When book conservators Jenny Jarvis and Alessandro Scola first arrived in Derry to work on a Lottery funded project to restore old diocesan records, little did they know they would find love amid some of the city’s most precious tomes.
Jenny, from Virgina in the USA and Alessandro, from Milan in Italy didn’t realise that once ensconsed in the North West of Ireland they would fall in love not only with their newly adopted city but also with each other.
Now the pair are set to marry tomorrow at a romantic ceremony in Derry’s Guildhall followed by a lunch for family and friends in Harry’s restaurant, Bridgend.
First to arrive in Derry almost three years ago, Jenny was appointed to work as Project Director and Chief Conservator. She was then involved in interviewing Alessandro, who had been working close to Milan before the job opportunity came up with the University of Ulster.
“I remember thinking the boss was cute,” Alessandro said of his interview and Jenny admits he made a good impression in return. “Everyone else was dressed very formally. He came in, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt and a light jacket and just seemed so comfortable in himself.”
“Even if I my English was not very good.” Alessandro said. The pair admit they were lucky to be thrown together - and credited this to the rareness of their chosen profession. “Jobs in conserving books are rare,” Jenny said, “so this was a great opportunity. It is a brilliant collection, mostly old 17th and 18th century leather bound material with some dating back before then. We had both moved around to find work before coming here for the three year project.”
Jenny admits she had heard negative reports about Derry before her arrival - and found her first visit to Shantallow Library, where the conservation project is based, a ‘wee bit intimidating’.“Everything was closed when we arrived and there were shutters everywhere. I wasn’t at all sure about what I was doing.”
But both Jenny and Alessandro soon acclimatised to life in Derry and said they have made many friends both in and outside of the project they are working on. They are looking forward to showing off Derry to their parents and siblings who will be flying in to attend their wedding but the pair will only have a few weeks together as a married couple before Jenny returns to America. “Alessandro will be staying on to complete the project here before joining me in the States in time for Christmas,” Jenny said.