‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’
If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….
This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.
The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing. Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century. His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’ I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.
For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination. I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains. As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters: it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together. Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.
Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents. Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.
Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century. Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting. It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller. Fortunately, we can still see:
‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’
This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.
The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref: Wikipedia