Back to Italy!

It was with excitement and nervousness that I returned to Italy just after the 2023 New Year holiday. Excitement surrounding travel to Europe. Nervousness as I was invited to help teach at the Stecco’s Fascial Manipulation Institute in Padova, Italy. The course was nothing new to me – Fascial Manipulation Level 1, a course I have taught multiple times here in the US. What was different was that this was the International School, and the first time in English. Additionally, I would be working with giants in the organization: Antonio and Carla Stecco.

The Fascial Manipulation International School Padova, Italy January 2023
I was honored to be invited to assist with the first Fascial Manipulation International School in English. Here we are posing in front of the Institute in Padova, Italy. This is a remarkable gathering of clinicians from all over the world who commit to a robust three year curriculum aimed at honing their skills in the Fascial Manipulation-Stecco® method. Of course, there’s a story about those barefoot individuals! Photo by Noemi Nicolucci.

The International School assembles clinicians from all over the world who commit to a rigorous three year program of home study and traveling onsite to Italy multiple times for in-person courses in the Fascial Manipulation-Stecco® method (FM). These courses are not only the standard Levels 1-4, but also additional classes in cadaver anatomy, imaging, and more. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I wish I was enrolled! I salute all those who have made the huge commitment to this. They will surely reap the benefits and so will their patients. Even for me as an instructor it was an incredible four day learning experience as I fine-tuned my understanding of more difficult fascial points, changed the angle of my elbow (sharp as ever), and modified my direction of force.

Photos from the class
Moments from the class. Far left is Hamisi from Kenya, who never wore shoes the whole time – even walking outside in the winter city streets of Padova. In the center are students learning and treating each other. Below center is Brendan from New Hampshire. On the right is me posing with my friends Rima from Dubai and Chris from NYC. Photos by Colleen Whiteford.

When I arrived at the Institute early the first morning I was greeted by Luigi Stecco, the father of the method, and his sweet wife Lena. Folks, you have to understand: these guys are like rock stars to me. I don’t idolize people, but I feel it’s safe to say I was in the presence of giants. They speak no English, but I was honored that they knew my name! This couple has made it their life work to study fascia and its impact on movement, support their theories with research, and disseminate the FM method through countless courses and publications. Lena is extremely humble and it’s tough to get a picture of her, but I did get some of Luigi.

Luigi and Antonio Stecco
The first morning at the Fascial Manipulation Institute International School. On the left is Luigi Stecco with his son, Antonio, setting up before the start of class. On the right is Luigi giving an introductory talk to the class in Italian with Antonio translating. Photos by Colleen Whiteford

I have to admit I was a bit nervous on the first day as I was to demonstrate for the class the evaluation and treatment of a patient using the FM method. This is standard in all classes and I have done it many times. But there were several key differences this time. First, among the 38+ pairs of eyes observing were Carla and Antonio, which was a bit intimidating. Secondly, the patient was very chronic and complex with a 25+ year history of headaches, neck, and shoulder pain. Wonderful. Third, she spoke no English and I spoke no Italian. They put a microphone on me although I really didn’t use it. The patient and Antonio bantered back and forth in Italian. Antonio would translate for all of us, and I felt like I was watching a tennis match as I looked from the patient on my right to Antonio on my left. It was kind of comical. I was doing a lot of praying.

Finally it was time to stop talking and get to work, which crosses all language barriers. I had her move her neck which was painful. I palpated fascial points in the two chosen segments of the neck and scapula, chose my plane, expanded my palpation to other segments, selected the most densified points, and commenced treatment. At the end of it all she had a nice change in neck mobility and pain, and I was praising God!

Antonio and Carla Stecco at the International School
On the left is Dr. Antonio Stecco at the start of the school. On the right is his sister, Dr. Carla Stecco, giving the first lecture of the program. Photos by Colleen Whiteford.

It wasn’t all work, although I never seem to do much sightseeing while there. Part of it is I am typically traveling alone which limits my bravado. Then too it’s a busy, exhausting schedule with full days of classes. But there is time for nice lunches and sometimes dinner out.

Evening in Padova
My first night in Italy I had a lovely evening with my friend and fellow FM teacher, Julie Ann Day, who lives in Italy. I had one of my favorite dishes, carbonera with handmade pasta. We walked around downtown Padova and enjoyed the remaining holiday lights. Photos by Colleen Whiteford.

It was on my mind the whole trip that I wanted to try to find some nice Italian leather boots to replace the ones our dear sweet dog Lizzie destroyed (see my past blog). But time was an issue, and shops were often closed by the time I could get to them. Then on the last morning in Padova I had exactly 30 minutes before I had to catch the 10:00 bus to the airport. The store opened and 9:30 a.m. and the bus stop was across the street from the mall. At 9:40 the shop still wasn’t open (that was 9:30 Italian time), and I was getting ready to bail. Then a gal came sauntering up to the storefront, lifted the gate, and eventually opened for business. I moved fast as I sized up the options, tried on one pair, bought them, and dashed out the door to the bus stop!

On the way home I was routed back through Frankfurt, Germany, where I bought a few gifts including a nice pepperoni stick to bring home to my husband Bill. I also posed for some shots with Albert Einstein, one of my heroes.

When I finally got to Dulles and through U.S customs I was pretty tired but happy. It made my day to see a roaming customs agent with a beagle dog on a leash. They came up to me and the little fella patted my leg with his front paw. “How cute!” I thought. Not exactly. The agent escorted me to the back customs room where they proceeded to confiscate Bill’s pepperoni stick as well as my apple and orange. Lesson learned. Oh well. I still have my boots.

Boots, beagle, Einstein
I was thrilled to be able to find some nice leather boots while in Italy to replace the ones our dog Lizzie destroyed. Speaking of dogs, I was busted by a beagle who sniffed out my pepperoni stick in my bag when going through U.S. customs. While on a brief layover in Frankfurt, Germany, I was able to strike a pose with one of my heroes, Albert Einstein. Photos by Colleen Whiteford, beagle photo accessed at The Points Guy.

It was a great trip, a great experience, and now it’s great to be home. Until the next class!

Wishing you health and joy,


Published by Colleen Murphy Whiteford

I am a physiotherapist, graduate of Saint Louis University Class of 1984. I married my best friend and business partner, Bill, who is also a physiotherapist, in 1988. We have worked together all these years - an example of God's grace! Together we started Appalachian Physical Therapy which continues to thrive. I am a big believer in the power of touch, the manual therapies, and treating holistically. There are many alternatives to medications, surgeries, and testing, but people are often uninformed. My perspective emphasizes the role of the connective tissues including the fascia. Lack of attention to this structure is the source of many physical ailments - our bodies are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! I am passionate about helping people of all ages and diagnoses maximize their health, and empowering them to understand their role in management and prevention of problems.

One thought on “Back to Italy!

  1. So very glad you were able to take this wonderful trip and can you improving your exceptional skills. You all have certainly made an incredible difference in my quality of life and I’m glad you’re able to do the same for others. Keep up the great work! Jane Herr

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