Monica Levy

To: Monica Levy <>
Subject: Treasure hunting
From: celia woolfrey <>

Monica Levy, Roberto Peretta, Martin Rhodes

This picture was taken at the end of the 1980s - I remember Monica very kindly invited me to stay at her family's apartment in Recco while I was writing about Liguria. Roberto joined us later - loading his computer into the back of the car (pre-laptop days, clearly) and driving there from Milan. My friend Jonathan (not pictured) was supposed to join us too from Bologna, but he got the train to Lecco by mistake, and spent the night in the station waiting room there, much to Monica's and my consternation.

Monica and Roberto's friendship meant a great deal to me, as I travelled around northern Italy, a stranger in a strange land, doing the peculiar job that we know as 'travel writing'. My visits with them kept me sane as I often found that being on the road on my own was a lonely way to go, and there was definitely no glamour in checking out one-star hotels and bus timetables for The Rough Guide.

My first sight of Monica was actually in Bologna tourist office - she was there, as organised as ever with her clipboard, and, although we spoke, we didn't realise we were both working on the Rough Guide to Italy until later. I remember some really fun times - Roberto and Monica reconnecting with her Polish roots over bison grass vodka in the London flat I shared with Phil Say, who they always referred to as 'The Photographer'. A meal out in Milan, the Recco experience of course, and then an evening in the late 1990s in their quiet, calm apartment on via Donatello when she couldn't hug me hello properly because she had just had surgery. She made light of it, because she was that kind of person, who never made a fuss and who faced the frightening things in life with enormous equanimity. That evening I had found by accident some really good ice-cream in a tiny shop down a side street and taken a little polystyrene tray of it to their place for after dinner. When Monica quizzed me about where exactly it had come from ­ what street? what did the shop look like? ­ I knew it must be good. The Levy endorsement was not given lightly... and I noticed how excited she got about a new discovery, as excited as I had been, and how this seeking out of good things and sharing them made her buzz.

That is how I remember Monica, as a woman who was passionate about the things that were important to her. These could be to do with uncovering the hidden gems of Milan and elsewhere. But she was also passionate about her values - she had a clear idea about what was right and wrong and had great personal integrity. Instead of taking the easy way out of saying "Well, that's just how it is, now how can I get by?" she took the much harder road of thumping the table and saying "That's wrong!" - she wasn't afraid to speak out against injustices.

I learned a huge amount from Monica, more than she ever knew, probably, and I will always be grateful to her. The Rough Guide is definitely all the better because of her. But most of all I remember her warmth, honesty, the friendship she offered and her great sense of fun. The world really needs more people like Monica.

Celia Woolfrey x x

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