• Italian Ways

  • On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
  • By: Tim Parks
  • Narrated by: Ben Bartolone
  • Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
  • 3.6 out of 5 stars (85 ratings)

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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 listeners say about Italian Ways

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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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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This book is awful, pronunciation is terrible.

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

1 person found this helpful

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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.

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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

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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 person found this helpful

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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.

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Ad Nauseum

Writer wastes precious moments of our lives drolling on ad nauseum about the most insignificant train details.
Emergency STOP please.

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Get a narrator who can pronounce Italian!!

I love the author Tim Parks. But this narrator ruins his wonderful writing. It’s such a shame. I kept trying to relisten and relisten but it just made me too aggravated to hear this guy butchered the Italian. What’s going on here? You think these things would be more carefully vetted.

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Great Read

I read this while in Italy and taking the trains for a large portion of the trip. Interesting and funny and informative. Good narration. Helpful information and gives a lot of insight into the Italian way of doing things.

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