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Ispirazione: Of Dreams, Miracles and Sketching Tours

On Italophilia I’m pleased to welcome Kelly Medfort an artist who owns Sketching Rome Tours! Kelly will be sharing her journey of learning Italian and also the concept of sketching tours in Rome- an unusual way of spending time in the eternal city. Sketching Tours in Rome are a unique way of slowing down and enjoying travels in Rome. There’s no prior experience required, all you have to do is simply book a tour and paint your way in the Eternal City!


So tell us Kelly! How did Italy happen?? What made you think of choosing Italy??

Even though I am an artist I never thought or dreamt of moving to Italy to paint. I was studying in the U.S. and apprenticing to a painter and his wife who ever summer traveled to Italy to paint landscapes and stay with their friends in a castle on a hill in Tuscany, just outside the town of Anghiari. 

Since I was the apprentice they offered for me to join in for a month of landscape painting, of which I had little to no experience, I always painted still lives and such in the studio. Of course I said yes, what a magical opportunity it was and what I did not know is that it would change the entire course of my life! Now, I did not speak one single word of Italian and that did not deter me, so off I went.

I stayed in a cheap hostel in Piazza Vittorio. At the end of our course and time painting together my painting teacher suggested that I apply to a small private atelier in Florence called the Florence Academy of Art. When I got back to the US, I got a phone call, it was The Florence Academy. Apparently they had an opening, but I had to be there for class to start on January 2nd.
I said I would be there, having in reality no idea how I would get there.

As a student I had no money to speak of, much less to fly, live and study in Florence, Italy. The next day I went to the study abroad office at my university and asked about any possible grants or scholarships. They told me that almost no one had applied to study abroad, so if I filled out the paperwork I could have a full year’s grant to study anywhere in the world. This included my airfare, tuition, living expenses, everything.

Nothing short of a miracle!!

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Did you know any Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??

January 1st 2005 I moved to Italy and never looked back. I had started to take some Italian lessons, but still could by no means communicate with anyone about anything really, it was slightly disheartening, but I was not worried. 

After a year I still spoke very little Italian. I had to decide what to do, so I decided to stay in Italy and to paint. I wanted to see Italy, to meet real Italians, to learn more about the people, language, food, culture, everything I had missed out on during my intense year of study with people from everywhere but Italy. 

So I invented a (sort of) plan. My plan was to work as an artist’s model and to spend every other free moment painting. But this time I was going to take my easel outside and paint so that I could see Italy, interact with Italians. I realized that in Italy all of life and everything that happens is outdoors in the streets, the shops, markets and piazzas. I moved to the countryside where absolutely no one spoke English and studied my conjugation book of Italian verbs like it was my new bible.

I made a complete fool of myself more times than I could possibly count. Luckily Italians are kind and compassionate, each individual that I interacted with helped me to learn a little bit more each day by gently correcting and encouraging me to keep speaking with them in Italian. When I moved back to the city of Florence I decided to take an actual Italian class and private lessons weekly.

My Italian began to improve and I could have actual conversations about menial but important things like how I would like my coffee (a highly individualized affair in Italy).


What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??

Over the years I have had many Italian roommates, a couple of Italian boyfriends, worked with and made mostly Italian friends. The best way I found to learn Italian is:

  1. By doing activities which give you a whole new set of vocabulary. For instance I took swimming lessons, joined the Rome urban sketchers group and went on guided tours in Italian or took any kind of classes if at all possible in Italian.
  2. I helped Italian friends translate documents into English so that I can learn more Italian.
  3. I went to networking mixers with Italians. Not only is it a great way to make new Italian friends, but also the way to keep expanding your vocabulary.
  4. Another amazing way to learn Italian is if you have a dog! Everyone else with a dog will talk to you and ask you first about your dog and then about you, that’s how I made a few friends who even invited me out for pizza.

What people don’t tell you, or what I never understood until I was here in Italy is that learning a language is not just learning how to string words together in the right order along with the correct verb conjugation. But in learning a language you have to learn so much more in order to know what people are talking about!!

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Absolutely agree and what an inspiring story, Kelly! After hearing it, all I can say is that miracles do happen, never give up and keep following your dreams!!

Follow Kelly on Instagram, Facebook and do check her Sketching Tours when in Rome!!

Further Reading:

47 Comments

  • tierneycreates
    March 29, 2018 at 1:42 am

    Fantastic story – thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      March 29, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks so much 🙂

      Reply
  • nexi
    March 28, 2018 at 3:39 am

    Reblogged this on Time Nexus and commented:
    Old post, up to date links & website…

    Reply
    • Ishita
      May 9, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for reposting!!

      Reply
  • […] Ispirazione: Of Dreams, Miracles and Sketching Tours […]

    Reply
  • thewonderer86
    November 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I love stories like this – people who have the courage to go for what they want. Beautiful.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 21, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Me too <3 Kelly is a huge inspiration!

      Reply
  • Calysta Hannah
    November 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Nice blog 😊

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks Calysta 🙂

      Reply
  • Meenakshi
    November 5, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Must say that this is inspiring.Glad to know about Kelly through this interview.I am reminded of a book that I reviewed last year-‘Rambles into Sacred Realms’ where the writer describes every place he visits through his paintings.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 5, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks Meenakshi. It is a wonderful story of a person living their dreams unexpectedly. I will check this book

      Reply
  • pamelaallegretto
    November 4, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Wonderful interview! My compliments!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

      🙂 she is such a lovely lady

      Reply
  • bellacibo72
    November 3, 2017 at 8:28 am

    This is so nice! You are such a good writer 💖

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks So much cara 🙂

      Reply
  • karenincalabria
    November 2, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Very nice story. It’s always wonderful to hear about and from people with a passion.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      Very inspiring no?? Yes 🙂

      Reply
  • thebookwormdiaries
    November 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Truly inspiring! Shows that hard work and perseverance never goes in vain. ❤

    Reply
    • Ishita
      November 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks so much 🙂 absolutely

      Reply
  • amindfultravellerblog
    October 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Never give up indeed. Great interview love. Very talented. I can see my daughter doing something like this when she gets older with her passion for art! How wonderful. Xx

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 31, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      🙂 Wish her all the best!! x

      Reply
  • Anuradha Goyal
    October 31, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Those are some nice tips on learning languages. I think just by throwing yourself in the new place you start learning the languages just like we learned our first language as kids. I am intrigued by the Sketching Tours – they would be great to take – one will have to look very intently at the scene one is trying to sketch and it would be a relaxed activity at the same time.
    Ishita, did you take a tour with Kelly? If yes, please do share your experience.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 31, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      I agree Anuradha 🙂 Great tips and ways of relaxing. The Sketching tours are the first of the kind I have heard. Unfortunately I couldn’t take the tour but only meet up for a good plate of pasta 🙂 Next time!

      Reply
  • Kelly
    October 31, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Beautiful art and love the miracle story!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 31, 2017 at 9:58 am

      Thanks Kelly. I would love a sketching tour with her in Rome one day

      Reply
  • Tony
    October 31, 2017 at 9:48 am

    What an amazing experience! I wish I had studied abroad in college, it makes me wonder how different my life could have been. Oh well, better late than never to the bel paese. Maybe someday I will have my own adventure/experience about living in Italy to share too! Great interview!

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

      I feel the same! I wish there was more exposure and awareness about courses for short term travel and study. Kelly’s life story is so astounding!

      Reply
  • Lyn Douglas
    October 31, 2017 at 7:30 am

    What a fabulous story. How often do you get an opportunity like this. Wonderful

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 31, 2017 at 8:52 am

      I know right?? <3 so so amazing for her!

      Reply
  • brilliantviewpoint
    October 30, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Wonderful story. Question – How was she able to stay in Italy? Through a school VISA or a work VISA?

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 30, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      If you see in the first and second questions, she has explained how she got the chance to visit Italy and return 🙂 Visa details are not mentioned but if you want to know I can ask?

      Reply
      • brilliantviewpoint
        October 31, 2017 at 1:36 am

        Yes, I saw that she was able to go through school, but then she said she “stayed longer,” so that is why I wonder HOW she was able to do that. Did the school “extend” her stay?

        Reply
        • Ishita
          October 31, 2017 at 8:54 am

          I am unable to comment so many details without asking her permission. I hope you understand

          Reply
          • brilliantviewpoint
            October 31, 2017 at 9:00 am

            Of course, I was just “curious” if you had known this… not important to ask her. 🙂

            Reply
            • Ishita
              October 31, 2017 at 9:00 am

              Its good to be curious 🙂 She will reply herself

              Reply
              • brilliantviewpoint
                October 31, 2017 at 9:03 am

                That’s fine… it’s not necessary. GLAD she was able to go abroad and fun that it has to do with art. Florence, where my mother was born and raised, is “the” place to learn art. 🙂

              • Ishita
                October 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

                How wonderful. You must be visiting often, or do you stay there?

              • brilliantviewpoint
                October 31, 2017 at 10:02 am

                Smiling… now you are the curious one. 🙂 I visit often, family there.

              • Ishita
                October 31, 2017 at 10:05 am

                haha yes 😛 How cool is that. Florence is such a great city

              • brilliantviewpoint
                October 31, 2017 at 10:22 am

                Yes, my mother has made us very proud of our heritage – art, music, food, vineyards, cypress trees, architecture, jewelry, fashion, leather, architecture and more — it’s very beautiful! 🙂

              • Ishita
                October 31, 2017 at 10:51 am

                She is rightly so 🙂

  • sherylmcdougald
    October 30, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    I had seen things about Kelly through sketching sources… so great to read your interview! I always dream of sketching in Florence – and right now until January there is the most fabulous show of Renaissance art on at the Palazzo Strozzi! Almost every waking moment I am mulling over how to get there……

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 30, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      🙂 Thanks Sheryl. It is so cool knowing people like yourselves. I hope you can get there soon. Where are you based??

      Reply
      • sherylmcdougald
        October 30, 2017 at 11:51 pm

        I live in a tiny town called Roberts Creek on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. I wallow in Nature 🙂

        Reply
        • Ishita
          October 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

          Beautiful Sheryl 🙂

          Reply
  • Lisa
    October 30, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Nice interview. It is always helpful to see how other have managed to make their dreams come true – not only the painting but the language.

    Reply
    • Ishita
      October 30, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks Lisa. I am so happy to have found a great set of Italy bloggers and artists who continue to inspire me even from afar.

      Reply

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