About the Novels

In 2004, when my wife and I visited Italy, we stayed in one of those ubiquitous farmhouses in the Tuscan hills that now welcome tourists. This one, though, had a special meaning. More than a hundred years ago, my grandfather, a tenant farmer, lived there. The place had subsequently been abandoned and only recently restored.

In the village at the base of the hill, my 80-year-old cousin told the story of the farmhouse. During World War II the Italian resistance fighters were fighting the Germans heavily in this area, and villagers evacuated to the hills. I asked her if her family had fled. Quietly, she said they did, and then began to recount stories of how people argued with each other, how they cowered when they heard the fighting and the bombing, and how some of them didn't survive.

When I returned home, I couldn't stop thinking about those brave people and was determined to write a story about them. In the course of the research, I discovered the horrific event that had taken place close by, in a village called Sant'Anna di Stazzema, in August 1944. That research required return trips to Italy to talk to the survivors in what remains of Sant'Anna.

The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany was published in 2006 and I was humbled when it was praised by readers and given several important awards. But those brave people were still in my head; I wondered what they were doing now. So I decided to write a sequel. Sparrow's Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany continues the story with many of the same characters but also some new ones. I hope it poses new questions and issues for readers.

During the writing of Sparrow's Revenge, it occurred to me that the story should continue, and I saw three books under the general heading of A Tuscan Trilogy. I had liked Little Dino in the second book, and so Dino's Story became a coming-of-age narrative. Happily, he was interested in art, and so it was logical to have him go to Florence to study art. And then, of course, the devastating flood ruined the city in 1966. I didn't want to focus on the damages and destruction of priceless works of art; rather I wanted to write about the poor people who were most affected by the flood. It is in helping those unfortunate Florentines that Dino becomes a man.

I thought the three novels ended the stories of these wonderful characters, but I was wrong. These people kept telling me new stories, and so two collections of stories have followed. The Temptation of Father Lorenzo: Ten Stories of 1970s Tuscany brought the characters into the next decade, and A Piazza for Sant'Antonio: Five Novellas of 1980s Tuscany brought them even farther into the century. Who knows where this will end?

All of these books are dedicated to the brave people who suffered for so long, and with such courage, under the heat of the Tuscan sun.

-- Paul Salsini

Praise for The Cielo:

"Salsini spins a tale of both cruelty and courage, and affirms yet again the ability of humans to endure."
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"A moving debut novel of a luscious country too often forgotten when we consider the ravages of the 'Good War.'"
-- Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

"Examining the terrible, atrocious actions of war, and balancing that with the heartbreaking compassion and outreach of one soul to another, The Cielo is an unforgettable read."
-- Bookreview.com

"(The Cielo) diligently explores the complexities and exquisite tortures of wartime existence, the sense of powerlessness and fear and the essential qualities of those who survived. A well-researched and gripping drama of wartime survival and transcendence."
--Kirkus Discoveries

Paul Salsini

The son of Italian immigrants, Paul Salsini was a writer, editor and writing coach at The Milwaukee Journal for many years and is a longtime journalism teacher at Marquette University. His travel articles about Italy have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere. He and his wife, Barbara, have three children and four grandchildren and live in Milwaukee with their cat, Bella.


1st Place Fiction
Council for Wisconsin Writers

1st Place Fiction
Midwest Independent Publishers Association

First Honorable Mention
Writer's Digest
Int'l Book Awards

Honorable Mention
New York Book Festival