Rachel Donadio joined Civitella as its Executive Director in June of 2023 from Paris, where she had most recently been a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the administrator of the American Library in Paris Book Award. A former Rome Bureau Chief and European Cultural Correspondent for The New York Times, Donadio is known for her global mindset, expertise of Italy, textured features and profiles at the intersection of culture and politics, and literary criticism. A former editor and writer at The New York Times Book Review, Donadio has reported from more than two dozen countries and interviewed major cultural figures. She is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and frequently comments on European affairs for U.S., Italian, and French media. She has been a director’s guest at Civitella twice, a visiting critic at The American Academy in Rome, a visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, and a visiting fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center.
From Rachel’s time as a Director’s Guest:
I came with many expectations — I would work on a book proposal about Europe. I would outline a book of essays, or one of short stories. Instead, I read a long novel. I went for walks in the hills around the castle, looking out on a feudal landscape largely unchanged for centuries. I rested. I laughed and joked and played games and watched movies with the others. We were a happy and welcoming group. We had the joyfulness of children but the awareness of adults about how rare and precious such time is. I made some lists. The best writing begins as lists, Ocean Vuong told me one night as we and the others sat in the summer darkness looking up at the moon and stars, and I think he’s right. Browsing in the Civitella library one day, I came across a copy of Natalia Ginzburg’s book of essays “The Little Virtues” and I found myself overcome with emotion. I had first read that book, in Italian, when I was 16, growing up in a small town in Vermont, and it had opened up a world to me — the world of Italy and the world of a life of letters, a world I had been so desperate to find and had, in time, found, and even mastered. Seeing this book again made me think about paths taken and paths not taken, and paths I may one day still take. During my stay at Civitella, in July 2016, the world became frightening and unrecognizable: A terrorist killed more than 80 people on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. There was a coup in Turkey and then a purge. Donald Trump got the Republican nomination for president. Weeks before, Britain had voted to leave the European Union. The chaos outside made our time here even more precious. I am so grateful to Civitella and to Dana Prescott for welcoming me here. My visit was restorative and regenerative. It returned me for the first time in years to a state of calm and energy from which I am certain true creativity can spring. Grazie di cuore.