About: “Writing to Gisella”

Write what you know about they say. To a certain extent, if you only do that then you’re writing autobiography all the time. But if you take what you know – however practical, real, physical, emotional etc. – and then extrapolate it, play with it…well, then the world’s your oyster.

Lucca is one of my favourite places in the world. I first went there when a friend was in the city teaching English, and that is the broad basis for the story – though the events herein are not based on my personal experience!

I knew that I would write about Lucca one day – the question was what, when and how. I had tried just one poem previously (published in “Walking Thru Fire”), but that was it. I probably always knew that the story would be a romantic one: how could it not be?!

Having written the opening portion of the story in a conventional manner, I was keen to separate Rick from the rest of the protagonists in the same way as he himself (me?) was separated from Lucca and from them. That gave birth to the idea for the body of the story being told through his eyes and his words alone.

Hopefully the effect works for you. It does for me. And his last letter makes me cry still, even though I wrote it..!

That poem, by the way:


(Lucca, June 1982)


Strange how I never wanted to write about Italy,

despite the beauty of the rolling Tuscan hills.


– Or the day we borrowed bicycles

and rode out of town to see your friend,

uphill all the way beneath a Latin-blue sky.

We rested, ate ice-cream

and cycled back by the aqueduct,

and you tried (as you had to)

to get its story straight.


– Or the day you worked and I explored,

pacing every yard of the city wall,

a foreign mimic of some

ancient defence commander.


Except for that cycle ride,

we left the confine of the city’s wall

to go only to the station,

and thus to somewhere else:

the four-hour train ride to Rome

(standing all the way)

or the coach trips to Florence.



Strange how I never wanted to write about Italy,

for it seems now an unrequited pleasure;

like the girl you wanted me to meet –

I missed her too, crossing mid-Alps

as she flew away to England.

Writing to Gisella

Walking Thru Fire

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