Looking for a good Italian art dictionary

Sasha Stoddard

As much as I’m going to miss the beautiful Amalfi Coast, I’m happy to be back in Florence because now I’m about to embark on yet another adventure. I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off, but this week I start my first job. My first job in a foreign language, which basically makes it feel like my first job ever. It’s hard not to feel a little (or a lot) intimidated.

After a brief and whirlwind style interview, I was told I would start the next day at 9:30 a.m. By the way, when I say “interview,” I mean my Italian internship coordinator rambled off in rapid Italian my name and a few qualifications, I shook the hand of my new boss, he sized me up with a quizzical expression, shrugged his shoulders and said, “va bene.” He told me about the project I would be helping with and that he would see me in the morning – again, all in rapid Italian. Finally my coordinator ushered me out the door, patted me on the back and told me I did a good job.

Once it sank in what had just happened, I realized that I must have been one of the luckiest people in the whole world.

My new job?

The newest intern for one of Florence’s most respected art restoration firms.

My new boss?

I won’t list his name, but apparently he is famous all over Italy for his skill in terra cotta and other ceramic restorations.

The project? Restoring the masterpiece altar of an Italian artist from the 6th century. I can’t believe that they are going to let me touch this thing. They’re trusting me to use an electric chisel on the piece. It’s like using a little jackhammer.


I still can’t believe it.

And now for the challenge: taking all of my instruction, learning all the new techniques, and remembering all of the terms for what I am doing.in Italian.


It almost makes me wish I had been working here from the beginning of my stay instead of “wasting” my time with Italian classes. Guess what they don’t teach you in language school? Words for things like “silicon compound,” or “stoneware clay body” or even just “clay!” Many of you may not be familiar with some of the terms I need to know. In the restoration business, however, terms like this aren’t used occasionally; they are commonplace.

Many other more complicated terms aren’t in my dictionary. YOU try to find an Italian-English dictionary just for art terms! No, really, because if you do I’d like to know about it. I must have checked at least five different bookstores around Florence, and as far as I can tell, a book like that doesn’t exist. I suppose I will just have to stumble through with my newfound hand-gesturing abilities.

Language barrier aside, I am pretty sure this is going to be the coolest job I will ever have – and I’m not getting paid. First of all, my co-workers seem really friendly and happy to have me on board. I’m not sure if this is because I’ll be an extra hand or because they now have an excuse to practice English; either way, I can’t complain. Secondly, (get ready to be jealous) wearing jeans to work isn’t just acceptable; it’s required. And lastly, (even though I’ve already mentioned it), I get to touch pieces of art that are older than any building in my home country. And I don’t just get to handle them — I am expected to fix them, to restore them to their former beauty. I don’t mean to brag, but I am so excited that it’s hard not to boast just a little.

“Awesomeness” aside, I know that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime and one that is sure to make a heck of a splash on my resume. I mean, other than singlehandedly saving some lost work by Michelangelo, I’m not sure what could make me look more interesting to any future employer. I can’t wait to get started.

Now, to figure out the hand gesture for “saline cleansing solution.”


Ciao, y’all,


Endnote: The company I am working for is called Bastioni. Their website address is www.ass-bastioni.com. Check it out if you’re interested. Just be warned, it is all in Italian.