Cover image for The dark heart of Italy
The dark heart of Italy
Jones, Tobias.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : North Point Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
xx, 314 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
"Parole, parole, parole" -- "The mother of all slaughters" -- Penalties and impunity -- "The Sofri case" -- The means of seduction -- Pietra and parola -- "Fewer taxes for everyone" -- Forzismo -- Penisola felice.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DG430.2 .J66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In 1999 Tobias Jones immigrated to Italy, expecting to discover the pastoral bliss described by centuries of foreign visitors. Instead, he found a very different country: one besieged by unfathomable terrorism and deep-seated paranoia. The Dark Heart of Italy is Jones's account of his four-year voyage across the Italian peninsula. Jones writes not just about Italy's art, climate, and cuisine but also about the much livelier and stranger sides of the Bel Paese: the language, soccer, Catholicism, cinema, television, and terrorism. Why, he wonders, does the parliament need a "slaughter commission"? Why do bombs still explode every time politics start getting serious? Why does everyone urge him to go home as soon as possible, saying that Italy is a "brothel"? Most of all, why does one man, Silvio Berlusconi-in the words of a famous song-appear to own everything from Padre Nostro (Our Father) to Cosa Nostra (the Mafia)? The Italy that emerges from Jones's travels is a country scarred by civil wars and "illustrious corpses"; a country that is proudly visual rather than verbal, based on aesthetics rather than ethics; a country where crime is hardly ever followed by punishment; a place of incredible illusionism, where it is impossible to distinguish fantasy from reality and fact from fiction.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

While Renaissance art and Roman ruins make up the typical Italian tourist itinerary, there exists beneath the surface a richer, more complicated Italy, marked by paranoia, an obsession with aesthetics, and yet an astonishing warmth and benevolence. In fact, it's these contrasts that make Italy all the more irresistible. Jones immigrated to Italy from England in the late 1990s and spent four years traveling the country. His book became a national best-seller in England in 2003 and is the top-selling foreign-language title in Italian retail history. In it, he recounts his efforts to learn the Italian language, probes the Vatican's ties to Italian politics, explores the nation's infatuation with soccer, and interviews jailed onetime leftist leader Adriano Sofri. Threading it all is Silvio Berlusconi, the most unconventional and controversial political leader on the world stage, who was elected prime minister in 2001 in a landslide and whose business interests stretch from banking to media to sports; in many ways, Jones argues, Berlusconi is Italy. Jones' wonderfully sharp eye for the idiosyncrasies of Italian society is apparent here, as is his love for the Italian people. --Andy Boynton Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

With his first book, Jones must now be admitted to the company of writers such as Alexander Stille and Tim Parks who seem to understand Italy and the Italians better than the natives do themselves. Jones excels at writing about the passions aroused on the soccer field and the dirty machinations in the club offices in an entertaining chapter entitled "Penalties and Impunity." He realizes, though, that soccer is just a manifestation of a deeper, lurking cancer: Italy's dismal mediacracy. It all began in the wake of "Tangentopoli," the massive corruption scandal in the early 1990s that brought down a regime that included the eternally powerful Christian Democrats and their partners in a Faustian pact, the Socialists. Into this political vacuum stepped the irrepressible owner of the country's most successful soccer club, A.C. Milan, Silvio Berlusconi. He built a media empire that now touches every aspect of daily life in Italy; his presence hovers over Italians much as Big Brother hovers over 1984 and his visage looms over a typical Italian town on the book's cover. But Berlusconi, writes Jones, although on the political scene for a decade, is a relatively recent chapter in the sordid history of Italy. Jones does a fine job of explicating (as much as it can be explicated) the murky history of neo-fascist, right-wing and Mafia intrigues against the Italian Republic after WWII. On a lighter note, he playfully dissects the Italians' obsession with beauty and eroticism. Jones, who had been on the staff of the London Review of Books, moved to Parma in 1999 and has developed a sincere and profound love of Italy and the Italians. Agent, Georgina Capel. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Tobias Jones left his native England to live in Italy in the 1990s. His The Dark Heart of Italy: An Incisive Portrait of Europe's Most Beautiful, Most Disconcerting Country (North Point: Farrar. 2004. ISBN 0-86547-700-0. $24) portrays an Italy that is far more complex than is usually depicted in guidebooks or travel essays. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.