Beyond the Alps: A Summer in the Italian Hill Towns by Robert M. Coates lands on the shelves of my shop.
London: Victor Gollancz, 1962, Hardback in dust wrapper.
Illustrated by way of: Black & White Photographs; Maps;
From the cover: Robert M. Coates, the New Yorker art critic, is the kind of traveller who travels purely for pleasure. He is not rushing from gallery to gallery, from Rome to Florence, to see famous masterpieces, for fear of missing something. One mid-May morning he and his friends were among the first that season to cross over the Little St. Bernard pass into Italy by car, with the objective of visiting at leisure the small Italian towns between the Swiss frontier and Rome. Aosta in the Alps, Arezzo, Lucca, Assisi, Orvieto are some of their stopping places: and what a tour of delight it was for them!
Mr. Coates is the sort of writer-traveller who lives where he travels: he gets the same proportional delight out of a good al fresco meal in the sunshine as he does from Signorellis relatively little admired masterpieces at Cortona or the Resur-rection by Piero della Francesca at Sansepolcro. He is as interested in the prevalence of Levi jeans among the youth of some small town as in its historical associations. For him the sun always seems to be shining and, if by exception it does not, why there are restaurants and cafes to sit in and people to talk to! He loves, as much as any traveller, the odd piece of folklore and the anecdote picked up in the course of chance conversations.
This is a book that has a special appeal today, when so many tourists turn to Italy that the big and obvious goals are now peppered with visitors. With Mr. Coates book the reader is directed to places far less frequented but no less rewarding. How relatively few, for instance, have gloried in the soaring cathedral at Orvieto and the magnificent church of San Michele at Lucca, city of churches! Far fewer have seen the fantastic Park of Monsters at tiny Bomarzo, only forty miles from Rome a cascade of grotesque, half-ruined statues designed for the Orsini family in the 16th century. And even Bomarzo is better known than the numerous small villages Mr. Coates took such delight in.
Beyond the Alps is like stimulating conversation with a practised raconteur: stimulating in the strict sense, because the reader is likely to finish with an irresistible urge to explore these treasures some of them hidden treasures for himself.
Very Good in Good Dust Wrapper. Unlaminated dust wrapper a little edgeworn and faded with fraying to the spine ends. Price Clipped. Edges of the text block lightly spotted. Previous owners’ inscription to the first blank. Text complete, clean and tight but a little age-tanned.
Blue boards with Gilt titling to the Spine. 159 pages. 8¾” x 5½”.
Of course, if you don’t like this one there are plenty more available here!