> Skip to content
  • Published: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099549420
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

Thin Paths

Journeys in and around an Italian Mountain Village

Shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Biography Award, the 2012 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and longlisted for the Dolman Travel Book of the Year, this is a moving and fascinating account of the history, landscape and people of a remote village high in the Ligurian mountains.

Shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Biography Award and the 2012 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize

Julia Blackburn and her husband moved to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999. She arrived as a stranger but a series of events brought her close to the old people of the village and they began to tell her their stories. Of how their village had been trapped in an archaic feudal system and owned by a local padrone who demanded his share of all they had, of the eruption of the Second World War, of the conflict between the fascists and the partisans, of death and fear and hunger of how they hid like like foxes in the mountains. 'Write it down for us,' they said, 'because otherwise it will all be lost.'

Thin Paths is a celebration of the songlines of one place that could be many places and a celebration of the humour and determination of the human spirit.

  • Published: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099549420
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Julia Blackburn

Julia Blackburn is an author and scriptwriter whose radio plays include A Good Death, Betsy and Napoleon, The Need for Nonsense and The Spellbound Horses.

Also by Julia Blackburn

See all

Praise for Thin Paths

My book of the year. Beautiful, beguiling, memorable

Edmund de Waal

Impossible to forget...beautiful and deeply humane

Sunday Times

Profoundly moving...absorbing...and compassionate... Blackburn writes beautifully and despite its sorrows, Thin Paths is full of humour and pulsating life


Marvellous... Her writing is as eloquent and elegant as ever

Literary Review

A lyrical patchwork of fine-grained nature writing


Reading Julia Blackburn's account of her life in a remote corner of the Ligurian mountains is like lifting a stone to find a strange, intricate, hidden world...prose that is ruthlessly unsentimental, but full of love

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

In Liguria Blackburn catches the last survivors, some in their nineties, in time to hear echoes of a culture that is already part of the past

Lee Langley, Spectator

Julia Blackburn's thoughtful book has a poet's direct lyricism...a vivid, moving account


Blackburn brings her special gift for the art of place to this lyrical account of the Italian mountain village where she and her husband settled. Although she writes superbly about landscape and wildlife, it's her neighbours, and their haunting tales, who make the book sing


For anyone who keeps a special book shelf of permanent reading gems, this one deserves consideration. It's not a book that I want to rush, each piece offers much to think about and I want to make this one last so it will be alongside me through the summer an during that armchair trip to Italy and I shall write more eventually.

Dove Grey Reader

Related titles