Robert Camuto may describe Italy as “designed by mad sculptors and anarchists,” yet his affection for the country is abundantly clear in this entertaining volume. Camuto, a freelance writer and wine journalist, lives in the northern Italian city of Verona, but his heart lies farther south, and the stories in this book all emanate from Lazio down to Calabria, “isolated on the toe of the Italian boot, about to punt the island of Sicily into the gap between Tunisia and Sardinia.” Camuto’s prose immerses the reader in the sights, smells, flavors and personalities of the cultural tapestry that is southern Italy. He luxuriates in the details of every encounter: lunch with a Campanian winemaker includes sensual descriptions of buffalo mozzarella as well as a discourse on the distinctions among southern Italy’s principal crime syndicates—the Mafia, Camorra and ’Ndrangheta. Discussions of wine are more evocative than technical—“His Fianos come on like a hit of sea air in spring—robust, floral and expansive. His Greco wines are all zip and lemon spice”—adding to the rich texture of the stories. You may feel like traveling to southern Italy after reading this book, but you’ll also feel like you’ve already been there.
South of Somewhere: Wine, Food and the Soul of Italy, by Robert Camuto; University of Nebraska Press, (2021), 280 pages, $24.95
This story appears in the print issue of Summer 2022.
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