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4.2 out of 5 stars
A Small Place in Italy
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
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
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2009
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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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on 18 December 2014
Oh what a lovely war !!
While I enjoyed Newby's book, I could not help thinking of my father, who nearly starved in those mountains among those same sweet people. I remember him telling of how he demanded food. Putting his foot in the door to prevent it closing. He evaded recapture and was in the mountains for far longer, through freezing winters and bitter conditions. He spoke very little about it and would never return. While Newby makes light of it :
It was not all fun and games ! It was a desperate struggle for survival !
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on 21 May 2014
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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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2000
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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on 13 April 2014
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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on 29 March 2014
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 looking back in time.The book was very factual and found a few places that i have never visited,but will be going to in the future.
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on 20 February 2013
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 Newby and his wife Wanda) life there.
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