Tuesday, February 15, 2011

La Bella Vita - Life, Love and Food in Southern Italy

[image source: shopireland.ie]

Vida Adamoli fell in love with this ficticiously named Torre Saracena, when she, and her two little children escaped from the festering summer heat in Rome to this secluded village with a beautiful beach in 1968. In fact she loved it and its colorful yet sometimes close-minded inhabitants so much that they made regular voyages back to this village, even convincing her divorced mother to buy a holiday flat there. 

I loved the book, I found it engaging and entertaining, with bits of excellent descriptions, metaphors and imagery. "The intense glare of the sun bleached everything of colour and shadows cast by houses divided the streets into razor-sharp zones of dazzling white and deepest black. IT was like wandering through an abandoned stage set, almost too sculptural and picturesque to be true."

The characters are all fleshed out, and because the village is so small, it seems like everyone's lives are entwined in a way, and affected by the actions of others. The book also captures  the slow decline of the village. Initially the people were improvised and mostly welcomed the slow then rapid influx of foreign visitors, but as they became more affluent and later were driven to move to other parts of the area because all the foreigners were buying the old houses and leaving them empty most of the year, they realized the error of their ambitions. Other than the beautiful beach, the villagers have evolved to become strangers.

Rather depressing, especially at the end of the book, where the old village cinema was going to be torn down and the villagers went to watch Jasper's movies for the last time. He made a lot of little movies that involved the villagers and localized hippies as actors and as part of the backdrop. The author found it poignant when she remembered the late Giovanni, loyal and forbidding, lurking in the background of one of the movies. He was a symbol of the old days, when the life was simpler, "a happier and more innocent time".

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