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Book details
  • Genre:TRAVEL
  • SubGenre:Essays & Travelogues
  • Language:English
  • Pages:306
  • Paperback ISBN:9781483562865

Vademecum Italica

Travels in Italy

by James A. Clapp

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This vademecum had its origin as a few pages of notes and couple of articles the author would photocopy for friends and relatives who were making a trip to Italy—as something to “take along” to read on the plane heading to Rome’s Fumicino airport, or while waiting for a vaporetto in Venice, on the train down to Pompeii, or while relaxing over a cappuccino at a café in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria. Gradually, the pages grew in number as the author’s own encounters with his “favorite country” expanded as a traveler, tour guide and lecturer resulting in historical articles, film studies, scripts, essays and travelogues. Hthis compilation that is neither guidebook, nor memoir, but the observations and impressions of a knowledgeable and familiar traveling companion, to accompany one on an Italian sojourn, or to revive its memories in a comfortable chair at home.
Having traveled to some seventy countries over thirty years I am sometimes asked “what is your favorite country?” It could be qualified: for food? for art? for weather? for natural beauty? The answers might be different. But when the question is put comprehensively, I hesitate—because I know that answer rather easily, and it would seem I am showing ethnic favoritism because I am an Italian-American. Italy! Italy is my favorite country because it might mot always have the very best, but has the following characteristics: a great history (if not always a noble one); great art (although not the best cared for or protected); a great cuisine (hey, I grew up eating the stuff); great language (great for opera and animated conversation, although Portuguese sounds better for modern music); great weather (nothing beats semi-arid Mediterranean weather); and, particular to my passions, Italy has fascinating cities. Oh, and beautiful women (a genetic benefit of those Roman legions bringing home beautiful slaves from their conquests.) Other countries compete with Italy on these individual criteria. One will always get an argument on food and women—and men as well (although I did not say that Italy has the best looking men). But Italy permutes and demonstrates these criteria best of all places I have visited. Where else can one sit in a piazza in clement, sunny weather, sipping a cappuccino (in the country that invented it), watching gesticulated conversation among the locals, or feasting on great public art ranging from Roman imperial times to the Renaissance, and leisurely reading something from Ruskin, Mary McCarthy, or John Addington Symonds’ Biography of Benevenuto Cellini. For me, no better version of heaven could be portrayed inside the dome of any of the fascinating, art-festooned churches likely to be nearby. I have probably visited Italy more than a dozen times over the years, and have been from top to bottom, including Sicily, and side to (narrow) side, enough to know its richness is also in its variety of food, dialects, customs, and physical appearance. My own people come from near Napoli (my father’s family), and from Abruzzi in the mid-central, but whatever distinctions there were became ethnically-smushed into an Italian-American idiom. Going back to Italy became a passion for me when I was studying Caesar’s Gallic Wars in my Latin classes in high school. I would have to wait until my thirties, but the day I exited the Stazione Ferrovia in Venice and first set foot in Italy I experienced what later came to be called Stendhal’s syndrome—a lightheadedness combined with the closest one can get to time travel. Of course, like most travelers and tourists, I took photos. But I also began taking notes and writing paragraphs of observations in journals and notebooks, afraid that some detail might be forgotten, trying to compress the emotional surge that comes with discovery, and confirmation—confirmation that this place that I had seen in films and conjured in my mind from novels and histories, actually exists! There is no substitute for being there. You can fool yourself by saving money (maybe) and going to Caesar’s Palace, The Venetian and Bellagio in Las Vegas, but that ersatz experience would be enhanced by bringing a blow-up sex doll as a companion. So he following is a collection of writings that range from public radio essays to treatments for film documentaries, and some travel writing and academic work in between. Being an urbanist the focus is mostly on cities, but also on myself and my family, as well as the participants in several of the travel-study programs that I escorted. Alas, they are the observations of a traveler, not someone who has had the experience of being a resident in Italy. I’m still dreaming about that.
About the author
James A. Clapp is Emeritus Professor of Planning and Urban Affairs at San Diego State University, where he formerly directed the Master of City Planning Program and was Chairman of the School of Public Administration and Urban Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Metropolitan Studies from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1968 and practiced for several years as a public urban planner and planning consultant. He is author of fourteen books, over 100 articles, book chapters, reviews, and technical reports on cities and city planning, and his book, New Towns and Urban Policy (Dunellen, 1971) was the main selection of the Library of Urban Affairs Book Club in 1971. His book, The City: A Dictionary of Quotable Thoughts On Cities And Urban Life (Rutgers, 1984) was in print for over a decade. His first full-length work of fiction, For Goodness Sake, A novel of the Afterlife of Suzie Wong, written as Sebastian Gerard, has just been published in limited edition in Hong Kong. His most recent novel is Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones (2015), also as Sebastian Gerard. Dr. Clapp has also taught on the faculty of the University of California, and was appointed by the French Ministry of Education as a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris in 1989, where he also lectured on both film and American urbanism in November 1999. He also taught for the Syracuse University Division of International Programs in Hong Kong in 1997 and was a guest lecturer at TongJi University, Shanghai. He has also delivered lectures at Peking and Tsinghua Universities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. In the year 2000 he served as the Fulbright Scholar at Lingnan University and the School of Creative Media at City University, in Hong Kong. Since 1977 has conducted annual summer travel-study courses in European, Asian, North African, and Middle Eastern cities. As Producer/Writer/Commentator for San Diego Public RadioKPBS-FM from 1987 to 1992, he wrote and/or produced over 100 essays, interviews and documentaries, and wrote and hosted its public affairs program, Metropolitan Journal. He has been co-producer and scriptwriter for the Production Center of the Department of\ Telecommunications and Film for television documentaries in San Diego and Egypt and Israel. In 1990 one of his programs for KPBS-FM received a "Best Investigative Reporting" award from the San Diego Press Club. He is also a freelance magazine and newspaper writer on travel and urban affairs topics, and was the 1991 recipient of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association Journalism Award for his series of articles for the San Diego Union. In 2003 he launched his website, Dragon City Journal, on which he has published nearly 700 essays on urbanism, media, travel and other subjects.