My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another of Culbertson and Randall’s cemetery guides, Permanent Italians spans Rome, Florence, and Venice, with quick trips to Naples, Padua, and beyond. For English-speaking travelers, this is your introduction to several millennia of grave monuments in Italy.
Permanent Italians gave me a greater understanding of the history encapsulated by the Tomb of Augustus and encouraged me to visit the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, which is full of amazing skeletal memento mori artwork. In fact, the book is wonderful for adding things to your itinerary as you travel.
That said, however, Permanent Italians, because of its brevity, sometimes lacks depth. The Protestant Cemetery of Rome gets a scant 14 pages, when a whole book would do. Milan’s Cimitero Monumental (where the authors say, “You could shout for joy at the beauty of the sculpture around you”) only rates 11 pages. My advice is to take Permanent Italians with you as you travel, but plan to consult deeper resources when you return.
Finally, like all cemetery guides pre-GPS, the directions inside graveyards can be confusing. I relied on Permanent Italians’ suggestion to follow the signs to Ezra Pound’s grave, but even though the Reparto Evangelico of Venice’s San Michele Cemetery isn’t large, I couldn’t find him anywhere. A photo of the headstone would have helped. That’s my major complaint about this book: its photos only hint at the artwork jamming Italian cemeteries. It focuses on famous people, while slighting the beauty of the monuments of total strangers. (So I suppose my criticism is that this is not the guidebook I would have written. I agree: this is not entirely fair.)
Permanent Italians is wonderful for what it is: an appetizer. I think of visiting the cemeteries as the main course, but you may want to add some dessert afterward.
The Amazon link: Permanent Italians: An Illustrated, Biographical Guide to the Cemeteries of Italy