Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Annelisabeth Hodgson is a tranquil Englishwoman who has been living in Italy since 1980. Here she fell in love and built her family.

Since 2010, through the Associazione Pantagruel, she has been a volunteer at the Sollicciano prison. We met her to hear about her Italian adventure and what made her decide not to return to England, although her husband died in 2000.

“I was studying Macrobiotics in London at the Community Health Foundation in the evenings. During the day I worked as a secretary. One of my jobs was to write to an Italian professor and invite him to a seminary at our school. When we met, I shook his hand and we felt a spark which neither of us understood. We were together all day walking in a park. Then he returned to Italy”.

She met “her” Italian professor again a short time afterwards in Amsterdam, and from then on, he invited her repeatedly to Florence.

After 5 months, “Ferro asked me to stay in Florence,” continues Annelisabeth, “and after barely 6 months I came to live definitively in Italy. We first lived in Via della Campora in Florence, and then in Impruneta”.

In 1983, Ferro bought a house in Romola and here, where she still lives, 3 children were born. In 2000, her husband died young. “It wasn’t easy to raise 3 children on my own in Italy but many nice people and friends helped me continue, especially my brother in England”.

The years passed, the children grew up, and Annelisabeth felt the need to do something important. She learned from the macrobiotic philosophy that “everything has 2 faces, like a coin. You can’t separate them, or the coin wouldn’t exist any more. Where there is beauty, there is ugliness. Where there is kindness, there is the opposite. We see only what we want to see. We hide what we don’t like because we fear it and otherwise, we couldn’t live”.

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Annelisabeth wanted “to face this shadow area and, together with my friend Lucia“, she explains, “in September of 2009 we decided to volunteer at the prison. We had to take a course to understand the dynamics and laws of the prison. All of this was thanks to the Asosociazione Pantagruel which we belong to, and in 2010 we began the itinerary which helped me understand many things”.

“I help – che continues – a group of Africans who speak only English. This is my job: to bring a friendly face to help them understand that someone cares about them. This has given my life a reason”.

“When I was 18,” she says, “my father saw me talking to an African boy and he hit me, because he was a racist. For much of my life I was afraid of African men. Then I spoke with these boys in prison and I realized that, on the contrary, they are very sweet and have faith and infinite patience. They are so “human” that I asked myself why I had been afraid of them for so many years. It was a wonderful lesson”.

Annelisabeth has a great serenity of spirit which she has acquired over the years, albeit at a high price.

Warmed by the Chianti sun, she decided to continued to live in Romola where her roots and her history reside. Our hills resemble Kent where whe was born. She leaves us with something to think about.

“The way of thinking is so different and can not be compared: I can’t think like an Italian and I can’t think that an Italian thinks like me. But after living here for 35 years, I have accepted the difference and do my best. The world can grow only through comparison”.

Silvia Luis