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on 5 August 2013
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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on 10 July 2011
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.

Similarly there is a little man in Apulia, the heel of Italy, I feel I know - but we've never met and probably never will; and although the tourist guides to the area will say that I must visit Alberobello, I think it's the one place I'll give a miss and head instead for Corigliano d'Otranto.

Stumbling through Italy is, above all else, an entertaining book, a book packed with characters, stories and anecdotes, frequently amusing, often enlightening, sometimes thought-provoking, never dull. Two chapters deviate from the general chronology to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the Italian language and the Italian driving experience.

If you've never been to Italy, read this and you'll be on the next flight; if you love Italy, then prepare to meet some of the people you might bump into next time you're there - provided, of course, you give most of the tourist trails a miss.

One last thing - Stumbling through Italy is well endowed with maps, a new one for each new area visited. For me maps should be an integral part of all travel books and I fail to understand why so many of the genre are mapless zones. Five stars for this alone!
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on 8 January 2013
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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on 6 March 2013
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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on 19 November 2011
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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on 1 February 2012
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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on 2 January 2013
This book is very easy to read and very informative ,making me want to hope on the next plane to see for myself. Having always wanted to go to Italy I bought the book as a Kindle edition.Now I am going to buy the book so I can flick through and refresh my memory. An excellent read which I recommend everyone to read.
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on 27 August 2013
I was looking forward to reading this book, followed by the sequel charting the couple's move to Italy. But having read the former I won't bother with the latter.

What a wasted opportunity. They have clearly had had many enjoyable holidays to different parts of Italy which they want to share, yet this book lacks the depth and detail to bring their experiences alive to the reader. I was bored and frustrated with the author by the end.
A poor and amateurish attempt at travel writing - I assume it was self-published.

If you love Italy and want to experience the places and cuisine try Matthew Fort's 'Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa'. And if you want to learn about Italian life and people try Chris Harrison's excellent 'Head Over Heel: Seduced by Southern Italy'.

Just don't but this book, you won't find what you're looking for.
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on 25 June 2013
I love Italy especially the south and have also spent time with Italian families that I knew from the UK,
I was hoping to learn more about the lives of italians in this area.
Unfortunately all I really learnt is how wonderful the author and his wife think they are.
I really do not care that they spoke to a German in French and were answered in Italian.
There is a chapter called "Christmas in Sicily"
However I know nothing having read it about what Sicilians do, eat or the importance of religion in their celebrations.
Don't bother with this book go down the pub and listen to the bore who will always tell you they go off the beaten track and never do what the tourists do and saw the real country this is their book.
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on 10 October 2012
Got a bit bored but I suppose it is ok I still haven't finished but haven't archived, that's a good sign!
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