Showing posts with label Italian Traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Traditions. Show all posts


A Happy 10th Anniversary to Death in the High City

Successful decade for Bergamo’s first British crime novel 

Death in the High City, the first detective novel written in English to be set in Bergamo in Lombardy, was published ten years ago this summer. 

The novel came out in Kindle format in May 2014 and a paperback version was released in July 2014.

It has since sold copies in the UK, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, America, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. 

To mark the tenth anniversary, East Wind Publishing have issued a new edition of the mystery with a front cover showing Bergamo’s historic Via Colleoni at night. The street in the Città Alta, Bergamo’s upper town, features as a key location in the novel.

Referred to as un romanzo giallo in Italian, Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta in Bergamo while working on a biography she was writing of the opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born and died in the city. 

The novel was the first in a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a retired Detective Chief Inspector, who is of partly Italian descent. 

The dead woman had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. At first the local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so journalist Kate Butler, the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her relative’s death. 

Kate visits many of the places in Bergamo with Donizetti connections and her enquiries also take her to nearby Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another death in the Città Alta, her partner, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer.

The reader can enjoy Bergamo’s wonderful architecture and scenery from the comfort of their own armchair, while savouring the many descriptions in the novel of local food and wine. 

Author Val Culley has been delighted with the level of interest shown both at home and in Italy in what was her first novel.

She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book, as a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù, a group of independent tour guides based in the city. During the evening, she was presented with a book about San Pellegrino Terme by the town’s mayor. 

Val has also made two appearances on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione during his daily breakfast programme. During one of her visits to the studios, she presented a copy of the book to the Mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, who took office the year the novel was published. Val was invited to Bergamo for a further visit by the Cambridge Institute to give a talk about Death in The High City to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies for them. 

She has also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library), a beautiful 16th century building in white marble, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, situated in Piazza Vecchia, a location that features frequently in the novel.

Val was later invited to give a talk about Death in the High City at a sixth form college in Zogno, a comune in Valle Brembana set in beautiful countryside in the hills above Bergamo. 

She has given talks about Death in the High City to members of the Dante Alighieri Society in Nottingham and members of Voglia d’Italia, a society for Italy enthusiasts in south Yorkshire. 

Another highlight was when the New York Times referred to Death in the High City in a travel feature about Bergamo. 

The book has been purchased by Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Libraries for the benefit of their readers and is available for sale on both Amazon and Waterstones on line. The novel will interest readers who enjoy the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or like detective stories with an Italian setting.

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Easter celebrations in Italy

Easter is a lovely time of the year to visit Italy as the weather is beginning to warm up and the spring flowers are in bloom.

Many towns have processions on Venerdi Santo (Good Friday) when statues or crosses are paraded through the streets or displayed in the main square.

Italian Easter eggs typically come with  artistically elaborate packaging
Italian Easter eggs typically come with 
artistically elaborate packaging
And while the world tunes in to watch the celebrations in Rome on television, special services will be held at churches all over Italy to celebrate la Pasqua (Easter Sunday).

In the run up to the Easter weekend, many shops will have elaborate displays of chocolate eggs in their windows. Italian Easter eggs are usually wrapped artistically in coloured cellophane and tied with pretty ribbons. They often contain a toy, or in the case of Easter eggs for adults, a gift, which can sometimes be as substantial as a mobile phone!

Since Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, food plays an important part in the Italian celebrations. Restaurants are usually busy at lunch time and many will serve a special menu for families who are out for a meal together, so it is advisable to book in advance if you are hoping to have a good lunch.

A traditional Easter meal for Italians, whether they are eating at home or in a restaurant, is likely to centre on agnello (lamb) as the main course, either roasted or braised.

For dessert there will usually be la Colomba, the dove-shaped cake that is traditional at Easter, in the same way that il Panettone is eaten at Christmas.

Italy's traditional Easter cake - la Colomba
Italy's traditional Easter cake is called la Colomba.
It is similar in texture to Panettone
La Colomba is known as the bird of peace and there is a legend that says a cake in the shape of a dove was offered to try to end a siege at Pavia centuries ago.

There is also the theory that the cake was created in the 1930s by a firm in Milan who wanted to provide a cake for Easter that was the equivalent of Panettone.

La Colomba is now sold all over Italy but can also be made in the home. The traditional version has an almond and sugar topping, but these days the shops sell them with all kinds of fillings, icings and toppings.

For details of what there is to see and do in the northern city of Bergamo in Lombardia, visit To find out about the main sights and attractions of Sorrento, a seaside resort south of Naples in Campania, visit



Bright fragrant mimosa signals respect for women

Yellow mimosa flowers (pic: Pixabay)
Yellow mimosa flowers (pic: Pixabay)
All over Italy, men will be seen carrying bunches of prettily wrapped mimosa to give to the woman in their lives today.

The flowers might be for their wives, girlfriends, mothers, friends or even employees and are meant as a sign of respect for womanhood.

The custom of men giving mimosa to their ladies began in the 1940s after the date 8 March was chosen as the Festa della Donna (Festival of the Woman) in Italy. The date coincides with International Women's Day.

Yellow mimosa was chosen as the flower to give because it is in bloom at the beginning of March, is relatively inexpensive and the scent of it in the atmosphere is a sign that primavera (spring) is just round the corner.

Continuing with the theme of mimosa, you might see on restaurant menus at this time of the year variations of dishes such as risotto mimosa or pasta mimosa (made with finely scrambled eggs).

And some cake shops will have Torta Mimosa in their windows, a concoction made with sugar, orange juice, whipped cream and orange liqueur.

Buona Festa!