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About the book
  • Published: 2 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099584254
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

Italian Ways

On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo




A journey around Italy by train, full of humorous and insightful observations on what the railways and their travellers reveal about the country

‘All Italy is here’ Sunday Times
From the bestselling author of Italian Neighbours, An Italian Education and A Season with Verona
Longlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award

In 1981 Tim Parks moved from England to Italy and spent the next thirty years alongside hundreds of thousands of Italians on his adopted country’s vast, various and ever-changing networks of trains.

Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians – conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants – Tim Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive. He explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect Italians’ sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond.

  • Pub date: 2 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099584254
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Tim Parks

Born in Manchester, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. He lives in Milan.

He is the acclaimed author of novels, non-fiction and essays, including Europa, In Extremis, A Season with Verona, Teach Us to Sit Still and Italian Ways. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the John Florio Prize and the Italo Calvino Prize.

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Praise for Italian Ways

“All Italy is here, its history, its character, its flaws”

Sunday Times

“A treat equivalent to a ride on the Orient Express”

Wall Street Journal

“Like the best train journeys, you don’t want it to end”

New Statesman

“A very funny hosanna to Italian railroad locomotion in all its rackety glory”

Evening Standard, Books of the Year

“Parks has the keenest of eyes for the telling of amusing detail ... He remains the best interpreter of Italian ways in Italy”

Sunday Herald

“Tim Parks has written a book about Italian railways that is engrossing, entertaining, and wonderfully revealing about the country and its people. It makes perfect armchair travelling – a delight from beginning to end”

David Lodge

“With Paul Theroux apparently winding down, there might be an opening for Parks as a new laureate of international railways”

Andrew Martin, Observer

“The book is, as Tim Parks says, a search for the Italian character, which he evokes in dozens of gorgeously written scenes; but beyond that Parks is exploring the dynamic between tradition and innovation... Underneath everything, Parks is trying to come to a point of loving the world in all its confusion and frustration, and by the book's end he does, he does. Bravo”

David Shields

“This latest peg on which to hang another ruminative book about the character of Italy provides Parks with a first-class ticket to ride as a lively, erudite raconteur in salty daily negotiation with what he calls a ‘dystopian paradise’”

Iain Finlayson, The Times

“With Paul Theroux apparently winding down, there might be an opening for Parks as a new laureate of international railways”

Andrew Martin, Observer

“Parks is also a railway enthusiast and this delightful book is the story of his love-hate relationship with Italian trains”

Literary Review

“Compelling… Parks conveys a detailed, dense, oppressive sense of the inadequacies and idiosyncrasies of the national rail system…but Parks’s railway system in the end links families, reuniting Italian mamas with prodigal sons, and provides a wonderful space for the earwigging of intimate arguments conducted, as ever, on the telefonino”

Emma Townshend, Independent on Sunday

“This is not a “railway book” in any conventional sense. It is sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued about the absurdities of ‘Italian ways’”

John Lloyd, Financial Times

“Over thirty years living among the Italians, [Parks] has developed an acute eye for their idiosyncrasies and, over the course of three previous books on Italy, he has created a style sharp and subtle enough to evoke them… As an inglese italianizatto insider-outsider he brings an ideal dual perspective… It is this double vision (along with his superb style) that elevates Parks’s books way above other recent Anglo-Saxon portraits of Italy… [it] adds in turn to the long tradition of excellent English writing on Italy established by Hazlitt, Lawrence and Norman Lewis”

Thomas Wright, Daily Telegraph

“Compelling… Parks conveys a detailed, dense, oppressive sense of the inadequacies and idiosyncrasies of the national rail system…but Parks’s railway system in the end links families, reuniting Italian mamas with prodigal sons, and provides a wonderful space for the earwigging of intimate arguments conducted, as ever, on the telefonino”

Emma Townshend, Independent on Sunday

“Tim Parks’ detailed descriptions will leave you rocking to the thrum of the tracks, and come dotted with his often bizarre but always comical experiences en route”

Daisy Cropper, Wanderlust

“Closely observed and often amusing”

Thomas Jones, Guardian

“A hybrid of travel and cultural history…and very amusing it is too… Parks has done Lecce and all Italy proud in this eccentric hosanna to railroad locomotion”

Ian Thomson, Evening Standard

“Italian Ways gracefully tells you an enormous amount about Italy and its trains. Parks is also very funny, a master of the dry aside”

Nick Rider, Sunday Express

“Closely observed and often amusing”

Thomas Jones, Guardian

“An entertaining look at Italian railways, the people who run them and the people who travel on them… Wry, thoughtful, funny, serious and cleverly capturing the essence of modern Italy, it is perfect armchair travelling”

Simon Evans, Choice

“Truly extraordinary”

Vitali Vitaliev, Engineering and Technology

“Tim Parks embarks on his Italian train odyssey with humour, grim patience, and a great novelist’s insight…full of hilarious anecdotes and insight from a true Italophile”

The Bath Magazine

“An enjoyable and eccentric journey!”

Good Book Guide

“Wonderful”

Robert Bound, Monocle

“Parks is one of the best living writers of English, and this book is so good you don't want it to end”

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

“If, like me, you relish Italy, railways and grumbling, this is the most transporting book”

Christopher Hirst, Independent

“A fun, informative and detailed journey”

By the Dart


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