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The Bicycle Runner: A Memoir of Love, Loyalty, and the Italian Resistance

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Like all boys growing up in Rome during the 1930s and 1940s, the author was expected to join the Balilla—Italy’s fascist Youth Organization. With political divisions running deep in the families within his palazzo, he and his motley group of friends were recruited into the underground Resistance. Racing around Rome on bicycles, they smuggled messages and weapons for the partisans. Later, the author fled to the Italian countryside and narrowly avoided German mop-up operations—despite being sold out by his most ...

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U.S.A. 2009 Hard Cover New in New jacket 6 x 8 1/2. First Edition. First printing. New with minimal shelfwear. The author discusses the tumultous days of Fascist Italy, his ... compulsory military service and, when Rome fell under German occupation, his involvement in the underground Resistence. Read more Show Less

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New York, NY 2009 Hard cover New. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 304 p. Contains: Frontispiece. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized ... seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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The Bicycle Runner: A Memoir of Love, Loyalty, and the Italian Resistance

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Overview

Like all boys growing up in Rome during the 1930s and 1940s, the author was expected to join the Balilla—Italy’s fascist Youth Organization. With political divisions running deep in the families within his palazzo, he and his motley group of friends were recruited into the underground Resistance. Racing around Rome on bicycles, they smuggled messages and weapons for the partisans. Later, the author fled to the Italian countryside and narrowly avoided German mop-up operations—despite being sold out by his most trusted of friends. But this is much more than a war story. Lyrical in language, rich in sentimentality, and possessing the magic of a classic Fellini film, Romagnoli’s memoir is a charmingly told tale of the search for manhood and the bonds of family and friendship.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book reads like a movie—one of those wonderful Felliniesque narratives filled with characters and events that could only happen in Italy. It’s a beautifully told tale that illuminates one of the darkest and least understood periods in Italian and World War Two history, told with the humor and optimism of youth. It explains a very complicated and painful time through the eyes and activities of an unwilling yet fully engaged participant and, in that sense, gives deeper understanding than scores of historians could possibly accomplish with daunting dates and data. Romagnoli’s writing is elegant, poignant and completely engaging; a truly wonderfully told story."

—Paul Paolicelli, author of Under the Southern Sun and Dances with Luigi

"With the heartache and ravages of war as its backdrop, this beautiful memoir is foremost a paean to the innocence, optimism, and lessons of youth: carving out a role in the family, celebrating the loyalty of friends, reveling in the intimacy and mystery of love, dealing with the jarring pain that accompanies sadness and disappointment. Like the artist he is, Franco Romagnoli paints a colorful portrait replete with all of these emotions across the bleak canvas of Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. The result is a true work of art and a terrific read."

—Stephen Puleo, author of The Boston Italians, Dark Tide, and Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56

"Personable, gently humorous memories of adolescence under Mussolini by an Italian chef and author....It was a heady, dangerous time for the youth, and his portraits of these local heroes and villains form an invaluable depiction of a historically significant time and place. Heartfelt sketches of a deeply troubling era in Italian history."

Kirkus Reviews

"In this heartwarming memoir, Romagnoli offers a picture of a young boy whose passions and longings for love, homeland and family abide with him as he turns quickly into an adult because of WWII."

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
At 14, the young Romagnoli, like any other Italian youth, marched to the beat of the Balilla, the Fascist Youth Organization in Italy. Not long after his days in his little squad, he realized the error of his ways and became a bicycle runner, secretly delivering books, pamphlets and other materials to members of the Resistance. Romagnoli, who died in 2008, at 82, and developed an affectionate following as a writer on Italian culture and cuisine (Italy, the Romagnoli Way: A Culinary Journey), warmly chronicles his coming-of-age in the midst of upheaval and conflict. This memoir covers 11 years in Romagnoli's life (from 14 to 25) and contains the outline of a portrait of the young man as famous artist. During his stint with the resistance, he meets a young American pilot named Bob, and with their insatiable appetites whetted by their hunger, the two dream of home by exchanging constantly their favorite succulent menus. Romagnoli reminisces, too, about first love; his forays into lust and sex with his neighbor; his fear of confession to the local Catholic priest; and the warmth and largesse of his extended family. In this heartwarming memoir, Romagnoli offers a picture of a young boy whose passions and longings for love, homeland and family abide with him as he turns quickly into an adult because of WWII. (Aug.)
Library Journal

Romagnoli (d. 2008; A Thousand Bells at Noon: A Roman Reveals the Secrets and Pleasures of His Native City), who was known for his expertise on Italian cuisine, here reflects on his activities in Italy from the late 1930s to the end of World War II. He colorfully describes his own experience of the complexities and ambiguities that were common in relationships among Fascist and anti-Fascist Italians and the Germans, who were alternately their allies and their occupiers. He openly describes his friendships with Mussolini supporters and Germans while he was working as a messenger for the Italian resistance. Although the tone of the memoir is sad, Romagnoli lightens the story with humorous anecdotes and the familiar angst of teenage romance. The narrative becomes especially exciting when Romagnoli flees Rome into the countryside to avoid military service for the puppet government the Germans set up in the north after Italy had officially surrendered to the Allies. This memoir is recommended for the sheer pleasure of reading it.
—Michael Farrell

Kirkus Reviews
Personable, gently humorous memories of adolescence under Mussolini by an Italian chef and author (A Thousand Bells at Noon: A Roman's Guide to the Secrets and Pleasures of His Native City, 2002, etc.). Romagnoli, who died in late 2008, turned 14 in 1939, when his homeland was seized by the nationalist fever incited by Il Duce and his Fascist Party. Living in a middle-class section of Rome with his father, mother and two siblings, young Romagnoli had sensed the ongoing "masquerade" since Italy's invasion of Ethiopia several years earlier. While his gung-ho neighbors were vociferously devoted to the Fascist cause, Romagnoli's father was a free-thinking agnostic who often received the dreaded cartoline rosse ("red postcards"), which summoned him to the police station for interrogation. As a result, his job promotions were thwarted. As the war progressed and rations were instituted, the family got by due to their enterprising mother's cooking. The author became a bicycle messenger for his pro-partisan teachers and befriended a half-German schoolmate, Otto, who had more accurate news of the war. Called for military duty by the Fascists in early 1944, Romagnoli was determined not to help the Germans and fled to his aunt Elena's farm in Frontale, where she ran the post office while also abetting partisans and refugees. The author assumed duties as a messenger and cook and became friendly with British and American officers organizing the command between the Allies and the partisans at San Vicino. It was a heady, dangerous time for the youth, and his portraits of these local heroes and villains form an invaluable depiction of a historically significant time and place. Heartfelt sketches of adeeply troubling era in Italian history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312554545
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/18/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

G. FRANCO ROMAGNOLI cohosted the first American television program on Italian cooking, The Romagnolis’ Table, for which he coauthored two very successful companion books. He taught seminars on Italian culture and cuisine at Boston University and wrote several books and articles on Italian culture, including Italy, the Romagnoli Way (with Gwen Romagnoli) and A Thousand Bells at Noon: A Roman Reveals the Secrets and Pleasures of His Native City. The author passed away in December 2008.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Powerful Story of Courage & Resilience

    This is an extremely well written memoir of World War II explaining the real life experiences of a young boy soon to be a young man in the Italian resistance. It offers one of the most compelling descriptions of how war, or what war promises, distorts the paths of intelligent people. It's worth reading to gain a true appreciation of the sheer courage and resiliency of the everyday Italians. The story flies off the page, and it will be a challenge not to want to complete in one sitting.

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