It’s the 100th anniversary of the birth of Muriel Spark this year but I wasn’t aware of this when I tuned into Radio 4 this morning to hear Book of the Week . When I heard the title of the latest choice- Appointment in Arezzo by Alan Taylor I was so excited to hear the name of the Italian town.
Now, I love anything to do with Italy but when Arezzo was mentioned, I inwardly squealed – ‘I know Arezzo. I love Arezzo’. I’ve sat in the Caffe’ Vasari drinking coffee, looking across the Piazza Grande, watching the world go by, resting my tired feet from walking round the cathedral, basilicas and palazzi. And when the announcer added the subtitle – A friendship with Muriel Spark, I allowed myself a real squeal – ‘Noooo. Muriel Spark. Civitella!’
You see, I know a bit about Muriel Spark and her time in Italy. She lived in Tuscany with her friend and secretary Penelope Jardine about 20km from Arezzo on the outskirts of a hilltop village in the commune of Civitella in the val di Chiana. I wrote a book about Civitella – except, I couldn’t include Spark in it as it was about massacres by the Germans towards the end of the Second World War, and Spark didn’t come on the scene until the 1970s.
I wrote a piece about Spark in Civitella in a 2014 blog.
View from Via Mazzini, Civitella
I didn’t find Spark’s grave even though I went to Oliveto to look for it. I still haven’t read any of the Muriel Spark books that she wrote while in Italy but I am going to order Alan Taylor’s book. I hope to soak up a bit of the Tuscan atmosphere and experience, vicariously, the joys of writing in such a beautiful place among such lovely people.