Jeremy Lewis

The Hills Are Alive

Thin Paths: Journey in and around an Italian Mountain Village


Jonathan Cape 251pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Twelve years ago Julia Blackburn and her husband moved into a house high up in the mountains near the Ligurian coast, within hiking distance of the Italian border with France. It is an inaccessible and isolated part of the world: the Mediterranean shimmers in the distance, but the hills are steep and rugged, peppered with the ruins of long-deserted houses, and for those who remain life is a hard and precarious business. Julia Blackburn spoke no Italian when they first came to their village: Nanda, who owned the village shop, soon took her in hand, and before long she had not only got to know most of her neighbours – among them a bonesetter, a turbaned shepherd and a retired postmistress – but was quizzing them about their early lives.

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