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Under a Sardinian Sky

by Sara Alexander

Set against the beautiful backdrop of post-World War II Sardinia, Sara Alexander’s evocative novel is a sweeping story of star-crossed romance between an American lieutenant and a local girl.

Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most important secrets. For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession. Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh. Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love.

Four Hundred and Forty Steps to the Sea

by Sara Alexander

Nestled into the cliffs in southern Italy’s Amalfi coast, Positano is an artist’s vision, with rows of brightly hued houses perched above the sea and picturesque staircases meandering up and down the hillside. Santina, still a striking woman despite old age and the illness that saps her last strength, is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito. The magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo is very different from the tiny house in which she grew up. And as she decides its fate, she must confront the choices that led her here so long ago . . .

In 1949, Positano is as yet undiscovered by tourists, a beautiful, secluded village shaking off the dust of war. Hoping to escape poverty, young Santina takes domestic work in London, ultimately becoming a housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline. When they move to Positano, Santina returns with them, raising their daughter as Adeline’s mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply enmeshed within the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer—while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows.

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

The House at the Edge of Night

by Catherine Banner

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR

A sweeping saga about four generations of a family who live and love on an enchanting island off the coast of Italy—combining the romance of Beautiful Ruins with the magical tapestry of works by Isabel Allende.

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. At the center of the island’s life is a café draped with bougainvillea called The House at the Edge of Night, where the community gathers to gossip and talk. Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, finds his destiny on the island with his beautiful wife, Pina, whose fierce intelligence, grace, and unwavering love guide her every move. An indiscretion tests their marriage, and their children—three sons and an inquisitive daughter—grow up and struggle with both humanity’s cruelty and its capacity for love and mercy. Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness.

The Law: A Novel Set in Apulia, Southern Italy

by Roger Vailland

“Makes Mario Puzo’s works look rather tame.”- Antonia Fraser

“The Law is an experience I will not easily forget.” – V.S. Naipaul

Now back in print, Roger Vailland’s atmospheric 1957 novel won the Prix Goncourt, and the Knopf edition was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. The grotesque game of the Law, played in the taverns of southern Italy, is but a shadow of an even fiercer attitude to life-a potent metaphor for a vigorously hierarchical view of existence which rules over the mezzogiorno, the noonday culture of southern Italy. In this novel we are not asked to pardon or condemn the passion of Donna Lucrezia, the assured self-centeredness of the learned aristocrat Don Cesare or even the sinister desires of Matteo Brigante, the controlling godfather.

I Will Have Vengeance (Commissario Ricciardi #1)

by Maurizio De Giovanni

Fans of Donna Leon and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán will thrill to this fresh voice in crime fiction. I Will Have Vengeance is the first book in a long series of masterful crime novels set in fascist Italy. Naples, March 1931: a bitter wind stalks the city streets, and murder lies at its chill heart. When the world’s greatest tenor, Maestro Arnaldo Vezzi, is found brutally murdered in his dressing room at Naples’ San Carlo Theatre, the enigmatic and aloof Commissario Ricciardi is called in to investigate. Arrogant and bad-tempered, Vezzi was adored by millions and hated by hundreds, but with the livelihoods of everyone at the San Carlo opera at stake, who there would have committed such an act? Ricciardi is determined to find out. Ricciardi has visions. He sees and hears the final seconds in the lives of victims of violent deaths. It is both a gift and a curse. It has helped him become one of the most acute and successful homicide detectives in the Naples police force. But all that horror and suffering has hollowed him out emotionally. He drinks and doesn’t sleep. Other than his loyal partner Brigadier Maione he has no friends.

Blood Curse (Commissario Ricciardi #2)

by Maurizio De Giovanni

Murder suspects abound in this atmospheric thriller set in Naples in 1931. Commissario Ricciardi, one of the most original and intriguing investigators in contemporary crime fiction, will have his work cut out for him. In a working class apartment in the Sanità neighborhood an elderly woman by the name of Carmela Calise has been beaten to death. When Ricciardi and Maione arrive at the scene they start asking the neighbors questions. No one wants to talk but slowly a few interesting facts slip out. Carmela Calise was moonlighting as a fortuneteller and moneylender. In her decrepit apartment she would receive clients, among them some of the city’s rich and powerful, predicting their futures in such a way as to manipulate and deceive. If economic ruin lurked in their futures, Calise was happy to help. For a price, of course. She had many enemies, those indebted to her, manipulated by her lies, disappointed by her prophesies or destroyed by her machinations.

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.

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.

Made in Naples & the Amalfi Coast: A Travel Guide To Cameos, Capodimonte, Coral Jewelry, Inlay, Limoncello, Maiolica, Nativities Papier-mâché, & More (Laura Morelli’s Authentic Arts)

by Laura Morelli

Don’t buy anything in Naples, Italy or the Amalfi Coast until you read this book! Every trip needs a souvenir. When you encounter limoncello, handmade cameos, or the famous nativity scenes of Naples, you’ll be tempted to take a part of this beautiful place home with you. But how do you know if you’re buying something authentic or falling prey to one of the region’s many tourist traps? Author and art historian Laura Morelli, a trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, is here to help. In Made in Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Morelli leads you through the region’s most authentic arts, teaching you the difference between authentic master artisans and the knock-offs, and making you every tourist trap’s worst nightmare: an educated buyer. Join Laura Morelli on a journey beyond the souvenir shops into an immersive cultural experience you won’t find in any other guidebook. In this book, you’ll discover practical tips for locating the most authentic goods in Naples & the Amalfi Coast, useful information on pricing, quality, and value, a brief history of Neapolitan art, and much, much more! If you like fascinating historical tidbits, comprehensive resources, and an immersive experience into the history of Italian art, then you’ll love this fluidly written book. Bring it alongside more traditional guidebooks on your vacation and you’ll be sure to come back with the best of Italy…without getting ripped off!