BOOK – A Dream of Italy: Small town charm renaissance

A Dream of Italy.
Small town charm renaissance

Have you ever daydreamed about buying a house abroad? In Nicky Pellegrino’s enticing summer read, four people get the chance to do just that when an Italian mayor decides to sell off his town’s tumbledown houses for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

TEXT: CLAIRE WEBB

A Dream of Italy is set in a fictional town nestled in the rugged peaks of the south. “From a distance, Montenello appeared to have been hewn from the rock it stood on,” observes one character. “The town looked like a fortress, all tightly packed houses and tall spires clinging to the high sides of a mountain.” Montenello has a crumbling castle, a bar and a trattoria, and that’s about it. Over the years, many of its residents have moved away in search of jobs and better lives, leaving half its old stone houses empty.

The town’s energetic mayor and his elderly assistant hatch a plan: they will entice new blood by flogging Montenello’s old abandoned houses to foreigners for just one euro. When their advert goes viral, they’re inundated with applications including emails from a middle-aged divorcee, a gay couple and a young, broke couple. They all have different reasons for yearning for a change of scene: lonely Mimi wants to start afresh after her divorce, Edward is bored of his pleasant but predictable life with Gino, Elise is desperate to get on the property ladder.

Predictably, their sun-soaked fantasies soon dissolve into bad dreams. Elise’s boyfriend bottles out, Gino is less than impressed with Edward’s grand plan, Mimi discovers that the town is cursed, and their bargain new homes are virtually ruins. The mayor has problems of his own: his wily assistant is acting very oddly.

Liverpool-born Pellegrino is half-Italian and lives in Auckland with her husband. She says her escapist novels are inspired by childhood holidays in Southern Italy, and they’re always peppered with gorgeous scenery and delicious meals washed down with wine. In this one, the foreigners are soon seduced by picturesque Montenello and its charming locals, and Elise is especially taken with the handsome mayor.

A Dream of Italy is guaranteed to rekindle that fantasy about buying a house abroad. You may even find yourself scrolling through Italian property websites, looking for a bargain ruin in a tranquil hilltop town.

Publisher: Orion Publishing
Price: €15
UK release date: 8 August 2019

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