Friday, 1 July 2011

Reading about Italy

This is an older post which ought to have gone up in February.
Italian history
In order to better understand Italy, it seemed logical to read a little about her history. I began with re Christopher Duggan's book about the risorgimento - the period leading up to (and after) Italy's establishment as a republic in the 19th century. This well written text provided some real insights into some of the views still held by people in Italian society. It helped me to understand also the context for a splendid French film I watched a year or two back - The Horseman on the Roof.

I followed Duggan's book by Harry Hearder's short history of Italy. This is written to provide an overview of Italian history from the ice age to the present day! Not surprisingly, it bowls along at a fast pace. For all this, one gets a sense of the real complexity of the peninsula's history - and, of course, its extraordinarily long track record of civilisation. It is hardly surprising that today there exists such a wealth and variety of culture in domains such as dialect, cuisine, regional identity and so on.

Travel books
Inevitably, I have read some travel literature. To date, this has been light stuff - specifically, Peter Moore's adventures in which he recounts his experiences travelling round different parts of Italy on a scooter. Moore writes engagingly and with enthusiasm about the places and people he meets, as well as his beloved Vespa. I found it good stuff. He has also written a second volume - Vroom by the Sea - also enjoyable.
Looking back, it may be that reading these books influenced me in deciding to tour Italy with by motorbike. If I have as much pleasure as he reports on his trips, then I shall have no cause for complaint!

I'm familiar with lots of Italian dishes -  my wife, Marilena, is Sardinian - and loves to cook. However, the thing about Italy is its regional structure and the wide range of external influences which have created one of the great cuisines of the world.

John Dickie's book, somewhat academic in style, deals with the history of Italy's cuisine - and complex it is indeed. I enjoyed it.

1 comment:

  1. WOW. Great post on Italy. I was not familiar of Italy dishes but you expressed very well. Indeed, glad to read this post.
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