Monday, February 13, 2012

Tuscany by Jonathan Keates

Keates paints a beautiful picture of the midsection of Italy known as Tuscany in this travel guide. It's not a typical guide, listing places to stay, establishments to dine in, trains to catch, or handy phrases to know. It's more of a descriptive, narrative journey through the regions of Tuscany. Beautifully illustrated by landscape photographer Charlie Waite, the photos all seem to have a slightly mysterious and misty quality, lending the whole thing a bit of a fairytale air.

Keates is very well-versed in the history of Italy's warring factions, from the strictly secular to the papal succession rivals, and seems to have his finger well on the pulse of the literary and artistic scene of modern and ancient Italy. The area was named for the Etruscans who used to live her, six centuries or so before Christ, and I get the feeling that there is perhaps more history to be discovered in Italy than pretty much anywhere else.

He mentions St. Zita, the patroness of chambermaids, canonized in 1952...I guess every profession needs a patron saint, eh? Patron saint of network administrators?

His turn of phrase is often amusing:

"Now the island is a haven for wildlife outside the annual period of grotesque carnage which passes in Italy for 'hunting'".

He speaks of the Fortezza Orsini, "built on medieval foundations by the Sienese architect Anton Maria Lari in 1552 and traditionally never taken by besiegers."

How's that work? The besiegers are about to break down the gate, rape the women, pillage the treasury, and one of the guardsmen says, "You can't do that! We have a tradition, you know."

If you're not interested in a practical how-to guide, but enjoy a rambling, bumbling sort of tour, not in any great hurry, you'd do well to pick up Keates' guide.

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