By Mariam Polding
On March 23 – 26, a group of 12 Saudis aged 9 to 20 years, accompanied by their mothers, were invited into the world of the Florentine nobility.
Representing Saudi as cultural ambassadors, unofficially, the children spent a week taking etiquette courses, learning about famous Florentine and Italian artists in the birthplace of the Renaissance and were hosted by some of the most important women of Florentine nobility.
This unique and extraordinary experience taught the children a comprehensive grooming in all aspects of international etiquette. The course was designed to enhance their sense of wellbeing and confidence in any given social situation while circulating in polite society. At the conclusion of the course, Duchess Drusilla Gucci presented them with a Certificate of Completion.
The children were enthralled and intrigued by the art history component of the experience. During the private tour of the Uffizi Gallery, they were utterly engaged, listened attentively and enjoyed the exclusive access to the Vasari Corridor, the private passageway of the Medici family.
During the visit to the restoration workshop, the Saudi visitors were captivated when being told the story of the work of art that had been damaged and almost entirely disappeared, but during meticulous restoration it emerged as a Caravaggio.
They were warmly hosted and invited into the private homes of many women of the Italian aristocracy: Princess Giorgiana Corsini, Marchesa Ludovica Lucifero, Contessa Simonetta Brandolini ‘d Adda, Duchess Drusilla Gucci and her daughter Domitilla, Marchesa Vittoria Gondi and Marchesa Bona Frescobaldi.
Princess Corsini showed them her stunning gardens in the heart of Florence complete with lemon trees and statues dating from 200AD. Marchesa Bona enjoyed learning about Saudi culture and customs while bonding with the children, while Duchess Drusilla Gucci shared her family photo album with pictures of herself alongside her late husband traveling the globe for Gucci flagship openings and dining with Jerry Lewis and Jacques Chirac, among many others.
“This has been one of my best trips ever, and I can summarize it in three main points:
1. Bonding with my daughter.
2. Cultural/educational on all levels, from visiting the historical sites, the different villas and their owners to the personal interaction with one another and everyone else we met.
3. Fun fun fun!” — Arij Mutabagani