Wednesday, 4 January 2017
Italian Ways by Tim Parks
I've always loved travelling by train and it's also a relatively environmentally friendly method of transport. I also enjoyed our visit to Italy, many years ago now. So I was very happy to find a copy of Italian Ways, Tim Parks' account of travelling round Italy by train.
This is a wonderfully entertaining book, that uses the railways as a window on the Italian way of life, Italian history and even the Italian soul. There are humourous accounts of the idiosyncracies of the Italian rail system (and I was very relieved to find that I'm not the only person to have been caught out by the requirement to validate your ticket in the obscure yellow boxes in the station that no-one tells you about (not even the nice chatty man who sells you your ticket and must recognise your accent as not being Italian) until you get on the train and get a fine and a lecture on being a stupid foreigner.)
Anyone who has been to Italy will immediately become nostalgic for that country on reading this book and if you've not been there, you'll want to! It's also a great advert for train travel as a way of seeing a country and meeting and observing people and really experiencing the process of travelling.
My Italian teacher used to criticise people like Tim Parks and say 'no Italian would go to a foreign country and dare to write about it like that!' but actually she's wrong, there's an Italian writer who writes this kind of thing about the USA but more importantly, sometimes it takes that affectionate outsider's view to see things differently, to question the things that a native of the country would take for granted and that's one of the best things about this very readable book.
Italian Ways by Tim Parks, published by Harvill Secker.