Up at the Villa is part travel journal, part cookbook (yes, there are recipes!) and part poetry book. There are even a few travel tips and language guides. It is just the kind of book I love because you never get bored reading it. Linda Dini Jenkins has done a superb job of capturing the joy of traveling whether it is a day trip or a two week adventure in Italy.
Jenkins is a storyteller and a poet which is an interesting combination in an author. Some of her stories read as poems and some of her poems tell a story. Ms Jenkins tells stories of traveling in groups or with her husband Tim both of which bring their own challenges and joys.
Anyone who has traveled will relate to the stories in Up at the Villa.
I laughed out loud when she told the tale of arriving in Italy at the rental car agency only to find that instead of the smaller car her group had requested they were given a SUV – one that would be difficult, if not impossible to navigate in the narrow streets of the small towns in Italy. Having had a similar experience I found myself remembering and laughing at my own trip. Maybe that is what makes Up at the Villa so much fun is that the stories are so different and varied and common that everyone can relate to at least one of them whether they are experienced world travelers or never venture further than an overnight trip a few hours from home.
Travels in Italy are the primary theme of Up at the Villa, but there are also stories of trips to Paris, Brussels, Vermont and even South Orange, New Jersey (which happens to be where I was born).
If I had to pick one theme in this collection of travel memories it is that you have to enjoy whatever experiences come your way when you travel. As much as you may plan, things never go exactly as you think they will when you travel, but often the best experiences are the ones you did not plan.
The following is the review for Up at the Villa by Linda Dini Jenkins from Amazon:
Up at the Villa is more than a travel memoir – it is a book about exploration and education. In a unique way, Dini Jenkins illustrates her journeys through multiple locations and with various genres. From poetry and narrative, to learning guides and directions, the author paints pictures with words, inviting the reader to learn with her as well as about her. Most important, the book invites the reader to relate, which she does successfully with each chapter.
Dini Jenkins sets the book’s ultimate thread as her relationship with her husband. However, it does not reveal every detail of their relationship in a linear way. With each location they visit or revisit, she describes their interpersonal interactions, sometimes with judgment and other times using simple observation. She ultimately describes the progress they make in their relationship as a journey of learning about each other, whether by enjoying a sunset in Italy or revisiting his hometown in South Orange, New Jersey.
Dini Jenkins’ style is detailed, regardless of the particular genre in which she writes a chapter. Yet, she avoids often trite travel memoir styles by providing personal context about the unique history of a location, landmarks, menus, or traveling in groups. Similarly the accompanying photographs display unique angles to a location, such as two Vermont cows with the caption “Ben and Jerry’s.” Once again, the reader relates. At the close of the book, she shares “how to” or “why go” guides about each location. The details surpass any traditional travel guide; they simply pull out a single theme, from a unique Tuscan recipe or antique art that can’t be missed.
Finally, Dini Jenkins invites the readers to finish their stories by providing space at the back of the book for the reader to share their own thoughts and learnings about personal travel or to paste ticket stubs from choice locations. While she calls her writings “subjective,” this simple portion of the book reminds readers that all of us share individual truths about our environment and how it’s shaped us. She leaves no stone unturned in this honest, educational and inspirational piece.