Exhibition shines spotlight on Italy

Visitors to the University of Otago central library can now enjoy ''a regional romp through Italy'', without spending a cent or even renewing their passports.

An exhibition, titled ''Viva l'Italia. A Regional Romp through Italy'', began yesterday at the de Beer Gallery, in the Special Collections section of the library.

The name Italy conjured up ''dreams and romantic longings'', and places such as Florence, Venice and Rome were landmarks of European history and civilisation, organisers said.

Dr Mark Seymour, a senior lecturer in the Otago history and art history department who has a specialist interest in Italian history, said the university library had ''surprisingly strong'' holdings of books on Italy, including travel guides and histories.

The exhibition displays about 80 such books, including guidebooks, ranging from a 16th-century work to a recently-published book on the Mafia.

Italy was popular with New Zealanders, Dr Seymour said.

Many visitors went to Venice, Florence and Rome, but the exhibition reminded people

there were many other interesting places in Italy , he said.

Special collections librarian Dr Donald Kerr said the strength of the library's holdings of Italian books owed much to the generosity of the late Willi Fels and to the poet and literary editor Charles Brasch and Esmond de Beer.

The exhibition runs until September 5.