Bella Cigna by Wendi Dass is an entertaining story set in Rome.
A novel that is set in Italy? Sign me up! It’s one of my favorite places to visit, especially Rome, so I was very excited to read that Bella Cigna takes place there.
Here’s the synopsis:
Devastated by personal loss, Sarah Flynn escapes to Rome where she finds a job teaching English. Only the girls’ school is like a nunnery and she’s expected to speak fluent Italian overnight. What has she gotten herself into? While the beautiful sights rekindle her interest in art, not even her brush finding canvas can heal all the wounds she carries. She’ll need the help of a meddling nun, a nutty mathematician, and a handsome Italian admirer. Can Sarah overcome the insecurities born of a shattered marriage? Will she again take a chance on love?
Before Rome, Sarah worked a dead-end job as she focused on taking the next steps with a fertility clinic to help her conceive. But when she comes home one day, she finds out her husband is leaving her for another woman—shattering all her dreams at once. When an opportunity for Rome comes up, she jumps on it immediately.
While Sarah didn’t choose Rome, it ends up being the place she belongs. But she does have a bit of a rough start! The fish out of water theme is so interesting and engaging in this one.
As I read the story, I kept imagining how difficult it truly would be to move somewhere alone and without understanding much of the language. But her fellow teacher, Anna, helps out when she can and honestly, Sarah probably wouldn’t have made it without her. While Anna is much younger than Sarah, she definitely serves as a mentor-type figure to her in many ways. But of course, Sarah is also there for her throughout the story too. I liked their dynamic quite a bit.
Rome also helps reignite her passion for art. And even a romance, too.
The romance can make-or-break these types of stories. And it’s great in this one! I really enjoyed Sarah’s relationship with Eduardo. It’s very much a slow-burn one where they do truly get to know each other. It’s sweet and it reminded me a bit of some of the old-school “chick-lit” novels. Genres are interesting now where women stories are now divided into women’s fiction, which tends to be more serious, and romance, which usually has a lot of steamy scenes. But “chick-lit” serves as an in-between, many elements of women’s fiction, with plenty of romance but light on the steam elements.
When Sarah takes this job in Rome, the idea is that it’s temporary and she’ll eventually go back to her life in DC. But once she meets Eduardo and starts to really connect with the students, she starts to question which direction her life needs to take. I think everyone can relate to this idea of second chances.
Bella Cigna is an enjoyable story that I read in one sitting. It also makes me want to book a trip to Rome when the world is normal again. For book clubs, check out my questions here.