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Stumbling through Italy: Tales of Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, Calabria and places in-between by [Allsop, Niall]
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Stumbling through Italy: Tales of Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, Calabria and places in-between Kindle Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Description

About the Author

Niall Allsop was born and educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but began his working life as a teacher and headteacher in England.
He left teaching to pursue a career as a photo-journalist specializing in the UK's inland waterways (navigable canals and rivers) and wrote extensively in this field as a contributor to several national magazines and author of a number of related titles.
Later he became a graphic designer and in the early 90s was the in-house designer for a publishing house specializing in photographic titles before becoming a freelance graphic designer.
In 2008 he and his wife Kay moved to Calabria, the toe of Italy where they enjoy a sort of retirement in a small hilltop town and where they are the only English-speaking people.
Niall Allsop is also the author of Keeping up with the Lawrences: Sicily, Sea and Sardinia revisited, which retraces the 1921 journey of DH Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, from their then home in Sicily, to and through Sardinia and back to Sicily via mainland Europe.
Which, as they say, is another story.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6488 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: In Scritto (9 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005C10W2S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #171,719 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a personal book. It is the chronicle of the author's sporadic encounters with Italy and the Italian psyche over a decade as he and his wife kept returning for more.

Like countless others before them, they started off in tidy Tuscany but gravited south to Sicily, Apulia and Calabria and west to Sardinia; they frequently stumbled off the beaten track where they encountered ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

It is a travelogue with a difference. Generally the places Niall Allsop visits are interesting not because of their historical or aesthetic track record but because of the people he observes or gets into conversation with; even the homes he gets invited into.

When visiting the tourist hot-spot of Florence he explains the rationale: "We do not instinctively home in on the nearest church or cathedral when we visit a town ... we're more likely to head for the bar or café with the oldest men sitting outside, one of whom might well drag us off, kicking and screaming, to the nearest church on the mistaken assumption that that's why we're there."

Generally he avoids such `hot-spots' and introduces the reader to places they will never have heard of but that soon become familiar, friendly places often with, on the surface, little to show but their inhabitants.

On his first visit to Sardinia, for example, he and his wife became close to two women who, unknown to them at the time, were protagonists in a family feud. It wasn't a serious affair, a small story in a small town with six bars. But when he left Scano di Montiferro for the last time, I felt that I had been there too, that I too knew these people and had been touched by their lives.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I struggled with this book.. the author was lucky enough to be visiting Italy and yet when he ate out at some of the many restaurants we had very little detail of the menu ? I wanted to hear what the meal was like !!I did laugh to myself a few times.. especially when reading about their travels and how scary it is on the roads.. we all know Italians are a law unto themselves when it come to driving!Its not a book Id read again.
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Format: Paperback
The author follows in an illustrious tradition set by such acute observers of people and places like Paul Theroux and Peter Mayle.

Like them, and unlike the rest of us, he not only looks at Italians going about their daily lives but draws his own, sometimes hilariously imaginative, conclusions as to their thoughts and motivations.

Many travellers will have seen people abroad drinking coffee, driving, eating or simply socialising in the sun, but few will have the ability to see or taken the trouble to record their thoughts like this excerpt from his account of the nightly passeggiata ritual in Frascati:

",,,(for )Frascati's womenfolk of a certain age this was an opportunity to show off their fur.....with a panache that lacked any hint of embarrassment or concession to being politically correct.... Many of these fur -framed ladies trailed furry little pooches...which in turn needed to be decked out in the right gear...
...the menfolk knew their place... their job was to carry the umbrella and be ready, at the merest hint of rain, to protect their good lady (and their investment) from the elements."

Peter Mayle was successful in admitting us into the workings of one small community in France. Niall Allsop paints on a much broader canvas. He brings to life with affection and humour a whole cast of characters he encounters ranging from mafiosi to eccentric landladies against a background of the glorious colours of southern Italy and Sicily.

He is a true travel writer with the rare gift of bringing to life people and places that the rest of we more ordinary travellers merely visit, and shows us entertainingly just how much we missed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Initally found this book intersting but as I got into it found it to be quite repetitive - and as another reviewer commented I noticed that with all that eating out they did in Italy never were we given any information as to what they actually ate - surprising that - was actually glad to get to the end of the book as I really found it quite monotonous at times.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wish I was with them throughout their glorious and unforgettable journey. No wonder they decided to live there. The people they met lead simple and extraordinary lives, welcoming, hospitable and kind. Italians love their home grown food and cooking is delicious form author's description.
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The author has an apparent ease for striking up a brief relationship with hospitable Italian restaurateurs and hoteliers and obviously enjoys his Italian holidays. In this case his story doesn't make for a good reading. More about the characters he met or else more about the places of interest he visited would have been better. In this book you get neither.
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you consider yourself to be a traveller, as opposed to a tourist, then I think you will appreciate Stumbling through Italy. As Niall Allsop himself says, he and his wife Kay give the usual tourist attractions a wide berth. Instead, they make for the less obvious places, small towns or villages where Italians are going about their daily lives, and there they find the unpretentious restaurants and bars where the locals gather. And, in his inimitable way, it is here that Allsop finds a way, initially without much Italian, to make a connection with people. If ever anyone needed encouragement to have a go at communicating with people without a common language, this is it! Now and again the person who spoke English would be thrust forward, but Allsop's strong desire to make a proper connection is very appealing. And connect he does, since he and Kay now seem to have friends all over Italy - all made during annual 2-3 week holidays. It's the people of the different regions that we get a real sense of with Stumbling - their daily lives, their families, their feuds, their celebrations. And Allsop and his wife are warmly welcomed into all of this - at one point in Calabria `like long-lost family'. Allsop's writing of the people he and Kay befriend is full of warmth and respect.

Having not been to either Sicily or Apulia, I felt I got a good sense of both. There is also a helpful chapter about the Italian language. Despite Allsop's claim that his Italian isn't very good, he clearly has an ear and an understanding of language. There is also an amusing chapter about `the Italian driving experience'. We're even given the recipe for Sardinian orange and coffee liquore - extracted from the generous Rina.

Stumbling through Italy is a warm and funny book underlaid with an intelligent appreciation of the country and its people.
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