A dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9781869713836.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) This is a book about choice, hope and change. The young mayor of Montenello, a small hill town in Italy, is unhappy with the decreasing population of his town, and concerned about its many vacant homes. He dreams up a way that he hopes will make his town vibrant once more, not just with tourists, but by attracting new residents. He persuades the council to make an unexpected, unusual and ultimately precarious choice: to use the internet to find international buyers for the old houses that have been abandoned, or whose absent owners no longer want them.
As the cost is minimal - each house, large or small, will cost one euro - he hopes to persuade people who like Italy that it might be a great choice to live there once they have seen how beautiful it is, and restored their new homes. Of course, the owners have to agree to the scheme - if he can find them. The town councilors are unsure about his plan, but he persists. Happily, they find that they have a number of applicants, and must choose the ones that seem to be the best potential buyers. After contacting the chosen ones to arrange accommodation and to let them know how the scheme will work, they wait, with hope and a little trepidation.
As the first set of buyers arrive, they meet the mayor to see and discuss the property that he has chosen for each of them. They are charmed, as he had hoped, by the beauty of the views, the quirkiness of the old town and its buildings, and persuaded that, although this quiet town has seen more vibrant days, it is still very attractive. There is a particularly fine restaurant, the hotel is warmly welcoming, and there are beautiful views and interesting walks. Some adjustments need to be made with the arrangements, and some houses need a great deal of work, but, as the mayor had hoped, the new owners fall in love with his town, enjoying the food, the people and the spectacular views.
This is a delightful book about an interesting modern situation, and the narrative is made all the more vibrant by the variety of characters and the charming mayor. The narrative develops smoothly, captivating the reader with the description of the characters, the views and the old buildings, and as well, the interactions of the old and new residents, who are similarly drawn to this special place.