Parks, a lively English novelist (Goodness, 1991, etc.), plunges us into the passionate but genial world of his Italian neighbors on the Via Colombare in a village south of Verona. Be warned: to enjoy Peter Mayle's books on Provence, you need never have been there, while Parks draws you so intimately into life with his bubbling but blinkered and edgy Italians that some hands-on experience with Italy would help for full enjoyment of his pages. Parks and his pregnant wife, Rita, in minor peril from their first day, enter their new apartment and are attacked by a shouting madwoman who claims that the apartment was built for her by its late tenant. The Veronese summer stifles life until the first midnight breeze (which carries mosquitos with it into the bedroom), and the hunting dog Vega--kept ever outdoors in the backyard--howls and scrabbles the whole night through. Every night. Parks describes life at the pasticcerça and what drinks one may drink during various hours of the day without being sneered at as a village idiot. On the Via Colombare, peasant life meets urban, and one's gardening smarts are open to deep derision or mild approval. Buildings must be earthquake-proof, with ceramic-on-concrete floors that carry the sound of a dropped coin or a toilet flush in the night like an act of terrorism ringing everywhere. So it goes--and, after ten years, Parks is still there. Always zestful, sometimes gripping--but perhaps mostly for those who remember winter chestnuts toasting over a coal brazier. Much verve.