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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of Italian Neighbors returns with a wry and revealing portrait of Italian life - by riding its trains.

Tim Parks’s books on Italy have been hailed as "so vivid, so packed with delectable details, [they] serve as a more than decent substitute for the real thing" (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

Now, in his first Italian travelogue in a decade, he delivers a charming and funny portrait of Italian ways by riding its trains from Verona to Milan, Rome to Palermo, and right down to the heel of Italy.

Parks begins as any traveler might: "A train is a train is a train, isn’t it?" But soon he turns his novelist’s eye to the details, and as he journeys through majestic Milano Centrale station or on the newest high-speed rail line, he delivers a uniquely insightful portrait of Italy. Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians - conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants - Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive: an obsession with speed but an acceptance of slower, older ways; a blind eye toward brutal architecture amid grand monuments; and an undying love of a good argument and the perfect cappuccino.

Italian Ways also explores how trains helped build Italy and how their development reflects Italians’ sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond. Most of all, Italian Ways is an entertaining attempt to capture the essence of modern Italy. As Parks writes, "To see the country by train is to consider the crux of the essential Italian dilemma: Is Italy part of the modern world, or not?"

©2013 Tim Parks (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Aaron
  • Jeffersonville, IN, United States
  • 03-25-14

Extremely entertaining

Italian Ways has been one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I've listened to in a long time. It's not just the reading (which was excellent), but the wonderful insight into the Italian way of life.

This book is incredibly hard to describe and that's what makes it such an excellent listen. The author gives you a view of the Italian people through the perspective of a frequent rail-traveler. The book is a well-composed series of stories chronicling humorous, sweet, and frustrating events the author either participated in or witnessed while using the train system.

The stories couldn't be more enjoyable or vivid. Tim Parks ignites your imagination and builds the most incredible scenes of people interacting with one another. And, Ben Bartalone, the narrator, really delivers, as well.

I can't recommend this one highly enough.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

This book is awful, pronunciation is terrible.

a better reader would have helped. I couldn't stomach it. it was awful and annoying.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • 4GO
  • Saratoga Springs USA
  • 01-16-17

At least TRY for proper pronunciation.

As an American who has spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, although I am by no means fluent I nonetheless know what proper Italian sounds like; names of cities etc.
The narrator here isn't capable of saying much beyond "spaghetti and meatballs" properly, which serves to spoil the authors novel but humorous and accurate premise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

only for train enthusiast..

What would have made Italian Ways better?

I think I expected more italian life and italian people in the story, but it was pretty much just about him figuring out the trains.....

What does Ben Bartolone bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He has the voice of the teachers pet. It's annoying. A bit too cheery

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good insight into Italian culture...

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes, I think this book is worth it to get to know Italian culture from the view of the trains. I listened to this book prior to going to italy and traveling, and it helped navigate the rail system and to understand Italy on a deeper level.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Tim Parks was openly critical of a country that he clearly loves.

What three words best describe Ben Bartolone’s voice?

Inappropriate, incongruous, and unfitting. Because the voice of the author is that of an old ex-pat carmudgeon from Britain, and the narrator sounded like a young American.

Do you think Italian Ways needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I haven't even bothered to finish the book because I got a little bored, saw that there were still 2 hours to go in the narration, and wondered what possibly more the author could discuss about Italian rails. Almost seemed like he was riding around the country just to have more material to talk about.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Choo-choo! The Romance of Railway Travel in Italy

“A train is a train is a train, isn’t it?” So starts Tim Parks’ Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo. The charming narrative about life and travel in Italy vacillates between complaints of the inefficiencies and inconveniences of rail travel to extolling its virtues. Sure the bus is faster, but it isn’t nearly as romantic or interesting!

I love to travel, and my very first memory is of a train trip from California to Iowa to visit my grandmother. It seemed like a grand and daring adventure at the age of three. I haven’t used the U.S. train system much, but I have used the train in other countries when traveling in adulthood. I loved every minute of the experiences unique to train travel in each country! So, when I spotted this book in my library’s newsletter, I snatched up an audiobook copy of Italian Ways.

Tim Parks’ book did not disappoint. I loved his use of anecdotes to show Italians’ stalwart devotion to living at home with their family while commuting up to hundreds of miles by train to work. Parks made each vignette come to life with vivid descriptions of the people and places. Whether it was officious train personnel, odiferous commuters or charming, but hapless tourists, each of Parks’ interactions on his railway travels is memorable. He truly gives readers the social, economic, and political vibe of Italy.

Whether the chapter was about regional, interregional or high-speed (i.e., Eurostar) trains, the stories brought back memories of my own travels. The book will resonate with anyone who has traveled by train in Europe—especially Italy, and readers who have not travelled to Europe/Italy, will surely begin planning their own railway adventure to experience not only the romance of rail travel but the highly organic experience of regional trains and the colorful and enriching interaction with the local community.

The audiobook is entertainingly narrated by Ben Bartolone.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Not His Best

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Not sure the story lacked any tension--there was no real point to the travel. The observations seemed random and the prose was uninspired

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something with some direction and punch

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The performance was flat but this was not surprising as there was no real drama in the story.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

Any additional comments?

This book is not really up to the high quality of Tim Park's intellect. It read as though he was phoning the story in. It is certainly not up to the level of a Paul Theroux travelogue.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Toby
  • Portsmouth, NH, United States
  • 11-11-13

A most interesting train ride through Italy

Would you listen to Italian Ways again? Why?

Only if there was a narrator/reader with a British/Italian accent. The reader was so very NOT right for this travel book. It made me want to stop listening at times. He was boring.

What other book might you compare Italian Ways to and why?

Not so sure. He is not as intimate a writer as Frances Mayes, but then that is a different kind of book.

How could the performance have been better?

By hiring a good British reader who speaks Italian. To have to listen to a narrative by a Btit read by am american with a midwest sort of whiny accent was not good.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me long for Italy when I could get over the bad reader.

Any additional comments?

If an author is British, use a British reader.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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A polemic, a rant, a sad way to think of 30-years

Tim, life is so much a happier place than how you tell it. Even the ending on meditation is misplaced. It isn't the world'd (Italy's) fault. It is your negative perception.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful