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Exclusive Dante Interview to Author Nicky Pellegrino

A few questions to Nicky Pellegrino

Do you have a favourite Italian word or sentence? What does it mean?

Buonanotte e sogni d’oro – which literally means goodnight and golden dreams and is what my father used to say to me every night before I went to bed when I was a child. This would be followed up early the next morning with a rousing cry of “sveglia” (wake-up)

Do you listen to Italian songs/music?

I love the old-fashioned songs. I have a CD called Nostalgia Italiana 1963 that’s full of singers like Rita Pavone, Gianni Morandi and Edoardo Vianello. It was the music my parents listened to when they were young and when I had a convertible I used to drive round Auckland blasting it out of my stereo feeling like I cut a very retro stylish figure! I also enjoy opera and have a soft spot for Neapolitan love songs and anything sung by Mario Lanza whose time in Italy I fictionalised in my novel When In Rome.

Which Italian dish do you cook more often? Any tips?

Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) because it’s simple, warming in winter, cheap and delicious. I use lots of celery leaves in it which horrified Auckland chef Gaetano Spinosa who tells me celery has no place in the dish. It’s the way my family has always made it though so I’m not changing.

What is your favourite Italian region and why?

I love the south…. particularly the Basilicata coastline and the hilltop town of Maratea which appears in many of my stories in the guise of Triento. I changed its name because I wanted to be free to rearrange it when necessary but really it is very much how I describe it.

Is there a part of Italy where you haven't been yet and you are keen to discover?

I’d love to go back to Sicily because I only visited a small part of it when I was researching my book The Food Of Love Cookery School and feel as if I barely scratched the surface. Also I’m desperate to go to the cave town of Matera and stay in one of the flash grotto hotels.

Can you recommend our readers one or two places to visit or itineraries in Italy?

Go to Venice but stay in Cannaregio or Santa Croce rather than the very touristy bits around Piazza San Marco. And don’t go alone like I did when I was researching One Summer In Venice because it’s not the best solo travel destination. I’d also recommend a food holiday with Katia Amore of Love Sicily in Modica. My week there was the best time I’ve ever had while researching a novel. The food was so good and we never stopped eating. Sometimes I think about the cannoli shop at the foot of the steps beside Katia’s house and regret not being able to manage more of them.

Did you ever do a house swap in Italy?

Not so far, but the house in Under Italian Skies, which I call Villa Rosa, is based on a place on the coast of Basilicata which belongs to some of my Italian family and we’ve been to stay there many times. It’s one of my favourite spots in the world.

Nicky Pellegrino’s new novel

After The Villa Girls and Summer at the Villa Rosa Nicky Pellegrino is back with a new novel, the third inspired by the beautiful pink villa in Maratea.

Under Italian Skies

Imagine swapping your house for a stay in an Italian villa and falling in love with the owner’s life…Stella has life under control and that’s the way she likes it.

For 25 years she’s been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer. But when her boss dies, suddenly everything she loves seems to vanish.

Stella is lost – until one day she comes across a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?

What was intended as just a break becomes much more as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger’s life.

Available on bookshops on 12 April.

Meet the Author!

If you want to meet the author personally come to our Colazione alla Dante on 30 April, 10 am -12pm, Nicky will be our special guest!

Other opportunities will be:

Exclusive Italian Lunch with Nicky Pellegrino

Date: Tuesday 12 April

Time: 12.15pm – 2pm

Location: The Esplanade Hotel, Devonport

Tickets: $69 includes a two course lunch, a glass of wine and a signed copy of Under Italian Skies, available from

An Evening with Nicky Pellegrino

Enjoy a glass of bubbles and some food while you escape to Italy

Date: Thursday 28 April

Time: 5.30pm – 7pm

Location: Paper Plus Newmarket

Free Entry, please RSVP numbers to

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