Dolce Via brings an American aesthetic to the delights of the streets and byways of Italy. This volume is the first comprehensive compendium of Charles H. Traub’s vivid, color photographs made in early 1980s, from Milan to Marsala. Characteristic of his imagery is a candid intimacy that combines humor and spontaneity, which makes us long for an Italy that maybe only once was. Brilliant blues, reds, and yellows engulf the baroque posturing and gestures of strangers and ordinary people who become fond archetypical caricatures. Traub’s friend and guide, the late photographer Luigi Ghirri, said of the imagery, “You see our foibles, strip us bare, make love through the camera, and then venerate us.”

Italy has been through so much history that anything you say about the land and its people is doomed to repeat what has been said at least once before. And what may no longer be true was once true—and may be true one day again. But if there is a perennial aspect of Italy, it is the pursuit of la dolce vita, the sweet life of pleasure that the director Federico Fellini embodied with both sensuality and irony in his 1960 classic of the same name. The photographer Charles Traub alludes to Fellini in his collection of photographs from Italy in the 1980s, Dolce Via—the Sweet Way. Indeed, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, where the actress Anita Ekberg famously cavorted in the movie, is the backdrop of a number of Traub’s images. But there is something else Dolce Via shares with La Dolce Vita—not quite Fellini-esque but nevertheless slinky and sly in a distinct way.