Italian Days

by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

In 500 Great Books by Women, Rebecca Sullivan says, “Barbara Grizzuti Harrison’s travel journal is one of the most comprehensive, revealing and interpretive books of its genre. And yet Italian Days does not fit neatly into a category; lyrical, philosophical, anecdotal, it never pretends merely to give guidance or instruction to the traveler. The book is divided into eight chapters, each covering a city or specific region from Milan to Sicily. Barbara Harrison meanders through Italy, sharing her ideas about the people she encounters and all the while thinking- about architecture, religion, politics, food, society, nature, family and history. Her prose is joyful and informed, her descriptions of the people and places quite exhilarating: ‘The bus went slowly, like a swimmer who loves the water too much to race and challenge it, and the world unfolded like a child’s picture book: gardeners turning over the soil with gnarled, patient hands; bronzed youths of Etruscan beauty casually strolling by the roadside as if here were just anywhere and everywhere was beautiful… laughing nuns pushing children on orange swings, their heavy habits floating on magnolia-scented air.’ This is a book to be read in small bits, so each detail and sentence might be savored, a book to relish whether or not you ever intend to visit Italy.”