Civitella is the kind of place I dreamed of as a child: an ancient and battle-scarred fortress in an impossibly glorious landscape, seething with birdsong and history. I saw right away, when we arrived, that the boy in me had found a paradise. But it’s also the kind of place I dreamed of as a young man, as a writer just beginning his career: an assembly of unique and strange and brilliant minds, at a remove from the distractions and stressors of their lives in the world, for no other reason than to work and reflect and be delighted and astonished by each other. If anyone had told me, while I was writing my first book, that I’d be given the opportunity to spend six weeks in such a place, I’d have fallen out of my chair. Both the writer and the child in me are deeply grateful.