I’ve just finished an amazing book. Normally I’m not a great one for travel books, but this is very different. It’s by Eric Newby (he of ‘a short walk in the Hindu Kush’ fame) and chronicles his experiences as an escaped prisoner of war in Northern Italy during WW2. 

When he goes on the run amongst the forests and mountains of the Apennines, he is sheltered and helped by Italian villagers, farmers and mountain people in the most extraordinary way. They help him, feed him, hide him, nurse him back to health; and every time the Germans are likely to catch up with him, they simply move him somewhere even more remote.

At one stage the men of the village, realising that the Germans know he is being hidden with them, build him a tiny hut in a corner of the mountain rock where it is completely camouflaged.

These people are always very poor, incredibly hard-working, and the only reason they have for helping him, at the risk of their own lives, is that their own sons are fighting in Russia, and they hope that Russian villagers would be as kind to them as they are to Newby.

Eric goes from one narrow escape to the next, with humour and insight. He manages to fall in love, and there are some very close shaves which are also hilarious – such as the time he falls asleep in the forest, and wakes to find a German officer standing over him. The officer turns out to be off duty, is a keen butterfly-collecter – complete with net – and says that he doesn’t like being hated by the local population, so if Eric will agree to say nothing about meeting him, he in turn will say nothing about Eric. You couldn’t make it up … hopefully!

When our media are full of miserable news and the worst of human nature, day after day, it is a book to lift one’s spirits and to realise that kindness and courage are found in the most unlikely places.

‘Love and War in the Apennines’ by Eric Newby.

(image from http://2ndcupoftea.com/2012/05/16/lost-and-words-in-the-appenines-italy/  )




  1. Sounds wonderful, really wonderful… must get a copy and read it myself! uplifting is good and sounds as if you’ve really laughed as well as marvelled and so on. The photo is AMAZING…. I would love to see that for real…..


    1. I was astonished how he found his way through the forests and over the ridges – for the first few weeks he didn’t even have a compass. But he was SBS-trained …


      1. i don’t know what SBS-trained means…. but anyway…. your post has made me want to go and look at that view in the photo….. and crave for adventure in the big outdoors….. 🙂


      2. Ah thank you ….SBS 8|…. of course… should have known… 😉

        Friends of mine have an amazing flat in the Swiss Alps and I was taken to stay there with them and we did go up mountains and see absolutely wonderful spectacular views….. I neeeeeeeed to go back again and see them!!! At the time I was with Daughter who was about 8 or 9 and that weekend we discovered she has a huge fear of heights :roll:… and was sick in the car… and hated flying 🙄 and I think my friends deeply regretted inviting us… was all rather mortifying… but the views were just wonderful!


      3. The most amazing thing I remember from Romania, was taking the ski lift to the top of the Carpathians … and seeing the tops of the Carpathian mountains, lifting clear of the cloud, in a semi-circle … 8| unforgettable! But Hub didn’t come because he has a fear of heights too :no: I’ve always wanted to go back and do it again!!


      4. But what an ACE thing to do provided we had our woolly mitts and boots and hats etc … it would make a change from all the romantic couples I found up there!!! 8|


    1. Extraordinary what he went through – the discomfort, privations and depression as well as the hilarious things – and his ability to get around through thick forests and up and down mountain ridges.


  2. Brilliant photo ! I have read A short walk in the Hindu Kush and enjoyed that very much. This one sounds interesting. Will have to see if they have it in the library.


  3. I read this book many years ago, I think it is one of Newby’s best. I have also visited an area in which he had some of his personal experiences. There is something beautifully current, but yet concurrently preserved in the nature of the geography and its peoples.

    Another book you might enjoy is A Thread Of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. It isn’t a travelogue. It does, however, have much of its ‘scenery’ in Italy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s