18 Jul 2015

In this heat, there’s not much you can do, besides sitting in the shade and hopefully have the time and peace to read a good book.

Secrets, stories and hot summer days

[Banner photo by Martin]

I have been very busy with work over the past few weeks, so my poor blog has been neglected again… Gone are the days when I had much time to myself and my passions, I am afraid.

Summer has arrived in all its strength. We are in the middle of the second heatwave of the season and the first secret I will unveil (since “secrets” is the topic of this month Italy Blogging Roundtable) is that you never get used to this. I have lot of foreign friends who ask me “how do you Italians get used to this!?“. We absolutely don’t. We suffer through it like anybody else, and for the most part without air conditioning, which is not yet very common.

The hot summer days, however, force you to spend quite some time sitting immobile, just waiting for it to pass. With the kids and a job in education, I don’t have the luxury of much down time but I still try to find a few minutes here and there to sit in the shade and read. I love the little bench in the Botanic Garden in Pisa that I can see from my office window, and I often sneak into the garden when I have time for a break. And at the weekend, there is no better place to sit and read than under the oak trees at our home in the countryside. I am not a beach person, but I am sure many would add that the beach is also perfect to enjoy a good book.

And that’s why I have decided to share with you a list of my favourite Italian books revolving around some “secret”. I am only including those which have been translated into English, assuming the vast majority of my readership prefers reading in that language.

10 great Italian books involving “secrets”

  1. Margaret Mazzantini‘s Twice Born (UK edition, US edition), I absolutely adore this book. It’s a masterpiece of emotions, historical reconstruction, fiction. I cannot recommend it enough. A moving story set amidst the atrocities of the Bosnian war and the present. Gemma, the protagonist, hasn’t been back to Sarajevo in sixteen years and she returns to teach her son Pietro about the city of his birth and the father he never knew. A must read.
  2. By the same author, Margaret Mazzantini‘s Don’t Move (UK edition, US edition). Another masterpiece. The story revolves around the character of Timoteo, a successful surgeon, with a beautiful wife and daughter, a luxurious apartment, a villa by the sea. Some unforeseen events force him to reconsider his life, the secret life you will discover through his thoughts. Powerful story.
  3. Susanna Tamaro‘s Follow Your Heart (UK edition, US edition), in which an elderly woman at the end of her life writes a long letter to her granddaughter, in the shape of a diary, where she reveals a few secrets in the hopes of teaching her to follow her heart.
  4. Melania Mazzucco‘s Vita: A Novel (UK edition, US edition). There are no real secrets at the heart of this novel, but when you read it, it feels like you have been invited into someone’s private home. It offers the perspective on Italians as immigrants, back at the beginning of the 20th century, when many left the country to move to the States. Many of you of Italian heritage will thoroughly enjoy the novel of this young writer. In April 1903, the steamship Republic spills more than two thousand immigrants onto Ellis Island. Among them are Diamante, age twelve, and Vita, nine, sent by their poor families in southern Italy to make their way in America. Amid the chaos and splendor of New York, the misery and criminality of Little Italy, and the shady tenants of Vita’s father’s decrepit Prince Street boarding house, Diamante and Vita struggle to survive, to create a new life, and to become American. Illuminating and good food for thought.
  5. Dacia Maraini‘s The Silent Duchess (UK edition, US edition). Set in the mid-18th century, this novel tells the story of three generations of the Ucria family, seen through the watchful eyes of the deaf-mute Duchess Marianna, married at 13 to her own uncle and set apart from other people by her disablity.
  6. Giorgio Faletti‘s A Pimp’s Notes (UK edition, US edition). An entertaining story set in 1978, a difficult year, when Italy had just been shocked by the kidnapping of the politician Aldo Moro by the left-leaning terrorist group the Red Brigades. In Milan, the upper class continues to amuse itself in luxury restaurants, underground clubs, and cabarets, the sexual appetites of whom are catered to by the enigmatic and cynical pimp, Bravo. Bravo has a secret though…
  7. Silvia Avallone‘s Swimming to Elba (UK edition, US edition). If you want to take a peek at life in Tuscany where tourists do not venture. First novel of a very promising writer.
  8. Niccolò Ammaniti‘s I’m Not Scared (UK edition, US edition). A really interesting and somewhat moving story about a secret friendship between nine-year-old Michele Amitrano and… well, no spoilers here. While playing with friends, Michele makes a discovery so momentous he dare not tell a soul. It is a secret that will force Michele to question everything and everyone around him.
  9. Andrea Camilleri‘s The Fourth Secret (The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries) (UK edition, US edition). I am not a huge fan of Camilleri’s mystery novels, but he is no doubt a great writer and no list of secret-related books would be complete without one of his “gialli”. The story revolves around an accident at a construction site, where an Albanian builder dies accidentally. There have been six events euphemistically called “tragedies in the workplace” in the past month. When the local magistrate opens an investigation, Inspector Montalbano is on the case. But he soon discovers that these seemingly unrelated incidents are only part of a larger network of crimes.
  10. Michela Murgia‘s Accabadora (UK edition, US edition). Very unusual, but I liked it. It has been defined as “a sensual picture of local Italian life and death in villages during the 1950’s. A time where family ties and obligations still decide much of life’s ebb and flow. A must read for those who love a touch of the unusual”.

Italy Blogging Roundtable

This is a post in a monthly series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Here you can find the posts of the other bloggers who participate in the roundtable. Our topic this month was “secrets” (most of us are either travelling or too weak to post this month…):

italy travel blog roundtable


  1. Just found this site..and wondering if you might wish to include any notes from my blog on Umbria…and not only?
    Here is my latest:

    We’re cooking here in Umbria now…so we’re NOT cooking!


  1. […] At Home in Tuscany – Secrets, stories and hot summer days […]

Leave a Comment