A captivating journey along the iconic River Po, and through Italian history, society and culture.
The River Po is the longest river in Italy, travelling for 650 kilometres from its source in the Alps across the entire width of the peninsula until it reaches the Adriatic Sea in the east. Flowing through 13 provinces and 180 local councils, it is a part of the national psyche, as iconic to Italy as the Thames is to England or the Mississippi to the USA.
This mighty river creates a formidable and foreboding barrier and its banks have witnessed not only Italian history – the battle of Ticinus between Hannibal and Scipio, the Battle of the Po in 1431, Operation Grapeshot in 1945 – but also the clash of natural and human history. At the Po's delta is an astonishing nature reserve; a wetland swamp of 380 square kilometres and 450 different lakes.
In The Po, Tobias Jones travels the length of the river gathering its stories: its battles, crimes, characters, cuisines, histories, industries and inventions. He visits towns made famous for their sporting legacy, birthplaces of the greatest Italian writers and composers, and rediscovers Italy's unusual industries and agricultures: the marble mines of Paesana that provided the raw materials for the Renaissance; the paddy fields of risotto rice at Chivasso; and Valenza, the centre of the Italian jewellery industry.
Whether tasting the wines of the Po valley, sampling the steamy crucible of bagna cauda or hearing the legend of Aleramo, Tobias Jones gives us a feel for what it's like to live in Italy: an eclectic assault on the senses and on the emotions.
'Subtle, witty, inventive and intelligent ... Illuminating and entertaining' Observer.
'Tobias Jones is a sublime writer who has the ability to bring tears to the eyes' Daily Telegraph.
'It is Jones's humanity and gift for characterisation that make his book so captivating ... His account rings with universal truths' Financial Times.
'An affectionate, occasionally appalled observer, an inside-outsider. He is uminstakably not a tourist' Independent.
'Jones strikes just the right balance between history, anecdote and facts ... A brilliant, though bleak, book' New Statesman