This book is a lush and beautiful memoir of a very special house and a superb recreation of a bygone era.
In 1967, veteran travel writer Eric Newby and his heroic wife Wanda fulfiled their dream of a return to life in the Italian hills where they first met during World War II. But this fulfilment would not come easy. The dream materialised in the form of I Castagni ('The Chestnuts'), a small, decrepit farmhouse with no roof, an abandoned septic tank and its own indigenous wildlife reluctant to give up their home. But in the foothills of the Apuan Alps on the border of Liguria and Northern Tuscany, this ramshackle house would soon become a hub of love, friendship and activity.
Whether recounting dangerous expeditions through Afghanistan or everyday life in a country house, Newby's talent shines through as one of the foremost writers of the comic travel genre. Full of Newby's sharp wit and good humour, ‘A Small Place’ in Italy returns, twenty years later, to the life of Newby's much-cherished classic, Love and War in the Apennines. It lovingly recounts the quickly disappearing lifestyle of the idiosyncratic locals, and the enduring friendships they forge, whether sharing in growing their first wine harvest as novices or frying poisonous mushrooms for a feast.
'Newby is of course a travel writer of near genius - wonderfully dry in the narration of the tribulations which so often afflict him and Wanda, and splendidly precise on the nuts and bolts of things … Highly readable and dangerously liable to induce a craving for one's own patch of Italian paradise' Martin Gayford, Sunday Telegraph
'Newby is an incomparable, shrewd and witty travel writer … immensely enjoyable' John Mortimer, Mail on Sunday
'Eric Newby must rank as one of the foremost travel writers of our age. Among his skills lies the ability to carry the reader with him on the most varied of journeys … a sequel to his 1971 classic, ‘Love and War in the Apennines’… [Newby's] good humour, and his loving eye for a way of life now disappearing, makes it a sterling contribution to that very particular shelf of English literature, describing life as lived among the Italians' Hugh Carless, Guardian
'A jovial account of living in Tuscany' Literary Review
'[Newby's] book is cheerful, informative and often very funny' Times Literary Supplement
'There is a deep respect for human personality here, and a wealth of information scrupulously and precisely retailed' Daily Telegraph
'Beautifully written. Full of wisdom, humour and humanity, Newby is touching on the poignancy of life, its fleeting pleasures and ultimate, inevitable loss … He is a perceptive interpreter of our dreams' Sunday Express
'Newby goes into satisfying detail about the people, the food and the landscape, and the house itself takes a central role in the book … by observing the details of his surroundings with clarity and understanding, he gives the reader a gentle picture of a pleasant Arcadia' Wanderlust