We haven’t posted here in some time. This does not mean Italy is out of mind — in fact, as we plan for a next trip I wanted to share some recent thoughts and a reading tip. Pompeii, with its “window to the ancient Roman world” quality, is high on my list for a return visit in 2010. There’s a grand new book for the general but serious reader, The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found by Mary Beard, a Don at Cambridge University (Belknap Press/Harvard U. Press, 2008, 360 pp). A review in the New York Times (15 March 2009) captures the book’s tone thusly: “Beard…takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii.”
Adding this book to “must read” prior to a visit, I’d now recommend reading this book (which itself has a great, concise set of tips for a visit on pp. 314-16), then Robert Harris’ novel Pompeii, then visiting Pompeii, and finally, going to see the amazing Pompeii materials in the Archaeological Museum in nearby Naples. See my entry on Pompeii for a bit more in the way of tips. Buon Viaggio!
P.S. Mary Beard (the Cambridge Don) has many publications, but another readable and recent item I’m now enjoying is her The Roman Triumph (Harvard, 2007, 434 pp). This broad exploration of Roman society and its influence takes as its focus the ceremonial spectacle, the “triumph” (a central part of which was a grand march through Rome with the spoils of war, captives, etc). She manages, as in Fires of Vesuvius, to draw together an amazingly interesting trove of information and connections, all ramifying from or to the concept of Triumph.
- Italy in Mind
- The Palio of Siena
- The Bay of Naples
- Rome and its Ancient Port, Ostia Antica
- A Wolf, a Walk and Many Wildflowers
- Visiting the Contrada of Val di Montone
- St. Catherine of Siena
- An Adventure in Murlo
- A Walk in the Montagnola Senese
- Discover these! Little known Italian Red Wines
- Table Wine, Vino da Tavola….