In 1844, Charles Dickens took a break from novel writing to travel through Italy for almost a year and “Pictures from Italy” is an illuminating account of his experiences there.
He presents the country like a magic-lantern show, as vivid images ceaselessly appear before his – and his readers’ – eyes.
Italy’s most famous sights are all to be found here – St Peter’s in Rome, Naples, with Vesuvius smouldering in the background, the fairytale buildings and canals of Venice – but Dickens’s chronicle is not simply that of a tourist.
Avoiding preconceptions and stereotypes, he portrays a nation of great contrasts: between grandiose buildings and squalid poverty, and between past and present, as he observes everyday life beside ancient monuments.
Combining thrilling travelogue with piercing social commentary, “Pictures from Italy” is a revealing depiction of an exciting and disquieting journey.