Under the Tuscan Sun meets Diary of a Bookseller in this charming memoir by an Italian poet recounting her experience opening a bookshop in a village in Tuscany.
Alba Donati was used to her hectic life working as a book publicist in Italy—a life that made her happy and allowed her to meet prominent international authors—but she was ready to make a change. One day she decided to return to Lucignana, the small village in the Tuscan hills where she was born. There she opened a tiny but enchanting bookshop in a lovely little cottage on a hill, surrounded by gardens filled with roses and peonies.
With fewer than 200 year-round residents, Alba’s shop seemed unlikely to succeed, but it soon sparked the enthusiasm of book lovers both nearby and across Italy. After surviving a fire and pandemic restrictions, the “Bookshop on the Hill” soon became a refuge and destination for an ever-growing community. The locals took pride in the bookshop—from Alba’s centenarian mother to her childhood friends and the many volunteers who help in the day-to-day running of the shop. And in short time it has become a literary destination, with many devoted readers coming from afar to browse, enjoy a cup of tea, and find comfort in the knowledge that Alba will find the perfect read for them.
Alba’s lifelong love of literature shines on every page of this unique and uplifting book. Formatted as diary entries with delightful lists of the books sold at the shop each day, this inspirational story celebrates reading as well as book lovers and booksellers, the unsung heroes of the literary world.
The pseudonymous Donati recounts in this agreeable outing the story of her 2021 move from Florence back to her tiny hometown of Lucignana (population 180) to open the mountain village's first bookshop. "The idea must have been lying in wait, ensconced in the folds of that dark and joyous country we call childhood," she writes of her decision. Lacking the funds to pursue the project, Donati turned to crowdfunding, and, to her surprise and delight, donations came pouring in. Soon her project became a genuine sensation, drawing bibliophiles from all over Italy to seek out her robust rare book collection. Using diary entries that begin in January and run through March, Donati writes in real time about Covid and the pandemic's effects on her business. She also includes snippets of local history, musings on village life, and tips for aspiring booksellers ("Never fancy yourself better than your readers"). Donati's anecdotes and book recommendations are undoubtedly delightful, but the memoir aspect lacks focus. Still, bookworms will find plenty to enjoy in this charming if diffuse time capsule.