Italy ‘reading party’ for our Postgraduate Scholars

Apr 3, 2023 | Announcements, News & Media, PG News

03 April 2023: Four days of intensive study, no tech, just community-building, texts and friendship in a beautiful Italian villa.

That was the promise of the recent ‘reading party’ hosted by the Oxford-based Canterbury Institute, which three of our Ramsay Postgraduate Scholars had the privilege of participating in last month.

The Canterbury Institute is an independent centre for research and learning at Oxford, which aims for ‘rediscovery of the academic vocation through truth and humility’.

Chelsea Wallis, Jonathan Tjandra and Fr Josephy Murphy all attended its March Italy study retreat, which took place at Villa Palazzola, set in the hills south of Rome, high up above the extinct volcanic Lago Albano.

Their involvement follows our UK-based scholars’ increasing ties to the Institute, with many joining as ‘Middle Readers’ participating in academic seminars, reading groups, study days, conferences and study retreats.

Chelsea Wallis is undertaking a DPhil in Law at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall. Her research focuses on the role of human rights law in addressing domestic abuse. Chelsea wrote this reflection on the reading party:

Canterbury Reading Party: March 2023 at the Villa Palazzola on Lago Albano, Italy 

“Following a busy Hilary Term, a number of Oxford-based Ramsay Scholars had the privilege of joining the termly Reading Party hosted by the Canterbury Institute. A highlight of the Institute’s calendar, this trip enabled over thirty Middle Reader and Senior Reader members of Canterbury to come together for four days of intensive study, punctuated with visits to local sites of interest and evenings of musical and literary divertissement. Richly enjoyed by all those in attendance, the Hilary reading party was both peaceful and productive, proving that thinking and reflection is best practised in community with fellow scholars, united by a commitment to deep academic study. 

The location of Villa Palazzola – on an isolated outcrop directly above Lago Albano and ensconced amid the richly forested hills in which mythology informs us Alba Longa was once located and in which Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf – provided scholars with pastoral as well as intellectual vistas. The villa’s Roman, medieval and twentieth-century histories proved a source of fascination, as did the ancient hermit caves and labyrinthine stone passages between parts of the villa, and the terraces from which wild boar could be glimpsed foraging on the hills. Meal-times in the Villa’s refectory (graced by wall-murals painted by Nazi soldiers during their occupation of the site) provided not only excellent, authentic Italian fare but convivial discourse which traversed disciplinary boundaries and fostered new friendships. 

Excursions to Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence across the lake, and to Rome itself were naturally a highlight of the reading party. Scholars were privileged to hear from historians, classicists and linguists amongst the attendees, and were treated to expert tours of churches and key sites of the ancient Roman Forum. Drenched in glorious Italian sunshine, all members of the reading party returned to Oxford enriched and illumined by the experience and grateful for the opportunity of close study and intellectual engagement that Canterbury so generously provided.”

Interested in joining our growing community of Ramsay Postgraduate Scholars?

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Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/