Diana Senechal and Michael Lopez have done such a great job of blogging in my absence that some of you may be wishing me a longer vacation. But I’m back from Italy and reasonably de-jetlagged.
I like to read novels set in the places I visit — and my daughter gave me a Kindle for my birthday — so I started our trip with Edward Bulwer-Litton’s The Last Days of Pompeii, (evil priest of Isis tries to steal virgin from would-be husband) and Robert Harris’ Pompeii (aqueduct engineer rescues evil developer’s virgin daughter). The first created a melodrama from the ruins of Pompeii. The second taught me a lot about aqueduct engineering.
Other than Rick Steves, who seems to be the guide of all American tourists in Italy, I didn’t read anything for Positano, which was stunning beautiful, and Cinqueterre, which resembled Positano.
I did throw in Alexandre Dumas’ The Borgias, even though it’s mostly set in Rome. Very few virgins.
Then it was on to Florence and San Gimignano, for which I read E.M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear To Tread (virgin fails to get sexy Italian) set in a Tuscan hill town.
Foolishly, I tried to read a non-fiction book about Venice, but the detailed descriptions of the art — too many Madonnas, speaking of virgins — were more than I could take. I also gave up on a D.H. Lawrence book on Italy, which had more purple prose than Bulwer-Litton.
We did watch The Tourist, set in Venice, before leaving, as well as The American, set in an Italian hill town. Neither makes any sense, though The Tourist is livelier.
From Venice, we went to Lake Como. I read Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed (evil lord steals virgin from would-be husband), which is set nearby. Allegedly, one of the greatest novels in Italian history, it includes an acerbic economic analysis of the Milan bread riots (the harvest failed, grain prices went way up, price controls failed, bakers got the blame), a harrowing description of the 1630 plague in Milan and a strong argument for forgiving people who don’t deserve it. The virgin gets her man.
At this point, I ran out of virgins and came home.