Italian Ways

Italian Ways

On and Off the Rails From Milan to Palermo

Book - 2013
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WW Norton
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?"
The best-selling author of Italian Neighbors returns with a wry and revealing portrait of Italian life—by riding its trains.

Baker & Taylor
"An Italian travelogue that centers on describing the trains that traverse the country, from the architecture of old train stations to the new high-speed railways and portrays the author's memorable encounters with interesting people met along the way. 20,000 first printing."

Book News
Tim Parks has been a novelist (the Booker Prize shortlisted Europa), a translator (Italian authors from Machiavelli to Italo Calvino) and the author of several previous nonfiction books about Italy, where he has lived for the past thirty years. Here, he writes about taking trains. It's a convenient excuse for the minutae that comprise the soul of a country. The author writes with the careful accounting of a novelist who is always taking notes on a frustrating machine or a good conversation; you never know when a good bit may come in useful. Here, they do. Parks has a translator's close ear for the details of language, and the primary delight of the book is to listen along with it. The stranger's sense of the unexpected and the ridiculous in words combines with a native's ability to gather every nuance from an upside-down headline, a conversational gambit between a reserved Roman girl and a crew of young Veronese soccer fans, or the thousand-and-first international tourist getting off at the wrong stop while the Italian recorded announcer reads the English names out loud in a full-throated parody of a British aristocrat. It's an enjoyable ride under the tutelage of a thoughtful guide who has renounced his Englishness in all things but an expatriate's dry wit, and very good fun for readers who appreciate the New Yorker. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

An Italian travelogue describes the trains that traverse the country, from the architecture of old train stations to the new high-speed railways, and portrays the author's memorable encounters along the way.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 2013
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393239324
Branch Call Number: 914.504 P238i
Characteristics: xvii, 261 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Apr 17, 2014

Really enjoyed this book! Tim Parks makes brilliant and often hilarious observations about Italian culture based on his prolific train travel within Italy. Yes, Italy is beautiful and nobody loves it more than I do - but I have no problem with accepting the reality of this country along with the beauty. "Italian Ways" is not "Under the Tuscan Sun". It has a lot to say about the history, economic and political reality of Italy. Read this if you want to learn a little something as well as be entertained.

Jan 12, 2014

Terrible book. Too much whining about everything that seems to go wrong in Italy for this author and not enough discovery of the good things that also happen and appreciation of that total picture. Not recommended.

ChristchurchLib Aug 12, 2013

"Is touring Italy via its trains wonderful, terrible, or both? Find out in this humourous, eye-opening travelogue by English expat Tim Parks, who has lived in Italy since 1981. Riding all over the country, from top to toe and many places in between, he uses Italy's trains as a lens into Italian life, past and present. Describing the memorable people he encounters (many of whom hate the train system), he offers a historical look at the railroads (he rides in cars from pre-World War II and modern high-speed ones) and thoughtfully yet entertainingly ponders Italian society at large. Having raised a family in Italy and written three previous Italian travel books, Parks is an excellent and wryly insightful guide to his adopted country." August 2013 Armchair Travel newsletter


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