The Ghosts of Italy is Angela Paolantonio's memoir of how she first discovers and then returns to live in the remote mountain village in Southern Italy where her grandparents were born. She sets out late one November, just after having celebrated Thanksgiving alone on a rooftop in Rome, the spirit of her ancestors guiding her in. "I really didn't know I was searching for anything till I got here," she says. "Then I realized what I was missing and what it meant."
Angela Paolantonio's archetypal journey to the village of the ghosts of her ancestors is a unique yet universal woman's story. She ventures across the threshold of a lost world, reclaims it, and falls deeply in love along the way – with the town and its residents, the landscape, and the Handsome Man from Macchiursi. She follows the clues to rediscover her spirit and the spirit of her grandmother, and namesake, whose memory had been lost to her, locked inside her father's heart.
Angela Paolantonio's lyrical journey into the land of her ancestors evokes all that we love about Italy: the intimacy of its people, the beauty of its landscape, the soul-nourishing food and the embrace of family. Ghosts of Italy brings all this to the page in vivid detail sprinkled with serendipity.
Maryann Calendrille | Owner, Canio's Books, Sag Harbor, N.Y.
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Angela Paolantonio was born in New York, but her roots are planted deep in the soil of southern Italy. Both her grandparents were born in the small hilltown of Calitri, in Campania. It’s a couple of hours east of Naples, but in some ways, it’s a century behind.
Compelled to learn about her Italian grandparents and her own roots, Angela travels to Calitri, never suspecting she’s about to be drawn deeply into her Italian family, into the rituals and lives of their neighbors, and into a love affair with both a handsome man and an ancient village.
There are many kinds of love, and Paolantonio explores several of them in this memoir—love for a place, for history (both local and personal), for family, traditions, food. And love for a man. All these loves, and the ways in which they grow and change, are skillfully woven into her story as she meets her family—and herself.
The writing is rich with sensory detail—the smells of ravioli on the stove, the sweet taste of Nocino (the traditional walnut liqueur made in the village), the singing of women as a religious procession passes her house, the touch of ancient stone or a caressing summer breeze against your skin.
I loved this book, which made me want to get on a plane to Italy. It will appeal to lovers of Italy and travelers with curiosity in their minds, some romance in their souls, and a belief in the ties of family, even those yet unmet. I think the kind of women I write for on my blog, nomadwomen.com, will love it as much as I did.
Contributed by Donna Meyer for NomadWomen.
The Ghosts of Italy: A Memoir documents Angela Paolantonio's return to her Italian roots during a visit to a mountain village, the home of her grandparents, that becomes her home as well. As much a travelogue and celebration of Italian culture and countryside as it is a memoir about a striking personal journey that resulted in fresh connections to a new place, The Ghosts of Italy is a delightful, atmospheric read for anyone interested in returning to one's roots and exploring heritage in another country.
Paolantonio opens her journey with a present-day observation of its culmination: "I dared dream years ago, conjuring an image of one day living in a stone house on a hillside in Italy, a flock of sheep grazing in a field beyond a balcony. Well, now I have them in view. Yet it is not just any view, nor any stone house on a hillside in Italy. It is the house where my grandmother was born, the balcony view of her youth."
With this, readers embark a journey that embraces the expedition, the destination, and the meaning of family connections alike in a memoir that celebrates all this and more.
As readers follow Paolantonio's revised life, they receive a fine discussion of losses, gains, and perseverance in the face of defeat. Black and white photos illustrate her words, while the magic of red fox, gray wolves, and dancing leaves comes to life.
The experience is not without its classic Italian romance as she widens her world and embraces family and new experiences alike.
Perhaps the most striking facet of this memoir lies in its ability to traverse the Italian countryside with a sense of determined purpose as Paolantonio evolves a relationship that will eventually challenge her relationships with her relatives and the town.
Readers breathe in the heart and soul of Italian culture and countryside and absorb the revised life of a woman who must decide where her heart truly lies. The discoveries that evolved from a search for the spirit of a grandmother go in unexpected directions, providing a moving saga that embraces the author and her readers to the end.
Those looking for moving stories of discovery and family heritage, as well as love, will find The Ghosts of Italy excels in its ability to introduce the spirit of not only a family, but a nation.
It's a memoir well worth the read.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The mingling of a journey to find ancestral roots with a rustic love story, plenty of local color, and excellent descriptions of Italian cuisine, result in an intriguing and passionate memoir.
The Ghosts of Italy was a Library Journal curated selection for the Indie Author Project (IAP) Commercial Collections Memoirs Program for Queens Public Library and Garden City Public Library, New York.