Italian Ways by Tim Parks
On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo

77%

9 Critic Reviews

...a fascinating portrait of a society that seems rooted in place no matter how fast it goes.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

“So inviting you might find yourself tempted to give the experience a whirl and ride the Italian trains yourself, book in hand.”—Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review


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?"

 

About Tim Parks

See more books from this Author
TIM PARKS is the author of novels, nonfiction, and essays. He has won the Somerset Maugham, Betty Trask, and Llewellyn Rhys awards and been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His works include Destiny, Europa, Dreams of Rivers and Seas, Italian Neighbors, An Italian Education, and A Season with Verona.
 
Published June 10, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 288 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Travel, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Italian Ways
All: 9 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Liesl Schillinger on Jul 12 2013

This reverie is so inviting you might find yourself tempted to give the experience a whirl and ride the Italian rails yourself, book in hand.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on May 27 2014

Parks is not the kind to use trains blindly or out of some kind of desire for self-mortification. And he does extrapolate the Italian character with great plausibility and actual, belly-laugh humour, because, as this column has noted before, Parks is one of the best living writers of English, and this book is so good you don't want it to end.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Thomas Jones on Jun 28 2013

I have no idea what Parks means when he talks, as he often does, about the "Italian psyche" or the "national psyche". Thankfully, it's not clear that he is entirely convinced by his own argument, either.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Andrew Martin on Jun 22 2013

Be warned. In the early part of this book, Parks vents his commuting grievances with all the ferocity and paranoia of any "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells", albeit with better style and more black humour.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Apr 29 2013

...a fascinating portrait of a society that seems rooted in place no matter how fast it goes.

Read Full Review of Italian Ways: On and Off the ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Ben Downing on Jun 07 2013

The book is no Ferrari on rails but instead something much better: a slow train so thoughtfully appointed that one never thinks to look out the window or care about the destination.

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Kirkus

Good
on Mar 24 2013

His journeys renew his sense of being eternally an outsider in Italy, yet he also recognizes how warmly he has taken to his adopted country. Enchanting travels with the good-natured Parks.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Janice Durante on Jun 10 2013

As Tim Parks’ journeys reflect a gloriously imperfect, ever-evolving nation, they also provide readers with a clear-eyed companion worth keeping.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Brigitte Frase on Jun 15 2013

Parks writes about all this dysfunction in a relaxed, humorous, meandering style and also offers charming vignettes about some of his fellow travelers.

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Reader Rating for Italian Ways
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Karen Russo

Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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