Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book #1: Italy

Part of what I love about fantasy books is finding yourself in places that exist only in the imagination of the author and his or her readers. I like the idea of this imaginary world growing and changing in people’s heads, being shared between them, a meme transferred through the written word.

Unfortunately, sometimes being able to imagine this world is not enough. Think of all the tours based on real-world or semi-real-world books. We want to follow our favourite characters through towns and cities. We take pictures of the entry to Platform Nine and Three Quarters (which doesn’t actually exist as Rowling describes it, but people still try ramming various bits of the station with their luggage trolleys) and re-enact sword battles on bridges. It must amuse the locals.

This week I’m looking at Italy, and the book (or series) I have chosen is Stravaganza, by Mary Hoffman. Each book is set in a different parallel-Italian city, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which cities the characters are in. Teenagers from our world ‘stravagate’ to sixteenth century Talia and engage in Adventures involving mysterious masked ladies, horse races, scheming dynasties, pirates, sculptures and medieval universities. Each book is from a different point of view, but I like that we get to revisit previous characters and their stories continue. Talia seems alive and exciting and cultural, with rivalries between the cities and their distinct identities.

This all makes me want to visit Italy. My inner traveller doesn’t seem to understand that the Italy I find will not be a fifteenth-century version where magic and science mix together and silver is more precious than gold. I want to see Arianna and Rodolfo, ride horses in Remora and watch sea battles from a safe distance. And if I get to Italy and don’t find these things, I’ll have to resort to sock puppets.

(If anyone has ideas on re-enacting realistic sea battles with sock puppets, feel free to suggest them.)

Despite this, I will make a special effort to see all the real-world versions of the Stravaganza cities. I’ve been to Venice, Florence and Ravenna (but you can always go again...) and I’d love to see Siena and Padua. Apparently the next book will be set in Lucca, which I hadn’t heard of. Apparently it’s in Tuscany. It shall be added to my itinerary.

To do list: win Lotto. 

Do you have any favourite books set in Italy?

No comments:

Post a Comment

what do you think?