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The Ghosts of Italy

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'A warm summer breeze lifts pale blue sheets and a host of marshmallow clouds float over my balcony.'

The Ghosts of Italy is Angela Paolantonio's memoir of how she first discovers and then returns to live in the remote mountain village in Southern Italy where her grandparents were born. She sets out late one November, just after having celebrated Thanksgiving alone on a rooftop in Rome, the spirit of her ancestors guiding her in. "I really didn't know I was searching for anything till I got here," she says. "Then I realized what I was missing and what it meant."

Angela Paolantonio's archetypal journey to the village of the ghosts of her ancestors is a unique yet universal woman's story. She ventures across the threshold of a lost world, reclaims it, and falls deeply in love along the way – with the town and its residents, the landscape, and the Handsome Man from Macchiursi. She follows the clues to rediscover her spirit and the spirit of her grandmother, and namesake, whose memory had been lost to her, locked inside her father's heart.

300 pages, Paperback

First published September 9, 2016

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About the author

Angela Paolantonio

2 books45 followers
Angela Paolantonio is the author of THE GHOSTS OF ITALY (2016). In STILL LIFE WITH SAINTS (2020), she trades Mulholland Drive for via Fontana to live in the house where her Italian spirit was born, on a magical lane among the women of the village who take her under their wing and into their lives. Call it magic, serendipity, or maybe a dispatch from a past life Angela is compelled to listen and act on her inner voice. In her sequel to The Ghosts of Italy she's no longer out of her league. Italian folklore rules her days. Still Life with Saints the song of her nights.

“The mingling of a journey to find ancestral roots with a rustic love story, plenty of local color, and excellent descriptions of Italian cuisine, result in an intriguing and passionate memoir.” Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize, 2020

Still Life With Saints (2020) joins The Ghosts of Italy (2016) as a Library Journal curated selection for the Indie Author Project (IAP) Commercial Collections Memoirs Program for Queens Public Library & Garden City Public Library, New York & the National Library database on Overdrive.

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,914 reviews35.3k followers
June 14, 2017
Update: "The Ghosts of Italy"--is now a available as a *Kindle* download!!! Its either $9.99 to own or a free Kindle unlimited! Its a wonderful story!!!

Angela Paolantonio's wrote a rare treasure. 'Angela' is a rare treasure! It's impossible to read her memoir and not be moved by this woman: bright, curious, and passionate, ......
Angela Paolantonio is a photographer, writer, curator, and consultant for arts and photography exhibits, books, and events, both in Italy and the United States.

This memoir takes us on an unforgettable journey to a quiet village in Southern Italy -- the town of Calitri.
Scene after vivid scene Angela's quest to trace her heritage - the town where her grandparents were born --is one that shattered her American mind......as she never really expected to find anybody living in the village who knew her or her family. All she really knew before taking the journey was that the last person to make the journey was her grandfather, Nicola, sometime in the 1950s.
A single woman traveling alone to an area that is 'not' a tourist area -was fascinating in itself.
When she first arrived, everyone she met took 'charge' of her, (of the lovely single American), placing strong coffee in front of her with homemade biscotti flavored with anisette.
Angela did her best to attempt conversation in petrified Italian.... which wasn't particularly understood well.
Angela had heard stories about her grandfather growing up --and she was definitely her father's daughter .... but nobody in the family talked very much about her grandmother. She had only seen one photo of her that she found in a messy junk drawer. But seriously---- like the title of this book, "The Ghosts of Italy", .... it didn't take long until two complete strangers came in with information about her grandmother with photos. Information and mystery about grandmother Angela Marie was just beginning to unravel.
"So Journey was ordered for me then. It was up to me to stumble upon Angela Marie, the unbeloved, at the age of forty, while I still have the chance to break the spell. I really hadn't known what I was looking for until I got here."
"Italian fairy dust was pulling me in"

Pieces of the puzzle about Angela's ancestors begin to fit together. She meets and becomes friends with the town residents.... all the while we are getting a lovely experience of being 'with' her.

Angela's writing is so beautiful that there were times I was really envious. Some of the most 'simple' scene descriptions are ones that made me want to grab my new passport and fly over to Italy myself.
And this is a little of what I, too, would like to enjoy - with the Italian community - wonderful people that we meet in this book:
"I follow zio Giovanni out to the balcony. The morning sky of this late November day what is bright, crisp, and clear as we sat in the silence of our culture gap, taking in the countryside. As far as the eye could see, rolling wheat fields grazed the horizon with the ancient hilltown of Calitri in the near distance. And not a sound could be heard".

Angela now lives in Calitri, Italy, on via Fontana. in the house where her grandmother was born. This story is so beautiful ---and.....
Angela: Thank You soooo much for mailing your book - from Italy. ....and from me to you -- I'm deeply sad and sorry about Franco.

**Angela: The first year I was married, my husband's mother, grandmother, and favorite aunt... all took one last trip to Italy. Grandma was in her 80's. She had her two adult daughters with her. They stayed 6 weeks. One month of those 6 weeks they stayed with Italian cousins they had never met... from Great great Grandma Brignolo.
Paul and Iive in his great great grandmother's Brignolo's house. She had just moved into a residential home before we bought her house. Our basement is where she use to make her 'famous' family raviolis. She lived in this house with her cousin - two old farts: -with Uncle Louie. Uncle Louie was a 95 year old character. We have a pine tree planted in honor of his death - planted 35 years ago that was the size of me back then - and is now SO HUGE- it costs us a mighty bill once every other year for professional trimming.
Uncle Louie gave us his "words of wisdom" to Paul and I when we got engaged to marry - almost 40 years ago: He said..... "you kids be good for 90 years.... after that, you can afford to mess around a bit". My aunt- an avid reader- is going to cherish this book!!!

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED YOUR MEMOIR .... and kinda love YOU!!!!
Thank you!

Highly recommended to anyone who wants to read a compelling elegant true story filled with marvelous history and characters.
5 reviews3 followers
October 22, 2016
In reading this book I have the advantage of (1.) Living in Italy myself, and (2.) Having once visited Calitri on a whim, having no idea what it was like. We did have a chance meeting with Angela on that visit. When I heard she had written a book I was very intrigued and wanted to read it. I purchased a copy here in Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I loved its pace and sequencing through her whole journey from tentative beginnings to full embrace into her two family lines. The love affair was obviously very important to her but, for me, secondary to the rest of the story. Although I live in Umbria, considered to be very traditionally Italian, it holds no candle to these remote and isolated villages in the south. The rituals associated with everyday life there are incredible. That a grown, fully independent woman would have to be escorted by a male relative to meet the parents of her boyfriend, even in the 21st century is jaw dropping. If you love all things Italian or, especially, have Italian heritage I think you will really love this book.
Profile Image for Tricia.
2 reviews
December 17, 2016
Upon reading "Ghosts of Italy" I was inspired, captivated, and enthralled. I felt as though I was making Angela's journey along side of her. If only a little of her girl power could rub off on me! Her mastery of story telling is charming, with interjections of the Italian language coloring the vivid scenes she paints in your mind. As I neared the end I found myself rationing pages, allowing myself only a few each day, wishing to prolong the inevitable end. Now I hold onto the hope that a sequel is in the works! If you like the genres of travel, adventure, and female empowerment, all laced with a little romance, this is the read for you!
1 review1 follower
November 10, 2016
This book is for anyone who loves travel; for anyone who loves Family History; for anyone who loves Italy, romance and so much more. I have been to those small hill towns of Southern Italy and Angela captures it perfectly. She takes you on her personal journey back to the roots of her ancestors. (Finding romance along the way). You can almost feel the warm summer breeze and hear the church bells ringing. She takes you there with her and you will be totally engrossed in the experience. I recommend this book highly.
Profile Image for Janice.
6 reviews
March 13, 2018
I anxiously awaited the publication of this book since reading an article in the New York Times about Angela Paolantonio’s move back to Calitri, her ancestral town in Italy. As someone who also lives with the fantasy of an Italian life, I was curious to know how this story turns out. I lived vicariously as I quickly read each chapter, and as I got further in I slowed down to “save” the remaining pages. I didn’t want to leave Paolantonio’s world of her ancestors’ ghosts and the present day life in this tiny mountain town punctuated with food, rituals, and festivals. Since this takes place in Italy, of course there are obstacles to her buying the house, and, fortunately, also a love story. I especially love the author’s own photos that illustrate the book and would like to see more of them. I can’t wait to read her next book.
October 18, 2017
LOVED The Ghosts of Italy. Angela does a great job of sharing her own story including the adventures of discovering her family roots as well as the challenges of doing so when one’s residence is across the ocean. Speaking of family, you will notice many profound values and expressions of love that are quiet and yet fierce. Her writing and descriptions of countrysides, towns, tastes and colors made me feel like I was right there with her experiencing the beauty and intricacies of living in Bella Italia and the love story made the book only more interesting leaving me wanting to know more. ENJOY!
5 reviews
April 2, 2021
A taste of the life my grandparents lived in Italy before crossing the ocean for a new life.

My grandparents raised 13 children on America soil. Hearing the life they had before coming to America.
Seeing the well known phrases that were common in my childhood from my grandmother that spoke Italian only.
Makes me proud that I am interested in my heritage and reading a heart warming story that rings very true.
I loved the book.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 5 books19 followers
June 29, 2017
This is a lovely memoir that takes you into the heart of Italian living. Having Italian in-laws, I am interested in all things Italian and was eager to get my hands on this book. It doesn't disappoint. Thank you, Angela, for sharing your story about life in Italy, your personal experiences, and your family history.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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