Books: By Tim Parks– A Season with Verona; Italian Neighbors; An Italian Education
The Ohio State University Buckeyes played the Texas Longhorns at the Fiesta Bowl in 2009. Texas won. This caused deep gloom to settle over our house. I am not an every-day sports fan. But I pay attention when The Ohio State University plays Michigan or any bowl game opponent.
My sudden burst of fan-dom reminded me of the first book by Tim Parks that I read before traveling to Italy: A Season with Verona
Parks captures the ferocity of the soccer fans as he rides buses to away games, the first time leaving at midnight to go to a game between Verona and Bari, 550 miles away. They arrive at the stadium full of booze and vitriol. “It’s a place,” he says of the stadium, “of collective obsession, of exaltation.”
The book zeroes in on a small, and not very attractive, segment of Italian culture. It also provides a vocabulary lesson that you will not get at the local community college. This crash course in expletives and vulgarities may come in handy if you are ever caught in an Italian traffic jam and wondering what all those gestures and angry words mean.
If sports and swear words are not your thing, try Italian Neighbors and An Italian Education: The Further Adventures of an Expatriate in Verona .
As a British citizen married to an Italian, Parks lived in Italy for several years and writes about everyday life in a shared apartment building and the cultural glitches that occur. In the second book, we learn about the cultural lessons learned by a Brit who is putting his children in an Italian school, and the difference between the way British and Italians look at children.
Adding books like these to my travel library lifts the curtain that separates cultures, and helps me understand the real world beyond the familiar tourist grounds of hotels and restaurants and museums.