The Dark Valley is the second of Valerio Varesi’s books I have read since the Virus claimed my way of life. The first was The Lizard Strategy.
Commissario Soneri lives and works in Parma, where The Lizard Strategy is set, but the location for The Dark Valley is his home village in the Apennines.
Parma in not a place I have been to. I have visited nearby Bologna once, but it was for a meeting. Sadly, this reflects my experience of Italy more widely. I have been to Venice twice, for work both times. The first of my three visits to Rome was for a meeting. Then there was my whirlwind trip to the Soave area which I have already described in a blog post.
Whilst Rome and Venice were tourist hotspots, Bologna was not, and it created a positive impression. I would go back for leisure, given the opportunity. It has a reputation for gastronomy, which fits in with my memories of it and adds to the attraction of a return trip.
Soneri has gone back to his roots on holiday, to grapple with a mid life existential crisis. Instead of relaxing and mushroom hunting in the forest, he ends up being dragged into a murder enquiry. The narrative does give an insight into Italian village life, but since I have no first hand knowledge of such places nor any particular insight into the Italian way of life, it was all new to me.
“He turned his attention to the owner’s wife, Ida, a large lady, dripping with perspiration, who emerged from the kitchen. She was a real woman of the mountains, with the wide hips which had the indestructible appearance of a peasant dwelling.“
Yes, I could see me buying another Varesi book. Yes, I could see me visiting Italy again.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021
Northern Italy is a foreign country to me. When I lived in Italy, I was in the south: a year in Sicily and three years in Naples. The north of the country always bemused me with its efficiency, cleanliness and guttural, abrasive accents. None of the exaggerated and sibilant sounds of Naples. In Milan I commented on the speed of service at a telephone office. The clerk, recognizing my Neapolitan accent, disdainfully replied: Mica siamo in Africa qua – This ain’t Africa, you know.
I know how Parisian France and the Southwest are like chalk and cheese, so it is easy to imagine Italy having a similar divide.