Program 351: Italy On and Off the Rails; Romantic Amalfi Coast

Release Date: 01-11-2014

On Air Description

There's a lot you can understand about Italy, by observing how they operate their rail lines.  On the next Travel with Rick Steves, author and long-time Verona resident Tim Parks lets us in on the Italian way of doing things.  And guides from the scenic Amalfi Coast take listener calls and share highlights of their corner of Italy, from Positano to the isle of Capri.   

Get to know Italy like a member of the family, on the next Travel with Rick Steves. 


  • Tim Parks, author of "Italian Ways:  On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo"  (Norton)
  • Ann Long and Aldo Valerio, tour guides based in Italy

Related Links

  • Tim Parks wrote the best seller "Italian Neighbours" about his experience settling into Italy, and he's also authored a number of novels.  His website includes information about his latest book, "Italian Ways:  On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo."
  • Wikipedia lists Tim Parks' bibliography and works he has translated from Italian to English.   
  • The New York Times reviewed Tim Parks' latest book, "Italian Ways."
  • Tim also writes book reviews as a critic-at-large for the New Yorker magazine.
  • Aldo Valerio provides customized tours in Italy through
  • Ann Long can be contacted for tours in Italy through her page on Linked In. 
  • WikiTravel lists basic information about Positano and Praiano on the Amalfi Coast and the nearby island of Capri.


  • "Next summer, I will be taking my 18-year-old son to Italy.  He's taken Latin in school for years and wants to see Ancient Roman culture.  We'll be taking the train from Munich to Venice and points south.  Besides Rome and Pompeii, where else might we encounter Ancient Rome along the train routes?"   (Jean in Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Caller describes a delayed train trip to Rome from Sicily.  "We got as far as Napoli when we stopped for an extended time at the station, then started going in reverse!  After more than 10 hours we arrived in Roma to learn we were held up by the worst rain storm in a generation - the same one that caused mudslides in the Cinque Terre.  On the train from Messina, Sicily, to the mainland in Calabria, we met Vincenzo who, without speaking English, taught us how to figure out how to get off at the right stop."     (John in Jersey City, New Jersey)
  • Caller describes meeting a group of Sicilians who take the train to Rome every week for work, while on a train trip from Palermo to Rome on a Sunday night.   "They were so sweet about looking out for me, making it the perfect train-ferry experience."  (Carole in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 
  • "The SITA bus ride south from Sorrento to Amalfi is the ride of a lifetime. Sit by the window on the right side of the bus."  Caller recommends the mid-Amalfi coastal town of Praiano as "a great and centrally located place to stay."   (Queenie in Macon, Georgia)
  • Seeks driving advice for her 75-year old husband on the Amalfi Coast road.  "We have driven many mountain roads in Italy and even more in Colorado where we live, but never the Amalfi Coast. What is your assessment of whether or not we can handle it?"  (Kathy in Denver, Colorado)
  • "We loved the stunning Amalfi Coast from our short visit last year.  But what are some of the challenges to live there long-term as a foreigner?"   (Joyce in Bellevue, Washington) 

Incidental Music

  • Miles Davis, "All Blues,"  Kind of Blue / Columbia
  • Campbell Brothers, "Morning Train," None But the Righteous:  Masters of Sacred Steel (collection) / Rope A Dope Records
  • Owen Gray, “She’s Going to Napoli,” Shook, Shimmy & Shake:  The Anthology / Trojan Records
  • * Pat Metheny Group, "Last Train Home," Still Life (Talking) / Geffen
  • Rocco De Roca, "Iquique," Italia (collection) / Putumayo
  • Nino Rota, "L'Illusionista," Otto e Mezzo (soundtrack to the Fellini film '8 1/2') / Creazioni Artistiche Musicali (Italy)
  • Chet Atkins, "Wheels," Travelin' /  RLG-Legacy
  • Nino Rota, "La Dolce Vita (Finale)," La Dolce Vita (soundtrack)  / Creazioni Artistiche Musicali (Italy)
  • Rosemary Clooney, “Mambo Italiano,” Ciao Amore / Warner Bros.-Starbucks
  • * Michael McCabe, “Come Back to Sorrento,” Amor / Out of the Blue Records
  • Moreno, “Sabor a Mi,” Les musiques du Sud (compilation) / Al Sur (France)
  • Bad Examples, “Il  Napoli,” Slow Music / Ala Tak
  • Chet Atkins, "La Dolce Vita," Travelin' /  RLG-Legacy
  • Sevarino Gazzelloni, "Amarcord," Sevarino Gazzelloni Plays Nino Rota / CAM OST
  • Musicians unknown, “Come Back to Sorrento,” Traditional Music and Songs of Italy - Recorded Live by Alan Lomax / Legacy International

Dated References

  • Rick mentions "Italian Ways" as Tim Parks' "latest book" in the open to segment A. 
  • Tim Parks notes he has commuted on the Italian rail system for "30 years" at 7:35.  He refers again to living in Italy for 30 years at 29:04.
  • At 9:55 Tim says train tickets are subsidized by the Italian government, and cost about 1/3 to 1/10 of their equivalent in Germany.   He refers to improvements "in the last ten years" at 10:54, centered around an efficient high speed rail line from Turin to Salerno. 
  • Caller Jean says she's taking her son to Italy "next May" at 21:08.
  • Caller Carole describes taking the night train that gets loaded on a ferry to the mainland from Sicily, and notes at 31:09 that she wanted to do it "before they put the bridge in."
  • At 40:42, Ann Long says she's been living for 33 years on the Amalfi Coast.  Aldo says he's been living in Sicily for the past 14 years, but has family based in Amalfi near Positano.
  • Aldo recommends visiting "the real Positano" after the high season of May-September, at 41:42.
  • Ann tells caller Joyce at 54:10 there is a lot to do year-round in Amalfi, at "Christmas time, Easter time, middle of the summer." 
  • Aldo tells Rick at 55:00 that visitors from England favor the Amalfi area  from April to late October.  Ann explains that they seek the hot summer temperatures of the region.