The Italian Witch and D H Lawrence
It's Epifania here - Twelfth Night in the UK - the day everyone takes their Christmas decorations down and when, in Italy, La Befana - the witch - flies abroad with her broomstick and a bag of presents for good children. Bad children get charcoal in their stockings instead!
Mine arrived on my Kindle (La Befana may use archaic forms of transport but is definitely into new technology!) D H Lawrence's 'Etruscan Places', out of copyright in Australia and available from the Gutenberg project, is a book I read as a travel struck teenager and am now re-reading with the benefit of having visited the places he's writing about. I'd forgotten how good a travel writer Lawrence was and also how political his viewpoint. The Italy he travelled through was ruled by Mussolini and he seems to have regarded Roman rule as just another brand of Fascism. He describes the Etruscans as 'the people who occupied the middle of Italy in early Roman days and whom the Romans, in their usual neighbourly fashion, wiped out entirely in order to make room for Rome with a very big R - expansion with a very big E, which is the sole raison d'etre of people like the Romans'.
Lawrence was in love with the Etruscans and writes about them in the full romantic flush of his intoxication with their imagined lives. I don't believe the half of it, but I'm enjoying wandering about Etruria visiting tombs and museums and examining wall paintings and eating goats cheese in wayside taverns with taciturn, faun-like youths and listening to Lawrence's persuasive voice. Have made a note to read 'Twilight in Italy' and 'Sea and Sardinia' - neither of which I've read before.