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Italian Days

Overview


"Italian Days" is one of the richest and most absorbing travel books written--a journey that traverses the Italian peninsula and immerses readers in a culture which provides the reader with a definition of the good life.

Italian Days describes a journey down the Italian peninsula that immerses its readers in the inexhaustible plenty of that culture. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, noted essayist/journalist/fiction writer, offers a fascinating mixture of history, politics, lore, food, architecture, art, ...

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Paperback (1st Atlantic Monthly Press Paperback Edi)
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Overview


"Italian Days" is one of the richest and most absorbing travel books written--a journey that traverses the Italian peninsula and immerses readers in a culture which provides the reader with a definition of the good life.

Italian Days describes a journey down the Italian peninsula that immerses its readers in the inexhaustible plenty of that culture. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, noted essayist/journalist/fiction writer, offers a fascinating mixture of history, politics, lore, food, architecture, art, literature, studded with local anecdotes and personal reflections.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison has won acclaim for everything she has written. She's a distinguished journalist, appearing in a wide variety of magazines. Her novel, Foreign Bodies, has been widely praised and just as widely read. Her nonfiction books include Unlearning the Lie: Sexism in School, Visions of Glory: A History and a Memory of Jehovah's Witnesses, An Accidental Autobiography, and a collection of essays, Off Center. One of her short stories also won an O. Henry Award.

But readers of serious travel literature know her primarily as the author of Italian Days. When Italian Days was first published ten years ago, it was immediately recognized as a modern classic of travel writing. Just reissued in paperback by Atlantic Monthly Press, it still has the look of a timeless classic.

Early in 1985, Harrison headed off to Italy. Her plan was to settle in, for an extended period, in several different locales, spending enough time to get to know, really to understand, the life of the place.

Armed with a broad-ranging knowledge of Italian history and contemporary politics and of the literature, art, and architecture of Italy, and of course a love for the food, she focused on the cities you'd expect — Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples — with some side trips to Bergamo, Stresa, Amalfi, and elsewhere — and then ventured off into the more remote countryside of the Abruzzi, Puglia, and Calabria.

I could tell you that no one has written so well about Calabria since Norman Douglas wroteOldCalabria; no one has so caught the sense of place in Venice since Jan Morris wrote The World of Venice; no one has captured the feel and texture of Florence so vividly since Mary McCarthy wrote The Stones of Florence; and Harrison on Rome would bear comparison with any number of writers.

But books such as these are all classics in their own right, Harrison's among them, and beyond comparison with one another. Suffice it to say that Harrison's Italian Days lets you feel the stones beneath her feet, hear the voices in the shops, and smell the aromas of cooking from the doorways.

Here are some samples:

"To overstay a visit to Venice is like staying too long at the ball in the company of someone of whose sexual identity you are not sure. Milan, aggressive and withdrawn, is male."

"My efficient pullman kitchen...is minimally equipped; but there are colanders of two sizes, there is a spare bottle opener, there is a cruet for olive oil, and there is a cheese grater. This is proof to me that Milan is part of Italy, and that Italians have a sure instinct for life's necessities."

"It is impossible for anyone to be as fastidiously dressed as a Milanese matron with the means to regard convention (shoving toward the prosciutto crudo, never a hair out of place). It is possible to tell how old the average Milanese woman is from her back: By the time she is of a certain age, she is doomed to silk foulard and pearls forever."

Smart, lively, well-informed, and profoundly personal, like all the best travel literature, Italian Days is a genuine classic, a book to be read and reread and to live with for years.

—Barnesandnoble.com

Eva Hoffman
More than a sophisticated guide, Italian Days is an account of a deepening encounter, of the way a sensibility enters into a culture and a culture acts upon the psyche and the mind....[It] is as accomodating, tolerant, evocative and heterogeneous as the culture it describes. -- New York Times
Robert Craft
Contagiously exuberant....Will be the companion of visitors [to Italy] for years to come. -- Washington Post Book World
Magazine Glamour
Harrison's wonderful journal will make you update your passport and dream of subletting your job, home, ect....With Harrison, you never know with whom you'll be lunching, or climbing down a ruin. You just know you want to be there.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a rare pleasure: a travel book of almost Victorian amplitude that is also the product of a keen contemporary mind. Harrison, one of the best essayists around, as well as an occasional short story writer and a one-time novelist, journeyed to Italy in search of a national ethos as well as her own past. She discovered a great deal about both. Her accounts of living in turn in Milan ( which she dislikes), Florence, Rome (where she feels ultimately at home), Naples and Calabria are captivating--rich with artistic and architectural insights, full of flashing, quirky asides and offbeat encounters. The writing is superb: eloquent, witty, colorful and lyrical. When she finally comes face to face with some of her distant relatives, Harrison catches wonderfully the ambivalence with which two cultures greet each other across an abyss of space and years. Italian Days does what all really fine travel writing does: it inspires the reader to look at life's possibilities anew. (Aug . )
Library Journal
Three insightful and engaging books about the Italian people include Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's Italian Days (Atlantic Monthly. 1998. ISBN 0-87113-727-5. pap. $15), whose insights are still as fresh and relevant today as they were when the book was first published in 1989; Luigi Barzini's 1964 The Italians (Touchstone: S. & S. 1996. ISBN 0-684-82500-7. pap. $14), which still presents a fascinating perspective on his fellow countrymen; and That Fine Italian Hand (Owl: Holt. 1991. ISBN 0-8050-1729-1. pap. $15) by Paul Hofmann, former New York Times Rome bureau chief, who is especially good on contrasting the cultures and politics of the north and south. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871137272
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1st Atlantic Monthly Press Paperback Edi
  • Pages: 479
  • Sales rank: 806,813
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Harrison is a middle school English teacher and codirector of Children's Literature New England. She is coauthor with Daniel Terris of biographies of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, both based on the authors' award-winning HBO documentaries. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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