38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
So much more than a travel book: absolutely spot on,
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This review is from: Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (Hardcover)
Apart from a rather silly typo at the start of the book which states that Parks travels from Verona to Milan via Genova Piazza Princpe, this is a delightful book and should arm anyone planning a trip in Italy using the trains. It will also provoke wry grins from those of us who are seasoned in the use of Trenitalia. As Parks explains the train system in Italy mirrors the Country itself: charming but also maddeningly bureaucratic and cussed in a way that drives those not familiar with it to distraction. You have to have you wits about you and be on your guard (and for heaven's sake make sure you stamp your ticket in the yellow box before you board the train) but at the same time the railway allows you to travel all over this wonderful country at a very reasonable (highly subsidised) cost: something that struck me as amazing on the first of my travels after putting up with the rip off fares in Britain. It also allows you to meet some wonderful people and this is something Parks also mention. Inter regional trains in Italy are made up of compartments of 6 seats and you can always bank on meeting some characters on the journey. Sure you can remain aloof if you don't want to talk but for me this is always part of the fun. Parks also describes the unique bustling atmosphere of Italian main train stations. Unlike the UK, they always give a sense of excitement of the journey for the journey ahead. You only have to go to Milan Cenrale or Roma Termini to get this vibe.
This is a book that has me looking forward to further journeys in the year ahead and has given me even more insight into that which I already have. It also has some lovely observations, especially about the deep south of Italy which is shamefully abandoned and an area which I have yet to visit. All in all then this book ranks alongside Italian Neighbours, Italian Education and A Season with Verona as an insiders commentary from a man who has lived in the Country for 30 odd years and raised an Italian family there. It is a great read.