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The Secret of Santa Vittoria: A Novel

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  418 ratings  ·  49 reviews
In the last days of World War II, German forces are sent to occupy the Italian hill town, Santa Vittoria, and claim its great treasure: one million bottles of the Santa Vittoria wine that is its lifeblood. The clownish mayor, Bombolini, matches wits with the urbane German captain, Von Prum, as the town unites -- aristocrats and peasants, old enemies and young lovers -- to ...more
ebook, 447 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published January 1st 1966)
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Amanda
For many years, this was my favorite book. A beautiful, comical story of a very small town in the mountains of Italy in WWII, the book features some unforgettable characters and one of the best prologues I can remember. It will make you laugh, cry and rejoice at the resiliency of the human spirit.
Voracious
WOW. Reading this was a bit like reading the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society, and a bit like watching the 1953 movie Wages of Fear. Exciting, moving, funny, wise...and shocking, too.

I have to admit it took me about 100 pages to really get into it, but then I couldn't put it down.
Malabaricus
I read this book when I was 16 and it was the only book that made me laugh out loud. I just loved it! What a pity Robert Crichton wrote only two books.
Noel
After visiting some of the hilltowns in Tuscany, I wondered what it would have been like to live through WWII there. Based on a true story and the author 's personal experience, the book clearly told the story of one small village and their ordeal. It was light and humorous, insightful and introspective, and the narrator was excellent! In my mind I placed the book in Montepulciano, the heart of wine making country and a town with many of the same characteristics as the one in the book. The chara ...more
Shelly - The Illustrated Librarian -
I read this book for the Wine Store Book Club I moderate for my library. I would not have read it otherwise, in spite of the fact
that I chose the book as a selection for the club. The plot sounded amusing. A small wine-making village in the hills of Italy tries to hide close to one million bottles of wine from the occupying Nazis. Amusing isn't quite the word I used once I finished the book.

The story takes place near the end of WWII, just after Mussolini is executed. The Germans are occupying
...more
Scoats
Wow. There is so much to like about this book.

It starts off a little dry and old school. After a few chapters it hits its stride though.
Well developed characters and great pacing. Surprising suspenseful. Machiavelli is worked well into the story.

Not that I have anything to go on, but it feels that this book captured what a small hillside Italian town was like back in the 1940s.

One thing that really disappoints me after finishing it is that book isn't as real as the introduction or parts of t
...more
Aaron
A bumbling, hilarious, over-the-top and pitch perfect gem of a read. The story of a small town in Italy that goes to extraordinary lengths to protect it's wine- the purpose of the town's (and it's inhabitants) very existence- during a German occupation towards the end of World War II. Laugh out loud funny. Hard to find, but if you can, it's absolutely worth getting.
Spook
A second world war story about the Germans taking over a small Italian wine growing town. Beautifully told and a great insight into the peasant mind when they hide the wine and refuse to tell it's location. Full of humour, love, courage, cruelty, honour and cowardice. A must read story.
D.
I loved this. The characters were so vivid and it totally transported me to another place and time. Even though the story took place during WWII it was a very different story from most WWII books. Unique and endearing.
Ellen
Jul 05, 2011 Ellen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humor, Italy
I really enjoyed this book. I read it when it was first released, and had a lot of fun. There's a lot of humor in this book and for anyone who likes Italy and Italians it's a really fun read.
Tom
A great book. Best novel I've read in a long time. There's plenty of humor early on, but as the end comes (and the SS) the fun ends. It rings true from beginning to end.
Anthony Orso
I have read this a few times and have always enjoyed the tale. Great character development, a great plot and well written.
Mizmuzikmama Musiker
Old book but one of the most memorable I've read. Italy, wine, comedy, suspense, it has it all!
Jana
Being an Italian myslef, I absolutely LOVED this book! Thanks to my mom for recommending it!
Melissa Tea
Loved, loved, loved this book. Storytelling at it's best.
J Godwin
Why am I limited to 5 stars? I give this book 10 stars. Maybe 11! It has something for...literally...everyone.

Drama
History and war
Tension/conflict
Scenery/descriptive prose
Wit and self-effacing humor
Morals and consequences
Heartbreak beyond tears
and Thunderbolt love.

And hilarious stereotypes! Although if I were German or Italian, I'm sure I would be incensed and insulted. Yet on the other hand, the stereotypes were mostly assumed by the characters (even by themselves) and then later proved...well,
...more
Angela
This was an interesting story about the German occupation of a small Italian village during WW II . The people of Santa Vittoria have a stockpile of one million bottles of wine that is produced in their village and is of the highest quality. Their wine production is a source of pride, and their ability to keep the Germans from stealing it is the challenge of this story. I enjoyed the rich descriptions of the Italian character and tempermant and watching the clever ways the Italians strung along ...more
Lesley
I first read this book in high school back in the early 70s. I remembered really enjoying it, and I am glad I re-read this again!
Jamie
I just loved reading this book, and do so from time to time again when the need arises. It's a WWII story unlike any other I've ever come across. Definitely dealing with the heartache of the era, but also such humor and touching characters and townspeople... reminiscent to me of the movie "Life is Beautiful". Not in story line, to be clear, but in essence.
Csilness
A charming read. Have been recommending it to my wine loving friends.
Michelle von Knorring
One of the best stories ever told!
Donna R
I am reading novels adapted to movies/plays in which Anthony Quinn starred. The movie based on this novel was released in 1969.

Set in Italian mountain town after the fall of Mussolini, this is a WW11 story with a difference. Great characters, compelling story skillfuly balancing humour and pathos.

Italo Bombollini (Quinn) is viewed by the citizens of Santa Vittoria as a clown, a buffoon, ridiculed by many (including his wife). Yet when times called for a person of particular leadership skills up

...more
Seth Benzell
A solid thriller. Some pretty memorable scenes. Were the villagers right to risk their lives with this scheme? Would you have been able to hold out under torture about the existence of the treasure?

Many years later reading Foucault's Pendulum, I couldn't help comparing that novel's climax with this book. Italians sure do have a weird sense of honor.
itpdx
This book was recommended to me when I asked for books that would give me an idea of what it was like in Italy during WWII. The story is set in a small, isolated hill town in the north of Italy. The town revolves around its vineyards and the wine. The story has a cast of delightful characters. The main character, Bombolini, a clown from Sicily, accidentally becomes mayor when Mussolini abdicates and before the Germans arrive. The town decides to try of hide two years worth of wine from the Germa ...more
Shannon Hampton
What a sweet and hectic book. After it, I needed a little break from serious topics, and yet it was still a really sweet story.
Liana
3.5 stars. It's clever and charming, and a mostly enjoyable read. However, there were times that it simply couldn't keep my attention. This could be partly due to the narration of the audiobook, though, which isn't outstanding. I may try a re-read with a physical copy someday.
Jdwyah
Enjoyed it, though there are a couple "horror-of-war" bits that are pretty brutal.
Karen
I read this for book club, and am glad I did it--it's not a book I would ever have picked up otherwise. But it's easy to see why it was on the Times bestseller list for so long, back when it was published. It's an amazing feat of imagination (and probably research.) Reading it, I was half-convinced this was an actual incident, or that Crichton was at least closely connected to some WWII-era Italian peasants. I have no way of knowing if all of his details are correct or authentic, but they're con ...more
Dave
An amusing, yet at times, a shockingly real story of a small town in Italy guarding their precious stock of wine from the invading Nazi's.

This was a warm fuzzy as far as war stories go, but it could not escape the harsh realities that were the Nazi German's. It took me a while to become engaged in the story, but I was slowly drawn in and for the most part it was worth the wait.
Emo
although I only gave it three stars, I did like this book. It's whimsical and serious without being too serious. I think also that I couldn't relate entirely to the people because what they were fighting for was wine and I've never had wine. But, I loved the spirit of a few characters and how the Italians and the Germans relate (or don't relate) to each other.
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Crichton was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and grew up in Bronxville, New York.[1] He served in the infantry during World War II, and was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Before returning to the States, he ran an ice cream factory on the outskirts of Paris; it was, he said, his decompression chamber. He attended Harvard University on the GI Bill and was a member of the famed clas ...more
More about Robert Crichton...
The Camerons The Great Impostor The Rascal and the Road The Rockside Pioneers Reader's Digest Condensed Books: Volume 2, 1973

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“The duty of the people is to tend to their own affairs.
The duty of government is to help them do it.
This is the pasta of politics.
The inspired leader, the true prince, no matter how great, can only be sauce upon the pasta.
--Bombolini”
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“The story is the same, over and over, only the facts are different and the names and the places.” 5 likes
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