Fairy Tale in Italy

One of the nicest classrooms I've taught in

One of the nicest classrooms I’ve taught in

I can’t really complain about jetlag and my second dose of ‘flu this winter when just a couple of weeks ago, I was teaching students at the above location.

View from Boccaccio's home

View from Boccaccio’s home

I was teaching ‘Fairy Tale in Italy’ at Monash’s Prato campus again. We finished our fortnight with a field trip to Certaldo and the home of Boccaccio. Boccaccio didn’t really write fairy tales, but the Decameron does include ‘Griselda’ – which did pass into fairy tale – and the Decameron serves as a model for Straparola’s The Facetious Nights and Basile’s Tale of Tales. The tower from his home has the most magnificent view.



There is little opportunity to follow too closely in the footsteps of Basile and Straparola, but Certaldo gave us a glimpse into the Italian world they knew, a world of little towns perched on high hills with red brick buildings and sweeping views over the countryside. We were able to sit at the castle and chat about ‘Griselda’ and our appreciation for the often very positive representations of female characters in early Italian tales.

Belinda wrote once on the Monash Fairy Tale Salon blog about her trip to Germany, describing the Romantic artwork she saw at Neuschwanstein:

It never really hit me before that what we consider a fairy-tale style is actually a Romantic style. The immense popularity of the Grimms’ tales has made us associate fairy tales with the visual art of their time.

I’d actually been thinking about that myself. The light, bright greens and Tuscan reds of Italy had often made me wonder what fairy tale today would ‘look’ like if Straparola and Basile had remained popular. The atmosphere of sunshine and the openness of the countryside offer a very different setting to the dark, tangled woods of the Grimms. Likewise, the bold, dynamic art of the baroque period would offer energetic heroes draped in rich attire. All in all, I think our idea of fairy tale would be much more robust and rather less dreamy.

Back in Prato, our lessons often included a gelati break, which I think we all miss.

Break time

Break time

We talked a great deal about the fairy tale heroes and heroines, remarking at times upon the issue of their veracity. I mused on my own experience in Verona. It was my second visit and I hadn’t really noticed the first time just how much attention Juliet’s house receives.

Juliet's Balcony - only, not really

Juliet’s Balcony – only, not really

There were always crowds present, yet Juliet, of course, probably never existed. The balcony, certainly, was a late edition to a house owned by a family whose name resembled ‘Capulet.’ Yet people crowd into the small courtyard to pay their respects to her. Does truth really matter when the story is that good?

It’s now back to teaching Fairy Tale Traditions at the Clayton campus. We’re in the middle of the French tales at the moment.

Italy - where the door knockers seem to come straight from the labyrinth...

Italy – where the door knockers seem to come straight from the labyrinth…


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