Sunday, November 06, 2011

Domo A Como

It seems an age ago now that my wife and I holidayed in Argegno, a friendly and colourful village on the shores of Lake Como. A little over a year, as it happens. I wrote a blog post about the holiday, full of glowing praise for the scenery, the serene and stress-free days on the lake and the people – most notably the wonderful staff at the Hotel Argegno where we often dined and our brilliant and thoroughly entertaining host, Paul Wright, at whose B&B we stayed.

Unfortunately, my netbook went and died and took – amongst other things – that blog post with it. Luckily then, along comes this opportunity to revisit those memories and in the company of a terrific storyteller.

Of course, in staying with artist and author, Paul, we were spoilt, treated to huge helpings of local tales, at least as colourful as the setting, all washed down with plenty of dry wit wine.

In Paul’s book, An Italian Home, the authorial voice is, inevitably, an edited version of the man himself and that’s a shame, but to be fair it’s a bit like that common niggle we all make, that we perhaps enjoyed a movie but it wasn’t as good as the book. At the end of the day, if you haven’t read the book, then that’s not going to be a factor and besides they’re two distinct art forms, aren’t they, so they’re bound to be different.

So while there are some stories and turns of phrase that didn’t make it into print, Paul still writes an engaging account of his and his wife’s uprooting and relocating to in Italy. The small, friendly village of Moltrasio – rather than Argegno, where they now live – provides the main focus for the story, as Paul and Nicola do battle with the horrors of Italian bureaucracy, come up against unexpected cultural differences and struggle with the language barrier in their quest to hold on to their dream of a new life.

To be fair, it’s mostly Paul who has the struggles with Italian and he’s refreshingly blunt and honest when it comes to admitting his reticence and stubbornness as a language student. There’s none of the illusory effects of Paul’s trompe l’oeil paintings; he tells it like it is and while the world of Lago di Como is, take it from me, paradise – albeit with too much traffic – he gives a very clear picture of the daunting aspects of their adventure, right alongside all the warmth and enchantment that made the two so determined to overcome those hurdles.

The book breezes from chapter to chapter – interest only flagging (for me and my wife) when it explores some of the idiosyncrasies of Italian football, but that’s just our personal anti-football bias and it’s true to say that Paul’s own passion for the sport clearly shines through in the writing. And among the comic episodes (that we had the pleasure of hearing live) that did make it into print are the story of Paul and Nicola’s encounter with the local police chief, Signor Pompino, and poor Nicola’s faux pas (or whatever Italian for faux pas might be) when waxing freely about sticky fig juice in among some of her and Paul’s Italian friends. You will likely feel her embarrassment while laughing at the same time.

Although by no means a tourist’s guidebook, well worth a read, even if you’re only planning a holiday in the region. Guidebooks give you facts, while stories like this give you flavour. And if you’re entertaining similar dreams of relocation, well, you’d do well to read about Paul’s and Nicola’s shared dream, entertainingly told.

Dreams may not always come true, but with a measure of courage, determination and hard work, you can make them.

An Italian Home is available on Amazon, price £8.09.

You can also check out some of his artwork - and find out about his B&B - on his website.


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