Italia la bella

The Book

Italian Joy

Author(s)

Carla Coulson

What it says on the back cover

Carla Coulson had it all, or so everyone told her- a glamorous inner-city apartment, a successful business and a designer wardrobe. One lonely Christmas Eve, however, she realised what was missing: excitement, work she was passionate about, and most of all, love.

So, Carla packed up her life and boarded a plane. Italy was her first port of call and became her true destination. With a camera and nothing to lose, she found herself immersed in Florence, tasting the food, learning the language, meeting the people. discovering a new career and country – and photographing her new life.

Carla’s evocative text and rich photographs bring alive the laughter, warmth and passion of Italy. We meet the people who have embraced her: we see the streets, bars, churches, and markets that have enchanted her; and we feel her gioia (joy).

Italian Joy  will make you yearn to follow in Carla’s footsteps and discover the true beauty of life in a magical place.

What made me pick up this book

With an inscription like that on the back cover what else? I mean seriously who has not had a dream of heading off to some wonderful place in which they yearn to go to and touch, experience and fall in love with? I am sure that plenty of you have somewhere that has captured your heart? For me Italy is one of those places because it is rich in history, it has a culture that loves food as much as I do, and a place which has long summers that yearn me to jump on a Vespa and head for the hills waiting for me to discover them. Italy became famous for a number of reasons and more recently when we start to see books such as Italian Joy come off the shelves or ones such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful memoir Eat Pray Love or even Marlena De Blasi’s (see previous review) A Thousand Days in Venice. Italy captures something within many of us and almost lead my own grandfather to wanting to marry a pretty signora back in World War Two!! Carla’s book teaches that we can often have everything we ever wanted but it does not always brings us pleasure to our lives and sometimes taking stock of our lives and taking ownership of what we truly want really helps us to realise what life is all about. It may not necessarily mean taking a trip to Italy but it certainly helps.

Travel without a doubt has educated my mind. It brings on so many things for me. My senses are highlighted and I know that I can see, smell, taste and hear wonderful things when I go travelling.  By reading this book, one can appreciate how you can also enjoy the more simple things in life and how to appreciate things for their natural beauty as well. By mixing in with the locals and by living side by side with them, Carla was able to experience a culture that was a far cry from her busy lifestyle back home in Australia.

Is this book worth buying?

A book like this is worth reading if you are looking towards Italy as your next big adventure. Although she is a photographer, do not expect that the photographs in this book are going to be glossy, they are not. This book is a collection of black and white and colour photographs against a matt finish. Some photographs are highlighted with Carla’s writing across them giving them a modern twist and a postcard like feel for the readers as if they are sharing her journey and picking up one of her letters from her wonderful travels. I like how this book captures the people, the real people of Italy and the photographs that Carla took that demonstrate this. There is one photograph where a pair of slippers are sprawled across two pages and are hung by simple wooden clothes pegs flapping against the Italian sun. In another three men are gathered around where one is selling cigarettes and lighters in a street. It is scenes like this that make you are in Italy and that you are not back home. Of course my beloved Vespa scooter and scooters were not missed in this book. Read it with a glass of vino and some crusty bread with olives.. I dare you!

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Photo credit: castorofotonico via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Italy has always had a place in my heart – Carla Coulson

Mille modi per trovare l’amore e l’avventura a Venezia (A thousand ways to find love and adventure in Venice)

The Book

Venecia

Photo credit: CM Ortega via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A Thousand Days in Venice

Author(s)

Marlena de Blasi

What it says on the back cover

What a delight – de Blasi portrays her adventure with a velvet touch, and instils the reader with a desire to jump on the next vaporetto!!

Susan Herrmmann Loomis, author ON RUE TATIN

De Blasi relates it all in a voice at once wordly and sensuous, unsentimental and aware of what it means to have such good fortune… She binds her love of Fernando to her love of food, like a bouquet garni , in one long delicious engagement running throughout this ode, from cappuccino and apricot pastry to pumpkin gnocchi in cream and sage.

Kirkus Reviews

What made me pick up this book

For those who are new at reading my blog I am a self confessed foodie. I have a bookcase and beyond home filled with books that relate to food whether it be in a form of a recipe book, a book on culture, a memoir such as this or some other thing that brings me to one of my favourite subjects.  For seasoned readers I fell in love with the reviews, they sounded like they were literally eating and devouring something deliciously romantic whilst reading the book and I also wanted to be transported away with it.

When we flick open the inside sleeve (my own copy is a hardback edition)  we are taken to the scene when Marlena meets her future husband Fernando for the first time which is in a cafe in the heart of Venice. Immediately he is struck by Marlena and he feels that she is most certainly “The One” for him and poor Marlena is caught off guard by this Venetian knowing full well that she is quite content with her life as it is as a mother and a divorced American chef. But then all of a sudden she is drawn to him and in time things develop between the couple. Marlena sells up, quits her job in the United States, says goodbye to her children and finds herself marrying the man she refers to her new husband as “The Stranger”. It reads like it is fiction yet it is not. Marlena’s story is how a woman can fall in love in Europe and still be happily married today.

Is this book worth buying?

It all depends. For those of you who love romance and are big on romantic adventures this could be a treat for you and for those of you who are foodies, the same principal applies. But if you neither a foodie nor a romantic you may find that this book drags a bit and although  you may enjoy reading about the travel side of this book (another interest of mine) you may get stuck somewhere in this book and wonder when it may actually finish.

This book is without a doubt a book for those who love to learn about other cultures. It is seeped in romantic meals that Marlena cooks for her stranger both in America and in Venice. A book which has beautiful little quotes that Marlena uses to describe her life which are richly weaved into the story. “In those solitary evenings by my fire I found finely spun threads, a pattern, my own story. I opened up the kind of memory that feels like a wistful hankering for something lost or something that never was, I think most of us have it, this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping  that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up on a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. Hey don’t you see this? Do you see how big my pain is? We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting My pain’s bigger than your pain. It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power”.(De Blasi, p.56 A Thousand Days in Venice).

And that dear readers is what makes this book special. It is a rich dark memoir that leaves me seduced in the way that Marlena’s story is told. Maybe because it is Venice, maybe its because it is Northern Italy, it is romantic yes, tasteful yes, and one good read that will beg you for more of her recipes. The ones in the back of the book are a bit indulgent for some but it obviously made Fernando realise how much this woman stole his heart.

Take it in both your hands and hold tight to this love. If it comes, it comes only once
(De Blasi, p.57 A Thousand Days in Venice)

Scootin along

The Book

Everything you need to know  SCOOTERS

Author(s)

Eric Dregni with photography by Pixel Pete

What it says on the back cover

The Scooter world is fast becoming one of the most popular modes of transportation on the road. With gas prices soaring, technology improving, and style trends favoring the attractive lines of both classic and modern scooters, it’s more and more common to see scooters sharing the road with their four-wheeled counterparts.

If you are considering a scooter for commuting to work or putt-putting around the city on a Sunday afternoon, Eric Dregni’s Scooter’s Everything You Need to Know has all the information you’ll need to enter the two-wheeled world of scooters.

Whether you are drawn to the classic Vespas, Stellas, and Lambrettas, small modern Zumas and Metros, or highway-ready maxi-scooters like the Silver Wing and Burgman, this book will help you choose a ride and learn how to maximise your enjoyment. From tips on buying, riding, and maintaining your scooter, to participating in clubs and events, is the perfect start to a lifetime of scootering. A life-long scooter rider, collector and writer, Eric Dregni answers  all the questions a beginning scooterist could have, with humor and years of travel and experience.

What made me pick up this book

I used to be a road cyclist back in the day, a fast road cyclist who used to literally chase cars.. well OK not chase them but certainly keep up with them. I knew that I loved the fresh air as I cycled and I had fun at the same time until one day I had a nasty fall off my bike and landed on my back. I was hurt and although I should have got back into cycling, it hurt too much on my lower back and in time I gave it up and sold my racing bike. I then started to think about a scooter after I was recommended one. Oddly enough I never did and I kind of regret it now as I know that right now this is exactly what I am interested in purchasing.  I know that with a scooter I would not be so fast… or maybe 🙂 No even though I was a fast cyclist, I was still quite careful despite my accident.

This book really grabbed me, it is written in a clear language that most of us novice scooterists can understand. It gives practical and down to earth advice and makes references to another b0ok How to Ride a Motorcycle written by Pat Hahn (Motorbooks,2005). I have not read that yet but I think together with this book, both would compliment each other well as Dregni has made several references to it in here in terms of how to ride although he gives a great explanation in this book.

Chapter one is a nice introduction to the scooter world by giving the reader a history of scooters whereas chapter two focuses on buying the right scooter which is important for me as I do not have a lot of funds to splash about and I realise after reading this book that the Vespa that I really would love may be a bit of a heavy bike for me to start off on.. (maybe as I become more confident I can look into it and when the funds are higher). Next Dregni focuses on scooter safety which has prompted me to do a safety course once I get my scooter and then how to maintain the scooter to its peak standard such as checking the plugs are OK, oil, etc…I love the little section throughout the book called Words to the Wise which offer practical little tidbits throughout the book such as Before Buying: Introspective Consumerism. This little section gives the newbie and even more experienced scootertist tips on buying a scooter and questions that one needs to consider to avoid any heartaches and ended up with a real dud of a scooter that won’t start when you need it and may let you down… read these first.

The book is also gender friendly too which is great for me being a girl. It was nice to see a few retro advertisements with girls on scoots and a couple of modern photographs too scattered throughout the book. What is nice is to see the scooter culture that arises from the book in Tours and Rallies which gives the reader a look into how the scooter culture can become a something kind of fun for everyone who likes to ride. I am not so sure whether there is a club in my town but it is something worth investigating when I get mine. Finally the last chapter looks at how scooters are played out in the media, think Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in that infamous film Roman Holiday and the Vespa or Cliff Richard and It’s A Wonderful Life and the Lambretta. Better still think of you the scooter rider and how you can enjoy the thrill of two wheels..

I can hardly wait!

Is this book worth buying?

Although in time this book will age and scooters will change, the overall information will stay the same.  Dregni’s book has alot of useful information that I have wanted to read before contemplating on getting two wheels. It is something that I have pondered over for quite some time and with this book that I am reading, it gives me informative advice which I need in order for me to understand the mechanics of these little machines, how to ride, how to choose, what to look for, whether to buy brand new or second hand, safety and much much more. This book packs a lot of punch. Enjoy the ride, err read!

“How beautiful it is to go around with wings under your feet…it takes away your problems” (Translation of smash hit “Vespa 50 Special” from 2000 Italian rock band Lunapop.

vespa-19

 Photo credit: Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas) via Foter.com / CC BY-NC