – great slides. I can’t wait to go back to Umbria.” Colleen

“What a super lecture, from start to finish. Your talk was informative, interesting and fun… and everyone was focussed on every word. You have a natural talent for what you do!” Brian

“I loved your MIT lecture… and now I don’t have to learn Italian: I can just gesture!” Jean

“What a great presentation! We thoroughly enjoyed learning about what makes Italians different. I’ve studied them for many years after falling in love with Italy in school at Loyola’s Rome Center. I thought I knew Italian gestures, but Anna revealed many gestures that I’d seen but had no idea what they meant. Anna is an American/Italian treasure. We can’t wait to go back to Umbria and learn more while eating, tasting wonderful wine and olive oil, walking through medieval towns and meeting her friends. Ciao! Dave Thompson

CLICK HERE to see Italian gesture highlights from my talk “Italians, HANDS ON!”
CLICK HERE for more on other lectures.
CLICK HERE for more on my annual U.S. cooking lessons/lectures tour


  • Ginny Siggia says:

    What a treat to have Anne visit MIT! (And thanks to the people at MIT who helped me organize this visit. You know who you are.)

    Usually when I go on tours I do one of two things: nod politely and take notes that I can never reconstruct later, or duck out and move about on my own. No, I won’t tell you where. Touring with Anne was the delightful exception, in terms of enjoying the tours, and RETAINING what she told us. She led the BCF contingent through Spoleto, Narni, Assisi, Spello, and Bevagna. I had never heard of Spello or Bevagna, and Narni only as an afterthought related to Chronicles of Narnia, but each place exerted its pull on me. We are reminded that against the timescale of these ancient places, we are but specks of dust.

    I came away with a passion to learn more about — among many other things — the frescoes we saw in the Umbrian churches, construction of the medieval hill towns such as Scheggino, where we lived for 10 days, and the Italian language (which is actually quite user-friendly). Anne’s energy was formidable, and the information absolutely poured out of her, whether about the places we visited, or Italian life and culture. She also had the advantage of an American’s perspective on Italy — her comments and comparisons were fascinating.

    I married into an Italian family, and everything Anne said about “la familiglia” resonated to the marrow of my bones. Your place in the family constellation is secure and unshakable, and it sustains you through good times and bad. And while many of the “gestures” were quite familiar, I learned a few new ones, and they are beauts. I especially liked the “dandruff on my shoulder” analogy.

    Two small vignettes:
    (1) The photo on the flyer I made for Anne’s visit shows a gentleman cuddling a baby. This was taken in Scheggino, in the large restaurant hall that was a gathering place for the local residents. (This is where the BCF group gathered — or should I say wedged into place — for lunch and dinner each day. It was snug, with 106 of us and our expanding tummies.) I was struck by the look of infinite tenderness on il Nonno’s (grandfather’s) face. La familiglia at its best.
    (2) My daughter greatly resembles her Italian grandmother, and has the Italian surname. While visiting Italy (with the man who is now her husband), she melted into the population effortlessly. But when the “natives” realized that she spoke virtually no Italian, she was reprimanded with a little swat on the arm, “What do you mean, you don’t speak the language of your heritage?” Her grandmother used to deliver exactly the same swat whenever we did something not to her liking. But it was never regarded as anything more than a gentle reprimand, and never done in anger.

    I can’t wait to return to Italy, and see Anne in her “element” again!

    Brava, Annie! Arrivederci!

  • Melanie Conant says:

    I really wasn’t sure what I would be learning… and hour lecture about gestures?! Well what a surprise and a joy. Not only did I learn some of the MANY gestures that italians make in italy but I now understand why my italian american friends talk the way that they do. It is a unspoken language unto itself.

    I will be leaving for my much anticipated trip to Italy this Saturday and can’t wait to spend time with Anne and her family. Now thanks to my Anne’s leacture at MIT I can better understand the language being spoken to me. So excited!!

    Thank you Anne!

  • anne says:

    Ginny, so good to see you at MIT:.and hoping you will be back soon to our bellissima Umbria!
    Mille grazie again and again for all!

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