Nonfiction Nagging- Italian Ways

A few years ago my sister and I went on what really was the trip of a lifetime- ten days in Italy. We flew into Rome, spent a few days there, then moved on to Florence, and then Venice, each leg traveled by train. The first train we took was the cheapest, and much to our chagrin the interior was old and there was even graffiti on the walls. When we went to Venice we forked over a few extra euros for the Eurostar, a high-speed train that is much more comfortable.

Traveling by train was definitely not something new for me. Growing up we had taken the train from Central California to Southern California, a trip that involved two trains and a bus, several times. While in college I used the same route many, many times to visit my family and also utilized the regular metro to see an old boyfriend an hour or so away. While I was never fond of the bus portion of the longer trips, I did, for the most part, enjoy the train (my only issue is that they're so slow). I can read, nap, look out the window and not have to worry about stopping somewhere clean and safe to use the restroom (considering my bladder and the amount of caffeine I used to drink this was a serious issue).

After finishing Tim Park's Italian Ways I'm eager to both visit Italy and travel by train again. The book is a travelogue of sorts, cataloging the different experiences he's had living in Italy and utilizing their complicated train system to travel around the country. He discusses topics ranging from the types of trains and their histories, as well as various passengers, mix-ups, stations, and differences between standard trains and high-speed ones. His narrative intermixes anecdotes, historical research, and general musings.

It took my quite a long time to read this book- it's a bit hard to read in huge chunks. Sections of the book are interesting, while the rest are just on the cusp of being so; Parks has a pleasant narrative voice that sometimes soothed me straight to sleep. The quality of the text and the style were consistent throughout, and the movement of the story in terms of geographical locations made sense. 

The experience of reading the books was much like a train ride; I often wanted it to be over, but there was also something romantic and nostalgic present that I couldn't shake. There's no wild twists and turns- it's a steady ride. 

Do I recommend this? It's definitely not for the average reader; if you have a particular interest in Italy or trains you will probably enjoy this, but be warned, you may be rolling through it for awhile (bada-da-da!)


  1. I spent just over month travelling around Italy using the trains a few years ago and definitely have some interesting memories from the experience so I have been thoroughly intrigued by this book since I first saw it at my local bookshop. Even if it is just a steady ride, I think it's right up my street. Lovely review :)

  2. I've been curious to read this title for some time now (I like to read travelogues and I love Italy but to my surprise, I haven't actually read any travelogues set in Italy), the premise sounds great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    Hehe, I have very good memories of the cheaper trains in Italy; I did a lot of city day trips when I was there and the cheaper trains just fit my budget (despite it running slower at times than the faster trains; I just learned to get up super early in the morning and slept in the train). But yeah, good times xD

    Have you been to Austria or Germany (or in that area)? Hands down their train system, the ÖBB, is fantastic. Even the cheaper rides are top notch (could I even argue that I like it better than the Eurostar?)