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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.

Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village

by Cesare Zavattini, Paul Strand (Photographer)

In 1953 the renowned American photographer Paul Strand, who was then living in France, suggested to Italian screenwriter Cesare Zavattini that they do a book together about a small town in Italy, a town that would reveal the spirit of a people. Strand asked Zavattini to choose a village with the elusive “special quality” he sought. Zavattini knew just such a village: his own birthplace of Luzzara, in the Po Valley. The collaboration of these two remarkable artists resulted in the classic book Un Paese. Published in Italian in 1955, and now available for the first time in the English language, Un Paese captures in photographs and in spoken testimony the essential experience of daily life in Luzzara. It presents a series of intense portraits, graceful landscapes, and images of everyday objects. Paul Strand’s photographs are carefully distilled, deeply powerful; they contain the flavors and the rhythms of an entire culture crystallized in a single village. Zavattini successfully synthesizes text and image, aligning with the new cinematic trend of the day, a movement known as Neorealismo. Their Luzzara is an ordinary village, neither overly picturesque nor greatly unusual, yet it is a town sustained by a grounded humanity and a profound love for the land by its people.

Bologna Mia: Memories from the Kitchen of Italy

by Loretta Paganini

Loretta Paganini had the good fortune to be raised in Bologna, the kitchen of Italy, by two generations of Italian chefs. In Bologna Mia, she has gathered together over 90 of her family’s treasured recipes, each one evoking vivid memories of the kitchens she spent time in during her childhood. Each of these recipes comes with a story. Paganini shares with us her paternal grandmother’s famed pasta recipes (Paganini believes it was her magical tortelloni that helped her to charm her husband), the wisdom of her maternal grandmother’s delicate hands, and the recipes for her mother’s Cordon Bleu award-winning specialty pastries, tortes and appetizers…. The Bolognese are known for having a knack for taking simple ingredients and combining them to create uniquely flavorful dishes. In Bologna Mia, Paganini captures the exciting flavor of the Bolognese culture, the incredible flavor of its dishes, as well as the passion her family feels for food.

Top Ten Sights: Bologna

by Mark Jones (editor)

This is the ultimate guide to a fascinating city, giving you the background and history on the top ten attractions. We focus on the essentials; there are ten chapters of text, one on each attraction, all written by our team of experienced travel writers. With so many different monuments, historical sights, restaurants, shops bars and nightlife to see, make sure that you experience the best of everything Bologna has to offer, and don’t miss a thing – Top Ten Sights: Bologna is the only guide you need!

Not in a Tuscan Villa

by John Petralia & Nancy Petralia

What happens if you decide to make a dream come true? Newly retired and looking for more than a vacation, John and Nancy Petralia intrepidly pack a few suitcases and head to the “perfect” Italian city. Within days their dream becomes a nightmare. After residing in two Italian cities, negotiating the roads and healthcare, discovering art, friends, food, and customs, the Petralias learn more than they anticipate–about Italy, themselves, what it means to be American, and what’s important in life. Part memoir, part commentary, quirky and sincere, Not in a Tuscan Villa is about having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and do something challenging in later life. The adventure recaptures the Petralia’s youth, rekindles their romance–and changes their lives forever.

The Tallest Tower: A Novel Set In Medieval Italy

by Kelvin Hughes

This is a story of ruthless ambition, of a passionate and forbidden love and, most of all, the story of the tallest tower ever built in the city of Bologna. A marriage is arranged between Fabio Richi and Giulietta Catalani and the families agree to build two towers, almost within touching distance, to represent the union. The wedding date is set for Christmas Day 1222 and so the race is on to get both towers completed in time. Bologna is a prosperous city state, its skyline cluttered with strange towers built by all the leading families. Signore Leonardo Richi decides that his tower will be the tallest and appoints the city’s leading architect to take control of the build. He also has plans to take over control of the City Council and has the help of his evil Protector, Massimo Marinelli. His main rival is his own brother Cardinale Pietro, the Bishop of Bologna. Bologna is suddenly sent into decline by a series of earthquakes and successive poor harvests. When the population is on the verge of starvation, the people look for a strong leader to help them survive and to restore the city to its former glory. Which of the Richi brothers will emerge to fill the power vacuum? Then, as her wedding approaches, Giulietta finds herself falling in love with Luca the son of the builder in charge of the Catalani Tower. How can she marry Fabio Richi when her heart belongs to another?

Back to Bologna (Aurelio Zen)

by Michael Dibdin

Back to Bologna is dazzlingly plotted, features a cast of vivid and idiosyncratic characters, and delivers both comic and serious insights into the realities of today’s Italy. When the corpse of the shady industrialist who owns the local football team is found both shot and stabbed with a Parmesan knife, Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen is called to Bologna to oversee the investigation. Recovering slowly from surgery, and fleeing an equally painful crisis in his personal life, Zen is only too happy to take on what at first appears to be a routine and relatively undemanding assignment. But soon a world-famous university professor is shot with the same gun, immediately after publicly humiliating Italy’s leading celebrity television chef, and the case – intertwined with the fates of an earnest student of semiotics and a mysterious young immigrant who claims to be from Ruritania – spins out of control, and Zen is in no condition to rise to the challenge. There’s also a wild card in the pack, Tony Speranza, Bologna’s most flamboyant private detective.

Almost Blue

by Carlo Lucarelli

A serial killer is terrorizing the people of Bologna and rookie Detective Inspector Grazia Negro is determined to solve the case. She only has one witness who can identify the killer – and he is blind. Simone spends his nights listening to Chet Baker and scanning the radio waves of the city, eavesdropping on other people’s lives. He imagines what people are like – based on the ‘color’ of their voice – and his acute hearing sets alarm bells ringing when he tunes in to the killer. Together Simone and Negro are the only people able to stop the killer, before he closes in on Simone. From the diverse perspectives of the detective, the blind Simone and the killer, Lucarelli, master of Italian noir, weaves a gripping thriller.

A Small Place in Italy


Amazon reader’s review: “I’ve read: Under the Tuscan Sun, Extra Virgin …, An Italian Affair, In Maremma: Life and a House in Southern Tuscany, Italian Neighbors and I’m on my way to start reading Pasquale’s Nose: Idle Days in an Italian Town. I started reading these types of books when I got lonely for Italy after visiting in November of 2001. I just finished A Small Place in Italy. Each of these books have something special in it that I enjoyed reading about. I really enjoyed reading about the person Attilio. Attilio came with the house when they purchased this house in Italy — he had his own secret room. I enjoyed reading about how they hired their local tradesmen to renovate and repair this house. I hope I never run out of these types of books to read. I do plan to return to visit Italy, it would be a joy to visit some of these small towns.”

Biba’s Taste of Italy: Recipes from the Homes, Trattorie and Restaurants of Emilia-Romagna

by Biba Caggiano (Author)

It’s been more than 40 years since Biba Caggiano came to America from her home in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and she still yearns for the luscious food that has earned the region a coveted spot on the culinary map. Long an accomplished author, television cooking-show host, and restaurateur, Caggiano still finds a constant source of inspiration in the cooking of her homeland–from the rich stuffed pasta dishes and complex ragus of Emilia to the simple grilled fish dishes and lusty brodettos (seafood stews) of Romagna.

Biba’s Taste of Italy is a fascinating culinary tour of Caggiano’s beloved region. In chapters on every course from antipasti to dolci, Caggiano introduces readers to the succulent dishes of the area and paints a vivid portrait of both the food and the people. Her salty-sweet Eggplant Parmigiano stars the region’s own Parma ham and Bolognese sausage; Seafood Risotto recalls the irresistible bounty of the Adriatic sea that laps the shores of Romagna; and the trademark of Emilia-Romagna cooking–stuffed pasta–appears frequently in dishes like Squash Ravioli with Squab Ragu and Balsamic Vinegar and Cannelloni with Meat Stuffing. In the spirit of the region’s small villages, Caggiano offers recipes for unassuming dishes like Roasted, Marinated, and Skewered Eel, in which the delicately sweet flavor of this unusual fish is expertly balanced with the simple yet robust flavors of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, fresh sage, and pancetta. Roasted Stuffed Breast of Veal is a truly classic Emilian dish, and Caggiano’s version–stuffed with a mixture of sautéed vegetables, Parmigiano, nutmeg, and eggs, then roasted golden brown with a crisp crust–is among the most delectable. Desserts run the gamut from the light, delicious Chestnut-Ricotta Fritters to the dense, sweet Honey-Walnut-Raisin Pie to a refreshing Strawberry Gelato. The clear, easy-to-follow instructions accompanying each recipe make the book a joy to cook from and the beautiful page design makes it a pleasure to peruse. A brief chapter on the wines of the region and another on Where to Eat in Emilia-Romagna make the book complete.