Faculty Highlight: Interview with Elisabetta Digiugno, PhD in Art History, LdM Professor in Art History and History of Costume
Professor Digiugno, you are a truly eclectic person! Throughout your years as a faculty member at LdM, teaching art history as well as the history of costume, all of us have come to appreciate you for being both passionate and caring. Can you tell us about your background and when you discovered your passion for art and history?
Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I used to call myself a transversal specialist because my interests are so diverse, ranging from Renaissance art and architecture, to jewelry, to costume and fashion, to the techniques and materials used between the Middle Ages and Renaissance. My passion was first inspired by my father, who was an artist and a photographer. He had a boundless enthusiasm for beauty, art, and history, and he used to take me on visits to museums, gardens, villas, and art workshops.
It is clear now that many of your research interests were originally encouraged through this special relationship. When you are not teaching and engaged in scholarly activities, you offer private guided tours of Florence. As a Florentine who is proud of her beautiful city, which aspects of your city continue to surprise and fascinate you the most?
For me, it is the city’s rich history. With history, there is always more to learn! For example, here is a funny and wonderful thing my family discovered recently: although my father’s side is from Sicily, the Digiugnos are a very old Florentine family. One of my relatives, who is 80 years old and living in New York City, sent to me a document that states our family was already living in Florence in the 1200s. In fact, we had been kicked out of Florence in the mid-1500s, because my family opposed Cosimo I, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany! This is comical to me, considering I have written several articles about the Medici family, most recently completing a monograph on Cosimo I.
Congratulations on finishing this project, and what a funny coincidence! Speaking of your recent projects, we recently saw you on CNN, guiding Stanley Tucci around Florence for his new documentary series titled Searching for Italy. Mr. Tucci is a distinguished Hollywood movie director and actor, and we are curious how you met him.
Mr. Tucci is one of the famous guests I have led on a tour around Florence – to the Uffizi, the Accademia, and the Bargello – to revere the Renaissance masterpieces. When I first met Mr. Tucci, I never imagined I would have received an invitation to be involved in a CNN series about Italian food and culture! He told me that one of the episodes would be filmed in Florence. He asked if I could help him to find original Renaissance recipes, so I did some research and sent the materials. When his team contacted me to ask if I would take part in the filming of the episode, it was very unexpected! When the series was released in the United States, I got an excited phone call from a former student: “Professor, you are on American TV!” I could not believe my eyes…I was on the screen with Stanley Tucci! Thanks to him, I had my 15 minutes of fame.
What a wonderful story! It sounds like you had fun filming the episode, showing Mr. Tucci a few of the reasons why you are fond of Florence. We know that you also have a deep fondness for LdM and the students who you get to teach – students who travel to Italy from all over the world! Why do you think international education is important?
Teaching international students is one of the most challenging and stimulating parts of my work! International education is important because LdM students can engage in thematic discussions in new and wonderful ways. They will see academic subjects through different eyes than a classmate, and they are stretched to relate to conversation topics using their individual and diverse life experiences. One of the recent and lovely international teaching experiences I had with LdM was delivering a virtual guest lecture to high school students from Universidad Tecmilenio in Mexico. The students’ curiosity reminded me how widely Italian art and culture are appreciated. Being an ambassador of international education is a tremendous responsibility and joy, and international education experiences add true value to one’s learning about the world.
Meeting new students every semester must feel like getting to broaden your own horizons every time! Is there a special LdM memory that you would like to share with us from this past academic year?
Absolutely! Working with new students every term helps me to get better at entering the subjects of study, thanks to their feedback and questions. My special LdM memory occurred in February. It was my first time teaching the course titled Lifestyle in the Renaissance, and lessons were going to be online due to COVID-19. The LdM students were so interested in my lectures that they never wanted our lessons to end! They asked critical questions and requested that I join them to visit the Uffizi, together outside of school time. Don’t you think that is great? I find it extraordinary.
Yes, LdM students are extraordinary, and your anecdote really captures how amazing they are! Is there another course are you teaching right now?
I am teaching one of my favorite courses titled Fashion Cross Culture, which is offered as part of a master’s program held in cooperation between IFA Paris and LdM Florence. All of the students are designers, passionate about decorative art and architecture. Fortunately, because the COVID-19 situation in Italy has improved, our students can follow a regular course schedule with visits to galleries and museums around Florence, like the Museo Stibbert and Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli. We will experience all that Florence has to offer, from the most famous to the most unique.