What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests?
I was born and raised in Rome, where I completed a PhD at La Sapienza University. Since 2019 I have been at Ca' Foscari, where I teach Modern History and Public History and where I am part of the VeDPH (Venice Centre for Digital and Public Humanities), a centre of excellence in the Department of Humanities that works to develop humanities knowledge in two innovative directions: the digital and the public sector. I am a modern historian and my traditional field of research has always been Renaissance Florence, with a particular focus on political and religious dissent. Besides this more traditional interest, firmly linked to my passion for archive research, I am also interested in Public History and Digital Humanities.
What led you to pursue a research career?
After my PhD, I worked extensively in international centres, including non-university centres, such as the Medici Archive Project, an American research centre based in Florence, where I approached digital history. I worked at the universities of Leeds and Edinburgh and gained important experience in many prestigious research centres, from the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies to the Institut d'Histoire de la Réformation in Geneva, from the Newberry Library in Chicago to the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies in Philadelphia. All these experiences far from Italian universities gave me the chance to grow and mature considerably, and I returned to the Italian university much richer, more sensitive and more aware than when I left.
What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
There are many different kinds of professional satisfaction. One, undeniable, is the recognition of excellence in research, as when my latest book was awarded the prestigious Helen & Howard R. Marraro Prize of the American Historical Association. Archive research has always given me shivers that are hard to describe, such as when I found two extraordinary letters from Emperor Charles V of Habsburg in the Archivo de Simancas in Spain that allowed me to rewrite a small piece of sixteenth-century European history. To conclude, I do not want to leave out the satisfaction of teaching, both the results and the appreciation of students and the feeling of being able to contribute, albeit in a small way, to their journey into the future.
What do teaching and researching mean to you?
Teaching and researching are two sides of the same coin, two fundamental components of the same job that feed off each other. Research makes us go beyond previous knowledge, adding a small piece to the never-ending puzzle that is understanding our past. Teaching gives us the chance to pass on our knowledge and methodologies to new generations, putting the heritage acquired over many years of study at the service of other people's growth, but also to learn a great deal through critical discussion with students. I believe that striking a good balance between these two aspects of our work is important, without forgetting to reach out beyond the university classroom and bring our experience and research to a more general public.
What are you currently working on?
I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to work on a correspondence of some four hundred seventeenth-century letters that nobody knew existed, and which are still in private hands and unavailable to the public. This kind of opportunity rarely comes to historians and opens up a world of possibilities in terms of new discoveries and greater understanding of a hidden past. I am currently writing a book about the fascinating stories that these letters tell, and I am creating an online digital letter database to share this precious treasure with interested scholars around the world.