I was born in Pavia, Northern Italy, on February 17, at 9:55 AM. It was a cold and snowy day. My mother confirms that, on the way to the hospital from my dad’s 300-people village, Coazzolo (province of Asti), to Pavia, there were two six-feet high snow walls on both sides of the road. I always wonder… If those were the conditions when I was born, why do I hate the cold so much?
I suspect that I eventually lost the Northern endurance to the cold because I spent most of my childhood in Southern Italy, more precisely in a small village called Jacurso, in Calabria, where I lived with my grandparents. There, I grew accustomed to endless summers at the beach, bare feet in warm Mediterranean water, and sun-kissed skin all year long.
Back in the Northern village of Coazzolo, at the young age of six, it took me only a few days to realize that I was not too fond of school. Also, the cold. Since I could already read and write in both Italian and French and count, I was utterly bored. The teachers were screaming at me all the time – one even shredded a sheet of my notebook into pieces because I was tired of waiting for the other kids to finish the exercises, and I had started filling the page with colorful butterflies. Luckily, I discovered many extra-curricular activities that I loved. Playing the piano and singing, going to dance school, writing, and painting filled my childhood and adolescence days with creativity and enthusiasm. I was so lucky to find inspiration in many art forms.
Although I hated school as an institution, I loved learning. I began studying Ancient Greek and Latin (Language and Literature) at fourteen. Indeed, among the possibilities that I had in Italy, I chose to study at Liceo Classico “General Govone” (Alba, province of Cuneo), a binational Italian and French high school with an advanced placement program in Classics. The study of Latin and Ancient Greek was in the program five hours per week for each ancient language for five years. My favorite subjects were ancient Greek, Latin, and Creative Writing (both in Italian and French). My excellent knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin allowed me to proceed directly to the most advanced classes in Philology, Linguistics, Literature, History, and Philosophy at the University of Turin, where I earned both my B.A. and my M.A. However, I did not enroll in Classics right away. Following my childhood passion for art, after my high school graduation, I decided to follow some courses at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, where I earned Certificates of Attendance in Drawing, Painting, Photography, History of Art, and History of Photography (which explains why this site is not only smart but also aesthetically pretty!).
My Education and Research Interests
I started studying ancient Greek at such a young age because Greek civilization has fascinated me since my childhood. As I mentioned, I was raised in a small rural village in Calabria, a unique region in Italy because of its diverse historical and linguistic heritage, which derives directly, on the one hand, from Magna Graecia and the Byzantine Empire and, on the other hand, from the period of Roman domination, with Arabic, Norman, and Spanish influences. The dialect my grandparents spoke was the last breath of the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy centuries before. My desire to penetrate deeply into the archaic sounds of this language was the main reason I decided to study ancient languages at a very young age. Afterward, my research pursuits have been focused on language contact phenomena involving ancient Greek and other languages since my undergraduate studies.
At the beginning of my Ph.D. at Sorbonne University, Paris, in 2014, following the lead of my advisor, Professor Markus Egetmeyer, I got interested in the relationships between Ancient Greek and a fragmentary language spoken in Anatolia, Phrygian. Greeks and Phrygians underwent profoundly different historical developments, which eventually led the Greeks to progressively identify the Phrygians as the incarnation of the stereotype of the barbarian slave in the 5th century BCE, even if, paradoxically, their idiom was the closest one to Greek among all the other Indo-European languages. The complex relationship between Greeks and Phrygians had never been studied from a sociolinguistic point of view, although it seemed a very productive field of investigation to me. This was the starting point for my doctoral dissertation entitled Problèmes linguiquistiques du rapport entre Grec(s) et Phrygien(s) [Linguistic Problems of the Relationship between Greek(s) and Phrygian(s)].
I wrote my dissertation in Los Angeles since I spent three years (2016–2019) as a Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, Program in Indo-European Studies, thanks to (among others) a prestigious award from Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet’s Foundation (“Prix de la Vocation,” 2015, Publicis Group, Paris). There, I worked under the supervision of my mentor, Professor Brent Vine (Chair of the Program in Indo-European Studies). You can read more about my first trip to Los Angeles here.
My dissertation was defended with the highest honors (“avec les félicitations du Jury”) at Sorbonne University on June 29, 2019, in front of an International Committee composed of late Professor Alexandru Avram (Roumania), Professor Markus Egetmeyer (Germany), Professor Emeritus Charles de Lamberterie (France), and Professor Brent Vine (United States).
My Present Life
As a Center for Hellenic Studies Research Fellow (2020-21) and Research Associate (2021 – in progress) at Harvard University, I am currently developing the results of Chapter 2 of my dissertation to produce my first monograph in English entitled “Entwining Greek with Asian Speech.” My monograph will study the linguistic portrayal of the exotic characters in Timotheus of Miletus’ The Persians in connection with their sociolinguistic and cultural background. You can find more information about this ongoing project here.
During my decennial experience as an international scholar, I have written a distinguished series of scholarly articles inspired or derived by my doctoral dissertation (both published and in press – you can read them here), and I have delivered many presentations of my research at prestigious conferences all over Europe and the United States, several times as “invited speaker” — a distinction that testifies to my high standing in the fields of Historical Linguistics, Indo-European Studies, and the Classics (you can check them out here). Because of my expertise and renown in these fields, as well as my engagement in the fight for inclusion and gender equality in Academia and the workplace, I am honored to have been written about in numerous articles in professional and major media in Europe and the United States (e.g., Cosmopolitan, La Repubblica, etc.).
However, my writing journey did not start with academic publications but rather with a collection of poems in Italian. In 2010, my poem “Papaveri – Sibari (510 a.C.)” [Poppies – Sybaris 510 BCE] won the grand prize in the poetry section of a creative writing contest in Italy. Following that award, I signed a contract with one of the publishers that had sponsored the contest. That led me to the publication of Deneb in September 2011 (you can find more info here). Following Deneb‘s publication, I was planning to write my first novel in the summer after my B.A. graduation. However, I had to put aside my creative writing ambitions to pursue my academic career.
Eventually, the urge to get back into creative writing manifested itself last year. I had the chance to deepen my theoretical knowledge of creative writing techniques and to put them into practice in English, primarily thanks to the screenwriter Anna Elizabeth James (who wrote, among others, the movie “Deadly Illusions,” the most-watched film on Netflix globally on its opening weekend in March 2021) and the award-winning director Jonny Zeller. In this context, I have started working on a collection of short stories which take place in Southern California and feature characters who are either immigrants or visitors. Being an immigrant myself, I am particularly interested in the dynamics of immigration to the U.S., above all from Latin America and Southern Europe (mainly Italy and Greece). I am also looking forward to developing a project for a novel inspired by the dark side of Academia.
Thanks to my “exceptional abilities,” I was granted a Green Card with a National Interest Waiver since my accomplishments distinguish me “as a highly capable professional with great promise for achieving future contributions of major national significance, thus warranting waiver of the labor certification process regardless of the availability of other qualified U.S. workers.” I am looking forward to U.S. Citizenship! In line with my love for warm weather and the beach, I have lived happily in sunny Los Angeles since 2016. Here, I share my life with my loving partner and best friend, Jonny Zeller.