IT and US: A love letter to Italy
- WTI Magazine #141 Jul 17, 2021
My “Italian Adventure” novels are love letters to Italy. There’s no other way to describe the experiences of an American who arrives in Italy on holiday and decides to never leave. Both Cucina Tipica (2018) and Cucina Romana (2021) have characters and plot, conflict and resolution, humor and pathos, but all of these traditional narratives are informed by Il Bel Paese. Without Italy, these novels don’t exist.
The food and wine of Italy get the most attention from readers. This is understandable as the stories are a moveable feast of regional cuisine from Liguria, Umbria, Le Marche, Campania (Naples) and most significantly Lazio (Rome) and much of Tuscany. The local “cucina” is on full display in nearly 50 meals, deliciously described (so I’ve been told), taken over the course of both books and washed down with copious amounts of glorious Italian wine. There is also tribute to food people of Italy, from fictionalized purveyors, servers and restaurateurs to real life figures such as Dario Cecchini, Fabio Picchi, and Niko Romito. There is not a single review to date that doesn’t mention the food and wine right away.
But the time between meals is also immersed in Italian splendor. There are detailed tours on foot, motorino and car of Florence, Naples and Rome, Chianti Country, Montepuliciano/Pienze/Montalcino, the hills south of Florence (where the characters live), the Italian Riviera and the Adriatic coast, and hill towns throughout the central peninsula. Wherever the characters travel, the sun is always shining, the architecture stunning, and the physical beauty of the country nearly palpable.
And then there’s the people of Italy. Sure, there are some bad actors in the stories - a malevolent cacciatore and his crew; two Ducati riding douchebags both named Marco - but by and large the Italian people encountered by our American protagonist and his expat friends resemble the lovely, passionate, elegant, welcoming types that foreigners regularly encounter in Italy. Among the ubiquitous and admirable characteristics of the Italians observed in the narration are: the beauty of their language; their fashion and sense of style; the passion they exhibit; the aesthetic beauty of both the men and women; and the pacing of their lives. Our protagonist believes that Italians know how to live, and this is why he wants to live among them.
Of course, one can’t pay tribute to Italy without recognizing the culture. The great landmarks in Florence and Rome are visited and admired for their extraordinary symbolism and accomplishment (there’s even a clandestine visit on the break of dawn inside the Colosseum). Our characters also tour the major museums of Florence, Rome and Naples, paying homage to David, Daphne and Apollo, and the Veiled Christ, among many other masterworks of Italian artists. Churches are honored and visited often, as are butcher shops and gelato stands. While calcio is only referenced on occasion, our protagonist does take in a calcio storico event in Florence.
There is a surprise ending in Cucina Romana, the second of the two novels, which brings the love of Italy full circle for our main character and for the readers. It also absolutely requires a third title in the series to explain the stunning events and keep the love affair with Italy going. Where should we go next?