All right dudes. All that is very true, but today…
Today we are going to share some facts on Italian weddings.
Well no, because today we are welcoming your very favourite Kate Furnivall.
And her fabulous new book.
Well, it’s also quite tough when other hamsters are queuing to get to Kate to come visit their blogs and sit in their cages, that we’re going ahead with this. But if you are good and nice and do not interrupt unless asked, we might at least reconsider not giving her the gingerbread houses. Now then, firstly Kate it is an….
……honour to have you back here…..
Kate. Do I like hamsters? Nope. Oh yes, I DO mean it!
My son used to own a hamster called Barnie, cute as a cookie but spiteful as a snake. He was always taking chunks out of fingers and kept making a break for it in search of adventure. So I spent hours crawling on my hands and knees through the house, trying to find the pesky critter. Several times I had to snatch him from the jaws of death – well, from the jaws of Santa, my Burmese cat. Since then my life has been blissfully hamster-less ….. until now.
Shey. Dudes, can we just cut to the next question. Kate is a best selling author in the middle of a blog tour. She has no time to answer your silly questions.
Well don’t. Okay. let’s just have the next question.
Kate. That’s the trouble, you see, Shey. It’s impossible not to love this herd of hamsters that runs riot on your blog. Each one has its own furry charms, but if you twist my arm …. hmm, let me think.
And I’ve decided that I can’t wait to move in to that gingerbread house with him and Olga. Till death us do part.
Shey. Okay, okay. You have set books in many exotic locations, what drew you to Italy for this one?
Kate. Ah, bella Italia! I defy anyone not to fall in love with Italy. (Even Bobby Bub.)
Not only is it a stunningly beautiful country with awesome antiquities, but it also has all those fabulous vinos and cheeses. Have you ever googled ‘Italian cheeses’? You could write a whole book in the time it takes to read through the list of hundreds of cheese names.
I had always wanted to set a book in Italy but had never found the right story for it. Then one day I stumbled across the astonishing account of the transformation of the Pontine Marshes and I knew I had found my story.
So where are the Pontine Marshes? The Agro Pontino, as they are called in Italy, is an area of land just south of Rome that was an ancient malarial swamp. Emperor Nero tried to drain it in 60 AD. Failed! Napoleon tried again in 1810. Failed!
Along came Benito Mussolini in 1930. He stormed through all obstacles with Fascist might. Success! This amazing feat involved dogging 10,000 miles of canals and cost many lives. But he not only drained the malarial swamp, he built five new towns on the reclaimed land.
This is where my story starts. 1932. My heroine is one of the architects of the first town.
Shey. Is your heroine Italian?
Kate. Si. Unabellasignoraitaliana. Isabella Berotti is my heroine in THE ITALIAN WIFE. She was born and bred in Milan but is now living in Bellina, the new town she is helping to create. She has wild black hair, blue eyes that can cut through concrete and an attitude that takes no prisoners. This is 1932, when women in Italy are stuck at home churning out bambini to boost Mussolini’s workforce. There are no female architects in Italy. Except Isabella. That says it all. So it’s no surprise that on the night when Mussolini asks her to dance, she says no.
Shey. What about your hero?
Kate Ah, Roberto. My heart beats faster when I say his name. He is a gorgeous Italian, born in Sorrento. He is the official photographer commissioned by Mussolini to record the creation of the brand new town, and he steps in front of a charging horse to save Isabella.
Need I say more?
Come on over to THE ITALIAN WIFE to meet him. You won’t want to miss Roberto, I promise you!
For hamsters I recommend Naples dockyard. There are lots of cats there.
For humans, just stick a pin in a map of Italy, pack your bags and get yourself over there. It is all wonderful. But my favourite hideaway has to be Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, where pastel-tinged towns cling to the cliffs and tumble down to the edge of the blue sea beneath. Sorrento has stunning views everywhere you turn, ancient lava-stone streets, olives the size of hens’ eggs, the beautiful isle of Capri, jewellery, mountains that turn to gold at sunset, limoncello liqueur,
dark-eyed Italian men …..
Stop me if I’m boring you.
….. and a rickety train that runs round the bay to Naples, Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well asasparagus and exquisite inlaid woodwork . And did I mention limoncello? Oh yes, and Italian men with wide smiles?
Shey Do you have a favourite place in Rome?
Kate. It has to be any sunlit piazza in Rome like Piazza di San Silvestro where I can chill out, sip strong coffee and watch the Roman world drift past. Ogling the Ferraris and ignoring the snake-hipped men, of course!
Shey What is your favourite Italian food and drink?
Kate. That’s an easy one. Delicious lobster tagliatelle, and limoncello cocktail. The lobsters and sauces are out of this world and the fire-breathing liqueur from southern Italy could tempt me down iniquitous paths …..
Shey. Kate, any thoughts on Italian opera?
But then, so does ‘La Bohème’. And Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’. All those beautiful soaring melodies and powerful cadences. And they do such magnificently drawn-out deaths and broken hearts. Spectacular! They appeal to the showboater in me. I warn you now, I have rather a long drawn-out death in THE ITALIAN WIFE. Clearly I have been listening to too much Puccini! My ambition is to hear an Italian opera at La Scala in Milan one day. Bliss.
Do you have a recipe for us?
Kate. I certainly do. I am a big fan of Italian pasta bakes and this is one of my favourites:- CHICKEN LASAGNE. Easy to make and goes fabulously with a fresh easy-going pinot grigio.
2 tbsp oil 8 spring onions, sliced
600g chicken fillet cut into strips300g dried apricots, diced
60g butter 2 x 400g cans tomatoes
75g plain flour 6 sprigs fresh marjoram
500ml vegetable stock 9 sheets of lasagne
500ml milk 100g Cheddar cheese, grated
500g carrots, peeled and diced 30g Parmesan, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Preheat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3. Grease a 27×21 lasagne dish. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken for 3 mins. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add 60g flour and cook, stirring, for 2 mins. Add the stock and milk, stirring constantly, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Season with salt and black pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan and fry the carrots for 3 mins. Add the spring onions, garlic and apricots and fry for 2 mins. Sprinkle over 15g flour, then add the tomatoes, breaking up with a wooden spoon.(I, of course, also chuck in a good glug of white wine here, but that’s only for the winos among you.) Stir in the marjoram leaves and season with salt and black pepper. Spread 4 tbsp of the béchamel sauce in the lasagne dish. Arrange 3 lasagne sheets, the remaining béchamel sauce, tomato sauce and chicken, then 3 lasagne sheets. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 30-40 mins until golden and bubbling.
Well, Shey, that was awesome. Thanks for inviting me. *waves to hammies*
Italy, 1932 — Mussolini’s Italy is growing from strength to strength, but at what cost? One bright autumn morning, architect Isabella Berotti sits at a cafe in the vibrant centre of Bellina, when a woman she’s never met asks her to watch her ten-year-old daughter, just for a moment. Reluctantly, Isabella agrees — and then watches in horror as the woman climbs to the top of the town’s clock tower and steps over the edge. This tragic encounter draws vivid memories to the surface, forcing Isabella to probe deeper into the secrets of her own past as she tries to protect the young girl from the authorities. Together with charismatic photographer Roberto Falco, Isabella is about to discover that secrets run deeper, and are more dangerous, than either of them could have possibly imagined …
From the glittering marble piazzas to the picturesque hillside villages and winding streets of Rome, Kate Furnivall’s epic new novel will take you on an breathtaking journeyof intrigue, romance and betrayal.
“Kate Furnivall has a wonderful gift for evoking a location, and her stories are always fast-paced page-turners, peppered with authentic detail.” ~ Lucinda Riley
“The Italian Wife has everything: a fascinating setting in an extraordinary period of European history and a powerful love story. I loved this book.” – Liz Trenow, author of The Last Telegram