Memoirs

The Ides of March: A Novel

by Thornton Wilder

In this inventive narrative, the Caesar of history becomes Caesar the human being. The Ides of March, first published in 1948, is a brilliant epistolary novel set in Julius Caesar’s Rome. Thornton Wilder called it “a fantasia on certain events and persons of the last days of the Roman republic.” Wilder also resurrects the controversial figures surrounding Caesar — Cleopatra, Catullus, Cicero, and others. All Rome comes crowding through these pages — the Rome of villas and slums, beautiful women and brawling youths, spies and assassins. Through vividly imagined letters and documents, Wilder brings to life a dramatic period of world history and one of history’s most magnetic, elusive personalities.

 

Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria

by Mark Rotella (Author)

The jacket copy defines PW Forecasts editor Rotella’s narrative as a “model travelogue,” but it’s much more. Even without a conventional conflict and plot, the author’s intensity and personal commitment to a country and its inhabitants cast a spell. Anecdotes range from comedic-a long unseen relative scolds Rotella’s father, “Thirty years and you don’t write!” – to curiously romantic, as when the author’s wedding ring slips off his finger while swimming and a “crazy aunt” exclaims, “That’s good luck. Now you will have to return!” Descriptions of delicacies such as soppressata, capicola, fettucine and rag – simmered with pepperoni incite a desire to be there just for the luscious, succulent meals, supporting Rotella’s belief that you simply can’t get a bad meal in Italy. Calabria is a particularly vivid character; readers learn how much the region has been through: spoiled by drought, destroyed by earthquakes and plundered by barons and kings. Rotella points out the effects of Mafia control in Bianca, a small, decrepit city, and the economic destruction it causes, without belaboring or stereotyping the Italian-Mafia connection. Playful moments are equally memorable, detailing petty fig heists from trees belonging to unknown farmers. Such likable protagonists as Rotella’s loving father, his wife, and guide Giuseppe are woven unobtrusively through the tale of a culture that counts among its children Tony Bennett, Phil Rizzuto and Stanley Tucci. The book is a love letter, and Rotella reinforces that feeling when he writes, “I am a romantic. With each trip back to Calabria, I’ve felt myself becoming not only more Calabrese but more Italian.” Readers, whether Italian or not, will find themselves captivated by so much meticulously drawn history and enchanting terrain.

“Italian-Americans of a new generation are discovering their homeland, and they could not ask for a better guide than Mark Rotella.” – Gay Talese

“The author’s intensity and personal commitment to a country and its inhabitants cast a spell . . . Readers, whether Italian or not, will find themselves captivated.” – Publishers Weekly

“Evocative, beautifully rendered travelogue/memoir by Publishers Weekly editor Rotella, recounting his adventures in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot and the land of his ancestry…” – Kirkus Reviews

“Calabria deserves to be discovered and Mark Rotella is an enthusiastic and compassionate guide, traveling from the top to the toe of this least-known region of Italy to uncover the people, the food and the folk traditions that make up his Calabrian heritage.” – Mary Taylor Simeti

Coins in the Fountain: A Midlife Escape to Rome

by Judith Works

With middle age looming, Judith Works decided it was time for a change. But after graduating from law school at the age of 47, she still faced the question “What now?” Casual conversations about far-off travels with husband Glenn became a reality with the offer of a dream job at the United Nations in Rome, Italy. Coins in the Fountain brings to life the challenges of acclimating to the beautiful and chaotic ancient city of Rome. Works shares her struggles of learning the arcane rules and folkways of the UN while Glenn begins his valiant effort to cook Italian-style, as they both endeavor to embrace la dolce vita. With an extraordinary count and countess for friends, dogs in the doctor’s office, snakes and unexploded bombs on the golf course, along with a sinking sailboat, the unexpected was always just around the corner. Through wit, wry humor, and enticing descriptions of food and travel adventures, Works takes you on a journey into the heart of what it is truly like to live in the Eternal City. According to Roman lore, if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the famous Trevi Fountain, the gods will grant you a return trip. When it was time for them to leave, Works made that hopeful toss of a coin and her wish was granted.

Poland’s Daughter: How I Met Basia, Hitchhiked to Italy, and Learned About Love, War, and Exile

by Daniel Ford

For Poland, the Second World War began in September 1939 when Hitler’s army invaded from the west, and Stalin’s from the east. Among their victims was a five-year-old named Basia Deszberg, whose father and brother were shot by the Russians in the Katyn Forest massacres. Meanwhile she, her sister, and their mother were loaded into a cattle car for a horrific three-week journey to the steppes of Kazakhstan, there to survive as best they could. Over the next eight years, Basia would escape through Persia, Lebanon, and Egypt to safe haven in England. Meanwhile, Daniel Ford grew up in a United States mired by the Great Depression. But eventually, Europe’s agony was America’s windfall. Dan went from hardscrabble poverty to a fellowship that took him to the English university where Basia was also a student. This is the story of their meeting, their travels, and their parting. “An extraordinary book, highly original, gripping, at once full of joy and of sorrow.” (Irene Tomaszewski, Cosmopolitan Review, March 2014).

Coffee, Chianti and Caravaggio: One Man’s Love Affair with La Bella Italia

by Robert Noble Graham

A masterwork of Italian rambling. Those who have rambled with Robert through Cuba and Spain already know what to expect, but Italy is more so. Robert rambles through great sites of Rome and Venice of course, but finding a special meal on the exclusive beach of Portofino or listening to woodworm digest a bed in the Chianti hills take a special mastery. Whether getting lost on the tourist road from Bologna or crossing to Capri with a Mafia don, Robert rambles through history, language and gastronomy as readily as the back streets of Naples for delight, color and discovery. Who did Caravaggio kill and who killed him? What did Tiberius get up to in Villa Jovis? Why are car crashes in Naples more democratic than anywhere else? How can one man who so easily loses himself when travelling be so good at finding unique, memorable companions? Sometimes alone, sometimes in company, Robert’s tales give you more color, romance and knowledge of Italy than many an expensive visit will provide. Whether you wish to laugh, marvel or learn, this book will meet the need.

The Vatican Pimpernel: The World War II Exploits of the Monsignor Who Saved Over 6,500 Lives

by Brian Fleming

During the German occupation of Rome from 1942 to 1944, Irishman Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty ran an escape organization for Allied POWs and civilians, including Jews. Safe within the Vatican state, he regularly ventured out in disguise to continue his mission, which earned him the nickname “the Pimpernel of the Vatican.” When the Allies entered Rome, he and his collaborators – priests, nuns, and laypeople of numerous nationalities and religious beliefs – had saved the lives of over 6,500 people. The first new telling of this extraordinary story in decades, this book also addresses the fascinating dichotomy between O’Flaherty and Herbert Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome who ordered him killed, and who, after the war, reconciled with the monsignor, and even asked him to perform his baptism. For his heroic efforts, O’Flaherty was awarded the highest honors, including a Congressional Medal, and was the first Irishman named the Notary of the Holy Office. His story was immortalized in the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black, which starred Gregory Peck as O’Flaherty.

The Harry’s Bar Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from the World-Famous Venice Bar and Restaurant

by Harry Cipriani

There is only one Harry’s Bar. Located on Venice’s Calle Vallaresso, near the Piazza San Marco, this legendary restaurant has been, for five decades, the meeting place for artists, writers, royalty, maestros, divas, celebrities, the very rich, and lots of ordinary – but very wise – Americans and Europeans. Everyone from the Windsors and the Onassises and the Burtons to Cole Porter; Ernest Hemingway, and Joan Crawford has come here for great food, fine drinks, and the incomparable ambiance. Now, to the delight of his legions of customers, Arrigo Cipriani shares his favorite stories about Harry’s Bar and its secrets–and reveals for the first time his treasured recipes for the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Harry’s Bar above all, is a bar. Its distinctive mixed drinks were created by its founder, Arrigo’s father, Giuseppe Cipriani, and they remain the social center of the establishment. Therefore, you’ll find careful instructions for making the world-famous Bellini (the frosty, frothy combination of rose-colored peach elixir and Prosecco, the Italian champagne) and the secret of making the Montgomery, named by Hemingway himself, which is nothing less than the driest, most delicious martini in the world. Harry’s Bar is also famous for its sandwiches–mouth-watering, overstuffed, unique concoctions: pale yellow egg sandwiches spiked with anchovies; chunks of freshly poached chicken or shrimp bound with creamy, newly made mayonnaise. The Harry’s Bar club sandwich is a legend in itself, knife-and fork food that’s simply superb. But the bar’s famous risottos and the dozens of pasta dishes – including ravioli, cannelloni, and tagliolini –are the house specialties. Potato gnocchi and simple country food such as polenta, squid, baccalà, and beans are transformed into elegant dishes by skillful chefs. Cipriani also invented the sublime dish known as carpaccio and the glorious risotto alla primavera, brilliant ideas that have been imitated all over the world. The original recipes appear here for the first time. The secret of Harry’s Bar is not only its great drinks and magnificent food, but also its extraordinary atmosphere, in which high spirits pour forth happily. Arrigo Cipriani captures this spirit and tradition, and delivers it all in his own inimitable style. The Harry’s Bar Cookbook is much more than a cookbook: it’s an enduring experience to be savored and enjoyed.

Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love

by Justine van der Leun

Readers will delight in this tale of an urbanite who leaves her magazine job to move to Collelungo, Italy, population: 200. There, in the ancient city center of a historic Umbrian village, she sets up house with the enticing local gardener she met on vacation only weeks earlier. This impulsive decision launches an eye-opening series of misadventures when village life and romance turn out to be radically different from what she had imagined.

My Father’s Daughter: From Rome to Sicily

by Gilda Morina Syverson

In My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily, we are captivated by a trilogy travel adventure with ancient sites of Rome contrasting the landscape of a picturesque countryside, seaside villages of Sicily, and olive trees in the valley of Mount Etna. This Novello Literary Award Book Finalist exudes passion, eloquence, heartfelt language, and ancestral roots. Reader discussion questions are included for book clubs, reading groups and libraries.

My Italian Bulldozer: A Novel

by Alexander McCall Smith

From the best-selling author come a hilarious new stand-alone novel about one man’s misadventures in travel and romance in the Italian countryside. When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already overdue cookbook, he expects it to be the perfect escape from stressful city life. But when he arrives, things quickly take a turn for the worse. His hired car is nowhere to be found, and with no record of a reservation at the car-rental counter and no other cars available, it appears that Paul will be stuck at the airport—that is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative: a bulldozer. With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts, and so begins a series of laugh-out-loud adventures as he trundles through the Tuscan countryside. A story of unexpected circumstances and making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm and witty read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.