Top positive review
A Gladiator on Two Wheels
Reviewed in the United States on April 9, 2018
Rather than rock stars and movie stars, the objects of my adoration are public broadcasting’s Rick Steves and Joseph Rosendo and others of their ilk, people who chronicle their worldwide travels for listeners and viewers. Such public information shows are godsends to people like me who, due to restrictions on their health, are unable to travel to far-off places. One of the charms of these short travel documentaries is that they make of their hosts ‘temporary locals,’ to borrow a phrase from Steves, by having them hobnob with local people and indulge in cultural activities distinct not only to the major destinations, but also to cozy villages and other hidden-away corners of the world. This philosophy of becoming a ‘temporary local’ is the chief appeal of author James Ernest Shaw’s delightful book entitled An Italian Journey. Adding to its appeal is that it is a book of non-fiction that reads like an intriguing novel.
I didn’t make it to Italy before I developed a chronic illness that up to this point in my life limits me to domestic travels. Immersing myself for a time in Tuscany was one of my fondest dreams…and now I have realized that dream, although vicariously, through James Ernest Shaw and his adventures journaled in his brilliant An Italian Journey. Like a gladiator on two wheels, for seven glorious weeks in Tuscany he bicycled sizzling as well as foggy mountainous hairpins and held his ground against speeding trucks and leisurely foot-peddlers. He climbed trees older than the modern world and picked olives, built stone walls, sat at table and ate pasta and drank wine, talked politics and religion and farming with real people of the area, and through the experience was transformed. And I think he found the key to why Italy and Italians are special among all the people of the world.
Shaw had inspired me to find my own way to Italy, somehow, and more importantly, to begin anew a journey I began and abandoned many decades ago, and that is to become a Roman Catholic. Thank you, James Ernest Shaw. –Author and artist Linda Lee Greene