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A Drury University Teacher’s Summers in Italy

For 17 years, Jackie Warren has traveled back and forth between teaching in Springfield at Drury University and vacationing in her villa in Italy during the summer.

By Jackie Warren as told to Caroline Mund

Sep 2021

Italian villa
Photo courtesy Jackie WarrenJackie Warren, professor at Drury University, spends her summers off at her villa in Italy.

I had a study abroad program for Drury, and I started it with a colleague in architecture. We always came to Florence because of the fact that it was kind of in the center for art and architecture for the students. About 10 years into doing it every summer, this little 13th century house came on the market so my girlfriend [who lives in San Francisco] and I took about 10 minutes to decide we’re gonna buy it together. And that was in 2004. It’s been a delight because everyone in the village is really close; we’re all friends.  

The gardens here are just incredible. There’s a certain amount of things that you just have to let go wild because otherwise the Italians kind of frown at the fact that you’re trying to curb too much of their nature. It’s against the Italian law to build new construction so everything we have done here has to blend with the old. It’s all completely coordinated and in harmony. 

It’s funny because the first time a professor in art history walked into my house in Springfield she said, “Oh, I can tell you live in Italy,” and I looked around and I thought, well, what does that mean? I think it’s because I love art and antiques together and I like contemporary things too and Italians are like masters at design. So, I really love putting contemporary design and then antiques, shapes and furnishings together and blending them and so that’s probably why my house in Springfield looks Italian.

Studio inside vila
Photo courtesy Jackie WarrenWarren's at-home painting studio in her Italian villa is the perfect spot to find endless inspiration for her artwork throughout the summer. Purchase Photo
Girl sits in chair or studi
Photo courtesy Jackie WarrenFor the remaining nine months out of the year, Warren spends her time in her studio at Drury. Purchase Photo
Wild flowers growing
Photo courtesy Jackie WarrenWarren allows the plants to grow uninhibited around the villa because many Italians prefer for nature to be allowed to grow wildly. Purchase Photo

The narrative of things is really important to me, so when I buy something I really like to know where it came from, who made it, that kind of thing. I’m very much interested in the story behind the furnishings that I live with. Everything we have found either was made or crafted here in some century. I have a lot of pieces that are from the 1800s. But I also have things that were made by the local artisans who live around here, like all of our doors and shutters were handmade by a guy that lives in the village close by. A lot of the interior has beams in the rooms that are made from chestnut. Because we are up on the top of the mountain, we have panoramic views.

I’m sitting in the kitchen right now at a table that’s probably 300 years old. It opens or you can fold it in half and it’s all handmade. You can use it just like a regular table so it’s like a 6-foot table or you can open it up and it’s a 12-foot table. I love that table; it’s very rare to find them. 

It’s usually my family: my husband, daughter and me. Then we usually trade off with my friend in San Francisco. They never liked being here in the summer; they like to come in the fall and early spring because they don’t like hot weather. I love summer so I always come in the summer. You’re allowed three months under Italian law without having a green card. So three months is our limit and it has always just been enough.