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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ballad of the Aegean Sea: Patrizio Nissirio's new Historical Mystery

A little-known World War II war crime on a Greek Island is a major focus of a fascinating first novel by Patrizio Nissirio, an accomplished journalist and author.

The book's title, Una Ballata del Mare Egeo/A Ballad of the Aegean Sea, does not reveal its ties to Rome. However, the novel's protagonist, himself a young journalist, was born and raised in Rome's Piazza Bologna area (the setting for two of Rome the Second Time's 15 itineraries).  And it is from this mid-century, middle-class quartiere of Rome that the story unfolds. The journalist-protagonist, like the author, is of Greek descent, and he traces his family's history back to those Greek Islands that were the last part of Greece to be reclaimed - in 1945 -  after Italy invaded Greece and the Axis powers then occupied it.

Nissirio expertly weaves the story of Italians on the Greek Islands in World War II with present-day desires to explore one's family roots and the origins of right-wing nostalgia.  The mystery is fascinatingly complex and fun to follow.  Even more fascinating for me is the history on which the novel is based.  The book definitely will appeal to those who like "true crime" stories.

Nissirio's visceral love for Greece jumps from the pages of the book, as does his knowledge of the Greek islands.  These islands even today bear witness to significant signs of Italian colonization (if I can call it that), with their Fascist-era town plans and buildings that remain.

Kudos to Nissirio for a story well-told, history well-revived, and a good read.

Ah, yes, the question of language.  The book to date is available only in Italian, from  For those of us whose knowledge of the language is less than perfect, it is a surprisingly easy read.  And hopefully a translation and movie rights are in the book's future!

Una Ballata del Mare Egeo is available on

Patrizio Nissirio
Nissirio has spent most of his career with ANSA, the Italian news service, with long assignments (as in 4-6 years) in Washington, DC., Athens, and London. He is director of ANSAMed,  ANSA's multilingual information service for the Mediterranean.   He has written several nonfiction books, including one on the Greek economy.  Full disclosure: Patrizio Nissirio is a long-time friend of ours.  He helped us secure Walter Veltroni's (then a recent mayor of Rome) introduction to Rome the Second Time.  And, he introduced us to much of the Piazza Bologna area.


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