Book Reviews: North of Naples, South of Rome by Paolo Tullio and Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria by Mark Rotella
I have switched gears a bit lately and my reading has been devoted to Italy. The following are two books I enjoyed reading and made me long to spend time in Italy!
North of Naples, South of Rome
North of Naples is a recommendation from the Crystal Cruises website. The author was born in Gallinaro in the Comino Valley, but was educated and resides in the UK. He returns to his family home in Gallinaro for summers. It was written in the early 1990’s so it is interesting to have an older time period and the point of view of a non-American. Paolo’s take on Italy’s economy was a time of Italian prosperity with an influx of foreign investors. The politics were scattered and based heavily on the favor system, so not much has changed!
The stories told are typical Italian, but very interesting. They offer an insight not often covered by many of the romance laden travel journals. I found myself laughing and at the same time getting a deeper understanding of the passionate Italian people. Paolo’s take on Naples for example goes beyond the typical, scary depiction of theft and non-safety. It endeavors to make you think of Naples as a place for the ultimate hustlers, therefore only scary to the naïve. Apparently, this book inspired a PBS mini-series in the 1990’s and I would love to see it!
Traveling Gals Tip: When looking for interesting travel journals to read, I check upscale and river cruise websites for their recommended reading suggestions.
Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria
Stolen Figs has been on my reading list for some time. I was happily entertained by Mark Rotella’s recounting of discovering the hometown of his family, Gimigliano. I have never visited this part of Italy located in the toe of the boot. It is much less traveled by tourists, which makes it very interesting to me. Although life seems less prosperous and perhaps more difficult, it is easy to be drawn into the welcoming and charming family of the author. Life in Calabria seems to be relatively unchanged over time for better or worse.
After arriving unannounced in Gimigliano, Mark and his father are welcomed with open arms by extended family and residents. Particularly Giuseppe, an informal guide and postcard salesman, introduces Mark to the real Calabria. Their adventures and fun and make me want to hop on a plane to visit immediately. This is always the sign of a good book! Apparently, figs right off the tree are the best in Calabria. I never think about eating them, but I am now inspired to try a recipe with fresh figs!
Interested in reading one of these books?
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Let us know your favorite travel books in the comments!