How the LUA, Free University of Autobiography, Fosters the Culture of Autobiography and Writing in Italy

Located in Anghiari, one of the most beautiful villages of Tuscany, the Libera Università dell’Autobiografia — LUA (Free University of Autobiography) fosters the culture of autobiography, storytelling and memory.

The LUA was first established as the Cultural Association in 1998 by Duccio Demetrio, scholar of autobiography in adult education at the University of Milano-Bicocca, and Saverio Tutino, creator of the Archivio Diaristico Nazionale (The National Diary Archive Foundation), the temple of memories in Italy.

I recently interviewed Stefania Bolletti, President of the Free University of Autobiography, on the culture of autobiography and writing and LUA’s main event: the Festival of Autobiography.

How would you describe the Festival of Autobiography?

The Festival of Autobiography is an opportunity for the public to get in touch with what moves around autobiographical writing in Italy.

It is a space to discover various experiences (literary, social and educational experiences) in which autobiographical writing is used as an instrument of expression, care, research, and training.

As in the polyphony of voices, harmonious music is created, so in the Festival of Autobiography Festival people who are participating exchange and make reflections, feeling part of a community which wants to develop and spread autobiographical culture.

What can autobiographical writing bring into people’s lives?

Duccio Demetrio, the founder of the Free University of Autobiography in Anghiari, writes that “our life story is the first and last love that we are given in fate”.

Through autobiographical writing, we can rethink personal history and feel that we have lived and we are still living; we can meet the people and places of our past again, and reconcile or reunite with them.

Autobiographical writing allows us to give shape to our experience and what we think of ourselves by opening up a space for dialogue between us and the ego we deposit in the written pages.

If it is customary, autobiographical writing can become an ally in the most difficult moments of our existence, helping us to cure inner wounds.

What’s your advice for people who start journaling?

Writing a diary, a memoir or an autobiography means dedicating time and finding an appropriate space in which to gather yourself (A Room of One’s Own, as Virginia Woolf said) during the day.

Writing allows us to open a dialogue with the most intimate part of us and appreciate what we want to say.

Even the smallest fragment of history can be meaningful and when we rediscover it at a later date, we understand that we have changed.

This is the power of the written word.

The Free University of Autobiography, the National Diary Archive Foundation, the Tovaglia a Quadri community theatre event… Why do you think so many organisations and events about personal stories were founded in this corner of Tuscany?

The Valtiberina has always been a land of borders between different peoples and cultures.

I believe that many new projects and ideas have been created here since they were, and are, able to stimulate the interest and curiosity of the people living here.

Many factors have contributed to this growth: the presence of people like Saverio Tutino and Duccio Demetrio; the authentic welcoming of residents; the irony of the community; and the political organisers’ openness to change.

We could talk for hours about a “Genius loci” that guided the minds and talents in creating so much cultural wealth around memory and autobiography!

The LUA organises a variety of activities: the 3 years long School of Autobiographyand Biography; the Storytelling Summer School; thematic seminars; the Festival of Autobiography; and now the Memory Route, which combines storytelling, memory, sustainability and travel.

Hundreds of people attend these activities, keen to learn the art of autobiographical writing and to hear authoritative voices from Italy and abroad in the field of autobiographical and biographical studies. Autobiographical writing is an indispensable method for self-awareness, the enhancement of memories, and the development of different ways of thinking.

LUA offers the possibility of short workshops and seminars on specific themes.

You can find out more about the LUA experience here or organize a custom tour in English here.

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