Think for a moment about Italy. Some may think of food, others of wine, and still others of beautiful churches and ancient culture. But very few will think of golf. In 2007, Roland Merullo, an avid golfer, decided to summer in Italy. Along with his wife and two young daughters, he brought his golf clubs to his rented villa near the shore of Lake Como. The result is THE ITALIAN SUMMER: Golf, Food, and Family at Lake Como, an exquisite adventure that makes me wish I had brought my golf clubs on my past visits to Italy.
From the family’s first meal in Italy at a mountain cabin aptly named La Baita, described in mouth-watering, glorious detail, to his first round at Menaggio and Cadenabbia Golf Club, his adopted home course for the summer, Merullo paints a vivid portrait of a glorious adventure for golfers and gourmets. Readers are strongly cautioned not to read THE ITALIAN SUMMER on an empty stomach. If it is possible to gain weight while reading, this is the book that can accomplish that feat.
This being a golf essay, I feel compelled to concentrate more on the golf than the dining, but there is a clear connection. Rounds of golf, just as meals, are savored and enjoyed. There is a leisure quality to golf just as with dining. One does not rush, one relaxes and enjoys. Throughout THE ITALIAN SUMMER, Merullo describes a day at one of Italy’s golf courses that proceeds at a leisurely pace. Reading the narrative, it appears that pace of play and four-hour rounds are simply a dream.
Nonetheless, Merullo is a prescient observer of the game of golf. When he says “I love the start of a round of golf, when hopes are unblemished,” I understand his feeling immediately. Describing his golfing quirks, a specific number of balls in one pocket, a set number of tees in the other, I felt that Merullo was writing about me. We golfers are a strange and superstitious lot, and Merullo knows us well.
THE ITALIAN SUMMER is simply a wonderful read. Just as the name of a great restaurant, or a wonderful recipe, I plan on sharing it with all of my friends who have travelled with me to Italy and have played golf with me in the U.S. On my next trip to Italy, the clubs come with me.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on April 28, 2009