About Pompeii: A New Book

Day of FireSome of you kn0w, from earlier posts, that I think the ancient ruins of Pompeii are fascinating, and a “must see” for visitors to the Italian south. I have been there twice, and would not hesitate to see it again.

Sandy in Pompeii 2004

First visit to Pompeii, Feb. 2004

And now, in fiction, the ancient city can come alive for you in the 2014 novel A Day of Fire. The story (I should say “stories”) takes place in Pompeii on the day of the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., following the interwoven lives of several characters. Many are actual people who lived in Pompeii, some known by name and some only by the remains found as the city has been unearthed in the last 150 years or so. A few are fictional characters. All are brought to vivid fullness by the author–and here I really must say “authors” because this is a collaborative novel written by a team of six novelists: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter.

I don’t often read Roman era historical fiction, but was intrigued by the collaborative writing to begin with. Then the ‘anchor’ character drew me in, the teenage Pliny the Younger, whose writings provide the only eyewitness account of the disaster. Throw in some gladiators, prostitutes, senators, reluctant brides, pregnant women… Their fast-paced stories carried me through to the end, when the city is only a heap of steaming rubble, soon to be lost for more than 1,500 years.

While each author focused on one or two primary characters in the six sections, the cameo appearances of characters highlighted in other parts of the book made for fun reading, and the urgency of the disaster drove me on, wondering if and how any of them could escape.

I recommend this book to you! And please comment when you’ve read it to let me know what you think.

 

Hunting in Italy

Two years ago today, Vern and I were driving on a rural road in Calabria and noticed this sign. Warning, “Hunting for wild boar in the road, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”

(Anybody with better Italian than mine: Have I translated that correctly?)

We did not see any of the said wild boars in the road, however we did enjoy eating them a few times in our Italian travels. The first time, I asked the friend we were dining with where the restaurant acquired the wild boar. Apparently there are wild boar farms. But there are also wild wild boars which can be hunted. On this road. On Fridays, Saturday, or Sundays.

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A Sicilian surprise at Grant’s Farm in Missouri

Grants farm 4 (1024x576)You never know where the Italian south is going to show up.

My daughter and her husband planned a family outing when I visited them this month near St. Louis, Missouri. Grant’s Farm looked like a family-friendly place that their toddler daughter would enjoy, and the history of the place appealed to the adults.

The property was given to Ulysses S. Grant by his wife’s parents when they married, and their cabin, built in 1855, is still on the property. Grant also built an interesting fence from Civil War rifle barrels. In 1907, August Busch bought the property and developed it as a family getaway in the style of the rich and famous. As the fortunes of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company rose, the Busch family developed world class riding stables, and gathered exotic animals. The friends they hosted loved the place so much, eventually the family decided to open part of it to the public.

Since the day we visited was rainy (to put it mildly) we were glad to browse the Bauernhof, a building where several horses were stabled. Trophy cases filled with blue ribbons and silver engraved plates and bowls reflected the Busch family’s horsemanship. Another wing held their collection of carriages, wagons, and sleighs–dozens of horse-drawn vehicles.Grants farm 2 (823x1024)

And there I found the unexpected, the Sicilian surprise: A beautiful pair of Sicilian wedding carts dating from the 1700s. Traditionally pulled by donkeys, the carts were the smallest vehicles in the collection. I hope my photos give you a glimpse of the Sicilian history they represent. One is for the bride and one for the groom. The detailed carving and bright color stood in high contrast to the gleaming black carriages and bright red Budweiser wagon nearby!Grants farm 1Grants farm 6 (865x1024)Grants farm 5 (741x1024)

New world record from Molise?

Snow in Capracotta. Image from the Capracotta.com website, which also provides ski information in three languages.

Snow in Capracotta. Image from the Capracotta.com website, which also provides ski information in three languages.

We rarely hear from Molise, that region southeast of Abruzzo, northwest of Puglia. Molise extends from the mountains of central Italy to the Adriatic coast. But a village in Molise made international news today, boasting a world record snowfall of more than 100 inches–in just 18 hours! Take a look here. 

The village of Capracotta (translation: cooked goat. Hmmm.) is in ski country, so winter snow is common. But their recent snowfall was out of the ordinary, even for them! Check out this webcam for an image of Piazza Falconi.