I started my journey as a historian in Florence, where I graduated from the University of Florence and earned a Master's degree in Medieval History. With my master's thesis, I edited two manuscripts kept in the National Archive of Florence for the first time.
The two manuscripts were written in Florence between 1393 and 1413; they were written by the Florentine merchant Niccolo' Busini. Their names are "Ricordanze private" "Private Memories.” Thanks to these two books and the information found in the National Archive, I was able to understand who Niccolo' Busiuni was and what his role was in the society of Florence. The books showed the general role the merchants had in building the fame of the city in one of the greatest periods of splendor for the town. These two manuscripts are an example of the compulsive record-keeping citizen, shaped by the practice of large-scale international trade and banking on which Florentine prosperity depended.
This work was crucial for my formation; it allowed me to become better acquainted with the essentials of historical research. I learned how to navigate the mare magnum of sources found in the National Archive or at the National Library of Florence. The unique experiences of dizziness in searching for clues inside an infinite number of works yet to be published were exciting and, at the same time, frustrating. You find yourself facing the difficulty of a different language, a different mentality, not to mention, the difficulty in the interpretation of various sources never been explored. However, this important stage of my “historian life” taught me that the starting point of historical knowledge is not a theory or what you have in mind regarding certain subjects. Still, it all begins with you opening those hard and frustrating manuscripts. With this experience, I acquired a method of investigating evidence which I was able to apply during my Ph.D. dissertation, and was crucial for the development of my argument.
When I started the Ph.D. with Dr. Vaughn at the University of Houston, she suggested exploring Matilda of Tuscany. I was so excited about this topic!! I realized that retracing the life of Matilda was an opportunity to open a window on a crucial period in the history of the Middle Ages.
As soon as I started investigating more on this subject, I quickly understood that Matilda of Tuscany (1046-1115), a significant figure in the European Middle Ages, was mostly neglected by English scholarship. Even in feminist and gender studies, Matilda has been overlooked. My study illuminates how friendship fueled Matilda’s political agency, served alliances, and promoted spirituality. The analysis of the significant friendships the countess established with her three most important spiritual advisors – the revolutionary Pope Gregory VII (1073-85); Anselm II Bishop of Lucca (1075-1085), an intellectual and passionate reformer; and the prominent philosopher and theologian Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109) – illustrates the decisive role these personals, political, and spiritual bonds played in the establishment and maintenance of Matilda's power as well as her devotion and religious motivations. It was certainly her spiritual and political relationships that allowed Matilda to preserve and enhance her authority. At the same time, the evidence shows that the countess did not submit to the authority of these advisors, as the scholarship, both European and American, have often contended. On the contrary, her actions demonstrate a strong female identity and a determination to pursue her own political advantage and spiritual principles.
This study showed that Matilda not only contributed to and inspired the flourishing of friendship in the eleventh and twelfth centuries but actively promoted a change in spirituality. This change transformed the image of women and fostered a new way to practice devotion to Christ and his suffering, directing new attention to the Virgin Mary. Thus, this study challenged the recent paradigm which marks Anselm of Canterbury and the Anglo-Norman world as the sole agents and originators of this revolutionary development in European thought and feeling.
Moreover, while measuring the extent of Matilda’s political and spiritual agency and her autonomous authority, my exploration advanced a different narrative in relation to the current historiography, historiography which claimed that women’s power to inherit and act independently decreased between the eleventh and twelfth century. In the same vein, the general argument typically describes reformers as misogynists; this work provides an alternative view. My investigation, contrary to current historiography, demonstrates that reformers not only encouraged women’s rulership but also highly valued and promoted female spirituality.
In 2015 I had the opportunity to discuss these topics with scholars in my field by participating in the largest annual gathering in the field of Medieval History, the 50th International Conference of Institute for Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is there that I gave a paper titled: “Matilda of Tuscany and Anselm of Lucca during the Investiture Controversy,” in a session entirely dedicated to Matilda of Tuscany. After the conference, my paper was elaborated into an article published in 2017 in the journal Storicamente, “Nihil Terrenum, Nihilque Carnale in Ea: Matilda of Tuscany and Anselm of Lucca during the Investiture Controversy.”
I also had the privilege of presenting another paper, “Anselm of Lucca and Anselm of Canterbury: Inhabitants of Two Separate Worlds?” at the St. Anselm of Aosta, Bec, and Canterbury International Conference, organized by the University of Houston, in collaboration with the University of St. Thomas.
As mentioned previously, I have elaborated other ideas in my Dissertation: “The Friendship Network of Matilda of Tuscany. Reconstructing Matilda’s Motivation and Ideology Through the Lens of her Individual Relationships” and in and in my forthcoming article, “Anselm of Canterbury and Matilda of Tuscany: The Journey of Friendship” that will be published in MATILDICA, Rivista annuale dell’AMI-MIA – Matilda of Canossa and Tuscany International Association, where I expanded and revised a chapter of my thesis.
The goal of my future research is twofold. After I received feedback from my dissertation committee, I started to incorporate revisions into the book manuscript. I plan to publish the manuscript within two years. I have an exciting second major project planned after that. I have sought NEH funding to create an edition (inclusive of a comprehensive introduction, equipped with Latin text, English translation, and notes) of Peter Damian’s Poems, Prayers, and Sermons, and Anselm of Lucca’s Prayers and Sermons. These crucial collections have never been translated into English; this much-needed translation would allow scholars to explore missing pieces which are crucial in the understanding of the origins of the new spirituality and affective devotion that began in the eleventh century and reached its apex in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries with the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.