Anthony DiRenzo

Professor, Writing
School: School of Humanities and Sciences


A Tale of Bourbon Sicily

Like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Federico De Roberto’s The Viceroys, and Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover,Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily chronicles the destruction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the Risorgimento.

Set in 18th and 19th century Palermo, Naples, and London, this historical novel revolves around Zita Valanguerra Spinelli (1794-1882), Marchesa of Scalea, notorious beauty, ferocious wit, secret murderer, and reluctant businesswoman, whose turbulent life mirrors her world’s rocky transition from feudalism to capitalism.

Trinàcria is available online at Guernica Editions and Amazon. For a preview, read the excerpts, articles, and interviews posted on this web page. The following links, however, will allow you to visit the book's online site (with a photo gallery and advanced reviews) and to screen its promotional video:


Shortly after the centennial of Garibaldi’s conquest, a Hollywood film crew invades Palermo to shoot an epic about the Italian Revolution. Researching the past, the director visits the Capuchin Monastery, whose catacombs contain over eight thousand mummies. Preserved among these is Marchesa Spinelli, dead for eighty years but still haunted by memories. Posthumously, she recalls her complicated relationships with Don Alfonso, her scientist father; Benjamin Ingham, a British wine merchant and an honorary Sicilian baron, whom the Marchesa failed to marry; Regina, her patriotic and rebellious granddaughter, who idolizes Verdi and Garibaldi; and Giacomo Leopardi, the doomed Romantic poet.

Drawing on history and family legend, Trinàcria presents a tale of progress and reaction, irony and paradox, in which the splendors of Caserta must yield to the wonders of the Crystal Palace. Both intimate and sweeping, this story questions the price of pride and the cost of prosperity and contrasts illusions of grandeur and dreams of happiness with the pitiless truth that kills all hope and desire. As readers will learn, this is the fatal spell of Sicily—an island of loss and change—where death alone is eternal.

Book Reviews

"Anthony Di Renzo’s novella Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily is a fantastic work dominated by the vivid energy of Sicilian history and is a must-read for anyone who wants to viscerally experience the spirit of Marchesa Zita Valanguerra Spinelli, who is part of a genuinely a haunting literary experience."

~Rochelle Del Borrello, Sicily Inside & Out

"It is not often that we encounter characters as fascinating as the ones created by Anthony Di Renzo in his Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily. It is also not a common occurrence, at least for the present writer, to pick up a book and not want to put it down before reaching the end. Both happened in connection with this book."

~Gaetano Cipolla, Sicilia Parra

"Anthony Di Renzo has written a novel that casts a sober glance toward the unification of Italy circa 1860. Like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel, The Leopard, published a half-century ago, Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily paints the Risorgimento - Italy's bloody unification movement - in its true colors. Trinàcria is not 'ethnic' or nationalist niche literature. It's an overdue reality check."

~Vincenzo Salerno, Best of Sicily

"This historical novel, laced with the bitterness and sweetness that characterizes Sicilian history, finds a place between Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard and Dacia Maraini’s more recent The Silent Duchess.  Di Renzo writes at a breathtaking pace.  The historical references and personages that tumble out of every sentence all but overwhelm the reader. As his afterword demonstrates, he prepared well for his novel, and it pays off in his convincing portrait of one of the most important eras in Italy’s past. The past is never really past in Italy and in Sicily in particular.  Di Renzo brings that history to life in characters, both historical and fictional, who are as convincing as they are interesting."

~Kenneth Scambray, L'Italo Americano

"At long last! A Southern-Italian American (Pre-Ellis Island) historic novel and high-brow literature to boot, Trinàcria is a major event. Like John Domini and Susan Russo Anderson, Anthony Di Renzo is a Southern-Italian cultural warrior."

~Tom Verso, i-Italy  

"Di Renzo has a great depth of knowledge of these characters and the events and culture of the time period. He has an eloquent, classical writing style, which gives a vivid picture of the Marchesa’s world, a world that was destined to disappear, like the yellow flowers of the broom plants, under the flow of lava on the slopes of Vesuvius."

~Tony Zeppetella, Feile-Festa

Praise for "Trinàcria"

"A triumph of wit and eloquence, Anthony Di Renzo’s Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily displays a thorough knowledge of Italian culture, weaving fascinating historical material with astute commentaries about Italian life, ancient and modern. Di Renzo creates unforgettable scenes sometimes operatic in their intensity. His confident, beguiling style will remind readers of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s in The Leopard and of Salman Rushdie’s at his very best. Like these authors, Di Renzo adroitly dips in and out of magical realism, but never lets technique interfere with fast plotting and vivid characterization. The novel’s brilliant, bedraggled narrator, the Marchesa of Scalea (nicknamed Trinàcria, after the three-legged symbol of Sicily), is always lively, even when speaking from her tomb, full of wisdom, caustic humor and eccentric charm. Her tragicomic story makes Trinàcria an enormously satisfying historical novel."

~Edward Hower, author of The New Life Hotel and Storms of May

"Anthony Di Renzo’s Trinàcria peels away layers of 19th-century Sicilian history in a way that academic and popular studies of this period cannot. The novel provides an intimate perspective on sweeping public events. Di Renzo tells the story of Zita Valanguerra Spinelli, Marchesa of Scalea, who is a composite of two historical figures: Antonia Vassallo, Princess of Bellaprima, and Alessandra Spadafora, Duchess of Santa Rosalia. During her long life, Donna Zita meets kings and queens, great composers, poets, and foreign entrepreneurs seeking to make their fortunes off her island's bounty. Di Renzo’s sardonic depiction of the Marchesa’s deeply felt cynicism often kicks the modern reader in the gut: the brutality of husbands toward wives; the cruelty of fathers toward children; the impact of a woman’s revenge and of her unyielding, unforgiving pride; above all, the lost promise of Italy’s Unification to Sicilians. This finely crafted novel glitters with polished metaphors and sparking epigrams. It is a marvelous work in the tradition of Dacia Maraini's The Silent Duchess."

~John Keahey, author of Seeking Sicily

"What a great read this novel is, better than a trip to Sicily! Full of shock and delight, Trinàcria forms a fascinating epic about Bourbon Palermo on the eve of disaster. In the book's title character, the Marchesa of Scalea, Anthony Di Renzo creates a woman who demonstrates the folly and passion of living life defiantly on the brink. Few writers are better at showing the intimate, sometimes comic connections between the past and the present, between the old world and the new. If you love wit and discovery, you will enjoy Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily."

~Jeanne Mackin, author of The Sweet By and By and Dreams of Empire

"Di Renzo’s writing is vivid and brimful of sardonic humor. He specializes in crisp evocations of outdoor scenes, such as the bustling streets of Naples or the unforgettably cruel festival of the Cuccagna; but the main attraction is the novel's narrator and protagonist, the Marchesa of Scalea, a force of nature as powerful and inexorable as the Sicilian sun in July."

~Peter D’Epiro, author of Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World