Travel Lit Review: Ciao Bella

Available Now:  Ciao Bella: Sex, Dante, & How to Find a Father in Italy by Helena Frith Powell

**** 3.5/5 stars

When supposed English writer Helena was 14, she travelled to Italy to meet the father and the family she didn’t know existed. Now grown with children of her own, she returns to Italy to relive the journey in which she discovered her Italian roots.

Recommended readers:

  • Travel lit buffs
  • I-dream-of-Italy types
  • Anyone who has ever had to rethink who they are

Here’s my Rankings:

  • 4/5 for characters
  • 3/5 for plot
  • 3.5/5 overall


In the realm of reinvent-yourself travel literature, Ciao Bella stands alone, unique in that the author is not trying to become something new: she discovers she’s been something else all along and needs to reckon that truth. And while characters who jump of the page are somewhat rare in travel lit– the destination usually plays lead– this book is populated with larger than life Italians who do just that. First traveling to Italy and meeting her Italian father when she is fourteen, Helena finds that she might be more Italian thank she ever imagined, not that this is an easy truth.  Her father is a difficult man and their relationship remains unfulfilled until long after she returns to Italy years later, by now a mother and a French expat.  More than travel lit, this is a great work about complicated families, tumultuous relationships, multinational identities, growing up, redemption, and finding out who you really are.

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