In This Review

The Hero's Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna
The Hero's Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna
By Tim Parks
Norton, 2021, 352 pp.

Parks has published dozens of books, among them award-winning novels, translations of Italian fiction, and, what is most distinctive, nonfiction about Italy—a place where he has lived since the 1980s. In this unique travelogue, he recounts retracing the exact 500-kilometer route from Rome to Ravenna taken by the patriotic Italian guerrilla fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1849, after the French crushed the fledgling Roman Republic he was defending. Parks and a friend did it in one month on foot; with a smartphone in hand and small cafés, hotels, and pharmacies in every village, such a trip seems less like a pilgrimage than a pleasant daily workout. Far more interesting is his description of the unimaginable courage, suffering, and idealism of Garibaldi’s band of 5,000 ragged soldiers. As they crossed a countryside with little infrastructure, hounded constantly by crack Austrian and French forces, 95 percent of them deserted or died. Parks is also attentive to the melancholy ironies of contemporary life in the Italian countryside, with its ever-smaller and ever-older population. To rural Italians today, Garibaldi seems an irrelevant figure. There are some resonances, however: he fought to rid Italy of foreigners, and many in these regions disparage the un-Italian character of African immigrants and northern European tourists—even as they seek to exploit both.