I have a newly determined reading goal for the year, so I can greatly increase my book intake in a calendar year. And I’ve started off with January on track. So let’s discuss my first read of the year. . .
After finishing a collection of Tim Parks’ blog posts in Where I’m Reading From last year, I was eager to get into some more of his stuff and specifically his writing on Italy. He’s lived there for more than 30 years at this point, and he writes from inside the country with a keen insider/outsider eye. I was interested to see how he took the idea of Italy’s train system (or rather a systemic non-system I should say) and used it to describe Italy’s culture and people as a whole.
Everyone in Italy uses the regional and high speed trains as commuter travel, and Tim travels across the entire country scheming together one regional to another high speed, and tests the waters on the some of the most run down, good for nothing trains as well as the one of the newest “bullet” trains.
He tells of the characters he meets, some conductors, some passengers, some ticket window sellers, some friendly, some not-so-much, some really smelly, some really obnoxious, and some just really stuck in their ways. Unfortunately, due to the political money, and mismanagement of the money and the politics, the non-system system is stuck in its ways overall, and leaves very little room for efficient and logical progress.
Tim explains how certain technologies are ushered in without any real meaning but to just make it appear like the trains are moving into the future, when really PDF tickets don’t mean anything to any train personnel that doesn’t want to accept them, if they don’t feel like it on that day. And there’s hardly any real “rules” to abide by, but really seeing what and how much you can get away with given the train your on and the time of day.
The British author has a knack for really describing all the train cars and the details of his trips that I missed recently in reading, and it a memorable travelogue. It did however make me not want to deep dive into the Italian train system any time soon, again (been there done that on a study abroad spring break trip). It did have me yearning for more European adventures though, and reminding how there is something to the idea of being able to hop a train and be in another country in an overnight train.
I highly recommend the read, if you’re in the mood for a travelogue, for some Italian culture, and need to see the view from a train window. All that said, I must really stop typing, so I can carry on with my February reading goal.