Travels in Italy

In 1957, Robert Francis travelled to Rome, Italy for a year after being awarded a fellowship by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Letter from Frank Prentice Rand to Robert Francis, September 17, 1957

Letter from Frank Prentice Rand, September 17, 1957

The American Academy in Rome was a very different, and often difficult, experience for Francis compared to his time in Lebanon. He was moving from his one-man home in the woods of Amherst to one of the oldest cities in the Western World, with people all around him speaking a language he did not understand. He realized just how timid he was and this realization changed him. 

At first he spent most of his time at the Academy compound. They provided him with a room, a study, all his meals, access to a large library, and wonderful views of the city from rooftop terraces.

Postcard from Robert Francis to Charles Green, December 31, 1957

Postcard to Charles Green, December 31, 1957

Eventually he began to branch out and became more comfortable sightseeing, shopping, and dining away from the Academy. During visits to area libraries he would search for copies of his friend Robert Frost's work and discovered an essay on Emily Dickinson that he later sent to The Jones Library.  


Letter from Robert Francis to Nonny Burack, December 19, 1967

Letter to Nonny Burack, December 19, 1967

Ten years later, in 1967, Francis was again in Italy for an extended stay having been awarded the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship. He lived in Florence for most of the year, though he travelled to other places in Europe as well. 

This second trip was different for Francis. He wasn't with a cohort of other artists and he felt more at ease with the language. He found, too, that being cut off from the distractions at home allowed him to concentrate on his writing and experiment with new forms of poetry. He also started writing his biography during this trip.