It’s certainly necessary to present a brief “professional” biography (which follows), but I do feel that what bests gives a sense of why I so enjoy sharing Umbria is a brief “personal-life” biography… which tells about our ties to this land…
Anne Robichaud received her degrees in both English Literature and Italian Language and Literature from the University of Santa Clara (California) in 1970, after also having completed studies in Italian literature and culture, as well as art history at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy in 1969. She furthered her studies at the University of California, Berkeley in l972 and since 1973 has lived in Italy.
After teaching for two years in Rome, she and her Italian husband moved to a mountain area outside of Assisi (Umbria) where they worked the land, raised three children, and began restoring their farmhouse.
Here in Umbria, Anne also…
• founded an English Language Institute in Assisi in 1975, which she ran for over 18 years;
• served as site co-ordinator and principal lecture for the 2-week Assisi Elderhostel programs for many years;
• created and conducted the “Umbrian Countrysides” tour for the Smithsonian;
• assisted in the development of a restoration tour for the National Trust;
• served as local Umbrian expert for the National Trust tour;
• created an Umbrian walking tour for Wilderness Travel (Berkeley, CA);
• served as assistant for summer abroad Assisi program of the University of Santa Clara;
• has been licensed as an official Umbrian Regional Tour Guide since 1997 (18 out of 350+ applicants passed the exams…);
• set off on a 5-week, coast-to-coast U.S. lecture tour in 1998 with the intent to restore tourism to Assisi, greatly reduced after the September 1997 earthquake;
• has lectured on aspects of contemporary Italian society and Umbria (please see Lecture page) for various tour/study groups in Italy, including: Tauck World Discovery Tours, Academic Travel Abroad, Backroads, Wilderness Travel, BCT, Country Walkers, Earthbound Expeditions, Butterfield & Robinson;
• has often worked as a consultant for tour companies in the creation of customized tours in Umbria including incentive tours, alumni tours, summer abroad programs, culinary, art, walking and Jewish Heritage tours;
• has traveled annually (since 1998) to the U.S. for her lecture/cooking lessons (of Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes) tours (please see U.S. Event)
My husband Pino and I moved to the land here in Umbria in 1975, with very little money but alot of determination and will. We wanted to work the land, experience rural Umbria. We rented an old stone farrmhouse with a terracotta roof on 8 acres of land behind Mt. Subasio which backdrops Assisi (what views!).
The road up to the house through our woods was impassable, after years of abandon. We parked our old Gilera 150 motorcyle down at the bottom of the hill and walked up with the groceries on our shoulders. The house had no electricity (which we put in after a month), no indoor bathroom and no running hot water. No central heating – just a huge fireplace (big enough to sit in- benches built into the niches) in the kitchen. A wood-burning stove supplemented the kitchen heat – and we cooked on it. No heat in the bedrooms so bedwarmers took the icy chill off the sheets in the winter.
Our first animal was a pregnant sheep, my birthday present from Pino. She was old, lame, arthritic… and cheap. From our farm neighbor, Peppe, came the first chicken – as thanks for helping him prune his vineyard (which is how we learned to prune ours). Marino and Chiarina gave us a pregnant rabbit (that led to alot of rabbits!) as thanks for helping them prune their olive grove (…and so we learnt to prune ours).
Each season had its tasks. Every spring, we sheared our sheep and I washed the wool down in the creek with my farm women neighbors. After the wool was carded in Assisi, a neighbor made our quilts, mattresses and pillows. Summertime was for haying and threshing and fall brought mushroom-hunting, the grape harvest, the tastings of the first new wines with roasted chestnuts and later, the olive-picking. Every January, the butcher came and one of the pigs was turned into prosciutto, capocollo, sausages, salami, lard (see Zsa zsa’s story). My neighbors made their soap from the lard…
Pino plowed and planted all our land, chopped the firewood, milked the goats and sheep to make the cheeses. Feeding and caring for them – and the fowl, rabbits, pigs – was one of my jobs, along with the splitting of firewood, making of the pasta and putting up what came out of the vegetable garden…
We both had outside jobs to supplement our lack of income from the land. Pino went to work with the stonemasons – and is now considered the best in Assisi in the restoration of rural architecture – has a team of 14 who work with him (Happy ending: we’re restoring the farmhouse – Pino’s skills are evident). I started teaching English… Our businesses grew, 3 children came along… and the animals gradually “disappeared”.
Only regret: too tired at night in those days to keep a diary as “Under the Umbrian Moon” would have been a good read!
Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)