Other Interests

The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian

A spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge—set in war-ravaged Tuscany. The year is 1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. As the young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

Mark of the Thief

by Jennifer A. Nielsen

When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: he discovers an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the gods — magic some Romans would kill for. Now, with the deadly power of the amulet pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic’s newfound powers for their own dark purposes.

A Civil War: A History of the Italian Resistance

by Claudio Pavone

This history of World War II Italian Resistance is recounted by a historian who, when only a boy, took part in the struggle against Mussolini’s Fascist Republic. Since its publication in Italy, Claudio Pavone’s masterwork has become indispensable to anyone seeking to understand this period and its continuing importance for the nation’s identity. Pavone casts a sober eye on his protagonists’ ethical and ideological motivations. He uncovers a multi-layered conflict, in which class antagonisms, patriotism and political ideals all played a part. A clear understanding of this complexity allows him to explain many details of the post-war transition, as well as the legacy of the Resistance for modern Italy. In addition to being a monumental work of scholarship, A Civil War is a folk history, capturing events, personalities and attitudes that were on the verge of slipping entirely out of recollection to the detriment of Italy’s understanding of itself and its past.

Images and Shadows

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“A small classic of autobiography.” Iris Origo was born in 1902 and was instantly catapulted into a life of “unfair advantages of birth, education, money, environment and opportunity.” But she used this birth-right wisely, and her legacy includes a string of books beloved and admired equally by historians, biographers and readers; as well as the verdant green Tuscan valleys seen so often in films and commercials: before Origo they were dust-ridden wastelands. After a stormy childhood between her family’s ancestral estate in Long Island and her grandfather’s castle in Ireland, she married a Florentine nobleman and bought La Foce, an entire valley near Montepulciano. For the next fifty years she worked tirelessly improving the land, bringing the peasants out of the feudal civilization they had lived in up until that time, and saving children from the brutal incursions of the Nazis.

War in Val D’Orcia 1943-44: A Diary

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A classic of the Second World War, this is a simple chronicle of daily life at La Foce, a manor in the Tuscan no-man’s land bracketed by foreign invasion and civil war. Deeply dramatic and tender, it tells the story of an Anglo-American woman who married an Italian nobleman, bought a ramshackle old Renaissance estate near Montepulciano, and used it to shelter sixty orphans along with countless escaped Allied prisoners during the German occupation of her lands.