Bookword walks in Gargano, Italy

Reading in Gargano

In April I went walking for 7 days in the Gargano Peninsula, Puglia, on the heel of Italy. We had brilliant sunshine and many beautiful walks through wooded hills, olive groves, along beaches and strada bianca. There were twelve of us in the group – a captive sample for a reading survey. And everyone had a book to talk about.

The Walking Group

My survey

My idea to ask everyone what they were currently reading was inspired. I got to talk to people about my favourite topic – books. I was given many recommendations. And it was a brilliant opening to talk with the other walkers.

What I found out

The only thing the 12 readers had in common was the ability to forget the title, author or both when responding to my questions. ‘Errrrm,’ they replied, every one of them. Some titles and authors we worked out together, some were produced later. It was a salutary corrective to my anxieties about titles and their importance. I blogged about that some time ago: On the tricky topic of titles.


Three people were reading non-fiction:

  • A biography of Modi,
  • Francis of Assisi: a revolutionary life by Adrian House, and
  • Daniel Kahneman’s book called Thinking Fast and Slow (2011).

Since the conversation often opened out to discuss other reading habits I wasn’t surprised to hear that one walker read books about bridge and another told me about her success with the elimination diet in The Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin.


Most of us were reading fiction. Many of these choices were linked to places people had visited.

  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (a possible candidate for the older women in fiction series?). The original is in Swedish.
  • Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare (2005)
  • The Cashmere Shawl by Rosie Thomas (2011)
  • House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy (2016) (a possible candidate for the older women in fiction series?)
  • A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman (2015) (already in the older women in fiction series)
  • Stone Cradle by Louise Doughty (2006)
  • A novel by Lee Child

Fiction for Southern Italy

The Night Falling by Katherine Webb (2014) was my choice for the holiday, a historical fiction based in Puglia (but not Gargano) in the 1920s when times were very hard and the Fascists were beginning to gain power through violence. I enjoyed the story of our heroine less than the historical context, revealed in the countryside we walked in.

Support for our walk was provided by Matteo, who was keen to provide some recommendations for reading about his part of the world. I have to admit to ignorance about the history of the people of Italy, good enough on political change such as the Unification, but lacking any detail. Carlo Alianello has reinterpreted the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy.

Matteo also recommended other Italian writers: Giovanni Verga (1840-1922), one of the first Italian realist writers – verismo. His novella Rosso Malpelo (evil red hair in English) is well known. Zola is thought to have learned from Verga. Gianrico Carofiglio is a writer of legal thrillers, based on his career. Translated by Patrick Creagh he has written Involuntary Witness and A Walk in the Dark.

It was my idea of a perfect week: walking, reading, talking, good food, sunshine and all in the beautiful country of Italy. Many thanks to my all my fellow walkers and ATG holidays.

Vieste coastline

Related posts and websites

Tripfiction is worth a look before a journey.

Earlier this year I posted about Bookword in Iceland.

Last year I went to Cevennes, France and reflected on the journey of Robert Louis Stevenson with his donkey.

Over to you

Do you have any Southern Italian reading to recommend?

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Filed under Books, Books and Walking, Reading, Travel with Books, Travelling with books

8 Responses to Bookword walks in Gargano, Italy

  1. christine_a

    I’ll second Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio – great holiday reading – kept me engaged during a long airport delay.

  2. Matteo

    Hi Caroline
    I would suggest another book set in Sicily during the Garibaldi’s invasion, which is “Il Gattopardo” (wrongly translated as “The leopard”) written by Tomasi di Lampedusa more than 120 years ago. When the powerful families of Sicily realize that – once the Borbons are defeated – the Garibaldi victory may push the folk to rise up against them, they decide to embrace the revolution. When the war is over, they are still the powerful and untouched leaders of Sicily- with the support of the new united government – while the folk that believed and fought for the Garibaldi’s revolution is in a even worst socioeconomic conditions. “Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same” is the famous paradox of the book, which is still valid today in the italian politics.

    • Caroline

      Hi Matteo,
      Thanks for adding more to your original suggestions. The Leopard, as we know it in English, is regarded as something of a classic and a one-hit wonder. Your view of Italian history and literature suggests a deeper understanding of this novel. What is the correct translation of ‘Il Gattopardo’ by the way?

      We were too busy discussing 19th century history to consider today’s political situation, but I can understand your last comment.
      Good to hear from you. Hope you are keeping well.

  3. Firstly, thank you so much for the mention!

    Secondly, I totally get the scratching of head for title and author. I am reading a book set in 1950s Kenya at the moment, it’s in another room. If it maintains its excellent storytelling, beautifully written, it will be one of my top reads this year. But can I remember the title/author as I sit here and write? No. Mea culpa. Great post, thank you.

    • Caroline

      Thanks for the comment. I think the head-scratching response is universal, and quite understandable for people who are watching their feet as they walk!
      Thanks for the Facebook link.
      Love the website.

  4. David Symonds

    Can you give me any info about your walks, or guide books about the peninsula?
    BW, David

    • Caroline

      I went with a company called ATG in April 2017. I can’t provide any information about Gargano, but I do recommend it.

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