One Summer in Venice is the second book I’ve read by Auckland-based author Nicky Pellegrino and I can see I am going to keep going back for more. Why? Because she writes so well about food and Italy – and Italian food (yum!) – and reading one of her books allows me a little bit of armchair travel. Growing up in Liverpool, Pellegrino spent summers in Italy with her family, and as I read her books, I feel as though I am discovering Italy for the first time, perhaps as she would have done in her youth.
One Summer in Venice is the story of one woman’s quest for happiness. When Adolorata (Dolly) Martinelli’s restaurant Little Italy receives a scathing review, she suddenly feels as though the wheels are falling off, not only at work but at home too. So, she lands up in Venice where she plans on spending a summer discovering what truly makes her happy in the hopes of saving her marriage, her business, and herself. As she makes friends, dances the tango and eats delicious food, Dolly soon remembers who she is and begins to discover the ten things that make her happy.
While I didn’t feel a very strong connection with Dolly (and I can’t quite put my finger on why not) I was still drawn into the Venice she was discovering and could empathise with her quest. Her discovery of the real Venice was made all the more rich because she was searching for something. The characters she met during her stay were a delight to get to know. In particular, the mysterious Coco, with her flamboyant, eccentric ways had me enamoured, and certainly had me re-considering just how I’d like to age gracefully. In contrast, there’s Nanda, an old friend of Coco, who is struggling to hold on to reality as she gets caught up more and more in her memories of the past.
By far the biggest highlight was Venice itself. Rather than just being the setting, Pellegrino turned Venice into the hero of this story and, as someone who has always wanted to visit the floating city, I devoured her descriptions voraciously. As the reader, I was taken on a sensual tour of the city: I saw the sights, savoured the tastes (and Pellegrino’s descriptions of the food truly had my mouth watering), experienced the smells and felt the vibrance of it all.
Overall, One Summer in Venice is a warm-hearted story of finding happiness and discovering who you are. While it didn’t appeal to me quite as much as her previous novel The Food of Love Cookery School, this was still a light, easy read, perfect to pack for your next holiday. And, like Dolly, you too might be inspired to make your own happiness list.