Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Susan van Allen
Publisher: Travelers’ Tales
Author: Susan van Allen
Publisher: Travelers’ Tales
This cornucopia of Italian delights titillates the senses and entices the imagination.. Occasionally fringing on the irreverent (who else but Susan van Allen would dream of calling the Blessed Virgin Mary the BVM, for instance – only kidding, grrll!), and bordering on the erotic (as in Susan’s description of The Capitoline Venus attempting to cover her “Cupid’s cloister”), Susan’s selective guide to Italian beauty and beauties scampers through both urban and rural landscape with exuberant glee.
Ranging from the divine to the decadent, Susan’s romp through the Italian past and present has one hankering for more. The Divine: Goddesses, Saints, and the Blessed Virgin Mary takes one from the Campidoglio, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill to the Temple of Segesta in Sicily, by way of the artistic splendors of Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Padua, Naples, Campania and Palermo. In each, she focuses on the female, the envisioned and the immortal, as portrayed in key works of art. Instructive and elucidating, she entices one with succulent morsels of information about the work and the artist involved. Suggesting the best times at which to visit all the museums and galleries that she recommends, Susan also gives handy tips on how to plan one’s jaunts for the day, including visits to nearby parks and restaurants. She even manages to sneak in extra tidbits of recommended reading, not to mention a novice’s guide to mythology and Mary’s rites of passage.
A little bit of history, a little bit of art… The second section of Susan’s 100 Places romps through the spacious ville, palazzo and an apartment, starting once more in Rome and ending in Sicily – an added bonus to her racy pace is the systematic way in which she unravels the labyrinthine. Her sense of enthrallment with her surroundings is intoxicating, as she seduces us into imagining the scenes of revelry and mayhem that permeated the past.
Susan van Allen appears not only to appreciate the intimacy of the boudoir, but also the graceful and cultivated structuring of the outdoors. Finding la dolce vita in the harmonious blend of greenery, sculpture, and fountains that typifies the finest in Italian landscape gardening, she explores gardens originating in the Renaissance and Baroque periods – not without a timely reminder that most gardens close down November to March, so best check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Susan then extends her delight in the outdoors to an overview of the finest of Italian beaches, while, on the way, introducing one to the niceties of beach etiquette regarding such key points, as topless bathing and clubbing. Mmm, and after indulging in all those sun-drenched days, what next but to explore the most refreshing and soothing of beauty treatments offered by leading spas (contact details provided)…
The culinary delights of Italy await you next, as Susan encourages you to “pursue your passion for tasting by heading to the country and visiting a [woman-owned] winery” and to “indulge your tastebuds as you tune into delicious daily rhythms” of eating out at an urban caffè. Gelato, chocolate and wine are never too far from an Italian lover’s mind……and which woman does not love to shop…shoes, leather and paper ware, ceramics, jewelry, fragrances, lingerie, embroidery and lace…not to speak of shopping in Milan or at the antique markets, Susan explores them all.
Just in case you think that van Allen only indulges the feminine instinct of womankind, in her next section she counters by yielding to the wild buccaneering instinct that’s hidden deep within us all. In her section on active adventures, she introduces us to biking, hiking, skiing, boating, yoga and Pilates, Italian style.
Having worked up a sufficiently good appetite through adventuring abroad (pun intended), Susan brings us home with a flourish in her section on cooking classes. She equates taking a cooking class in Italy with “getting a backstage pass to the country’s soul”.
After cooking with Susan in Rome, Tuscany, Parma–Emilia-Romagna, Ravello, Campania and Calabria (don’t you just revel in rolling those names off your tongue?), you can learn any one of a vast range of Italian crafts and culture before being entertained at an array of cultural and sporting venues. Then, rounding it all off, she advocates reading about, and developing your own memories in, Italy.
100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go concludes with handy tips for Italian travel (though the entire work churns with such ideas…) and packing, a calendar (or should I say colander?) of holy days, and a detailed index. By this stage, if you are not fully replete and with your dates for your next Italian jaunt at least penciled in on your schedule, may the BVM come to your aid, sister…Click Here To Purchase 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go (Travelers' Tales)