9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Italy the way it ought to be seen,
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This review is from: Artful Italy: The Hidden Treasures (Invisible Cities Travel Guide S) (Paperback)
Even if one never travels to Italy, there'd be no harm in reading this book. It is well-written, entertaining, and loaded with fun and interesting facts. I disagree with the notion that this is a tour or travel guide; what it is in fact is a semi-scholarly appreciation of Italy off the beaten path. (It is meticulously researched and documented, to boot.)
Ann Brandon must be a kick at a cocktail party. Historical examples trip off her tongue and add just the right humor, import, and context for each bit of art appreciation. Reading this book is not a necessity for travel planning; the volume is a standalone orchestration of Ms. Brandon's love affair with Italy.
I have a few qualms with the book, but they are merely intellectual disagreements with some of its premises. First, I would not focus so much on art, but on the whole invisible lifestyle of the Italians, the life that "turisti" probably never see. I would also go beyond visual arts, and talk about music, as well as the culinary and design arts. Even in the visual arts there is so much architecture that one could find off the main trails. But Brandon promises more books in this vein, and will no doubt address these topics.
Second, I do not feel that the Parco dei Mostri qualifies as a hidden treasure. I consider it an excellent yet run-of-the-mill tourist attraction. A lot of people go there.
Finally, I disagree with the glowing assessment that Vasari's "Lives of the Artists." I have always considered this book at best uneven. It apparently draws its inspiration from Diogenes Laertius' "Lives of the Philosophers," which suffers from a similar spottiness in insight and accuracy. If I had to recommend a book that does what Brandon purports Vasari's does, it would be Burkhardt's "Civilization of the Renaissance."
All these quibbles aside, anyone who wants to learn about Italy should buy and read this book. It does not disappoint. I learned so much from this book, and it was as if Ann Brandon was telling me what I learned in a personal conversation. So warm is her style of writing that it just makes for a quick and delightful read!
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