Between the Covers

When in Rome: Chasing la dolce vita

Penelope Green

I don’t read a lot of travel books, and when I chose this one, I didn’t realise it was a reprint from an edition first published in 2005. The author has written two sequels since then, all set in Italy: See Naples and Die and her current offering Girl By Sea. I can see why this has turned into a series.

While she still had the nerve and before she turned 30, Green left a wonderful job in Sydney for Italy, in search of a richer quality of life, and hopefully, lasting love. “…Facing thirty, the average female will make it well known that she is of the Age-Schmage Club, claiming with indifference that she doesn’t consider her looming birthday to be any different to any other. Bullshit. She may look as cheerily in control as Mary Poppins but, deep down, you can bet she is, like me, having a self-analytical, mini-life crisis, asking herself any one of the following questions: Am I truly happy? Should I be thinking of what I want to be doing in another decade? Do I have the job of my dreams? Is it within my creative capacity to invent a new gadget and become a squillionare? Do I really want to be with the snoring, belching log that lies beside me most nights for the rest of my life? Should I be clucky? Why can’t I get a shag?”

Green effortlessly brings Italy to life, especially Rome with the casual grandeur of the ruins of the Colosseum at the end of her street, the people, architecture, artworks, dust, motor scooters, food, wine, cigarettes, cafes and bars. The locals struggle with the needs of tourism and modern life while taking for granted living alongside the ageing spectacle of their ancient city. The sense of community she experiences contrasts with the rather insular way many Australians live their lives, the exception being within migrant communities. Her love of the Italian language is infectious, and I particularly liked the way she wrote phrases in Italian, followed by the translation. After a while, I started rolling my tongue around the words, captivated as she was by the musical language. This became my bedtime read, and I really looked forward to my nightly Italian excursions.

Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse in Keen Street, Lismore, and at Lismore Shopping Square.


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