The author of Italian Ways returns with an exploration into Italy's past and present. Literally following in the footsteps of 19th century Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi's famed 250-mile journey across the Apennines, Parks mixes history with narration of his month-long hike through Italy with his partner Eleonora.
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.