Book 19 of 52: A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism by Caroline Moorehead

Yes, folks, I am still at it, trying to read every book about Italy in the English language before my trip in November. But not everything written about the country is about beauty, food and wine. Italy is not utopia and right now, things there are politically grim. A lot of that goes back to the country’s fascist rule during WW II, a movement that was never really stamped out.

But let’s get to the book first: A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism, the last in Caroline Moorehead’s resistance quartet (I’ve read two other ones: A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France; and Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France). In this non-fiction work, she tells the story of the staffette, the women couriers of the Italian resistance that fought a Guerilla war against the Germans and their Italian fascists collaborators. The house of the title is in Turin, a town I’m trying to add to my fall trip itinerary.

I listened to this one and didn’t take notes (because I was often driving!), so if you’d like to know more details, I recommend checking out the book’s Guardian review. But I can say here that it’s an extraordinary work, though somewhat depressing. That’s not because of Moorehead, or the women she wrote about, but because their work was almost immediately undone.

Italy reverted right back to a male dominated society after liberation (in part due to the Catholic church), and fascists were never really punished. Many of their right-wing platforms, including a strict adherence to traditional gender roles, are being pushed by far right regimes all over the world right now, including those in American red states, and in Italy. Current Italian Prime Minster Giorgia Meloni is a member of the Brothers of Italy, which draws a direct line back to the National Fascist Party. This week, the country’s agriculture minister, who also happens to be Meloni’s brother-in-law, said that Italians are at risk for “ethnic replacement.”

Am I bumming you out? I’m sorry! But, as I’ve said here before, reading about the bad stuff can both inform us of lessons learned from the past, and what we haven’t learned that lead us into messes happening right now. Looking at the ugly side of Italy is just as important as reading those more fanciful works. I’m in a bunch of Italian-related social media groups for [redacted reason] and they include a lot of Americans who dream of running away to Italy for a simpler life. I too would like to live in a country that is not awash in both guns and giant trucks and SUVs driven by angry white men, but it’s not perfect in Italy, where gay marriage has never been legal, surrogacy is banned (and may become criminalized if citizens go to places where it is legal) and LGBTQ+ couples aren’t allowed to register their children. (Perhaps if the fascist party is wondering why Italians are leaving the country, and not having babies there, this might be why?????)

But let’s close with a nice note, shall we? In Italy, LGBTQ+ families are called Rainbow Families. I like that. Also, one of the cheap Italian properties Instagram accounts I follow made a joke that if you don’t like the current Italian government, just wait a bit, because they always fall apart. Here’s hoping.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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