Canada | 2003, 2007
David Young is the author of the plays Glenn, Inexpressible Island,Clout, Love is Strange and Fire which have been widely produced in Canada, the United States and Europe. He has also published two novels and written extensively for film and television. His current projects include a six-hour television drama about medical relief work in South Sudan and an adaptation of Alistair MacLeod’s novel No Great Mischief for the stage. He returned to Santa Maddalena in 2007.
DAVID YOUNG’S UNBELIEVABLY LATE FINAL REPORT
I visited Santa Maddalena in the spring of 2003, arriving for my residency with high expectations and a duffle bag stuffed with research material for two projects both of which, like this report, were long overdue. I’d heard so many wonderful things about this place – the perfect house in the perfect setting – above all, Santa Maddalena had a reputation among writers as a place where quiet and concentration were the order of the day. Santa Maddalena was a place to work.
Beatrice Rezzori met me at the kitchen door. The other two writers hadn’t yet arrived so we had afternoon tea in her apartment. In due course I was installed in the bedroom across the hall and the beautiful Alessandra took me out to Grecia’s studio – that wonderful desk as big as the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, exotic treasures from a lifetime of travel still scattered around, the wall of glass framing a matchless view across the Arno valley. It was a dream, too good to be true. And in the days and weeks that followed it only got better.
Each morning I arrived at my desk in the dark and watched the sun rise over those Tuscan hills, the incredible view coming into focus like a time lapse photograph. After work I wandered in the wild ravines that surround the property – getting lost and muddy like a happy pup, eyes peeled for a glimpse of wild boar. In the evening we gathered around Beatrice for wine, food and talk. Beatrice’s table is at the heart of the Santa Maddalena experience – all of us were welcomed into the embrace of her extended family and made to feel as if we, too, now had a place in the burnished history of that house. We were part of a continuum — a long, meandering conversation about the interpenetration of life, art and language that stretched back across centuries. Often we were joined by Beatrice’s friends, each of them offering us a privileged view into the local world. Bernardo Bertolucci came for lunch. We had tea in a grand salon with the Frescobaldi clan. I was spirited away for a posh weekend at the vast estate of Gracia Gadzonni. This was hospitality in the grand sense of the word – Beatrice opened the door to a world that had a place for everyone.
And the work went so well in that house. Write at dawn. Go for a bracing swim. Write some more. Wander down the road in the building heat of morning. Write. Dig in the garden in the glowing afternoon. Read under a tree. Go back to that great desk and review the day’s work until shadows deepened and the last light left the valley.
These many months later Santa Madallena persists in memory – the house glowing like a lantern in the tender dusk of a Tuscan spring as we gathered for another dinner. I made lasting friendships there – my fellow resident Will Fiennes recently came over from England for the closing night of the play I finished during my time at Santa Maddalena; the beloved Beatrice visited us over the Christmas holiday. I’ve worked in a lot of wonderful places. Nothing will ever touch my time at Santa Maddalena.