Read The Dark Heart Of Italy by Tobias Jones Online


Tobias Jones sets out to answer many questions during his voyage across the Italian peninsula. He discovers a country which is proudly visual rather than verbal and where crime is hardly ever followed by punishment. This edition includes Berlusconi's refusal to leave office after his electoral defeat and Italy's World Cup victory....

Title : The Dark Heart Of Italy
Author :
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ISBN : 9780571235933
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 306 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Dark Heart Of Italy Reviews

  • Caroline
    2019-04-30 18:55

    Murder, bombings, money-laundering, fraud, conspiracies, monopolies, Fascism, Communism, the mafia, wealth, and an endless diet of prurient television. This was Italian politics under Berlusconi in a nutshell. This book prizes open the nutshell and gives us all the gory details.It also gives us fascinating insights into Italian culture generally, and is for the most part absolutely riveting. I had no idea that Italian culture was so very different from what we experience here in the UK. I’d had a whiff that their politics were a tad outrageous – our newspapers regularly had Yikes-I-don’t-believe-it moments about Berlusconi’s behaviour…but I knew very little about modern Italian culture. This book is a fantastic read for anyone wanting to get beyond the usual expat odes to Italy. Most of us who have been there fell in love with the country, but Tobias Jones is different. Whilst there are aspects he obviously enjoys, this is not a love story.Talking about reading, herewith an extract from the book about the reading habits of Italians, which I found amusing. Jones is a Guardian journalist, and in Italy he was teaching literature classes at a university – so his views may be slightly jaundiced.(view spoiler)[“Italy is, unlike Britain, a visual, rather than a literary, country. Perhaps because there’s such a forest of legal and bureaucratic language, very few people read newspapers, even fewer buy or borrow books. ( Research shows) that a massive percentage of Italian adults don’t read one book a year. On public transport in Britain, half the passengers might be reading; in Italy, they will be eyeing each other, or else ‘reading’ the Settimana Enigmistica, a magazine of riddles and crosswords. There is, one quickly notices, no populist press, and there will be an Italian bestseller (Andrea Camilleri is the latest example) only once a decade.Reading, when it’s done at all, is done under duress. None of my students, I get the impression, has ever read a book for pleasure….” (hide spoiler)]I will end with my usual bullet points of things from the book that I found particularly interesting.(view spoiler)[BeautyThe Italians love beauty and perfection, not the aged patina of beauty that we associate with giants like Raphael and Titian, but the beauty to be sought in the here and now. The beauty of the perfect outfit – everything slung together just so, or the beauty of perfectly applied make up, or the dinner party with magazine-quality finishing touches. Everything assolutamente perfetto A quote from Luigi Barzini, in The Italians…“The more I enjoyed the leisurely beauty of Italy the more sophisticated it seemed….Everything is dressed up, beautiful and embellished…Ugly things must be hidden, unpleasant and tragic facts swept under the carpet whenever possible. Everything must be made to sparkle….show is as important as, many times more important than, reality.”Attitudes to the lawNot exemplary. In fact nearly everyone breaks the law, and as much as they can get away with. They consider that the politicians and people who work for the government do it too, so why not them? It is also felt that tradesmen and organisations – even big organisations, will try and rip you off if they can. So it’s everyone for themselves.Transparency International ranks Italy the most corrupt country in Western Europe.The importance of wealth“In the UK displays of money are considered vulgar. In Italy it’s the opposite. No-one must appear poor. In Italy politicians try and show how superhuman and super-wealthy they are…..Wealth and beauty are the foundations for any decent (political) figure. Personal probity seems to be a side issue”FootballJones devotes a whole chapter to football, describing both the intelligence and finesse of the game in Italy, and also widely-held suspicions of corruption. I skim read this chapter ;-)SeductionIt turns out all those old-fashioned stereotypes are not without basis. Flirting is very much a way of life. At one stage Jones asks his students to give short talks on a subject of their own choice. Three of the women chose the subject “lingerie”. Jones comments “Italy is the land that feminism forgot”.Loyalty to home turfItalians are not ones for upping and moving miles away to big cities. They tend to be intensely loyal to their own part of Italy, and many of them live within 50 kilometres of their parental home. Carlo Levi called Italy “thousands of countries”.CultureJones quotes a friend who is scathing about modern Italian culture, describing it as a desert, and very different from the rich culture of the past. Certainly television (largely run by one of Berlusconi’s three television stations) – sounds pretty well the pits. A mix of programmes in the vein of Dallas, Make Me a Millioniare and a sexy version of Big Brother. “The only thing on offer are bosoms, football and money…” (I feel Jones’s judgement is a bit mean here. It sounds like a lot of British television to me!)VotingThere is usually a high turnout of voters when it comes to elections, and a lot of young people voted for Berlusconi. This was put down to the influence of his television programmes. “Berlusconi has been compared to Mussolini: both had a balcony from which they could harangue, cajole and persuade adoring viewers.”Business and the economyThis rests mostly on cars, clothes and food, and about 23% of businesses are still small to medium sized firms. “The engine of the country’s economy are often minute, local, family-run businesses which produce those textiles or foodstuffs or expert engineering….In Italy people still make things. Go into any of the tiny artisan grottos and before you even see the intricately blown glass or the marbled paper or decorative times, you’re hit be the scent of oil, sawdust, and the small of a cooking kiln. In fact, supermarkets are a rarity; each shop is specialised, selling only tobacco or perfumes or newspapers."Illegal Buildings“The practice of erecting enormous hotels and houses without planning permission might sound innocuous until you realise the scale on which it happens . (It happens mostly in Southern Italy.) In Sicily 4,780 illegal houses sprang up in 2000 alone. Legal and illegal houses combined now mean that Italy has a higher per capita consumption of concrete than any other country in the world. By now the country has a very unusual housing problem: there are simply far too many of them for a declining populations .” Francesco Rosi’s film Le Mani Sulla Cottà suggests the property speculation is due to “Politics (being) reduced to the buying and selling of votes, made possible by the vast amounts of money slushing around in the construction business.”“If building residential properties is lucrative, appalti, or governmental contracts, are the gravy of the Italian economy. Before the ‘Clean Hands’ prosecutions against bribery, it was normal for politicians to get a hefty kickback from the recipient of any contract. As the system became habitual huge factories and refineries were built simply to make the politician and the constructor a profit, regardless of whether there was any need for them. Once a particular project had served its purpose (injecting a bit of cash in the right directions), it could be shelved and forgotten. Many now lie abandoned half-way to completion.Cars and driving“Car-production is the foundation stone of the Italian economy. The country now has the highest per capita ownership of cars in the world”And another stereotype about the Italians proves true – they are fast and dreadful drivers. In the decade before 2001, 72,000 people were killed on the roads. Berlusconi’s government’s response to these statistics? They increased the driving speed on certain roads by 20 kph. (hide spoiler)]P.S. One thing I have not covered in my bullet points is any sort of discussion about the very real criminal problems in Italy – affecting the judiciary, politics and ordinary people. If you want to know more this has been covered very well in a review here by Kathleen Jones. P.P.S. This book was written I think in about 2001. Tobias Jones has posted an update with the ebook version of his book. For those seeking a quick update on affairs in Italy, the BBC Timeline for the country gives a brief but helpful synopsis.

  • Lorenzo Berardi
    2019-05-05 14:58

    What's the problem with the Italian football? Why decent and smart British authors like, say, Nick Hornby, Tim Parks and John Foot were (are?) so fascinated by that unimportant part of our culture? Where is the romanticism in contemporary Italian football, I wonder?Where is the fair-play, the chivalry, the grit?For Tobias Jones has been deceived too.Let's put ourselves in his football shoes for a few lines.I am a British journalist.I moved to Italy, because my girlfriend is Italian.I live in Parma.I have Italian friends and a praiseworthy knowledge of the Italian language including its less common subtleties.I write about Italy as a freelance.I am published on The Guardian.My range of topics includes social issues, religion, culture, politics and, yes, football.I support Parma Fc.Well done. Let's get out of Tobias' shoes now.Let's talk to him.Ok, Tobias, you are maybe the only English speaking author I read so far and writing about Italy who didn't make a single grammar or spelling mistake while using Italian terms. You have to be praised for this. I have to reckon it.But listen, you are a journalist. You write about politics. There is a photo of Berlusconi at a rally winkling beyond the glass of an olive oil bottle in the front cover of your book.Therefore you are supposed to know many things about the Italian power map. Isn't it?Well, here we are. How the Hell, Tobias, can you have the nerve to pretend that Parma Fc was the "Cinderella" (quoting you) of the seven Italian top teams? How can you dare to tell us that their victories were unexpected, creating the myth of a provincial team beating richful and powerful squads?Parma Fc, dear Tobias, was far from being an outsider, the Italian equivalent of a pennyless 2nd Division Team winning the FA Cup. Do you know who owned the team? Calisto Tanzi, the infamous president of Parmalat. It was the same Tanzi who bought minor players such as Thuram, Buffon, Cannavaro, Crespo or Veron in those years spending hundreds of millions of euros. And where this loose change was coming from? Parmalat. Yeah the same worldwide company responsible of the biggest financial fraud we have ever had in Europe. The brand "Parmalat" was printed on the yellow and blue jerseys of Parma Fc, that "Cinderella" team of outsiders you were naively supporting.Tobias, Tobias, Tobias...If you write about "The Dark Heart of Italy" and omit to tell us some things just because you want to please the British audience of your book, with the picturesque fairytale of the little provincial team winning over Juventus (that's actually how the book ends!), this is not very professional. Moreover, the whole book is a bit discontinuos. My impression is that you just touch the surface of things without going any further. The book has its moments and it's impressive how much you got of the Italian way of thinking, but on its whole "The Dark Heart of Italy" is the journalistic equivalent of chick-lit novels. A bestseller with no grip.

  • Rob
    2019-05-08 13:59

    At first, while I enjoyed this book, I found it rather annoying. Yes Italy and Italians are different... from Anglo Saxons . Pop someone from one culture into another and they think it is weird. Ho hum. Bleeding obvious.It is when Tobias Jones tries to get to the nitty gritty of why, for instance, Italian politics spawns a Berlusconi, terrorism and is infamously fractious but has ultimately stultifying politics that I become interested. His main thesis is that Italy has an unfinished civil war that started in 1943 with the arrest of Mussolini. Now that is an idea that you can run with. Italy is different because of its history. It is the sum of its past.And in his favour he does love various aspects of Italian culture. He loves the food, craftsmanship, the communal solidarity. And the football. Yes the Italians play the beautiful game beautifully... but cynically. If you want to understand modern Italy, in all her shame and glory, this is as good as any place to start. I would suggest getting the third or later editions because of the post scripts that are really realisations of further complexity. He realises that the nepotism and corruption that infects Italian society is also a form of solidarity. Most Italians went to the same school in the same neighbourhood or village. It is harder to puritanically denounce your school mate that you see every day than you think. You tend to forgive.I was reading a Facebook post from my Dad's home town of Trieste. It was in Italian and my Italian comprehension is shamefully bad but I started to depressingly realise that it was about a homeless Italian woman living in a car because all the emergency accommodation was taken up by Africans and Arabs.Here we go I thought, let the racist meme have its call on the racist scum. This was its obvious trope. I also prepared myself for the left denunciation of the racist lies etc. To my surprise the posts were nearly all like "I have a room in my apartment that she can have until she gets on her feet" . "My mother is on holidays for two months. I just need to contact her first but I know she won't mind" etc. Italy and Italians are very far from perfect but on an individual level the first response is generosity and that can only be a good place to start from.

  • Al Bità
    2019-05-04 22:22

    Being one of the first generation Italian (or more precisely, Sicilian!) Australians, Italy has always intrigued me as the place of origin of both my parents who came over between the wars. I grew up more with a Sicilian bias, but soon discovered that Italy with its stunningly beautiful landscapes, its language, cuisine, culture, art, architecture and music have a formidable reputation is the culture of the West. There is much to be proud about.But for the modern Italian, there is also the often murky understanding of what the country is politically, and the often confounding and perplexing nature of living life within this scenario.As a nation, Italy has a comparatively young identity stemming from its unification in the 19th-century, but that unification is perhaps illusory — there remains the divide between North and South, and since the two world wars, a further divide between Fascists and Communists. In the meantime there is the prevailing presence of of the ages old Roman Catholic Church and the peculiarly ritualistic and sometimes superstitious versions of Christianity that is Italian to the core, regardless of any other influence; plus the pervasive presence of the various Mafia organisations. In Italy, and perhaps in Italy alone, all these forces have somehow coalesced into a kind of quagmire of competing and conflicting demands, aided and abetted by an astonishingly complex and stifling bureaucracy. All of these forces have tentacles within each of the others, all feeding off the same political energies, all achieving little if anything, but keeping itself somehow alive despite (or because because of) this. Even changing government has usually led merely to further stalemates: it is as if it is all a game of musical chairs where none of the chairs are ever removed — and all you are left with is yet another combination of ineffectual stasis. How people survive within such impasses is perhaps the particular genius of the Italian people, but whether this is yet sustainable in the future is problematic.In 1999 Tobias Jones visited Italy for a four-year stay, and while his love affair with the country and its people remains bright and shiny, his examination of this 'other' side ends up being his main concern, and particularly so in relation to the rise and rise of the mind-boggling Silvio Berlusconi as the dominant force in Italian politics. His book highlights significant events, including terrorist attacks, particularly from an historical perspective, and then traces their provenance to the present. The result is not pretty, but the information provided is immensely fascinating, and is presented in an easy to read fashion. Jones effortlessly explains extremely complex machinations, convoluted rationalisation, enigmatic occurrences, etc. which strangely are illuminating, but ultimately remain implacably complex, convoluted and enigmatic; and thus indirectly establishes the fine mess Italy is in, including its inability to resolve its own issues. It is the fact that someone like Berlusconi seems to be able to manipulate all of this confusion for his own and his Party's benefit is perhaps the more truly frightening bit. And yet, perhaps because of the way Italians in their private lives deal with all this, there is still their resilience, and their refusal to let mere politics intervene significantly in the more important aspects of living, that provides hope that this Italian spirit will not die or even fade away.

  • Louise
    2019-05-03 16:06

    Chapters on sports, religion, politics, politics again and a half chapter on funeral customs dig beneath Italy's engaging culture. While the book shows the Italy the tourist doesn't see, the title does not fully represent the book. Tobias Jones also shows how much he loves and appreciates the beautiful country and the Italian people.The first chapter sets the mood. Through Italian etymology Jones, demonstrates the mood and values of the country. Throughout the book, Jones uses (and translates) colorful Italian idioms. He ties it up in the end describing some words for which there is no English equivalent.The "dark heart" of Italy is its governance. Jones shows the frustration of the ordinary citizen in dealing with a deeply rooted bureaucracy. One of many examples is the author's own job search (which was fruitless until a friend made a call) and his pay (which had many deductions and took 13 months to receive). This compares to those with connections who can blithely use or ignore the system. There are examples of complex financial crimes and "abusivisma" (illegal construction). The privileged can make appeals that can extend to a statute of limitations, a seek a legislative or bureaucratic legal decriminalization or just get their crimes ignored. There is a colorful chapter showing how corruption extends to sports through policies that would never be tolerated in the US.The author ties these problems of a weak government to the country's extreme polarization. Italy has a strong right-wing (with a revival of the Fascist Party) and left wing (with the largest Communist Party in Europe). Here, Jones gives background with a mind numbing number of people, political parties and events. There is a chapter devoted to Berlusconi. The book, now 13 years old is prescient about Berlusconi's administrative "accomplishments" and staying power. For a more in depth look at the Berlusconi era The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi.While it holds together as a book, it seems to be series of stand alone essays. There is no note of this, but concepts like "Clean Hands" are defined as though they had not been previously discussed. In Chapter 7, Jones refers to his girlfriend and 8 a flat mate; whereas, in many previous chapters he writes of his wife. Many chapters have large sections in italic print; since these sections are not attributed, I am guessing this could be material inserted from different previously published pieces by Jones.The book is not comprehensive and probably wasn't meant to be. The mafia in its various forms (i.e. Cammora, `Ndangheta) is not singled out, but is mentioned in the political and financial sections. The low birth rate, which is curious for this family oriented Catholic country is not discussed. Neither is the influx of immigrants.While book is over 13 years old, it is still informative. The author's keen observations span decades and are presented in an entertaining, and at time humorous style.

  • Wayne
    2019-05-03 18:57

    Easy-reading overview of contemporary Italian politics with a bit of culture thrown in. It's more journalistic than literary, and parses politics more than a casual reader might hope for, but Jones leaves some wonderful passages scattered throughout to keep one going. And the book's now newly relevant with the recent (re)election of Berlusconi -- if your first and final response to news accounts of Italian politics is "what the hell?", this offers as good a place as any to start pulling apart the threads.

  • Kathleen Jones
    2019-05-02 13:55

    Stendhal wrote that the feeling one gets from living in Italy is 'akin to that of being in love'. I know what he means, and so does Tobias Jones (no relation!). I read this book to try to understand otherwise incomprehensible Italian politics - the Berlusconi phenomenon in particular - and I wasn't disappointed. After a couple of weeks of reading and re-reading, I can't get my hair to lie down. The book didn't tell me anything I didn't suspect (after 12 years of coming and going) but it still shocked me by the extent of the revelations.Tobias moved to Italy because he had an Italian girlfriend, fell in love with the place and didn't want to leave. His work as a journalist, exposing the dark side of Italian political affairs, took him into areas of Italian life few dare to venture. He researched the terrorist attacks of the 'Anni di Piombi' (the years of lead, 1970s and 80s) - bombs, shootings, mass terror, the deaths of magistrates, judges and politicians, the 'suicides' of suspects and even the abduction and assassination of an Italian prime minister (Aldo Moro in 1978). The repercussions of these events and the failure of the Italian systems of politics and justice to deal with them, still shape Italian politics today. Watch the film 'Il Divo' - Sorrentino's beautifully researched, corruscating account of what happened.Tobias Jones's story of the 1990s fiasco of the 'Clean Hands' campaign that led to the election of Silvio Berlusconi makes interesting reading. The UK expenses scandal, the fact that our prime minister was friends with a Murdoch employee, cash for peerages, widespread phone hacking, all seem like nursery school squabbles in comparison to the daily dealings of the Italian state. And when he gets to the world of football and finance (yes they're all connected here), you finally realise what your Italian friends are up against and why most of them are so cynical about all aspects of public life.Some of you may remember an Italian banker, linked to the Vatican, who was found hanged under a London bridge. Roberto Calvi was head of the Ambrosio bank in Milan and in partnership with a man called Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Vatican Bank, in a scheme to launder huge amounts of money into off-shore accounts, assisted by a Sicilian tax expert called Sindona. All, except Marcinkus, died mysteriously once investigations got under way. Calvi died in London in a faked suicide. Calvi's secretary died - apparently another suicide. Sindora was arrested, but given a poisoned coffee in prison as he awaited questioning. The two men assigned to investigate the fraud were both murdered and Pope John Paul was shot in an attempted assassination. Although the US federal dept had large amounts of evidence connecting him with international fraud, Marcinkus was never charged with anything.Tobias Jones sums up what was a tortuous investigation where the name of a man called Gelli kept recurring and the trail led to a Masonic lodge of which Gelli was head - 'P2' - whose membership included 52 senior caribiniere, 50 army officers, 37 high ranking tax police, 38 MPs (including Berlusconi), 14 judges, 10 bank presidents and senior media professionals. An extreme right-wing document, the 'Plan for the Re-Birth of Democracy' was found in Gelli's secretary's briefcase at the airport. A Parliamentary enquiry wrote that P2 had 'ongoing links with subversive groups and organisations instigating and countenancing their criminal purposes' - including terrorism. If Dan Brown had written this as a novel, we wouldn't believe it.'Behind the surface of Italian democracy,' Tobias Jones writes,'lies a secret history, made up of hidden associations, contacts and even conspiracies, some farcical, others more serious'. There is a 'white mafia of financial scams, money-laundering and international investment rackets'. No wonder Italy is in the financial shit.But even with all this knowledge, Tobias Jones is still in love with Italy - with its people, food, wine, landscape and way of life. Now that I'm living here I know exactly how he feels. I love it too. There is a dark side, but there is also another - the warm friendship and family life, the aesthetics of food and architecture, that keeps Italians sane and enables them to live with their murky political backdrop. Originally published by Faber and Faber Tobias Jones has recently up-dated this book with a new chapter on recent events and released it as an e-book. One person (apparently Italian) on has written two(!) one star reviews which seem to be motivated by the kind of Italian politics TJ is describing. The original publication had consistently four and five star reviews - 52 of them - and it earned every one. I particularly loved the chapter that asked why the nation that once created the greatest art in the world now has the worst television!

  • Karlan
    2019-05-21 14:14

    In a readable style, Jones discusses Italy and Italians. He even manages to make the political situation clearer. Anyone would enjoy this book who is the least bit interested in Italy.

  • Brendan Monroe
    2019-04-28 15:17

    I had been wanting to read this since arriving in Italy and one year later I finally got around to it. Tobias Jones provides a fascinating account of life in il Bel Pease without bothering to conceal the nastier bits... rather, he focuses on them. The good: Certain things I knew but wasn't sure why (i.e. Berlusconi = bad) and this book provided me with the "why". Jones also writes in a very readable style and on several topics- football, politics, television- so that the subject matter covers a wide scope of things. The bad: having lived here for a year, the majority of what Jones writes about are things I'd more or less already realized myself (case in point: Italian television sucks!). Having said that, this is still a good overview of Italy and why all the oft made allusions to it as a "brothel" are, actually, quite appropriate.

  • Eilis
    2019-05-14 16:59

    Really enjoyed this book. I'm a tad obsessed with all things relating to Italy and so this was really the book for me. I liked it because it gave a different perspective on Italy - one that you don't normally read about - more of a glimpse into the truth of Italy. However, it loses a star because while reading it I couldn't help but think it was a tad outdated. I kept thinking - what impact has X had on Italy and whether the portrayal of Italy in the book is really an accurate portrayal of Italy as it is in the year 2014. A bit dated, but overall an excellent read. Some parts really were stranger than fiction and aspects of it do make for lively dinner table discussion if you're looking for that!

  • Michael
    2019-04-28 20:21

    Recently returned from a holiday to Italy and picked up this book at the airport. It's pretty good, quite dry and certainly not a fun holiday read but it does have some pretty incredulous information about Italy - the corruption in football, the justice system, the monopoly of state TV (and almost everything) by Berlusconi. I'd certainly recommend it for anyone interested in Italy. Still, beautiful country and amazing pizza's and ice cream!

  • Jim Rimmer
    2019-04-28 20:04

    I enjoyed many elements of this book though it is now a little dated considering Silvio's mischief over more recent years. From an antipodean perspective I must say that I think it conveys as much about the English condition as it does about the Italian.Also, clear evidence of negative an impact editors and designers can have on a book. The clunky chapter transitions were very Yr 9 and hulking swathes of italics for no known reason.

  • Nigel
    2019-05-09 20:17

    After living in Italy a number of years, British journalist Tobias Jones delivers a telling and devastating insight into the complex social, cultural and political mores of modern Italy a country shaped by its divisive history. Although incisively critical there is still a deep underlying affection for the country and its people.

  • Santo
    2019-04-24 15:03

    Got this book during a weekend stay in Rome. I enjoyed immensely the chapters on football and religion in Italy. Those paticular issues always remind me of this country.On the parts on politics, I could't help but draw comparisons to Indonesia's political scene, including the similarities between Berlusconi and Bakrie.

  • Katy
    2019-05-12 18:16

    Very well written and informative. I would love to have a new edition with an updated afterword to include events such as Benedict's installation and Silvio's fall and re-election. Totally recommended.

  • Peterh
    2019-05-02 17:20

    3.5 stars. Great information, could have been better organized in places. This book has helped me get more out of my time in Italy.

  • Janet
    2019-05-14 14:54

    An enjoyable memoir of a British man's life in Italy.This is in many ways the opposite of the Frances Mayes' books,Tobias Jones writes about Italian politics, economics, urban crime.

  • Desiree
    2019-05-14 20:55

    Not an easy read, this one, but an enlightening book about the other side of Italy, the dark heart of the peninsula. Quite the opposite of books extolling the Italian fairy tale of living the good life like "under the tuscan sun" (Frances Mayes) or "a thousand days in Tuscany" (Marlena de Blasi).This is a book about football, scandals, the "anni di piombo", la strage di Bologna, Piazza Fontana, Ustica, the rise of Berlusconi's Forza Italia and how Italians kept voting for him even though he was a clown with a sexist attitude who made promises they could know he couldn't keep. It's also about art, culture and what makes Italy so unique, which isn't always the sunny face.Although he unveils the dark side as well it's clear that he also loves and admires his adapted country.Took me a long time to read the book because, though well written and I was already familiar with most of the subjects, it still isn't an easy read. But a good one.

  • Andriy Voloshyn
    2019-05-16 14:15

    Цікаво читати, тому що в книзі багато про Італійську політику, але автор заангажований політично (не любить правих, Берлусконі) - тому більше ніж "3" зірки поставити не можу. Деякі аспекти італійського життя цікаво підмічені, але думаю, що є й кращі книги про Італію, просто не українською мовою.

  • Leila P
    2019-05-09 22:14

    I am not particularly interested in Italy per se, but the book was strangely fascinating. I was amazed how weird Italy is. It's practically a lawless country.

  • Kelsey Marshall
    2019-05-12 22:17

    I could not get into this book. I tried several times to read this book, but it did not catch my interest.

  • Miguel
    2019-05-13 20:03

    Interesting stories but too long.

  • Magdalena Rahn
    2019-04-28 21:19

    I was surprised that a non-fiction book on political topics (sociopolitical) could interest me. This book did. It makes me curious to know how Italy has changed since 2003.

  • Zioluc
    2019-05-05 16:05

    Il giornalista inglese Tobias Jones si trasferisce a Parma a fine anni '90 e nel 2002 pubblica questo reportage: Mani Pulite, il berlusconismo - che all'epoca era al suo apice - e soprattutto l'Italia, gli italiani e i loro incredibili difetti e inclinazioni.Il libro non è particolarmente brillante ma trova comunque alcuni buoni spunti e ha molti pregi per un lettore italiano: è uno sguardo esterno sulla penisola incredulo, divertito e inorridito che pur non dicendo nulla di nuovo offre una illuminante immagine della palude in cui viviamo, fatta di clientelismo, individualismo, mentalità mafiosa, dietrologia e paranoia, antistatalismo, polarizzazione di "fascismo" contro "comunismo", aiutando a capirci meglio.Inoltre Jones fa un veloce riassunto di molte vicende nazionali tra il 1945 e il 2000 che rinfresca la memoria su fascismo, anni di piombo, stragi di opposta provenienza, P2 eccetera.Ho trovato poco utile l'approfondimento sul calcio, che forse per un mio limite mi infastidisce sempre vedere trattato come elemento di grande cultura, ma il problema principale con questo libro è un altro: leggerlo è umiliante. Ci sono alcune inesattezze ma il giudizio impietoso (nonostante l'amore che continuamente Jones professa per questo paese) è incontestabile. In particolare leggere nero su bianco le gesta di Berlusconi e dei suoi ha un sapore surreale, come se non fosse accaduto davvero. E forse in futuro anche questo periodo sarà dimenticato, come altre pagine nere del nostro passato.Un aspetto invece decisamente divertente, e che avrei voluto avesse ancora più spazio, è quello linguistico: l'autore usa molte parole italiane, spesso cerca di tradurle in inglese (es. "behindology"), e infine trova una convincente interpretazione dell'inclinazione italiana per il "bello", notando la mancanza di un corrispondente in Gran Bretagna.

  • Denise
    2019-05-10 19:59

    I didn't enjoy the book, but I sort of enjoy that it just exists, because it’s the latest generation of a tiny but noble and ancient genre of books - which goes something like “British Man Goes to Foreign Land and Has a Bad Time because of Culture Shock, Then Has a Good Time Unsubtly Thinking he Passes a Native, Then Has a Bad Time Again from Deeper and More Lasting Culture Shock, Then Probably Goes Home and Writes This Book.” Also known as “British travelogues,” or really, just “travelogues.” British travelers have been writing these books since they first had the idea to travel as far as I can tell, and they’re marvelous historic records, but as this one is not yet firmly in the past, man oh man do you spend the book just wanting to smack the fountain pen and glass of barolo out of Jones’s stupid hands, as he does irritating things like italicizing all the Italian words in the book (even the Italian words everyone totally knows), which he drops on you like relentless little bombs of token culture just so you’ll be sure to notice that he speaks Italian so very well. In Italy they eat pizza. Also his writing is ponderous.But, okay yes, his book totally hits the main value of travelogues - foreigners notice things about cultures that are so important and ingrained to the culture that actual members of the culture don’t even think about them, and then some of them write it down. So thank you, Jones, for making this interesting historic record of how 20th century Italians related to their history in life, politics, the media, and beyond, which all seems pretty messy. Thankfully he moved home right after it was published and presumably there someone made him stop acting like “Lawrence of Italia.”

  • Rosario (
    2019-04-22 22:19

    The Dark Heart of Italy is about the country Jones discovered when he moved there in the late 90s. He looks beyond the glamorous, beautiful façade the tourist will see. What Jones is interested in is what life is really like in Italy for those who live there. He covers a wide range of topics, and this is basically a collection of essays, each very different in both tone and content. Jones has added a final paragraph to each of them that that links it to the next one, but that often feels a bit shoehorned in.I enjoyed most of this. It didn't start great: a couple of chapters at the beginning were about the anni di piombo, or "years of lead", the period when the struggle between the fascists and the left got really heated, to the point of terrorist attacks and atempted coups. Those should have been really interesting, but the way they were written, with much too much detail on the legal proceedings, made them stultifying. Other chapters were much better. Those tended to be the ones where he looked into the way Italians are and tries to understand it. Particular favourites were the chapters on Italian football, television and Catholicism. Those felt pretty insightful.The title suggests something the book is not... well, not really. He does look at the dark and ugly, but he clearly loves the country and its people, and that shines through. The tone is often not of aggressive criticism, more of bemused fondness.MY GRADE: A B.

  • Liam89
    2019-05-23 16:14

    Magnificent. This is wonderful book about one of the most fascinating and enigmatic countries and societies in the world: Italy. Tobias Jones spent four years living and teaching in Italy. He travelled expecting to find the Italy he had read about and seen in films. What he found was a society scarred by terrifying violence, terrorism, suspicion and paranoia. And yet he totally fell in love with it. Why? Italy is a country dominated by many things: football, fashion, fascism, communism, corruption, food, Catholicism and death. It is also a country of contradictions; how can the most aesthetically pleasing and visually obsessed country imaginable produce some of the worst TV in the world? Why has Italy never fully resolved the Fascist-Communist divide? How can Silvio Berlusconi, a man who owns everything from Padre Nostro to Cosa Nostra, own 6 out of 7 channels, be under investigation for fraud, money-laundering, ties to the mafia and even complicity in murder, and be prime minister? How can a country as avowedly Catholic as Italy retain so many pagan traditions and cults? When laws look to have been broken, the law will be changed to accommodate you. The country that emerges is nothing like you have heard of, and it is for that reason and so many others that everyone should read this excellent book.

  • Norbert P
    2019-05-17 18:21

    On television, in the cinema and in many books Italy has for years been either the setting for a romance or for a mystery as far as directors and writers other than Italians were concerned. Tobias Jones, as indicated in the title, set off to explore the non-picturesque side of Italy before the background that the reader already knows about the bright side of it. It's very likely that he has heard, when living in Europe, also about the majority of political and judicial scandals and prefers not to watch Italy's abysmal TV-pragrammes except for the weather forecast in order to plan the next day when on a holiday in Italy. But Jones gives also a historical account on how Italians became what they are and he explains how they look at the way their country works, often perceived as chaotic by foreigners. Jones's insights are often very detailed and there are many names involved in his line of argumentation so that it is sometimes difficult to follow it. But for all Italy-lovers it is the right book to read because they feel themselves confirmed in what they already had experienced and as the author states in his last chapter, the advantages of this beautiful country outweigh its disadvantages by far and so the love has never been in danger.

  • Solor
    2019-05-11 16:02

    Naturally, I am very fascinated with what foreign authors have to say on Italy and the Italians. I found their unbiased views quite objective and deliciously constructed. But I feel that Mr. Jones here goes down too harsh by showing an exaggerate, almost hysterical contempt towards (indeed) scandalous events and puerile behaviour. This projects a very dark, twisted imagine of the country; almost a bewildering reality of modern Europe.Perfection doesn't reside in our world - In spite of posing as defender of Democracy, Transparency and Freedom, country like GB and USA have sustained murky underground busy activities that have caused and still cause shameful and tragic consequences for people, ecology and cultures. For example, in Italy during the Alleys offensive against the Nazi, American and English top brass would use Mafia and Camorra associated to infiltrate and control the country. Treacherous Boss of two worlds Vito Genovese was one.Admittedly in the second edition, the author seems to acknowledge the bluntness of his essay and adds few due apologies and a certain English mildness that was surprisingly missed.

  • Luca
    2019-05-16 14:21

    Sometimes funny, sometimes a bit superficial, always written with a clear and easy-to-read style, I believe this book does not keep the expectations with its title: it is a book about the author's few years in Parma, in which he seems to have lived in a quiet and peaceful bubble, where walks in the hills and outdoor trips in wine cellars are everyday events. Instead of trying to dig, Jones prefers to give a partial, blurred image of Italy as he sees it from his eyes. While some of Italy's "misteries" of past decades are described, he seldom tries to give an interpretation or an explanation, leaving the reader (especially the one that already knows the fact) more puzzled than before. Lastly, I found the chapter on soccer superficial (Parma soccer team's highs and lows are connected to its owner's fate, and this should be explained better in my opinion). I believe foreigners might find this book interesting, but if one's interested in a deeper introduction to Italian history, I recommend Paul Ginsborg's two volumes instead. If instead you want a flavor of how italians are, do like the author: visit the country :)