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A Small Place in Italy [Paperback]

Eric Newby
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Jan 2011

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.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (6 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007367902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007367900
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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

From the Back Cover

The distinguished travel writer Eric Newby became acquainted with the landscape and the people of northern Italy when on the run from a prison camp in 1943. He and his wife dreamed of buying a house in the region, but it was not until 1967 that the opportunity to fulfil their dream presented itself. 'A Small Place In Italy' is an engaging account of the joys and frustrations of the purchase and renovation of a farmhouse, 'I Castagni' ('The Chestnuts'), and of how the Newby's gradually became part of the local community and its distinctive way of life.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meets a market need perfectly. 25 May 2004
By John Austin HALL OF FAME TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The urge to escape the comforts, routine and refinements of our living conditions to somewhere more challenging, primitive and raw is something that many of us feel - especially those who read books. The books we read can sometimes stimulate the urge, sometimes satisfy it. All I ask of such books is that the author can write well and that he is not boastful.
Eric Newby, especially in "A Small Place in Italy", meets these requirements admirably. Indeed, he ranks for me as a travel writer of near genius. He was almost 50 years old when he and his Italian born wife Wanda took up permanent residence in a ruined farmhouse in northern Italy. His account of the trials and tribulations that followed, the neighbours and the locality, is told in this wonderfully witty, readable and valuable book. Part of the value rests in the sociological and historical dimensions it gives. Even while he lived there, the customs, the occupations and the life styles were fast disappearing.
If you enjoy this genre, you'll want to give "A Small Place in Italy" a prominent place on your bookshelf.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read. 20 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having enjoyed this book so much it quite saddened me that they are no longer there, understandable though it is. For many years they were part of a simple way of life that barely exists now but how lucky we are to be able to read and appreciate how it once was.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful slice of life 8 April 2011
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I came across this book quite by chance, and am glad I picked it up to read. It's a wonderful slice of life in a small part of Italy in the 1960s (although the Newbys left their place in Italy in 1991, much of the action seems to be placed in the 1960s and 1970s). I got the feeling that the author and his wife are made of much sterner stuff than me - I couldn't imagine buying a dilapidated place in an out of the way area in a country where I couldn't speak the language and pouring so much energy and passion into it - and some of the things they had to overcome were not easy! In particular the scene on their first night with the wildlife under the fireplace - urrghh.

A very well written, and very readable book - very enjoyable and one which I shall follow up by looking for more of the author's works. Well worth reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Italian summer home descriptions 18 Nov 2009
By Henk Beentje TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Synopsis: In 1967, the Newbys bought a house in northern Tuscany. They restored it, with the help of local craftsmen, and for the next 25 years spent several months, from spring to early autumn, there. This book describes how they bought it, their problems and successes, their interaction with their neighbours, and the lifestyle of local people, which in this period changed from a timeless one into the modern age...

I should first say that I loved Newby's 'Short walk in te Hindu Kush' and especially 'Love and war in the Apennines'. So I was a bit disappointed in this book - it reads like any summer-holiday-in-exotic-landscape memoir: full of crochety neighbours and interspersed with a lot of Italian words ("we thought the *merenda* was the *prenzo*..."). It also reads like diary extracts cobbled together many years after the fact; and a pretty personal diary at that, with much not really of interest to anyone not in his family.

And yet, and yet... some of the personalities Newby describes reverberate in your mind long after you've stopped reading, and his style brings it all warmly alive. So while it is by no means as good as his best books, I still give it 3.5 stars.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rural Italy with reality adn delight. 7 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Transports one to rural Italy, a few decades ago.Pleasure and pain of restoring an old house, with the constant background of rural Italian life. Having read the book, one starts to think "I wonder if I could get a small place in Italy?" But be warned, it might just happen!!
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lovely read, reminded me of of our regular holiday visits to very small Greek Island and watching it gradually change from Goats, Donkeys and three wheel put-puts to BMWs and Kawaskis.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Small Place in Italy - Eric Newby 21 May 2014
By Sue
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. It was well written and gave a great sense of place. The fact that he loved this place and the people shone through the whole book. I read a lot of it in the garden and with the sun dappling through the garden leaves, I felt I could almost be in Tuscany. I will certainly read some more of his books and it is a shame I did not discover them earlier. The only reason I gave it 4 and not 5 stars is because it was not long enough, I didn't want it to end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars warm and brilliant 13 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Eric Newby paints wonderfully perceptive word portraits of the people and places that he knows. He makes me feel that I want to go to the places he visits, meet the people he describes and do the things he refers to. I am sorry I came to the end of another of his books. I feel I have been on a journey with a good guide and companion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Newby at his most life-enhancing
Newby Numero Uno.
Published 4 days ago by Neil
5.0 out of 5 stars time gone by
I loved reading Eric Newby,s a small place in Italy and enjoyed every minute of it.Having visited this region of italy often and have Italian friends living there,it was like... Read more
Published 4 months ago by michael evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Newby at his usual best
A good read, what an excellent writer Eric Newby is, he holds your interest and attention on every page of this interesting book
Published 12 months ago by Roger Brown
1.0 out of 5 stars A present for Christmas
The items left on this page were all Christmas presents so I am unable to give a review other than that they all arrived in good time for Christmas.
Published 17 months ago by RDL
5.0 out of 5 stars a small place in italy
Excellent book from a great author, sadly no longer with us. Full of wit and good humour. Describes the buying of an old house in the Appenine mountains in Italy and their (Eric... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mark
2.0 out of 5 stars Readable
If you're into continental farmhouse restoration jobs, growing your own vines, eavesdropping on the dirty chit-chat of the locals and - especially - enjoying lavish merende, pranzi... Read more
Published 18 months ago by TREX
4.0 out of 5 stars More entertaining that Parris' A Castle In Spain
There must be a genre... for writers who purchase a dilapidated property and, then, make money selling books about the experience. Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2010 by G. D. Busby
3.0 out of 5 stars not one of Newby's best
Eric Newby is one of the greatest travel writers of all time - I loved his books about the Hindu Kush, about the Ganges, and about his wartime experiences. Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2010 by dsa10
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