In her travels with her young son, George, Olga Vannucci strolls and hikes through the landscapes of her Italian childhood, in five separate trips, visiting cherished people and places and describing them with joy and amusement. The writing is warm and refreshing, and the experiences vivid and touching -- you will want to come along. The author, born in Italy and living in New Jersey, looks at Italy as both a local native and an awed visitor.
Olga Vannucci was born in Italy, lived in Brazil, and came to the U.S. to attend college. She lives in rural New Jersey with her beloved son, George. She is working on her third book, Travels With Myself, which is turning out to be a book about getting past reliving your childhood, and starting instead to look to the future.
Travels With George: A Memoir Through the Italy of My Childhood by Olga Vannucci is broken up into five sections, one for each of her trips to Italy. Each section is then divided into chapters of varying lengths, like little vignettes. Some are several pages long, others only a few paragraphs. The book is written in present tense, as if the trips are happening in real time. It's a nice way of reading about her travels. She hits many of the major cities - Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan, for example - but also smaller towns where she has either family ties or an interest. I don't particularly care to only read about the tourist traps, so this made for a nice, balanced view of the central and northern parts of country (Rome is as far south as she traveled).
Travels With George is self-published. My only criticism: I think the book needed another edit. There were some typos that easily could have been caught. And she uses a lot of commas. A lot. Sometimes this contributed to the overall tone (which is pretty delightful) and gave me a feel for how she might speak in person. But there were too many times when a comma really should have been replaced with other punctuation.
Truly, that is my only criticism. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed the book. Vannucci has a subtle sense of humor. It is revealed in small ways, such as when she refers to a lifeguard at a ritzy beach club: "His true role in the enterprise...is to prevent the free beach bathers from encroaching on the expensive beach club sand." Also, you can tell Vannucci is presenting herself as she actually is, quirks and all. She states early in the book that parking is her obsession. She is not kidding. She notices the parking situation everywhere they go. I had to laugh a little whenever it was mentioned. When she's frustrated with or annoyed by a situation, or even by her son, she says so. Judging from the title alone, you might think this book is a sweet, idyllic story of a mother sharing her homeland with her young son, who enthusiastically absorbs every moment. Sometimes it is; but this book is much closer reality. Children don't always appreciate or have an interest in the things important to their parents, and at times their parents end up coaxing them along. I respected the honesty of her account in that regard.
Vannucci's family stories are incredibly rich, giving a personal perspective on some major events in Italian history. Even the mundane turns into something special in her telling; things as simple as how beautifully the light shines through the slats of the persiane (shutters). I liked her spontaneity, how she'd make new plans based on something she happens to see or hear along the way. And I was touched by her expression of how it felt to go back to Italy years later, after people she loved had passed.
If you enjoy travel memoirs, be sure to pick up a copy of Olga Vannucci's Travels With George.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
I liked reading about Olga's travels with her son. It's always calming to read about people reliving their childhoods, and seeing things that are both the same and different from the past to the present.
Olga is a very good writer. I enjoyed her simplistic manner of describing her surroundings, with her son, and the way she wrote about the people of Italy - both her family and the people whom she met while traveling with her son.
I found that when she wrote about her family, you could sense the deep love she has for them, and you felt the heartbreak she endured when some family had passed away.
I also loved the way she wrote about her son's mannerisms, and found myself cackling and giggling at some of the ways he was described. And I found, that when she wrote about the sites they saw together, like the Colosseum, I would be getting excited too, wanting to experience what they were.
Overall, I found this book to be a great and easy read!
This book is more a series of small travel vignettes than a coherent story. The author relates her experiences traveling in her native Italy visiting family with her young son who doesn't speak Italian. I think the stories in the book show a lot of promise for being worked into a book with a more traditional structure, because the characters and the countryside are clearly so dear to the author. But as written I found the book tedious at times and didn't finish it.
I thought this book was charming and warm. It pulls you into the day-to-day, sometimes frustrating and sometimes uplifting, quality of traveling, with often funny and always sharply rendered anecdotes and family vignettes. It's also a travel diary that carries you with the author to the places she and her son visit. Highly recommended!
What a great read, enjoyed every minute. Wanted to get on a plane to Italy right away. Very conversational - felt like the author was telling me the story directly. I would definitely recommend this if you've ever been to Italy or want to go and understand some of the culture before you arrive. The points of view from a child's perspective are priceless!
After reading it one would definitely want to start packing and book a long-term trip through Italy. It is more than simple travel writing, as it follows the journey of the author and her son back home in Italy, revisiting places from childhood and rediscovering people and their stories. It explores the sense of belonging and the different meanings we assign to the idea of 'home'.