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'Elegantly written, full of wit and charm, this is travel writing at its very best' Orlando Figes
In the summer of 1849, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italy's legendary revolutionary hero, fled Rome and led 4,000 of his men hundreds of miles through Umbria and Tuscany, then across the Apennines, Italy's mountainous spine, toward the refuge of the Venetian Republic. After thirty-two exhausting days of skirmishes and adventures, only 250 survivors reached the Adriatic coast.
This hair-raising journey is brought vividly to life by bestselling author Tim Parks, who in the blazing summer of 2019, followed in Garibaldi's footsteps. A fascinating portrait of Italy past and present, The Hero's Way is a celebration of determination, creativity and desperate courage.
A pilgrimage in the footsteps of Italy's national hero grounds a meditation on the country's character in this soulful historical travelogue. British novelist and Italophile Parks (Italian Ways) retraces the 400-mile-long retreat of revolutionary general Giuseppe Garibaldi from Rome to the Adriatic coast in 1849, during which he lost his army of 4,000 men to desertion, fighting, and capture by French, Spanish, and Austrian forces. 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, and the assistance of his magnetic wife, Anita, who died at their journey's end. Parks weaves in a disenchanted modern counterpoint as he and his partner trudge alongside roads full of roaring traffic and encounter industrial blight next to avant-garde art parks and touristy caf s ("The garibaldini would have been out of town in a matter of minutes, whereas we're still walking through a suburban haze of carbon monoxide after two and a half hours"). 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.