This ebullience of this aubade-style effusion is entirely new. Mr. Parks, writing in his 60s, has a youthful vigor as he seeks to recapture the feelings of those who followed Garibaldi on his nation-creating journey ... He writes devastatingly that the historian’s book 'is simply bound to be dull because she is scared of stories.' Mr. Parks has no such fears: Garibaldi’s life is full of thrilling stories, however they are told ... This is already a rattlingly good story, but clearly not a new one. Mr. Parks, however, finds an intriguingly new way of telling it, by combining it with an account of his own journey, literally in Garibaldi’s footsteps ... Despite...obvious differences, the close engagement with the physical difficulties of the terrain and the sweltering summer heat gives Mr. Parks a new insight into Garibaldi’s campaign ... Mr. Parks’s passionate engagement with this story lends this travelogue a special quality. This is true even of a purely atmospheric passage like this description of the sound of the cicadas ... It’s as if his full involvement in this journey—which is an exploration of his own attachment to Italy as much as it is of Risorgimento history—has sharpened all his senses, enabling him to write of the landscape with heightened intensity ... He also describes encounters with Italians along the way who have skeptical views of Garibaldi, and resists the temptation to embark on a heated defense of the hero, recognizing that it would be futile.
... a fresh, intriguing, environmentally sensitive, oddly endearing account ... What adds considerable interest to this idiosyncratic twinned pilgrimage is the very colorful cast of characters ... Easily the most compelling of this crew is the extraordinary Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro da Silva, better known as Anita Garibaldi ... Garibaldi’s genuine adoration and respect for her, nimbly emphasized in Parks’s account, palpably reveals how much of a force Anita was in the formation and drive behind the Garibaldian notion of freedom ... Sometimes sauntering, sometimes marching, sometimes in places of great beauty, sometimes in industrial wastelands, we join the rhythm of the conjoined marches, sinking into their cadences, lilts, pulses, and patterns.
Trying to picture what the 1849 retreat was like was challenging, but Parks did his research and readers will learn a lot ... Parks is frank about his own trek, sharing such details as his gratitude to be wearing 'elasticated, anti-rash athlete’s underwear' ... The Hero’s Way isn’t all smooth going. Tracking the names of all the military skirmishes and personnel involved can be challenging, as Parks acknowledges. Parks and Garritelli’s daily search for acceptable accommodation and food (they’re vegetarians) can get repetitive, too. But the central point of how a seeming military debacle gradually became viewed as 'a glorious act of resistance' is powerfully made.
Parks' route is gleaned from historic accounts by participants in Garibaldi's retreat, as well as later works of scholarship, but despite his genuinely transparent and occasionally (melo) dramatic storytelling, the only real adventures come with Garibaldi. Parks' comprehensive knowledge leads to overindulgence or name-dropping at times, but Eleonora acts as an able stand-in for the reader, providing valuable prompts such as 'get on with it' ... Rich characters ... even with the relatively pedestrian nature of the present-day pilgrimage, Garibaldi's heroic journey and Parks' enthusiastic guide work make this a trip well worth taking.
Like many travel writers, Parks can easily conjure up a romantic vision of Bella Italia ... He balances his passionate but vague evocation of Orvieto Cathedral and his appreciation of hilltop towns with down-to-earth observations of hot tarmac, litter, gated empty villas, barking dogs and muddy streams. He has sharp words for Matteo Salvini, Italy’s former deputy prime minister, and for the Borghi più belli (Most beautiful towns/villages) scheme, designed to attract tourism ... When making aesthetic judgements – on museum displays, paintings, architecture—Parks does not describe and seems eager only to avoid any conventional response. His deliberately sour tone prevents the book from being used as a simple substitute for a holiday in Italy ... Safely home in his flat in Milan, Park muses on nationhood in characteristically reductive terms.
Parks shows us many of the complex realities of the country Garibaldi helped create. There is much humorous juxtaposition between the minor hardships of the modern hiker (sink-washing sweat-sodden hiking gear, blisters and, in one case, a broken Nespresso machine) and those of the marchers ... Moreover, by remaining so true to the historical route, the author and his partner achieve something like a cross-section through today’s Italy. Their walk captures the country not always seen in travel brochures and olive oil adverts ... Parks’s deep affection for Italy with all its flaws—present in his writing since his earliest non-fiction works—is implicit and compelling.
... [a] soulful historical travelogue ... His vivid retelling casts the history in a romantic light, as he recounts how Garibaldi held together his volunteers with the dream of Italian nationhood ... Contrary to Garibaldi’s vision of generous, liberal solidarity, Parks’s Italy often feels atomized, alienated, and resentful of immigrants. Even so, Parks’s elegant, wry prose saves the story from tipping into despair. This gripping account of Italy’s visionary past serves as a revealing window into its clouded present.
The author does an exemplary job weaving together different historical accounts of the march, and he brings Garibaldi’s charisma, determination, and desperation to vivid life. He is less successful at interpreting the present. His descriptive passages of the Italian countryside sing, but he provides little context for the politics and economy of contemporary Italy ... Students of historic and contemporary Italy will enjoy the author’s vivid revival of Garibaldi’s ordeal, and his dry wit is on full display, but he missed an opportunity to make this dramatic story more accessible to general readers. An account that ably retraces the flight of a revolutionary but offers limited insights into Italy's present.