Read Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens Kate Flint Online


A delightful travelogue in the unique style of one of the greatest writers in the English language, the Penguin Classics edition of Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy is edited with notes and an introduction by and notes by Kate Flint.In 1844, Charles Dickens took a break from novel writing to travel through Italy for almost a year and Pictures from Italy is an illuminaA delightful travelogue in the unique style of one of the greatest writers in the English language, the Penguin Classics edition of Charles Dickens's Pictures from Italy is edited with notes and an introduction by and notes by Kate Flint.In 1844, Charles Dickens took a break from novel writing to travel through Italy for almost a year and Pictures from Italy is an illuminating account of his experiences there. He presents the country like a magic-lantern show, as vivid images ceaselessly appear before his - and his readers' - eyes. Italy's most famous sights are all to be found here - St Peter's in Rome, Naples with Vesuvius smouldering in the background, the fairytale buildings and canals of Venice - but Dickens's chronicle is not simply that of a tourist. Avoiding preconceptions and stereotypes, he portrays a nation of great contrasts: between grandiose buildings and squalid poverty, and between past and present, as he observes everyday life beside ancient monuments. Combining thrilling travelogue with piercing social commentary, Pictures from Italy is a revealing depiction of an exciting and disquieting journey.In her introduction, Kate Flint discusses nineteenth-century travel writing, and Dickens's ideas about perception, memory and Italian politics. This edition also includes a chronology, further reading, notes and an appendix.Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions.If you enjoyed Pictures from Italy, you might like Dickens's American Notes, also available in Penguin Classics....

Title : Pictures from Italy
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ISBN : 9780140434316
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 220 Pages
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Pictures from Italy Reviews

  • Jola
    2019-02-25 10:46

    Feeling sorrowful, as my delectable trip with Mr Dickens has just come to an inevitable end. Not surprisingly Italy turned out to be splendid but I have some observations to share about my travel companion also.Everything you always wanted to know about my trip to Italy with Charles Dickens and his family* (*but were afraid to ask)Frequently Unasked QuestionsWhy Italy?Italy combines so many things I adore that the list would be endless. Charles Dickens sums up my awe concisely: 'Let us part from Italy, with all its miseries and wrongs, affectionately, in our admiration of the beauties, natural and artificial, of which it is full to overflowing, and in our tenderness towards a people, naturally well-disposed, and patient, and sweet-tempered. Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino' (1839) [Image source]'Pictures from Italy', a travelogue written by Dickens in 1846, will presumably disappoint the readers who fancy a bath in a fountain of knowledge, 'full to overflowing' with dates and names. Wrong address, I'm afraid. But if you feel like inhaling sparkling loveliness effortlessly, you will enjoy this book a lot. Please, be prepared to see Italy as it was in 1844. It may astonish you at times: 'More solitary, more depopulated, more deserted, old Ferrara, than any city of the solemn brotherhood! The grass so grows up in the silent streets, that any one might make hay there, literally, while the sun shines.' Sorry to disappoint you but making hay in the streets of Ferrara might be a challenge nowadays. Dickens’ travelogue is a love letter to Italy but his infatuation isn’t blind. He complains about negligence and poverty he observes at times. It hurts him to notice that some works of art and buildings are falling into decay. However, he sees positive effects of this: 'In another place, there was a gallery of pictures: so abominably bad, that it was quite delightful to see them mouldering away.' Jorge Luis Borges wasn't fond of Dickens' travelogue: 'he traveled to France, to Italy, but without trying to understand those countries. He was always looking for humorous episodes to recount.' Personally I wouldn't rate the author so severely but you may be deluded if you expect an in-depth social or historical analysis. Albeit there is much compassion behind all the enthralling descriptions.Confucius advised, 'Wherever you go, go with all your heart'. Dickens seems to share this attitude. He travelled to Italy with all his heart indeed. Just look at his description of Coliseum: 'Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation, strike upon the stranger the next moment, like a softened sorrow; and never in his life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight, not immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions.’Angelo Inganni, 'Notturno di Piazza del Duomo a Milano' (1844) [Image source] Why Dickens?When my friend was reading a harrowing study on the Siege of Leningrad, she asked me to guess which author was appreciated most by people who lived in these inhumane conditions. Strangely enough, I suspected correctly. It was Dickens. In terms of giving comfort, his books are invincible.My relationship with Charles Dickens has gone through two stages so far. The first phase was highlighted by books like 'David Copperfield', 'Oliver Twist' and 'The Christmas Carol'. I liked and appreciated all of them but it wasn't a crush. I perceived Dickens as an affectionate and clever but predictable uncle, who made me yawn at times. Then everything changed. Just one novel revolutionized the way I regarded and rated Dickens. It was 'Great Expectations'. Much more than a crush this time.I didn’t find 'Pictures from Italy' as enchanting as 'Great Expectations' but I was pleasantly impressed by the writing style, the labyrinthine sentences, the onomatopoeia, the loose composition. I was astounded every time I realized the book was written in 1846. My fingers ached from highlighting hectares of passages I loved.How come?The aim of the book is explained very clearly. Dickens wants to share some glimpses of a trip he enjoyed immensely. Most of his observations and descriptions were written on the spot and come from the letters he sent to his family. The title says it all. If he published the book today, it would be probably 'Selfies from Italy'.James Holland, 'Piazza dei Signori in Verona with the Market Place' (1844). [Image source] Your itinerary?Quite breathtaking:France – Genoa – Parma – Modena – Bologna – Ferrara - Venice - Verona – Mantua – Milan – Switzerland - Pisa – Siena – Rome - Naples – Paestum - Vesuvius – Pompeii – Monte Cassino – Florence.And the weather?Come on, when you explore a divine country with an entertaining companion, you don’t pay attention to prosaic things like the weather, do you? 'Pictures from Italy' turned out to be a perfect summer read. During ferocious heats Dickens' sardonic observations had a cooling effect on me. However, get ready for bloodcurdling scenes also: for example there is a detailed description of beheading.Did you enjoy the Italian cuisine?Of course, some eccentricities excluded: 'There is a stewed pigeon, with the gizzards and livers of himself and other birds stuck all round him.'What was your travel companion like?Truly amusing!If you read any novels by Dickens, you wouldn’t be surprised, that he was much more interested in people he met on the way than in the monuments. No matter how hard he concentrates on picturesque places of interest, he ends up observing people: 'Crossing from these patches of thick darkness, out into the moon once more, the fountain of Trevi, welling from a hundred jets, and rolling over mimic rocks, is silvery to the eye and ear. In the narrow little throat of street, beyond, a booth, dressed out with flaring lamps, and boughs of trees, attracts a group of sulky Romans round its smoky coppers of hot broth, and cauliflower stew; its trays of fried fish, and its flasks of wine.'Outdoor dress for men and women, Italy, 'Corriere delle Dame' (1844). [Image source] Even the people who appear for a few minutes are portrayed masterfully, for instance: 'a monstrous ugly Tuscan, with a great purple moustache, of which no man could see the ends when he had his hat on' or 'a silly, old, meek-faced, garlic-eating, immeasurably polite Chevalier, with a dirty scrap of red ribbon hanging at his button-hole, as if he had tied it there to remind himself of something'.As usual, Dickens' sense of humour is unbeatable: he can notice and point out ridiculous things in people but he describes them with such warmth and cordiality! The book beams with them. No traces of cynism, no patronizing. I know it’s irrational but it felt as if Dickens was smiling all the time, while writing his travelogue.The thing that disappointed me a little was lack of information about Dickens’ wife and children who were accompanying him. He probably wanted to stick to the romantic image of a lonely traveller.How much did it cost?The peregrination with Dickens was completely free. Let me assure you that I didn’t board a pirate ship. The e-book is available in a few formats at the Project Gutenberg website.Can I join you?You are more than welcome. No worries if you don’t comply with any of the conditions Dickens lists below: 'And I have only now, in passport wise, to sketch my reader’s portrait, which I hope may be thus supposititiously traced for either sex:Complexion Fair.Eyes Very cheerful.Nose Not supercilious.Mouth Smiling.Visage Beaming.General Expression Extremely agreeable.'Any plans for the future?Friends for life.I wholeheartedly agree with Borges, who stated, 'once one has read some of Dickens’s pages, once one has resigned oneself to some of his bad habits, to his sentimentalism, to his melodramatic characters, one has found a friend for life.'Carl Spitzweg, 'English Tourists in Campagna' (circa 1845) [Image source]

  • Alan
    2019-03-23 09:38

    Dickens wrote Pictures of Italy during his year there in 1844, two years after his first tour of America, and about 7 years after he lived on Doughty Street, London, and wrote both Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby there. Also, it was four years before the Revolution, which began in 1848, finished in 1871. (Garibaldi, during his first attempt to free Rome in 1849, lived in the same place I did at the American Academy, the Villa on the Gianicolo hill; part of our residence was the Ancient Roman wall built by Aurelius.) All over Italy, Dickens finds some doubtful inns, “your own horses being stabled under the bed, that every time a horse coughs, he wakes you” but even the worst Italian inn will entertain you, “Especially, when you get such wine in flasks as the Orvieto, and the Monte Pulciano”(103). Before Italy, in Avignon, Dickens saw the cell where Rienzi was held, and the instruments of Inquisition torture. He disparages Marseilles, but loves the sail on the vessel Marie Antoinette, to Genova, so beautiful and layered in the sun as they arrive late afternoon, “its beautiful amphitheater, terrace rising above terrace, palace above palace, height above height, was ample occupation for us, until we ran into its stately harbour”(23). Walking uphill, he finds many women wearing blue—to honor the Madonna for a year or two: “blue being (as is well known) the Madonna’s favorite colour. Women who have devoted themselves to this act of Faith, are very commonly seen walking in the streets”(43). One of the three Genovese theaters is open air, Teatro Diurno, the audience’s faces turned this way, “changed so suddenly from earnestness to laughter; and odder still, the rounds upon rounds of applause, rattling in the evening air, to which the curtain falls”(48). The Marionetti—a famous company from Milan— is, without any exception, the drollest exhibition I have ever beheld in my life. I never saw anything so exquisitely ridiculous”(44). Of Milano, where I have lived almost yearly, two weeks or a month, Dickens notes the Duomo spire into the fog might as well have ended in Bombay. He mentions La Scala, and the Corso Garibaldi where the gentry ride in carriages under the trees, “and rather than not do which, they would half starve themselves at home”(88). But he astutely notes the city is “not so unmistakeably Italian,” it has an admixture of the French and the north generally…not to mention, now, the world. Dickens made it to Carrara. When I lived there a couple weeks translating Bruno’s hilarious Candelaio, I loved the huge Meschi sculpture to Union workers, and the small Cathedral, my favorite in Italy —along with San Marco Venice, Dickens’ favorite, “a much greater sense of mystery and wonder” than at St Peter’s (107). I parked on the marble sidewalks while translating. Marble sidewalks sound better than they are when there’s a garage and cars drip oil on ‘em. My Milan daughter’s relative drove us up to the marble caves—the great profit now’s in the marble dust they make kitchen counters from. The trucks with huge marble blocks are dangerous, descending; their brakes don’t suffice, so they depend on low, low gear. If the truck gets away, they’re dead over the side. One monument stands beside the road for many accidents. When Dickens went up to the caves he rode a pony, and he learned some of the mines went back to Roman times (95). He tells of the signal for an explosion, a low, “melancholy bugle” upon which the miners would retreat expecting the blast. He sees many processions, such as a Roman one after dusk, “a great many priests, walking two and two, and carrying—the good-looking priests at least—their lighted tapers, so as to throw the light with a good effect upon their faces”(143). He witnessed the climbing of the Holy Stairs, one man touching each step with his forehead, a lady praying on each one, but every penitent came down energetic, “which would take a good deal of sin to counterbalance”(147). He calls such a scene “droll enough.” At a dinner where the Pope “served” thirteen Cardinals, the latter “smiled to each other, from time to time, as if they thought the whole thing were a great farce.” Our Victorian describes exactly what I saw during my N.E.H. seminar in Naples under Jean D’Amato, “The fairest country in the world, is spread about us. Whether we turn towards the Miseno shore of the splendid watery amphitheatre, and go by the Grotto of Posilipo and away to Baiae: or the other way, towards Vesuvius and Sorrento, it is one succession of delights”(156). “Everything is done in pantomime in Naples,” with hand gestures—but also with Neapolitan proverbs which I learned to be accepted by the nearest pizza-maker off Via Carraciolo to accept my order for Pizza Napolitano. He talks of Via Chiaja, my route to the Spanish palace with the National Library, and San Carlo Opera house (so that as I studied Bruno their local boy, I heard vocal and instruments practice for the opera). Off of Chiaia the first pizza, Pizza Margherita for the Queen of Naples, was made; the shop’s still open, Pizzeria Brandi. He tells of ladies being carried down Vesuvius on litters, until the litter-bearers slipped, of Leghorn / Livorno being famous for knifing, with an assassin’s club recently jailed, and visits to Herculaneum (which the British largely unearthed a century before) as well as Paestum, where three of the finest Greek temples, built “hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and standing yet, erect in lonely majesty, upon the wild, malaria-blighted plain” (161). I was so exhilarated to tour those temples, where the stone altars are outside, of course, for sacrifice, and only more exhilarated to learn Zeno the Greek Stoic lived there. He happened across a beheading in Rome, which disgusted Dickens. The gallows had been set up before San Giovanni Decollata. It was supposed to occur at 8:45, but was delayed 'til after 11 because the condemned young man, barefoot on the scaffold, had refused to confess until his wife was brought to him. He had accompanied a Bavarian countess for forty miles pretending to guard her, then killed her, took her clothes and jewelry, gave 'em to his wife, who had seen the countess walk through town, so she told the priest, etc.

  • Petra
    2019-03-11 09:53

    "I am not easily dispirited when I have the means of pursuing my own fancies and occupations" - made me laugh....aren't we all happy to have the means to pursue our own fancies? "It is miserable to see great works of art - something of the Souls of Painters - perishing and fading away" This is a different Dickens than in his novels, and yet the same. He's humorous, descriptive, observant. But unlike his novels, where he gets to the core of his characters and they come alive, the people in this book are distant, even when described in detail. The reason for this may be that Dickens is writing from memory; not as he was travelling.

  • Charly
    2019-03-04 09:01

    This is not your usual Dickens in that there really are no characters with whom you grow through the story. On the other hand his descriptive talents are at their best as he takes you along on a tour of Italy after a brief visit through France. For the most part it seems that he enjoyed the views of the Italian cities and vistas from afar but found them ''dirty" very often when up close. I drew from his accounts a sincere disappointment in how the monuments and buildings had seemed to be let to crumble from their time of prominence. His section on the climb to the top of Vesuvius is fun and humorous. He is at his descriptive best when marveling at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I read this as I am trying to read his body of work in sequence, but it is not one that i would otherwise put to the top of my list.

  • Tony
    2019-03-17 08:46

    PICTURES FROM ITALY. (1913). Charles Dickens. ****. According to a preface written by the author, “This book is a series of faint reflections – mere shaadows in the water – of places to which the imaginations of most people are attracted.” Dickens spent a year touring Italy – including getting there and back – and managed to see a great deal of it, in spite of the difficulty of travel in those days. As a habitual visitor to Italy myself, I really enjoyed his insights into the people and their heritage that he managed to capture in his travels. The trip started out in Paris, and easy enough leg of the journey. From there he went to several towns, including Aix, and on to Albara, a suburb of Genoa. He apparently stayed with his banker in Genoa for almost a month, visiting the local region. From there, he was off by coach to Parma, Modena, and Bologna. He also managed to notice the games that people played in the various towns. He was impressed with “Mora,” a game played between two people involving the fingers of one hand. In Parma, he was particularly impressed with the monument to Petrarch and the Farnese Palace. From Bologna he was off to Ferrara, where he first began to notice the great artwork around him. He was later overwhelmed with anecdotes about Lor Beeron by a waiter in a restaurant. It took him a while to realize that the waiter was talking about Lord Byron. Then he was through Padua (without mentioning the Arena Chapel) and into Venice, which he describes as a dream sequence. In any event, the travels went on and on. He spent Holy Week in Rome, and managed to get to see things that I didn’t even know existed. It was apparent that he had little time for the rituals of the Catholic Church, but he managed to apologize for his comments in his preface ahead of time. He finally ends his tour through Florence – but in a hurry. It seems that he had little time to spend there. Time to get back to England. This is an excellent book on travel, though not a travel guide. Recommended.

  • Bianca Cataldi
    2019-03-03 06:40

    Being an Italian reader, this book has been a real adventure for me. It's funny to see your country through the eyes of an English author of the XIX century. From Genoa to Florence, from Rome to Naples, my beloved Italy has been told and described by one of the authors I love the most. Descriptions are accurate as usual, and there're also a lot of funny sketches about daily life in Italy. Some pages have made me laugh, some other have made me angry, of course. There's something I'd wish to say to Charles, old chap, about our country and our uses but it's too late to do that, I suppose. What has surprised me the most was the enthusiastic view of Milan, but we should consider that Dickens has visited this town BEFORE the great industrialisation. This is why he tells us about its architectural and artistic beauty, passing through natural spots that perhaps don't even exist anymore. The most interesting feature of these notes (because these ARE notes and nothing more) is how ironically they've been written, but it doesn't surprise me very much. Dickens has always written like that, and it's really interesting to read something of his that is not a novel and that contains the main features of a real, autobiographical logbook.For this and other reviews:

  • Martin Bihl
    2019-03-20 09:48

    A curious volume from Mr. Dickens. Much better than his "American Notes", perhaps because he seems less disappointed and is more forgiving, but also because it reads less like a reporter's diary and more like a novelist's travelogue. That is, fewer facts and figures about prisons and asylums, more portraits of people and stores of the land. More heart, less head, one could say. Also interesting because one very much senses the development and evolution of the public persona of Dickens here - and that's interesting to watch as well.Therefore, worth the read if you're a Dickens fan, perhaps not so much if you're not.

  • Amyem
    2019-03-23 08:01

  • Sharon
    2019-03-14 07:52

    A delightful travelogue of Dickens' travels throughout Italy in 1844, "Pictures from Italy" is like a deep, refreshing breath after the angry outbursts of "American Notes" and "Martin Chuzzlewit." This is Dickens at his best observational writing, showing us Italy through his eyes. Unlike his "American Notes," here he has no trouble finding the charm among the squalor and absurdity. He does notice plenty of absurdity, particularly when it comes to Catholicism, the Vatican, and all species of monks. He catalogs almost 2000 years of history, architecture, and art, but it is his description of the people in their everyday lives that truly brings this work to life. As in the best of his novels, Dickens' talent lies in consecrating the mundane. He celebrates the small, the impoverished, the unimportant by simply showing them as real individuals. This is a nice departure from so many 19th century travel writers, who scrabble to impress the reader with the places they have visited, the amazing sights they have seen, and the important people they have mingled with. I enjoyed this trip through Italy immensely.

  • Jennifer Royan
    2019-03-01 05:55

    Clearly Charlie enjoys old mud more than new mud (see his American Notes). Interesting insights from nearly 200 years ago!

  • Patti Smith
    2019-03-01 04:57

    Not much love for the Catholic Church but beautiful descriptions of Florence, Naples, Rome and especially dream like Venice.

  • Mariano Hortal
    2019-03-10 12:56

    Publicado en que hace poco comenté una biografía literaria de Charles Dickens aquí en este mismo blog, voy a tomarlo como referencia para hablar, ahora sí de una sus últimas novelas publicadas, el libro de viajes “Estampas de Italia”. El propio escritor comenta en el prólogo inicial lo que serán sus intenciones con respecto a él: “Este libro está compuesto por una serie de apuntes leves -meros reflejos en el agua- sobre lugares a los que la imaginación de la mayoría de la gente se siente, en mayor o menor medida, atraída, en los que la mía habitó durante muchos años y que suscitan el interés de todo el mundo.”Nos encontramos, entonces, ante una obra en la que, como la mayoría de los libros de viajes, no importa tanto la trama sino el relato impresionista de los paisajes, de las gentes, de las costumbres y tradiciones, del país que se visita; en este caso aplicado a Italia. Aún así, asistimos obnubilados a un Dickens sencillo en fondo pero igual de florido en la forma, no me atrevo a utilizar el adjetivo “menor”, ya que solamente por el estilo no creo que pueda ser considerado como tal, aunque sí se podría decir que es inferior a otras obras suyas.De esta manera vamos avanzando por las ciudades italianas y asistimos a un relato donde el mayor placer está en la forma en que el autor inglés reflejó descriptivamente sitios en los que yo he estado igualmente. Me regocijó especialmente el capítulo dedicado a Venecia: “Un sueño italiano”, donde asistimos a una de esas descripciones que estaban ya vivas en el recuerdo que tengo yo de mi ciudad italiana favorita: “Mas junto a los muelles y las iglesias el agua no cesaba su movimiento succionando los muros de los palacios y las prisiones e inundando los lugares secretos de la ciudad. Silenciosa y vigilante, envuelta en sus múltiples pliegues como una vieja serpiente, esperando el momento en que la gente mirara al interior de sus profundidades, en busca de alguna piedra de la vieja ciudad que se jactaba de ser su señora.” Cuánta belleza en un capítulo, cuánto placer hedonista al leer a este coloso de la literatura universal; que contrasta igualmente con todo lo malo de la ciudad de Fondi: “Un inmenso canal de lodo y desechos serpentea por el centro de sus miserables calles alimentado por obscenos riachuelos que salen de sus abyectas casas”. El veredicto es que estamos ante una lectura ligera pero saludable, una manera fácil de descubrir a un escritor que no cansa ni siquiera en sus libros de viajes. Un comienzo para descubrirlo y luego lanzarse a por Pickwick o Historia de dos ciudades. ¿Por qué no?

  • Suzanne
    2019-03-15 06:03

    While much more famous for his novels, Dickens was also a memorable travel writer. The Pictures from Italy are well-named as they are just that, a kaleidescope of different pictures of various aspects of Italian life as seen by an observant outsider. From the outset, Dickens clarifies that he is not intending to provide a guidebook and that his impressions are personal. Given that he is Dickens, these impressions are well worth noting as they are expressed in his inimitable style with much humour and wry comment. I particularly like the one on art appreciation in the context of the Vatican Museums: " there will be no lack of objects, very indifferent in the plain sight of any one who employs so vulgar a property, when he may wear the spectacles of Cant for less than nothing, and establish himself as a man of taste for the mere trouble of putting them on."For a contemporary reader what is striking is the time people had available - Dickens was travelling in Italy for about a year, much of it spent in Genoa - and the time it took to get from a to b with all the discomforts of travelling in carriages. One admires Dickens' professed humour in difficult circumstances and his ability to make light of bugs and draughts, smoking fires and damp beds. It is also clear how much poorer a place Italy was at the time, there are incessant references to the beggars everywhere and their memorable gestures including the hitting of the chin with the right hand to denote hunger. The described pitiable state of many of the art works also gives the lie to a time when tourism was not yet a major source of income and art restoration technology unmastered. Yet through all this, the spirit of the people emerges from the redoubtable Condottiere to the Vetturino, as Dickens notes:"a people naturally well-disposed, and patient, and sweet-tempered:" Overall Dickens succeeds in providing a remarkable picture of everyday Italian life at the time.

  • Rollie Reid
    2019-03-21 07:55

    In 1844 Charles Dickens took a break and visited Italy. He takes a house in Genoa, and then after completely trashing Genoa and Italy in general in this book, he takes off on a tour of Italy, taking in all the great sites.I can only imagine that Dickens was very tired from working on his novels and truly needed the relaxation of an extended vacation, because through most of the book he comes off as more than a little grumpy. That is the best way I can put it.His prose is wonderful, and his descriptions of the sights are enough to make you almost feel like you have seen them. Unfortunately, nothing in Italy is good enough for him, and the combination is rather hard to work through at times.Also, the book has descriptions of what he sees, including at times, the lives of Peasants, etc. but there is very little of Dickens in the book. We read nothing of his interactions with anyone while he travels, neither his fellow travelers, nor the Italian people who he often comments on.The book is good, but his tone, and the lack of the personal encounters in the story left me a little disappointed.

  • Christiane
    2019-03-12 04:54

    Wonderfully descriptiveThis is a delightful account of Charles Dickens‘ travels through Italy in 1846. The writing, of course, is superb and whereas his novels tend to be a bit too wordy for my taste, this travelogue reads like a breeze. In his adventurous forays Dickens displays amazing courage, energy and stamina – even braving an ascent of Vesuvius at night. At other times he soaks up the multitude of impressions at leisure – the chapter on Venice is especially charming.Dickens gives us his pictures of an Italy now (mostly) long gone, an Italy of misery, abject poverty, injustice and oppression by church and worldly authorities, but also of an Italy overflowing with unparalleled natural and man-made beauty.He describes the idiosyncracies of the Italian people with gentle humour, only rarely turning to biting wit (mainly directed against the Catholic Church). He found the Italians to be « naturally well-disposed, patient and sweet-tempered ». Written nearly 170 years ago this book is still fresh and enjoyable today.

  • Sammy
    2019-03-19 10:50

    The 12th of Dickens' 24 major works, Pictures from Italy perhaps competes only with the worst of the Christmas novellas for the coveted prize of "least essential". Travelogues were an important part of the 18th and 19th centuries, when most people were rarely able to leave their country, and it took ages to get anywhere. In his American Notes, Dickens at least had fun on every page crafting a cheeky and less-than-kind portrait of his cousins from across the pond. Here, Dickens seems to dislike a lot about Italian culture even as he likes everything about Italy. It's not particularly captivating, beyond a general interest in seeing how the man saw the country in 1845. I enjoyed some of the descriptions, but perhaps my relative lack of familiarity with Italian culture of the era leaves me cold. Had Dickens followed a satirical group of travellers, or found an architectural or actual mystery, I might have been rapt. As it is, I might leave this copy at the back of my bookshelf.

  • laura saldarini
    2019-03-24 05:58

    I have to say I'm glad to have read this novel.Nonetheless, I actually don't know if I really liked it.I was shoked by Dickend's words, by the disgust that he freely expresses in describing the popular, poor, and run-down places of Italy.Unfortunately, I don't know much about the first part of the 19 century (maybe it's time to dust off some of my old history books), but his words seem to private any beauty of every kind of redemption.beautifully written are the parts about the marble quarries of Massa Carrara.

  • Michael B.
    2019-03-12 12:55

    Even though I love every thing I have read by Charles Dickens, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this as much as I did. I was afraid that without his interesting characters and plot this travel book would not hold my interest but of course the people he meets a long the way and Italy itself are the characters. I enjoyed his descriptions of the people and places, and his views on art and religion.

  • Garry
    2019-02-21 06:47

    My favorite author in my favorite country...a perfect combination. The first twenty or so pages were slow going, but then again they were for Dickens, too. At this point in the book/journey he was going by carriage through France. When he arrives in sunny Italy, everything improves and the book has the charm, warmth, love of life, and (pardon this France) joi de vivre that makes Italy such an invigorating and stimulating place to visit - today, AND in the mid1800s.

  • Mina
    2019-03-04 07:01

    Charles Dickens is one of my favourite writers of all time - this is his very curious account of his travels through Italy. His prose, as with his novels, is entertaining and slightly ironic at times. He paints a portrait of the people, the landscapes, and the incidents surrounding his journey - not always beautiful, but always beautifully put.

  • Millstone
    2019-03-18 12:55

    I'm working my way through Dickens' major works and I wasn't looking forward to this one but it was ok. You wouldn't read it cover to cover in one go, though. Bits of it were quite dull, but some passages were very interesting in their own right and some of the description was vintage: could have come from A Christmas Carol or Martin Chuzzlewit which he was writing around the same time.

  • Frank Miller
    2019-02-21 13:03

    Charles Dickens seems to hate Italy, until the very end where he wants to forgive it. The real problem that I had with to book is that travel writing should offer you a sharp colorful picture of a place, even if sometimes idealized. With Dickens, Italy seemed like a blurred, faded sepia place seen through an ill composed photograph.

  • Nesnesnes
    2019-03-17 08:59

    Perhaps mistakenly, I expected more humour from this travelogue, a la Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad (which I enjoyed tremendously). Anyway, based on Dickens' writing, it seems that Italy hasn't changed very much since 1846!

  • Barbara
    2019-03-17 08:42

    Charles Dickens applied his eye for detail and his humor to travel writing. I loved it. I've been trying to read Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad for a year and it feels vague and sarcastic in contrast.

  • Emma
    2019-03-10 10:45

    Oh Chuck, he was like a very snarky but charming dinner guest in his descriptions of Italy. It could have been coming from the dear Dowager Countess of Grantham's mouth herself. I did enjoy it, he was very descriptive and it is nice to be so descriptive about a world that is completely gone to us.

  • Roneice
    2019-03-23 05:01

    Loving Travel and having lived in southern Italy when I was young (many years ago) I am enjoying what I have read so far. I didn't know Charles Dickens had written anything like this. That fact alone makes it interesting for me. This was a free eBook.

  • Krisette Spangler
    2019-03-24 04:52

    I wish I could say that I enjoyed this more, because Dickens' writing is always wonderful. However, I found myself feeling annoyed with his talk of how dirty certain areas and people of Italy were. He had a very "the English are a superior people" attitude that I found tiresome.

  • Melodee
    2019-03-11 12:00

    This is a travelogue of the author's time spent in Italy. I really enjoyed the detail in his descriptions of towns and scenery. It gives an overall impression of a leisurely amble through the Italian countryside, as well as criticism of things like the Vatican. It is an interesting critique.

  • Andrea
    2019-02-25 05:44

    I got the complete works of Dickens for my Kindle for $1! I'm laughing out loud when I read this. The description of the dungeons in the Palais des Papes in Avignon, where the Inquisition took place is horrifying and funny at the same time, because the 'goblin' who gave the tour is hilarious.

  • Susan
    2019-03-08 06:46

    This was fun to read, as one of my favorite English novelists describes his travels in my favorite European country. I lovedhis descriptions of Rome and Florence especially and how much he appreciated the Italian lifestyle, festivals, costumes, food, attitudes, etc.