The Story that inspired Mongibello

Image post: The Story that inspired Mongibello

The great American author Patricia Highsmith is the pen behind The Talented Mr. Ripley, one of her most successful novels. It’s about a swindler who sneaks into the lives of two true bon vivants getting a glorious tan on the Amalfi coast. The action takes place in this story of mystery, lies, hidden passions and dolce far niente.

Patricia Highsmith, the grand dame of mystery made in the U.S.A, travelled to Europe for the first time after writing her bestseller, Strangers on a Train. The book also became a classic film directed by another master of mystery: Alfred Hitchcock. On the trip, Highsmith decided to visit the Amalfi coast, and while staying in a charming hotel in Positano, she saw a very tall, handsome man with glasses and a briefcase in his hand. He looked like a man with good taste; maybe he played an instrument… or perhaps nothing was what it seemed.

The writer’s mind began to take flight with the image of this man, who, in her imagination, already had a name and surname: Tom Ripley. Patricia invented the place where the plot unfolds: a quiet little village on the Italian coast, fictionally called, Mongibello. There is no such village anywhere on the beautiful Amalfi coast, but Mount Etna, in the province of Catania, is popularly known in Sicily as Mongi, Gibello or Mongibello.

Taormina and those winding roads that give a glimpse of the beautiful Palermo coast and its vineyards, Notto and its palaces… Italy is more fashionable than ever with the arrival of the second season of the series ‘The White Lotus’ created by Mike White. A superb hotel in Taormina is at the heart of the plot, with guests on the verge of a nervous breakdown in every episode. Well-constructed characters, the mounting tension and a dreamy setting are all ingredients from Highsmith’s kitchen.

“The Talented Mr. Ripley’ tells the story of a man who skilfully accumulates secrets and lies but crosses people and situations that will shake his foundations. In the first film adaptation, ‘A Plein du Soleil’ (1960, René Clément), a very young and handsome Alain Delon plays Dickie Greenleaf, the object of Tom’s desire. Dickie has everything Tom wants: money, class and friends. Tom has the talent that Dickie lacks, and when they meet, they seem to connect perfectly.

In the American adaptation directed by Anthony Minghella in 1999, Dickie is played by Jude Law, and he embodies, with delightful accuracy, that spirit of the eternal, shirtless, carefree holidaymaker. The twisted Ripley is Matt Damon, and Dickie’s beautiful fiancée is Gwyneth Paltrow.

Without delving further into the film’s plot, which is highly recommended to watch before visiting Mongibello, I leave you with this quote from Dickie Greenleaf, Highsmith’s quintessential summer holidaymaker: “I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got, as long as it lasts”.

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