Lorenzo's Vest by Graham Hofmann


Lorenzo’s Vest 

by Graham Hofmann


Lorenzo's Vest offers an entertaining understanding of Italy and Italians as observed through the eyes of a straniero. (foreigner) It gives the reader, in just a few pages, a real insight into the Italy of the past, its history, its politics and its struggle to become a modern nation; questioning those who still suggest that true Italian nationhood has yet to be achieved. This insight extends to painting a vivid picture of life in Italy today, the exquisite joys to be absorbed, alongside the frustrations of experiencing life in the Green Heart of Italy, a truly wonderful part of the country.
Graham takes you by the hand as you join him on his journey as a Brit into the everyday world of Umbria. The journey vividly shows his day-to-day life as a part-time visitor, immersion into the local community, his experiences and the colourful characters that become friends on the way.



I enjoyed this book. The author draws in the reader to share his experience of buying a house and living among locals in Colpalombo, a small hamlet in the province of Perugia. The author’s excitement in his quest to build a life there is infectious but of course, there are hurdles and challenges, not least, the language. His observations of life are accurately described in an engaging and compelling way. He is very aware that his naïve and very British approach to life is destined to be tested to the hilt as he tries to get to grips with the somewhat beguiling and often mysterious complexities of Italian life, but he is ready and willing to embrace any cultural differences in an attempt to assimilate himself in the community.  The transportative power of literature is no more evident than in this romantic and captivating view of life. The author’s love affair with Italy is clearly evident. His sensuous descriptions of a relaxed and simpler way of life are nothing but appealing. A glass of wine in hand as the allure of the Italian countryside unfurls around you.

“It is the countless medieval towns and villages, unending fields of sunflowers, sitting under olive trees with neighbours sipping on red wine, the scent of wild herbs, the glow of fireflies. Deep blue skies and an endless supply of hot sunny days.”

Yet, this is an honest and frank account of his journey, physically and psychologically. Clearly, the author needs to understand something of Italian history in order to make sense of the present and he grapples with the paradox of the metaphorical lightness and darkness which is Italy. Even paradise has imperfections and flaws which the author examines in much detail. I commend the level of research done to give the reader some grasp and awareness of the quintessential and complex Italian DNA, which requires some explanation. The author discusses and debates at length all aspects  – from the influence of the mafia on Italian society to fundamental catholic religious beliefs, from politics, corruption, sex before marriage to the Italian worldwide reputation of style, chic design and to the inherent principle in most Italians of ‘bella figura’ (making a good impression, self-respect and decency)

On a lighter note, the book has an abundance of insights into Italian culture and there are vivid descriptions of festivals and celebrations. Italians are passionate about life’s pleasures, food being chief amongst them, but they are also creatures of tradition and habit. When it comes to food, they are happiest when things are done right. The Italian philosophy of life starts at the table. Talking about food does not mean simply naming an ingredient, it means celebrating a rite.

“The polenta fest, the fish fest, the spaghetti fest, the mushroom fest and the wild boar fest. Each festival lasts for at least a week with live music, food and drink each night.”

There are also many charming and witty anecdotes. From wrestling with a bat which has flown in through the bedroom window, to attempting to buy some bathroom tiles. How could such a simple purchase go so wrong?

“The young man in the tile shop asks me for my tax code. I’m surprised I need it just to buy a few tiles. From the information I give him, he is able to find my fiscal code. It’s official. I am recognised by Italian bureaucracy. Things were going so well until the total for the tiles came to €2500. This is the point that I realise something has gone drastically wrong with my measuring or something has been totally lost in my terrible Italian. Either I have chosen the most expensive tiles in Europe, or he has placed an order for enough tiles to tile the whole town of Colpalombo!”


Why I recommend this book

This weighty book delivers and to be honest, I do not even feel it needs photographs, quotes or poems at the beginning of each chapter.  The well-researched material and experiences are delivered in a style coloured with humour and curiosity. For example, Ubaldo of Gubbio, Umbria was a medieval bishop and is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church. Saint Ubaldo Day is still celebrated at the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo in his honour.

“If you have a desire to meet Sant’Ubaldo in person, you can travel by road or by cable car. Well, the truth is that he’s not looking so good. You could say he looks his age. This incredibly old man is mummified and encased in a glass casket for viewing. Feel free to take photographs but don’t expect much of a smile from the dark, leathery, skeletal face of Ubaldo!”

Lorenzo’s Vest is about understanding and respecting cultural differences, making connections and feeling accepted as part of the community. New experiences as an expat can positively change your mindset, values and beliefs, offering alternative ways to look at the world. I completely get this book, as someone who purchased their own property in Abruzzo twenty-four hours after the devastating L’Aquila earthquake in 2009, mentioned in the book. We devoured books such as this written by anyone who had started a new life in Italy from Tim Parks to Annie Hawes and Helen Atlee for advice, inspiration and reassurance.

Whether you are looking for a ‘how to guide’ to living in Italy or just a traveller seeking an authentic experience beyond the tourist track, this book ensures that you experience the real 'dolce vita' in every way. It is more than just an account of life as an expat. It is a comprehensive and entertaining travel guide, it is an authentic and genuine narration, a well-researched historical account of Italy, local areas as well as other regions. It delivers passion, enthusiasm, humour and ultimately acceptance. The magic and mysticism of Italy has a worldwide fascination and appeal. Reading about its medieval towns, villages and age-old traditions allows people to dream and those dreams foster mental relaxation and exploration but how many of us are brave enough to follow Graham's example!

‘All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them’ 
(Walt Disney)



From Roman Holiday to the Italian Job, Italy was an adventure. A land of pleasure, sunshine, song, blue sea and romance. Not forgetting the darker, mysterious face of Italy – the Mafia. With romantic images in his mind such as these, Graham visited Italy and returned to the UK with more than just an ordinary souvenir. He returned having bought a house In Umbria.  


Published in 2022 by FeedaRead.com 

Paperback available on Amazon 




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