Book review: Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 Permalink

Almost exactly a year ago I read One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino and enjoyed it – particularly its references to the lead character’s quest for happiness and her insight into the fact that our needs and / or desires don’t necessarily make us happy.

I also loved the setting and – as the only place I really (now) want to visit is Italy – I happily leapt at the chance to read her newest release… Under Italian Skies.

Book review: Under Italian Skies by Nicky PellegrinoUnder Italian Skies
by Nicky Pellegrino
on April 12th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Romance
ISBN: 1409150860, 9781409150862
Pages: 304

Stella has life under control - and that's the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she's been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she's left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio.

It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost - until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?

But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger's life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can't help but imagine the owner from the clues around her. She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality?

As Stella wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there's a chance for her to find a way into her future...

In One Summer in Venice, Dolly gets pulled into the world of the charismatic and worldly Coco. Restauranteur Raffaella and former actress, the beautiful Tosca, play similar roles in Pellegrino’s latest book. They’re not quite as eccentric as Coco and more grounded – each with their own issues and demons. But as older influences and mentors they’re wonderful foils to Stella’s very organised and pragmatic personality.

The characters were all wonderfully developed and I enjoyed getting to know Stella. In fact I very much related to her. She wanted kids and expected marriage and a family, but it wasn’t to be. She’s a bit older than me and she’s kept busy and had a fulfilling life nonetheless. But now she’s finally standing still, she realises her life is empty.

nicky pellegrino

Most of these post-it notes were things which ‘spoke to me’ in the novel. Like I said… I could relate!

I have to admit the whole thing got me fantasising about the idea of a house swap. I’m already in the midst of my seachange so can’t really gallivant off anywhere just now… but perhaps one day. Stella thinks she’s got the best of the deal – in the delightful seaside villa – while Leo’s swallowed up in her small London flat. I also loved Leo’s idea of leaving Stella a pile of suggested ‘things to do’ – giving her an insight into his own passions and a Triento most visitors wouldn’t have.

Again Pellegrino entertains her readers with a wonderful combination of cooking and culture – showcasing a range of delightful and delicious southern Italian delicacies – from olive oils to cheeses to vinegars.

“… food is everything,” argued Rafaella. “It is pleasure, happiness and love; most of all it is memory.” p109

It’s also a love story of sorts, as there’s an underlying whisper of romance as Stella finds herself increasing attracted to her new penpal and house swappee, Leo. And then there’s the opportunity for romance closer to home. And Tosca, in particular, is on the lookout for a partner and obsessed with the notion of a holding a speed dating event to meet the man of her dreams.

What I appreciated though was another message – one that it’s okay to be alone – that we shouldn’t wait to be saved.

What my friend needs is to make her own life instead of waiting for a man to come and build one for her. p 153

And again this book is about taking risks. About the pursuit of happiness and the decisions tbat will get us there.

All the risk lies in doing nothing. p 234

My only real negative with this lovely read was the ending which I felt wrapped everything up a bit too quickly. Not excessively neatly, which was good, but it felt rushed in comparison with the rest of the novel.

Lovers of food, friendship, Italy and romance will enjoy this book. Not to mention lovers of life.

Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino was published by Hachette Australia and released on 12 April 2016.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


  • Jo
    April 19, 2016

    I’ve been waiting for this review- I love Nicky Pellegrino’s books…

  • pamela007
    April 19, 2016

    Sounds just my cup of tea.

    • Debbish
      April 19, 2016

      It’s a lovely read – well paced and very entertaining!

  • mummywifeme
    April 19, 2016

    Oh this book sounds perfect for me! What a great setting. It sounds like it has a great message behind it too.

    • Debbish
      April 20, 2016

      Yes, it’s very enjoyable – I actually enjoyed the previous book I mentioned but loved this one more!

  • Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library
    April 19, 2016

    You have sold me on this book! It sounds wonderful! I love the idea of the house swap, the list of things to do, and watching the character kind of figure herself out. This sounds like my kind of book!

    • Debbish
      April 20, 2016

      It’s delightful though I’m not sure it’s out everywhere yet. I think I noted (on Nicky’s website) it’s only out in Australia, New Zealand (where she lives) and the UK at the moment.

  • Tali
    April 20, 2016

    Seems like a delightful read I will look it up. On a personal note I did a house swap 7 years ago when I was at a point in my life where everything seems to be stuck in a rut. As a family we swapped houses with a family living in Australia and that was the trigger for us to move permanently to Australia. I think that house swapping is an amazing experience, it allows you to live a ‘what if’ kind of life even for a little while and gives you a very good perspective of your life and what you want to do next. For us it triggered a huge change with a very positive outcome. So definitely recommend it Debby – one day 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 20, 2016

      Oh Tali – what a wonderful outcome for you. I actually told my mother this… and said it might be something I’d consider when she’s… umm… gone. I’d still have friends and distant family around but I wouldn’t really have anyone who needed me here / would miss me and so could take off then. And I’d never considered a house swap, but it’s an idea. (Or just renting my place out and attempting to live off the rent money!)

      • Tali
        May 9, 2016

        I have read this book on the weekend and loved it. What a great read, thanks for the recommendation.

  • Kathryn
    April 20, 2016

    Great review and I love the pic with all the post it notes! I need to do that more.

    • Debbish
      April 20, 2016

      I much prefer print books but… must confess, from a reviewing standpoint using Bluefire Reader allows me to make notes on certain pages, which is handy when I come to write a review. I’d struggle with print books – I’d turn over a corner but often didn’t remember why, whereas now (with the post it notes and pen beside the bath), I can get to them easily!

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