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From Udine to Catania, from the San Siro to the Olimpico, traveling with the raucous and unruly Verona fans—whose conduct is a cross between that of asylum inmates and the Keystone Kops—Tim Parks offers his highly personal account of one man’s relationship with a country, its people, and its national sport. The clubs are struggling, as always, to keep their heads above water in Series A. The fans, as always, are accused of vulgarity, racism, and violence. It’s an election year and politics encroaches. The police are ambiguous, the journeys exhausting, the referees unforgivable, the anecdotes hilarious. And behind it all is the growing intuition that in a world stripped of idealism and bereft of religion, soccer offers a new and fiercely ironic way of forming community and engaging with the sacred.
Tim Parks is anything but a gentleman in Verona. With an Italian-born wife, an Italian made family, and a whole Italian condominium bubbling around him, he collects a gallery full of splendid characters who initiate us into all the foibles and delights of life in provincial Italy.
More than a travel book, Italian Neighbors is a sparkling, witty, beautifully observed tale of how the most curious people and places gradually assume the familiarity of home. Italian Neighbors is a rare work that manages to be both a portrait and an invitation for everyone who has ever dreamed about Italy.