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Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (2013)

de Tim Parks

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226991,213 (3.6)4
This book brings us a fresh portrait of Italy today through a wry account of his train journeys around the country. Whether describing his daily commute from Milan to Verona, his regular trips to Florence and Rome, or his occasional sojourns to Naples and Sicily, Parks uses his thirty years of amusing and maddening experiences on Italian trains to reveal what he calls the 'charmingly irritating dystopian paradise' 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. Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect 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.… (mais)
Europe (474)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 9 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Reminded me of Bill Bryson's travel books. ( )
  ladyars | Jan 4, 2021 |
There is a joke that goes:

HEAVEN is where: The police are British, the chefs Italian, the mechanics are German, the lovers are French, and it's all organised by the Swiss
HELL is where: The police are German, the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and it's all organised by the Italians!!

In Italy the trains are right in line with those stereotypes too. It is a country of fine foods, beautiful countryside, strong coffee and exasperating bureaucracy

Park is very familiar with this as he commutes frequently from Verona to Milan. The journey is a delightful as it is stressful, letting the train take the strain after struggling through the minefield of purchasing a ticket. It is full of detail too, you feel you are sharing the same view as he writes about the vineyards and orchards and the bleak industrial landscapes outside the towns and you stand alongside him admiring the soaring heights of the central stations. He is a careful observer of his fellow passengers too, noting as people rush to grab their morning coffee before snatching a seat and talking loudly to strangers unlike The UK where everyone cocoons themselves in their own little world.

His travels take him down through Italy and onto the island of Sicily. This has suffered decades of almost no investment in its railways, and the locals cannot believe that he wants to use them. He has some fairly strong opinions on the current state of the rail system, including the money spent of the fast links between towns and cities at the expense of sorting out the other problems including the most complicated ticket system going. But somehow it still functions.

As an outsider who has lived there for a number of years he is ideally placed to make these observations of his adopted country and it was a real pleasure to read too. He manages to convey just the right amount of detail coupled with a razor sharp wit, without it becoming too much.

Just like an expresso really. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Last Fall, I was traveling the rails of Italy as a cheaper way of commuting around the country. Really nice to fall back into that world. Good read from Mr. Parks. ( )
  kvschnitzer | Dec 8, 2019 |
It's a fine read, but just as a filler between other books. I didn't feel like I learned much about Italy, or ever felt transported there. Parks went with the kitchen sink approach to writing a book: throw every observation in there, no matter how mundane. More detail than I needed, and usually not particularly interesting, humorous or well written. ( )
  breic | Feb 1, 2019 |
More or less what you expect from Parks if you have read his earlier Italy books. Less packed with funny events and more digressions though, sometimes a bit too long. Parks is at his best observing people and fighting a hostile and bewildering environment. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 9 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
If you thought long ticket-office queues, Byzantine pricing structures, indecipherable announcements, and chronic under-investment were just a British railway phenomenon, Tim Parks's compelling new book would have you think again. Swaying on an intermediately priced, intermediately slow train between one Italian city and another, Parks (normally a novelist, and a long-time Italian resident) conveys a detailed, dense, oppressive sense of the inadequacies and idiosyncrasies of the national rail system. So detailed and oppressive in fact, that you begin to long to open the window and gaze at some passing campagna or other. But you can't – it's locked, by order of the railway authorities, to ensure the proper functioning of the air conditioning.
 
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This book brings us a fresh portrait of Italy today through a wry account of his train journeys around the country. Whether describing his daily commute from Milan to Verona, his regular trips to Florence and Rome, or his occasional sojourns to Naples and Sicily, Parks uses his thirty years of amusing and maddening experiences on Italian trains to reveal what he calls the 'charmingly irritating dystopian paradise' 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. Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect 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.

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