Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
by Tim Parks
W. W. Norton, 2013. 261 pgs. Nonfiction
Tim Parks takes to the rails in search of the Italian character in this entertaining, thought-provoking travel narrative. A British expatriate who has lived and taught in Italy for over thirty years, Parks has just enough distance to see his adopted country clearly, from the outside in, as it were, but also to share his love for (most of) the characters he meets. And characters they are, from the train conductor (capotreno) who refuses to accept an online ticket because it isn't printed out, to the elderly pensioner who claims to have lost her ticket to Rome and leaves the train screaming, only to climb aboard the next train and work the same trick until there she is--Roma. Italian Ways is a rich and revealing delight of a book. What a great way to travel--Mr. Parks endures the heat, the crowds, the broken ticket machines and incomprehensible schedules, so that we armchair travelers can enjoy a great book in peace and quiet.