I discovered many things during this year in Italy: great art, architecture, music, literature and new friends. One of the unexpected benefits of the year was to see life in a more moral and spiritual way. I gained insights into my upbringing and education and began to see that they had molded me in a very materialistic way. I realized that, much like Dante, I was lost in a dark wood, a selva oscura and it was liberating to become aware of this.

Robert Thomson

The text of this book was taken from forty-five letters which Thomson wrote to his fiancée in Vancouver while he was in Italy on a third year scholarship funded by the Italian government. Thomson shares his impressions of Italian customs and habits, the friends he made, the many cities he visited, the operas he went to, his singing lessons, etc. Fifty-six years later (2016) Thomson reorganized these letters into a book and added (a) an introduction to explain his own background; (b) seventy-five photos and (c) fifteen pages of footnotes, many of which discuss the ways in which his year in Italy enriched his life.

Click here to see samples (pdf) from the introduction, the table of contents and the actual text of the book.  

One reviewer of the book had this to say, “The letters convey a great deal of information about many different topics—from singing lessons to a suit made to order, from the library where Thomson studies to the noisy street below his rented room, from cultural differences to musical performances, from paintings he discovers to the struggles and suffering of Italians under the Nazis (still quite fresh in their memories because only fifteen years have passed since the war ended). What is especially striking and endearing is that he is befriended, warmly, by a number of Florentines.” (Stephen Westergan in The NECTFL Review, no. 82, Sept. 2018)