My Sicilian bells are very special to me. I’ve had them for more than forty-four years and every time I look at them on my Tuscan window ledge, I smile. They are one of the first presents from my husband. Some men give their girlfriends flowers and chocolate, but these unusual gifts are typical of the adventurous life that we’ve enjoyed together. The cowbells were wrapped up and hidden in a Sicilian basket once used to carry goods on a donkey. Around the rim, he had pinned a dozen red roses and there were other gifts inside, including a guitar. He is not a romantic man, so this gesture will forever remain in my heart. (The gift of a steam iron a few years after we married definitely did not match up…) But, just like in a good read, relationships can be beset with ups and downs, twists and turns, surprises and shocks. And, we’re still together.
We met on the island of Sicily in our twenties, working for a Dutch construction company. After marrying, we moved from Amsterdam to Tanzania, where we worked and explored for three years. Now, we live half our year in Tuscany and spend the winter months in West Sussex near our five grandchildren.
I love to travel and to find out about local traditions. A Tuscan Memory, a revised version of my indie-published Now and Then in Tuscany, released again by Bookouture on September 7th, has as its background the transhumance. This is a journey made by shepherds and herdsmen and animals, from high up in the Tuscan Apennines (where we live), down to the coast. For years, since Etruscan times and until the late 1950s, this practice continued from September until May of each year. The leading ewe would wear a bell very similar to mine, maybe slightly smaller. When I discovered from my Italian friends, that the menfolk were away for five long winter months, my ears pricked up, I scribbled down notes and dived into research.
A Tuscan Memory has been described as a love letter to Italy. I have included romance, traditions, lost family histories as well as old country recipes in this novel. I was delighted with a comment on Goodreads: “It is written with a love of the land and culture oozing from every page.” I hope it will appeal to more readers; it is a little different from my World War Two stories. Fingers crossed.
What an adventurous life you’ve led, Angela. Thank you for sharing Mx
About Angela Petch
Angela Petch shares her year between the Tuscan Apennines and West Sussex.
Her love affair with Italy was born at the age of seven when she moved with her family to Rome. Her father worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he made sure his children learned Italian and soaked up the culture. She studied Italian at the University of Kent at Canterbury and afterwards worked in Sicily where she met her husband. His Italian mother and British father met in Urbino in 1944 and married after a wartime romance.
Her first book, Tuscan Roots was written in 2012, for her Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina, and also to make readers aware of the courage shown by families of her Italian neighbours during WW2. Acquired by Bookouture in 2018, this book was republished as The Tuscan Secret in June 2019. The Tuscan Girl followed in February 2020.
Now and Then in Tuscany, was self-published in April 2017 and features the same family. The background is the transhumance, a practice that started in Etruscan times and continued until the 1950s. Bookouture has since bought the rights, and under a new title, A Tuscan Memory will be released on September 7th 2020. Research for her Tuscan novels is greatly helped by her knowledge of Italian and ability to talk with locals.
Although Italy is a passion, her stories are not always set in this country. Mavis and Dot, published at the end of 2018 and sold in aid of research into a cure for cancer, tells the story of two fun-loving ladies who retire to the Sussex seaside. They forge an unlikely friendship and fall into a variety of adventures. Ingenu/e Magazine describes it as: “Absolutely Fabulous meets Last of the Summer Wine… a gently hilarious feel-good book that will enchant and delight…”.
A prize-winning author and member of the RNA, she also loves to travel and recently returned to Tanzania, where she lived at the start of her marriage. A keen tennis player and walker, she enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren and inventing stories for their entertainment.
Her short stories are published by PRIMA and the People’s Friend.
To keep in touch with Angela you can use the following links:-
Website – www.angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com
About A Tuscan Memory
In a tiny hamlet nestled in the Tuscan mountains, farmers gather after a hard day in the meadows, and children’s laughter rings across the square: but one little boy does not join in their play. Behind his deep brown eyes, hides a heartbreaking secret…
Ninety years later. When elderly Giselda Chiozzi discovers a lost little boy, curled up asleep in the beech forest outside her grand but empty home, she can’t help but take pity on him. It’s been a long time since she had a visitor. Waking up to her kind smile and the warming smell of Italian hot chocolate, Davide soon blurts out what drove him into the cold Tuscan night: he’s different from everyone else, he’s never belonged anywhere, and now his beloved mother is ill.
With her heart full of sadness for this lost child, Giselda promises to help Davide trace his family history – she knows better than anyone that connecting with your roots can ground you in the present, and hopes it will make Davide realise that home is where he truly belongs.
Together the unlikely pair discover the story of Davide’s great-grandfather, Giuseppe Starnucci, a young boy who spent his days milking cows, helping with the harvest, and hammering horseshoes in the forge. But after a terrible incident that changed his life forever, Giuseppe also ran away. Forced to become a man before his time, Giuseppe joined the treacherous pilgrimage all Tuscan farmers must make from the mountains to the plains, sacrificing everything to ensure the survival of their families.
Engrossed in the story, Davide is slowly starting to heal when he and Giselda discover a shocking secret which Giuseppe took to his grave – and which now threatens to tear apart Davide’s family for good. Will Davide let the pain of the past determine his future, or can he find the courage, love and loyalty within him to return home… and even if Davide himself finds peace, will it be too late for Giselda?
Inspired by true stories of rural Italian life, this absolutely stunning historical read is perfect for fans of Dinah Jeffries, Rhys Bowen, and anyone who’s ever longed to stroll beneath the cypress trees and taste the fresh mountain air of Tuscany.
Previously published as Now and Then in Tuscany.
Link to buy A Tuscan Memory: https://amzn.to/2ZVOQ5B
Angela‘s other books include:-