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Travel Book Review: The Adventures of Pinocchio

The cover of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi a Penguin Classics New Translation

Yes, I am reviewing The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi as a travel book. After all, to go on his adventures, Pinocchio must travel. I don’t imagine anyone reading this has any plans to join a circus, find herself in the belly of a terrible shark, or head off to a hedonistic Playland and turn into a donkey, so I’m not reviewing it as a travelogue. I think The Adventures of Pinocchio, translated and annotated by John Hooper and Anna Kraczyna, offers great insights into Italian history and culture, making it a worthy read for anyone interested in traveling to Italy. 

Collodi’s Pinocchio and Disney’s Pinocchio (1940) are like distant cousins. As Penguin Random House shares on its site, “The Adventures of Pinocchio is… not a cautionary tale about lying but an unusually timely fable for our increasingly authoritarian times–a story about the importance of education and of preventing others from pulling our strings.” Pinocchio’s nose only grows twice from lying in the entire book. This book, the world’s second most translated work of fiction, really is about so much more. First place, in case you’re curious, belongs to The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

There are 179 annotations throughout The Adventures of Pinocchio translation by Hooper and Kraczyna that provide historical context and explanations of Italian expressions. Some of the annotations point out Collodi’s clever techniques and the errors he let slide, making it a great read for travelers interested in writing. 

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi begins with:

Once upon a time (1) there was…

“A king!” my little readers will no doubt say in a flash.

“No kids. You got it wrong. Once upon a time there was… a piece of wood.” (2)

It wasn’t a fancy piece of wood: just an ordinary log from a stack (3), the kind you use for stoves and fireplaces to heat rooms in winter.

4 Things I Learned from 3 Annotations

Four things I learned from three insightful annotations that are offered in the book’s above small bit of text are:

  • Carlo Collodi’s use of “Once upon a time…” let people of his time know that his story was more than a children’s story. It had plenty in it for adults as well.  
  • Collodi wrote Pinocchio in 1881, eleven years after Italy became a unified country under King Vittorio Emmanuele II. 
  • “…by putting a king and a block of wood in the same sentence at the start of his book, Collodi was taking a dig at the monarchy presiding over the gradual descent of Italian politics into corrupt and cynical horse-trading.” 
  • “A log from a stack” is an Italian expression that can mean “rascal.”

Note: I have paraphrased the above. The actual annotations offer more detail and nuance than I have provided. 

That was all just from page one. Collodi’s story is a fun read on its own, and its 179 annotations provide invaluable insights. I hope to read it to our 7-year-old grandchildren this summer. Its messages about being responsible for oneself, pursuing education, and making moral decisions are ones I want to share with them. 

Hooper and Kraczyna’s translation of Pinocchio inspired two new versions of the film – a live-action version available on Disney+ and a Netflix animated one co-directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro and voiced by Ewan McGregor. Both are now on my To Be Watched list. 

While in Rome, we went to Bottega Pinocchio, an adorable shop full of wooden figurines of characters from the book. I couldn’t decide which to buy for my future office. This shop inspired me to read the original version of Pinocchio — in part to sort out which gorgeous figurine I want. Thankfully, they can be ordered online. Just as soon as we settle down, I’ll be picking out a figurine or three. 

Are you planning a trip to Rome? These posts can help you make the most of your time in the Eternal City:

La Dolce Vita: A 5-Day Itinerary for Experiencing Rome’s Charm 

Rome: 8 Restaurants to Dine at on Your Roman Holiday 

Hotel Review: DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti 

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