What Is There to Write About Italy That Hasn’t Been Written Before?


Why do I write about Italy?

As I sit here, trying to dream up a good answer to my first assignment as part of the Italy Blogging Roundtable, a project I have entered into with Jessica of Italylogue, Alexandra of ArtTrav, Rebecca of Brigolante, and Gloria of At Home in Tuscany, I am returning from a brief hiatus from posting on Italofile. Over the past year, I have been able to write less and less on this blog as I have taken on more and more freelance writing gigs. It has been a blessing and a curse.

It has been a blessing, in that I have been spending my time writing about Italian cities for About.com and other travel destinations for NileGuide and Gadling, among others. But it has been a curse in that I have had to let lay idle my Italy travel website, a little blog I decided to start in late 2006 as a way to keep myself up-to-date on the latest goings-on in Italy. If a few people wanted to read my Italy updates, then that was a bonus. “Who would be interested in such a niche blog?” I thought.

So, why Italy? While researching the first edition to The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy, a guidebook I was contracted to write after living for some months in Rome as a travel writer/au pair (indeed, a separate blog post in itself), I took a break to read the Italy portion of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. True to form, Twain wrote about this stop on his Grand Tour with a keen eye and with equal parts awe and snark. To wit: “The Creator made Italy from designs by Michael Angelo.”

I was struck, however, by another comment that Twain made: “What is there in Rome for me to see that others have not seen before me?” Twain laments that Rome is not a place for discovery, an act that “confers the noblest delight [and] swells a man’s breast with pride above that which any other experience can bring to him.” He conveys that Rome – and, as an extension, Italy – is almost not worth the visit in that it has been seen by so many eyes and touched by so many hands that it had lost its charm as a travel destination.

Mind you, Twain wrote this in the mid-19th century. To think of all the discoveries, rediscoveries, and new buildings that have reshaped the Rome cityscape since the time of Twain boggles the mind. From the unearthing in 2006 of Emperor Augustus’ villa on the Palatine Hill to the construction of the MAXXI Museum of 21st century art, Rome is in constant flux, so there is always something to see that perhaps others before you have yet to see. Furthermore, I would argue, what does it matter if millions before you have laid eyes on the Colosseum, walked the medieval lanes in the Borgo, or sat, exhausted, on the Spanish Steps watching the throngs pass by? A “discovery” need not be measured by someone else’s achievements but by what you yourself get out of the experience.

I approach writing about Rome and Italy with this same idea. What can I write about Italy that others before me have not written? Perhaps nothing. All I can do is write about Italy from my perspective, hoping that with each post or article I learn something new. If I’m lucky, when I share my Italy-related discoveries on this blog or other publications, visitors will come away with the urge to travel to Italy or, at least, to read more.

It is not enough to say that I write about Italy because it is beautiful or because of its history. Hawaii is beautiful. Great Britain’s history fills volumes. I can say, however, that Italy succeeds in igniting a spark in me. I feel that because of its artistic legacy, poetic language, renowned culinary traditions, and long, complicated history, Italy provides me with limitless opportunities to explore my diverse interests, and writing about it not only brings me closer to my subject, but soothes my wanderlust in between visits. Knowing that there is so much to discover: this is why I began writing about Italy and why I am excited about resuming Italofile. I hope that you will stick around to read more about it, too.

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Be sure to read why other Italy bloggers write about Italy:

10 comments

  1. Well, just because you write from your own perspective, everything you write about will be somehow new. And I will keep reading it!

  2. Most writing about Italy is glossy travelogue, designed to intrigue and wet someone’s appetite. Perhaps, having grown up in southern Italy, I have a different hunger. I want to know how people have survived, how they live day to day, how they have changed in their customs from the times I knew. When we visit, and we see so many street vendors, their stories are not told by anyone.

    I’ve written stories about Italians who emigrated and felt dispossessed and forgotten. Where do these stories fit in the big travelogue view of an Italy that has become Disneylandish?

    • Rosaria,

      This is a very good question, but one I don’t think that I could fully answer. Indeed, the purpose of my blog is to inspire others to travel to Italy. But that’s not to say that your stories and other similar stories about the many struggles of Italians, especially those in the south, are not important for the big picture that is Italy. I see these type of stories as being best told as short stories or novels and not necessarily in the travelogue context. I wish you much luck in telling your stories – maybe you could start a blog and change the whole paradigm!

      Thank you again for your comment.

      -Melanie

  3. Thanks, Melanie, for an insightful idea. Unlike Mark Twain, St. Augustine compared Rome’s depth to the human mind with layers of surprises beyond the surface level.
    I never seem to get tired of reading about familiar places in Italy. Other writers enrich my memories. And my own writing takes me back to these places I love.

  4. What is there to write about Italy that hasn’t been written before?

    You might as well ask, “What is there to write about love and life, triumph and sorrow, joy and loss, that hasn’t been written before?

    So, what is there to write about Italy that hasn’t been written before?

    Everything.

Your Thoughts?