It's a fascinating story: a vineyard is brought back to life against a background of family dissent and with opposition from local Mafiosi rumbling in the back ground. Don't expect The Godfather: Filippo Testa's memoir is suffused with Sicilian sunshine and optimism; you'll want to sit on the terrace and drink his wine. Susannah Elliot's elegant translation is easy to read, and leaves you longing for more.
by Fredo Donnelly
This book offers wonderfully evocative journey through time in a Sicilian vineyard. It weaves together the transformation of the vineyard with the transformation of its owner, and brings to life the practical and emotional challenges of uprooting the deep traditions and working methods of a failing enterprise to create a sustainable business. But it’s the added dimension of a tactical battle with the local mafia – who see the potential of the farm and decide to ‘acquire it’ – that gives this short book extra depth and a captivating narrative. I had not expected a biographical book about a vineyard to be a page turner, but it was and was well worth reading.
I so enjoyed this book. The combination of the setting of the vineyard and the sense of family and tradition against the struggle of Filippo himself to create a career in music and his then discovering on inheriting the place, that he wants to run the place on his own terms which involves confronting the Mafia, makes for a
really intriguing story. The sense of place and the work of the vineyard gives a poetic depths to this true story that is beautifully translated by Susannah Elliott.
by Annie Morrish
This is a delightful and lyrical book on the creation of Filippo's vineyard on the hills of Sicily. His family history is interesting as is his early youth when he became keen on jazz piano, a career which he might have followed if the vineyard and family needs hadn't intervened. The sheer hard work of ensuring the consistent quality of the grapes, the communal spirit needed to succeed, and the sheer loveliness of the terrain are beautifully described, the text sometimes taking wing into poetry. The menace of the Mafia in the background adds an extra frisson. Just take this book with you the next time you visit anywhere hot and drowsy, but especially if you are in Sicily.
by John Reed
It's rare that a memoir addresses so many themes on so many levels. This one offers rare insight.
by Robert Lanceman
Filippo Testa has been running his family estate, the Conte Testa vineyards in the Sicilian Alcamo doc region, since the 1980s. Over the years he has established an organic wine and olive oil business (Gorgo del Drago), a guest house, a traditional Sicilian restaurant, a cookery school and a 24-hour jazz radio station. Before taking over the family vineyards, he was a computer programmer and spent several years playing as a jazz pianist in Palermo.
Susannah Elliott trained at Bristol University and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She worked as an actress for ten years before moving on to a career in the heritage sector. She now researches, writes scripts and produces interpretation for exhibitions and historic houses. She lives in London.