Travel pieces have variety. Some might brush the mere surface of a city, destination, or place. Some dive deep beneath its surface to find what the Internet couldn’t tell you. Ingrid K. Williams’ “36 Hours in Modena, Italy”, which appeared this month in the Travel section of The New York Times, effectively does both. Williams breaks down her whirlwind experience in this small but blossoming Italian town, despite its recent earthquake damage. She accomplishes what many travel writers struggle to do which is give a fair, diverse overview of a location while still including personal, detailed accounts of it. The article gives the reader a general overview of the city while including enough details and imagery to make the reader feel like they are in Modena. With such a quick, brief trip of 36 hours, it is impressive the amount of detail Williams was able to retain. I was most impressed by the remembrance of the basalmic vinegar producers’ dog’s name.
There, the genial proprietors Giorgio and Giovanna (accompanied by their companionable terrier, Leone) will walk you through the fermentation process, during which the vinegar is aged in a series of wooden barrels for a minimum of 12 years.
Such intimate, and sometimes irrelevant, details help the reader truly imagine being in that place aside from describing where it is, what it is, and who is in charge of it. Williams goes a step further by chronologically writing her story and breaking it down by the hour, making the reader feel like they are following her along on her journey.