Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (1/07)
Being back in USA after the fabulous European trip last month makes me feel vaguely blue and lethargic. It is difficult to muster much enthusiasm for anything when the weather is grey and drab; all that one wants to do is to get under the covers and dream of the Mediterranean sunshine. The good news is that I do believe I found the cure for the winter blahs. Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls have written a number of great travel books, and the last I've read, "Italian Riviera & Piedmont" is no exception.
Their writing summons images of sunny, wonderful Italy. If you open the book at random, the section you stumble upon is bound to make you smile. Let me give you an example: "Specialties of the Riviera, or the Marriage of Popeye and the Olive Oyl..." What a wonderful way to describe Ligurian cuisine. The authors go on and describe not only what kinds of foods are traditionally eaten in the area, but also why this is so. Some of the information will probably be quite surprising to most of the readers. If nothing else, it is bound to make you hungry!
As always, their writing is refreshing and wonderfully insightful, slightly irreverent, always informative and never boring. Take, for example, their brief introduction to the city of Turin: "Detroit without the degradation; the absolutist capital of the Savoys; a stately, masculine Baroque city of porticoed avenues and royal squares; the home of the Holy Shroud, of Juventus, vermouth, an endearingly outrageous Mole and the centre of the black magic in the Mediterranean - Piedmont's capital, Turin (Torino, pop. 900,000) is not your typical Italian city. Positioned midway between the pole and the equator, its winters are colder than Copenhagen's; its most renowned museum is Egyptian. It straddles the Po, so close to its source that the water is almost clean. One of its nicknames is Grissinopoli (`breadstickville')."
Such wonderfully colorful and imaginative descriptions do not take away from down to earth, practical information at all. Facaros and Pauls have obviously mastered the art of form not taking away from the function and function not taking away from the form. The guidebook covers all of the usual, necessary facets of travel. History, art, architecture, food and drink, practical advice on how to get ready for the trip and detailed descriptions of the areas encompassed in this book (Riviera di Ponente, Genoa, Riviera di Levante, Turin, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta) are all very detailed and exceptionally useful. Even for such a relatively small area the authors included information on over 450 places to stay and over 400 places to eat and drink. The photography section conveys some of the intriguing beauty of the areas visited. Over 20 maps included in the book will prove extremely useful for the individual travelers for sure. They are detailed and very easy to read. At the end of the book authors included a short linguistic section with some useful words and phrases as well as a glossary. And if this book provokes a desire to know more about this particular part of the world, the authors also compiled a great list of suggested further reading.
I would highly recommend "Italian Riviera & Piedmont" to anybody who desires a deeper understanding of Italy, particularly the areas described within. As for myself, I will certainly look for more books written by this talented team.
Received book free of charge.