Greece | 2004
Panos Karnezis was born in Greece in 1967. He came to England in 1992 to study engineering, and worked in industry before starting to write. He was awarded an MA in Creative Writing by the University of East Anglia. His first book, Little Infamies, was published in 2002. He lives in London.
The invitation to Santa Maddalena was a surprise delivered by email. A quick internet search to discover a foundation I knew nothing about made the surprise a pleasant one. I agreed to go but not without some hesitation. Being so much used to work in my very private, and very urban, space, I wondered whether my writing would take to a different habitat.
Several months later I arrived in Tuscany. The foundation was down an unpaved, potholed country lane, on a hillside far enough from the nearest village to be quiet but not isolated. The place turned out to be ever more beautiful than its website had suggested.
But the moment of truth came when the following morning I sat down to my desk.
It was perfect. In fact, it proved to be better than my sacred room in London. So much so, that having been used to the peace and glorious views of the wooded hills it took me several weeks to settle for the inevitable less once I was back home again. This is the only warning: do not go to Santa Maddalena if you normally live in a hovel. It will open your eyes to how one should live, and you might never be able to shut them again.
It does not stop there. The staff of the foundation were very helpful (they even wash your clothes), and at meals Beatrice Monti, president of the foundation, was a goldmine of stories the way only a writer can appreciate. If they are not enough for you there is also her late husband’s, Gregor von Rezzori’s, library that runs to several thousands of volumes. I enjoyed the informality of the meals, the discussions during them and afterwards, and the friendship of the writer sharing the experience with me, Chilean hombre Carlos Franz, the man who quite possibly has read every book published. When in Rome do as the Romans, but in Santa Maddalena you can just about do as you please. I went for long walks but still managed to do in three weeks what would be the equivalent of two months’ work at home, Carlos and I took a day off exploring Siena and San Gimignano, plus many other escapades that I will go into here.
For all this and more, Beatrice I am deeply grateful.