When I arrived here in Italy fresh out of graduate school, I have to admit that at first it was a relief. Walking in the mountains, sitting in the sun, reading, cooking, enjoying life without the looming deadlines, papers to write, and the ever present mound of books and articles to read. I needed that break. But I needed that break primarily because I loved studying art history so much that I threw myself entirely into  my work. There were always more questions to try to answer, yet another way to turn my head and look at something, and, of course, something else to read. Over the past year being away from my studies and the academic setting I loved so much, I’ve realized that my love for art history is an integral part of who I am. Perhaps I can take a break from it, but it is still there. I walk by a church and I wonder about the frieze surrounding the doorway, I stop and admire archways, windows, doors, and always with the nagging desire to know more.


Sessa Aurunca city gate_wm City Gate, Sessa Aurunca (The Shock of the Old)


While I hope someday to have the time to work on answering some of those questions, for the moment I explore, take photos, wonder, and share as much as I can here on Ciao Amalfi. Imagine my delight and surprise when I happened across the blog The Shock of the Old written by not only an American expat blogger here in Campania, but a former art history professor to boot!  My first thought was, “I’m not alone!” Since then I have been following Karen’s blog, and enjoying our nice discussions about art, architecture and daily life that have gone from comments and on into emails. (We art historians like to talk once you get us going … )  Karen describes her blog in these words,

I divide my time among exploring the historic center of the town where we live, trying to figure out the culture of my adopted country, trying to figure out what makes toddlers tick, and writing about it all here.



 Sessa Aurunca

Sessa Aurunca, Campania (The Shock of the Old)


Karen and family, husband N and daughter Pata, live in the town of Sessa Aurunca located in the province of Caserta in northwestern Campania. On the map below you can see Sessa Aurunca marked with the letter A, and this should help you place it in relation to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast (just west of where you see Salerno).




Campania is a large region, with so much to explore outside the most popular spots centered around Napoli. One of the pleasures for me of following The Shock of the Old has been seeing life in another part of Campania. While I’ve never visited Sessa Aurunca, I feel as if I have already explored the small streets and important historic sites in the medieval center of the town with Karen. This is something I hope to do in person some day! But in the meantime, when Karen writes her regular Sessa Saturday and Medieval Bestiary features, I sometime imagine I am along with her and Pata on their walks through town, as Karen points out an interesting door handle or window, and Pata enjoys the fountains.


Pata 20 mos on whale, Mystic 2

Adorable Pata (The Shock of the Old)


I invite you all to head over to The Shock of the Old to follow along on Karen’s inspiring journey. And I have to give an extra shout-out to Karen for helping me understand the part of me that is an art historian and always will be, how to learn that it is only a part of who I am, and for reminding me to keep looking at those small details and keep asking questions. Whether I answer those questions for myself, for a classroom, or for a larger audience, Karen has taught me that it is the process of answering those questions that is the important part, the part that satisfies the ever-inquisitive aspect of my nature. Karen, sei una bravissima insegnante! Tante grazie!!



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  • Peter @ italyMONDO!

    "While I’ve never visited Sessa Aurunca, I feel as if I have already explored the small streets and important historic sites in the medieval center of the town with Karen."

    …Us Campania bloggers will have to take a road-trip sometime! 😀

    September 13, 2009
  • Ciao Chow Linda

    What a great coincidence to find your former professor in Campania. WHile I don't have a degree in art history, it is one of those things that I love. I couldn't imagine life without beautiful art – especially Italian art. I still take classes – auditing them at the university nearby – and even in Italy have taken an art history class. It's a life-long pleasure.

    September 13, 2009
  • Laura

    Ciao Peter! Road trip, road trip, road trip! 🙂

    Ciao Linda! "A life-long pleasure" is a great way to put it. It must have been a fabulous experience taking an art history class in Italy. Where did you do that? Oh, just a note, Karen was an art history professor in America, but not one of my former professors. We have just met in the blogosphere! 🙂

    September 13, 2009
  • KC

    Laura, thanks so much for featuring my blog, I love your Sunday Shout Outs. I'm glad to hear that I've helped you come to terms with leaving the academic world, which is a difficult transition to make. I felt lost when I first moved here. It seems so obvious to say that what we study always remains with us, but it took quite some time to come to that realization!

    You really ought to come to Sessa for a visit. It would be wonderful to converse in person!

    September 13, 2009
  • Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura

    What an adorable little girl!
    Your phrase 'We art historians like to talk once you get us going ', had me chuckling 🙂

    September 13, 2009
  • Lola

    Wonderful shout out, as usual! Thanks Lauretta… Ooops mi sono dimenticata di parlare SOLO Italiano…

    Uno dei miei più cari amici è uno storico dell'arte e anche lui se si lascia andare parla a ruota libera. Per me è un piacere immenso starlo ad ascolare per ore perché se c'è una cosa che fa concorrenza al mio amore per il cibo, quella è l'arte. In tutte le sue forme.

    Un abbraccio
    Lola xx

    September 13, 2009
  • Chef Chuck

    These is a magnificent thing that you and Karen are so close in so many ways!

    September 14, 2009
  • Laura

    Ciao Karen! So happy to feature your lovely blog here. It is hard to suddenly stop doing something you love, but you are right that what you study is always there with you. I would love to come to Sessa for a visit! When I finally figure out how to drive the blasted car I'll drop you a line! 🙂

    Ciao Scintilla! Pata is absolutely adorable! Check out The Shock of the Old for pics of her in the super cute clothes that Karen makes. Very stylin! And, oh, don't ever get me started about buildings with black and white stripes. You have been warned! 🙂

    Ciao Lola! I like the expression you used about your friend the art historian – parlare a ruota libera! I will have to remember that one. Sounds like a good time!

    Ciao Chuck! Yes, I should have also filed this post under "Small world" since I never expected to find another American art historian and writer living here in Campania! 🙂

    September 14, 2009

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