What is a house without a dog?

By admin
02 July 2013

Looking for a good book to cuddle up with? Then look no further . . .

Do you also have stressful times at work when you feel like selling up everything and making a fresh start in some idyllic place such as Tuscany? At the back of my mind I’m always travelling somewhere, even if I’m in my office, and I gobble up books such as Under The Tuscan Sun (1996) and A Thousand Days in Tuscany (2005).

Todo in Tuscany (published by Hodder, 2012) is a book in that style, but with a difference – a dog. Britons Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw watched the final of the 2006 World Cup Soccer Tournament (the year Italy won) on a large screen in a square in Florence and decided they wanted to be part of that culture.

When they began to look at property they fell in love with a house called Poggiolino in San Francesco di Compito, a Tuscan hamlet near the town of Lucca. The house came with one condition – you had to take the elderly dog in the yard too. Because Todo, a mongrel with a broad smile, had been patiently waiting for new inhabitants for two years since the death of his owner. Others were willing to take him into their care but Todo refused to leave his beloved Poggiolino.

Louise and Lawrence experience similar adaptation problems to those in Under the Tuscan Sun: problems with builders, the language, the infrastructure (they battle for months to get a telephone and internet line, which are vital for their business), the bureaucracy, the ugly wallpaper . . . But Todo shows he’s a real heart thief who can open doors for them in the community and help them find their feet in a new country and culture. A dog really does turn a house into a home.

Todo in Tuscany is one of the most touching books I’ve read in a long time. Spoiler alert: I needed a few tissues.

And if you like Todo in Tuscany I recommend you also try Isabella Dusi’s Vanilla Beans and Brodo (2002). Isabella and her husband are Americans who move with bag and baggage to Tuscany and settle in the town of Montalcino (coincidentally not far from Lucca). None of the other books gives such a detailed view of the distinctive (and sometimes strange) Toscan culture.

Thought all Italians love pasta and pizza? Not so. Vanilla Beans and Brodo allows you to experience something of the Italians’ regional loyalty and sometimes painful traditionalism. I, who am often irritated by South Africans’provincialism, could now and then roll my eyes at the Italians. A great book.

- Gerda Engelbrecht

Gerda Engelbrecht is a copy editor for Huisgenoot and a self-confessed book addict.

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