Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
By: Tim Parks
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Tim Parks’s books on Italy have been hailed as “so vivid, so packed with delectable details, [they] serve as a more than decent substitute for the real thing” (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, in his first Italian travelogue in a decade, he delivers a charming and funny portrait of Italian ways by riding its trains from Verona to Milan, Rome to Palermo, and right down to the heel of Italy.
Parks begins as any traveler might: “A train is a train is a train, isn’t it?” But soon he turns his novelist’s eye to the details, and as he journeys through majestic Milano Centrale station or on the newest high-speed rail line, he delivers a uniquely insightful portrait of Italy. Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians—conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants—Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive: an obsession with speed but an acceptance of slower, older ways; a blind eye toward brutal architecture amid grand monuments; and an undying love of a good argument and the perfect cappuccino.
Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how their development reflects Italians’ sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond. Most of all, Italian Ways is an entertaining attempt to capture the essence of modern Italy. As Parks writes, “To see the country by train is to consider the crux of the essential Italian dilemma: Is Italy part of the modern world, or not?
I found out about this book sometime ago, my curiosity solidified by Christine’s review. I love travelogues and yet for some reason I never got around to reading one solely set in Italy. That’s probably because I spent quite a bit of time there a few years ago, but still, it’s interesting to read about other people’s adventures in the country.
A Rose for Winter
By: Laurie Lee
Format/Source: galley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media via NetGalley
A passionate ode to the magic of Spain, composed by one of its most ardent admirers
Fifteen years after the events described in his acclaimed autobiographies, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War, Laurie Lee returned to Spain, the land of his youth and experience. He found a country bowed but not broken, where the heavy gloom of the recent past was shot through with the vibrant rays of tradition: the exquisite ecstasy of the flamenco, the pomp and circumstance of the bullfight, the eternal glory of Christ and church.
From the smuggler’s paradise of Algeciras to the Moorish majesty of Granada, Lee paints the wonders of Spain with a poet’s brush. To read A Rose for Winter is to be transported to one of the most enchanted places on earth.
Suffice to say, the premise of this nonfiction title was what caught my attention. I’ve never been to Andalucia so I’m always up for reading travelogues set in the region. Apparently I had also added other books by this author to my wishlist before, so I suppose this came to my attention in good time 😉
This edition of the book was released on 10 June 2014. This book is part of the Everything Espana Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.
The Next Stop: Inverness to Edinburgh, station by station
By: Simon Varrell
Format/Source: eCopy kindly provided by the author for review
After years travelling by train between Inverness and Edinburgh, Simon Varwell realised that he knew very little about the places he would merely pass through, and to which he would pay no attention as they rushed by in a train window blur.
So over the course of six days in 2012, he travelled the line and stopped at all twenty-three stations. It was a trip that led him to the unknown, the beautiful, the isolated, the depressingly mundane, the run-down, and the haunting. From picturesque Highland villages to post-industrial towns, and from crumbling castles to dodgy pubs, a host of curious nooks and crannies across Scotland lurking virtually on his doorstep were finally demystified.
He finished the week with some places he was eager to return to for a deeper exploration, and a few others he will be quite happy to never visit again…
I love train rides. All of my trips in Europe involved train travel and I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it: it was the only time I never grumbled about getting up early in the morning to reach the early train out of town, I got the hang of foreign-language kiosks to get tickets, I didn’t mind some of the older carriages that I ended up in. And most of all, I enjoyed the scenery; I could never get sick of just staring out of the window for a whole two hours, even on the wettest, gloomiest, snow-filled day.
Anyway, I’ve never been to the United Kingdom in any capacity so I was curious about this travelogue about train stops in Scotland. I received a copy of this title from the author, which I read in exchange for an honest review.
The Return of the Mullet Hunter
By: Simon Varrell
Format/Source: eBook copy kindly provided by the author for review
Simon Varwell is a man on a mission. Albeit a ridiculous one: to visit various places in the world with the word “mullet” in their name. The Return of the Mullet Hunter charts his continuing global mission, and includes his travels in England, Canada, New Zealand and the USA as he hunts down obscure backwaters linked together only by their names.
It’s a journey that takes him from the quiet English countryside to the Californian desert via dull suburbs and uninhabited islands. It leads Simon into the media spotlight and into the welcoming hands of people across the world keen to help this mad Scottish mullet hunter find his destinations.
But more than that, The Return of the Mullet Hunter is an adventure in search of the quiet beauty that lies far off the beaten track in unassuming, rarely-visited places. And it charts the dilemmas as he faces up to the huge costs and obvious stupidity of his whimsical quest – one which, on an epic road trip through the USA, looks like it might begin to fall apart…
The Return of the Mullet Hunter is Simon Varwell’s second book, and the sequel to Up The Creek Without a Mullet.
I’ve always found travelogues and travel-related books rather interesting. I love to travel and when I can’t travel (case in point: right now), travelogues become a way to travel through the wondrous and interesting experiences of others. I found out about this book when the author emailed me about reviewing it, and his mission sounded very specific but also quite unique. I received a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Tales of the Alhambra
By: Washington Irving
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Washington Irving’s dreamlike description of Spain’s Granada and the beautiful Moorish castle, the Alhambra, remains one of the most entertaining travelogues ever written. Enhanced here with exquisite Spanish guitar music, the narrative is a heady mix of fact, myth, and depictions of secret chambers, desperate battles, imprisoned princesses, palace ghosts, and fragrant gardens, described in a wistful and dreamlike eloquence, will transport listeners to a paradise of their own.
I’ve been curious about this book ever since I first came across it during my many meanderings around GoodReads. I’ve never been to Granada and the Alhambra sounds like this exotic, distant place of mystery. I recently picked this book up for my eReader and was in the mood for a bit of a travelogue 🙂 This book is part of the Everything Espana Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.
Reading this book, I wished it came with images because it would really add to the descriptions of the Alhambra and the town in which Washington Irving stayed at. There’s nothing much to say about this collection, really, as for the most part it covers Irving’s time in Granada, from his time travelling to the place to the time that he departed. I really enjoyed his recollections and observations; there’s a sense of journey to them and it was interesting to read about everything that happened to him while he was there. The collection also includes tales he’s collected while he was there, which adds to the experience.
There’s nothing too much to say about this book. I enjoyed reading about Granada and Irving’s observations of the Alhambra and the festivals he participated in. I can’t say I had a particular favourite chapter in this volume, but I did especially enjoy reading his observations heading to the Alhambra and his final chapter and sentiments as he was leaving. I hope to visit the place myself one of these days 🙂
Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository