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Mezza Italiana: An Enchanting Story About Love, Family, La Dolce Vita and Finding Your Place in the World

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Beautiful writing, gorgeous settings, mouthwatering food and heart-warming themes of acceptance and endurance make Mezza Italiana a very special journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget! Growing up in Brisbane in the 1970s and 80s, Zoe Boccabella knew if you wanted to fit in, you did not bottle tomatoes, have plastic on the hallway carpet or a Beautiful writing, gorgeous settings, mouthwatering food and heart-warming themes of acceptance and endurance make Mezza Italiana a very special journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget! Growing up in Brisbane in the 1970s and 80s, Zoe Boccabella knew if you wanted to fit in, you did not bottle tomatoes, have plastic on the hallway carpet or a glory box of Italian linens. though she tried to be like 'everyone else', refusing to learn Italian and even dyeing her dark hair blonde, Zoe couldn't shake the unsettling sense of feeling 'half-and-half' - half Australian, mezza italiana - unable to fit fully into either culture, or merge the two. Years later, she travels to her family's ancestral village of Fossa in Abruzzo and discovers a place that is the stuff of fairytales - medieval castles, mystics, dark forests, serpent charmers and witches. As Zoe stays in the house that has belonged to her family for centuries, the village casts its spell. She begins to realise the preciousness of her heritage and the stories, recipes and traditions of her extended Italian family become a treasured part of her life. then the earthquake hits... Beautifully written, sprinkled with recipes and laced with love, Mezza Italiana is a heart-warming journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget!


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Beautiful writing, gorgeous settings, mouthwatering food and heart-warming themes of acceptance and endurance make Mezza Italiana a very special journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget! Growing up in Brisbane in the 1970s and 80s, Zoe Boccabella knew if you wanted to fit in, you did not bottle tomatoes, have plastic on the hallway carpet or a Beautiful writing, gorgeous settings, mouthwatering food and heart-warming themes of acceptance and endurance make Mezza Italiana a very special journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget! Growing up in Brisbane in the 1970s and 80s, Zoe Boccabella knew if you wanted to fit in, you did not bottle tomatoes, have plastic on the hallway carpet or a glory box of Italian linens. though she tried to be like 'everyone else', refusing to learn Italian and even dyeing her dark hair blonde, Zoe couldn't shake the unsettling sense of feeling 'half-and-half' - half Australian, mezza italiana - unable to fit fully into either culture, or merge the two. Years later, she travels to her family's ancestral village of Fossa in Abruzzo and discovers a place that is the stuff of fairytales - medieval castles, mystics, dark forests, serpent charmers and witches. As Zoe stays in the house that has belonged to her family for centuries, the village casts its spell. She begins to realise the preciousness of her heritage and the stories, recipes and traditions of her extended Italian family become a treasured part of her life. then the earthquake hits... Beautifully written, sprinkled with recipes and laced with love, Mezza Italiana is a heart-warming journey into the soul of Italy, and into a family you'll never forget!

49 review for Mezza Italiana: An Enchanting Story About Love, Family, La Dolce Vita and Finding Your Place in the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen Brooks

    Damn Goodreads! I just wrote a long review about this book only to see it wiped. OK. Here goes again... This was a delightful book that is part travel story, part a very personal narrative of self-discovery, that the author Zoe Boccabella (beautiful mouth in Italian) shares with us. Having been born in Australia when assimilation was at the fore, and anything that smacked of difference or Otherness was hidden, Zoe was ashamed (much to her nonno and nonna's chagrin) of her Italian half - the pater Damn Goodreads! I just wrote a long review about this book only to see it wiped. OK. Here goes again... This was a delightful book that is part travel story, part a very personal narrative of self-discovery, that the author Zoe Boccabella (beautiful mouth in Italian) shares with us. Having been born in Australia when assimilation was at the fore, and anything that smacked of difference or Otherness was hidden, Zoe was ashamed (much to her nonno and nonna's chagrin) of her Italian half - the paternal side. This is how the title of the book, which translates as 'half Italian' originates. It's not until she's an adult and makes her first of many trips to Italy with her boyfirend (who later becomes her husband) and visits her grandparents' home town of Fossa, that Zoe begins to reconcile her two halves. Drawing from not only her family's interesting past as some of the first Italian migrants in Queensland who made a huge impact on Brisbane with their enthusiasm and support for other migrants and their joy in Australia, but also her Australian side and, later, her roots in Italy, this book is a warm and fascinating pastiche of two cultures, generations, past and present. Full of curious facts and insights into Italy, as well as being sprinkled with delicious recipes, you don't have to be either Italian or Australian to enjoy this book. I do confess, however, that as a half and half myself, who also grew up during the same period, I really related to Zoe's story. Instead of embracing my mother's and grandmother's rich Israeli and German heritage, I not only 'lost' my first language (Hebrew), but regret, like Zoe, that I didn't learn more when I had the opportunity. The fact I am also, like Zoe's husband, and Italia-phile may have helped and I am reading all things Italian, studying the language and history and have even set my latest novels in Venice (a fantasy version, but basically true to the former Republic nonetheless). But, as I said above, you don't have to have those experiences or upbringing to enjoy this book. It has everything - romance, drama, pathos and tragedy as well as many humorous anecdotes. An easy, lovely read, that I can warmly recommend.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    If you have ever lived in two countries, especially through migration, then this book will be a meaningful read. Zoe Boccabella writes of her personal journey through that emotional tug of war: the conflict between the need of belonging to ones adopted country and the longing to connect with ones country of origin. Mezza.. half. In her case it is Australia's Gold Coast and the Abruzzi region of Italy. She writes enchantingly of her travels and discoveries as she reconnects to an Italian past. If you have ever lived in two countries, especially through migration, then this book will be a meaningful read. Zoe Boccabella writes of her personal journey through that emotional tug of war: the conflict between the need of belonging to ones adopted country and the longing to connect with ones country of origin. Mezza.. half. In her case it is Australia's Gold Coast and the Abruzzi region of Italy. She writes enchantingly of her travels and discoveries as she reconnects to an Italian past.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Denise Tan

    I loved this book with its warm and moving anecdotes

  4. 5 out of 5

    SusanC

    Just over 5 years after putting this on my To Be Read shelf I have finally read it. While there ought to be joy at finally reading it, it also made me a little sad. The joy in which Zoe speaks of her Nana and Nonna is my joy and sadness and it made me miss my Grandmother more. She was of German/Australian stock, a second generation born in Australia who lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 Brisbane. Apart from calling Italians eye-talians I do not recall her speaking of them with m Just over 5 years after putting this on my To Be Read shelf I have finally read it. While there ought to be joy at finally reading it, it also made me a little sad. The joy in which Zoe speaks of her Nana and Nonna is my joy and sadness and it made me miss my Grandmother more. She was of German/Australian stock, a second generation born in Australia who lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 Brisbane. Apart from calling Italians eye-talians I do not recall her speaking of them with malice. That was directed to the American's in Brisbane when she was trying to get around while heavily pregnant with my mother. While my family 'home' is here in South East Queensland, I can fully understand the feelings of Zoe and her relationship to Fossa. Its where you feel your roots are planted. I felt incredible sadness as Zoe describes the earthquake destruction of Fossa. I hope it is repaired enough to be able to be visited again, and that life there returns to normal. But having said that as Zoe points out, those who have immigrated often retain the traditions of the time in which they left their mother country, were as the mother country has moved on. Consider tomato day and the making of the passata. Its up to the 'new' Australians to decide what needs to be kept and how to assimilate into a new society. No doubt, should I - a fourth generation Australian, move to Italy, I would be considering what of my traditions to keep and carry on with, and what of the new, I should adopt and replace the old.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Wouters

    Unstructured and repetitive, it has nice themes, but a lot of the reminiscences are repetitive and it's really hard to keep track of everyone when there's like three women named Francesca in the storyline... That being said, it was a really in-depth look at how generations view emigration and the familial and cultural ties that are cut, kept and formed. 2/5 because I can't believe I'm saying this, but it could have been 150 pages shorter without losing anything significant. Unstructured and repetitive, it has nice themes, but a lot of the reminiscences are repetitive and it's really hard to keep track of everyone when there's like three women named Francesca in the storyline... That being said, it was a really in-depth look at how generations view emigration and the familial and cultural ties that are cut, kept and formed. 2/5 because I can't believe I'm saying this, but it could have been 150 pages shorter without losing anything significant.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne

    #22. Loved this gentle, evocative book. Thanks to Janene from my Italian language and culture class for the loan. Memories not just of Italy but of the lives of my 'migrant' relatives. My Mezza Italiana daughters will love this book! #22. Loved this gentle, evocative book. Thanks to Janene from my Italian language and culture class for the loan. Memories not just of Italy but of the lives of my 'migrant' relatives. My Mezza Italiana daughters will love this book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gina Carluccio

    Loved it! Thanks Zoe. Just throughly loved it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kar

    This was a very boring book. It did not develop the characters at all. I do not recommend it. It is written at a very low level.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rocky Suppa

    A little hard to read but ended up being entertaining

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bec

    Could relate to so much to Zoe's story being a second generation Italian Australian and her descriptive language just makes me want to visit Italy even more. Could relate to so much to Zoe's story being a second generation Italian Australian and her descriptive language just makes me want to visit Italy even more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Miryana Begovich

    An amazing story of being different and finding yourself. One I could highly relate to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rose Dickson

    Zoe Boccabella provides some great insights into the children of migrants. She explores the theme of growing up in a migrant family with all the turmoil of trying to belong to the Australian culture in which she was to grow up. Her rejection of her parent's Italian roots was a description of the experiences of many first generation Australian children and probably describes what inevitably continues to occur today .. the children of migrants torn between two cultures, struggling to find a place Zoe Boccabella provides some great insights into the children of migrants. She explores the theme of growing up in a migrant family with all the turmoil of trying to belong to the Australian culture in which she was to grow up. Her rejection of her parent's Italian roots was a description of the experiences of many first generation Australian children and probably describes what inevitably continues to occur today .. the children of migrants torn between two cultures, struggling to find a place to belong. Her description of the beautiful province of Abruzzo in Italy was heart warming together with authentic recipes and anecdotes. A great read. I was sorry to come to the last page.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    There are a lot of books written about Italy and it's easy to think 'here we go again', but once in a while a book comes along that is different and this is one of them. Mezza Italiana by Zoe Boccabella is a book with heart, evident in the meticulous care Boccabella has taken to capture stories of her family, her childhood, and her current life when she travels to Italy to stay in the house that has belonged to her family, (for the record, how fascinating to have access to an abode your ancestor There are a lot of books written about Italy and it's easy to think 'here we go again', but once in a while a book comes along that is different and this is one of them. Mezza Italiana by Zoe Boccabella is a book with heart, evident in the meticulous care Boccabella has taken to capture stories of her family, her childhood, and her current life when she travels to Italy to stay in the house that has belonged to her family, (for the record, how fascinating to have access to an abode your ancestors have inhabited over hundreds of years.) Boccabella has been brave in directing her gaze not only on her surrounds but most importantly on herself and she handles the way she does this with sincerity. I found her descriptions to be particularly emotive. I have been to Italy and her descriptions of the sounds of village life brought back memories. Perhaps the blurb may lead one to think there may be more about the Abruzzo 2009 earthquake in the book but I think Boccabella was right to constrain the earthquake to the prologue and epilogue. An Italian friend of mine who is from Rome read Mezza Italiana and she was impressed with Boccabella's accurate and unsensationalised dealing of the Mafia. Not having any Italian heritage myself, Mezza Italiana opened my eyes to the quandary descendants of migrants can face by being 'half and half' between birth or ancestral culture. It was interesting to learn about an issue which I had no previous knowledge of. I would highly recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Mezza Italiana by Zoë Boccabella recounts the author’s return to her ancestral town in Abruzzo, where she begins to reconcile the two halves of herself, Australia and Italian. (Mezza Italiana means half-Italian.) Boccabella grew up in Australia, not too keen on having a funny-sounding last name and generally begrudging of her Italian heritage. But then at the urging of her mother, she traveled to her ancestral town, Fossa in the mountains of Abruzzo, with her boyfriend who more eagerly embraced h Mezza Italiana by Zoë Boccabella recounts the author’s return to her ancestral town in Abruzzo, where she begins to reconcile the two halves of herself, Australia and Italian. (Mezza Italiana means half-Italian.) Boccabella grew up in Australia, not too keen on having a funny-sounding last name and generally begrudging of her Italian heritage. But then at the urging of her mother, she traveled to her ancestral town, Fossa in the mountains of Abruzzo, with her boyfriend who more eagerly embraced her culture than she did. That initial experience inspired Boccabella to return years later with her now-husband and spend a longer stretch of time in the family’s homestead; while there, she experiences village life from a new perspective, allowing her to draw connections between past, present, and her own future. There were a few tangents throughout the book that perhaps could have been edited out, but those side bits simply reminded me of walking down my own southern Italian village’s street, where you can get wildly off-course and off-schedule if you so desire. But overall, Boccabella’s writing style is casual yet polished, making Mezza Italiana at true joy to read. This memoir held my attention from start to finish, and I do hope there is a sequel, thus the four stars. Full of rich descriptions of the landscape, festivals, and above all, the food, Mezza Italiana is a delight for all senses, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel memoirs and books about Italy, especially southern Italy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    Part homage to a family and part love story to Italy, Boccabella's tale of discovering her heritage is an interesting read for those with a fondness for Italy. Like the author I live in Brisbane, and having spent time in Italy I found I related on a number of levels. However, not being Italian myself, there was much to learn about the culture and identity. Unfortunately I found many parts of the book repetitive, a little dull and I simply couldn't get past Boccabella's bitterness at initially tur Part homage to a family and part love story to Italy, Boccabella's tale of discovering her heritage is an interesting read for those with a fondness for Italy. Like the author I live in Brisbane, and having spent time in Italy I found I related on a number of levels. However, not being Italian myself, there was much to learn about the culture and identity. Unfortunately I found many parts of the book repetitive, a little dull and I simply couldn't get past Boccabella's bitterness at initially turning her back on her culture and the jealousy she felt towards her boyfriend's hearty embrace of that very same culture. I also found the book's blurb misleading as I expected a story of an earthquake and a society's recovery from it yet this is only dealt with in the very first and last chapters of the book. Obviously I'm glad this wasn't the case as that would have been an entirely different story. I just wish I had not been lead to the book under false pretenses. Other than that I would certainly recommend Mezza Italiana to anyone interested in travelling to Italy or with familial connections to the region.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Terranova

    Zoe Boccabella has written a delightful account about finding her identity and of coming to terms with heritage, culture, and the burden of family expectations. After experiencing racial prejudice and bullying at school, the author rejected her Italian-ness in order to be like all the rest. While she adored her grandfather, she swept the traditions of the old country under the carpet in order to fit in. After years of his urging her to visit the family home in Fossa in the mountainous centre of Zoe Boccabella has written a delightful account about finding her identity and of coming to terms with heritage, culture, and the burden of family expectations. After experiencing racial prejudice and bullying at school, the author rejected her Italian-ness in order to be like all the rest. While she adored her grandfather, she swept the traditions of the old country under the carpet in order to fit in. After years of his urging her to visit the family home in Fossa in the mountainous centre of Italy and of her making excuses not to go, she finally makes the trek along with her Australian partner, Roger. In the town of her ancestors she discovers her roots, and Roger falls in love with Italy. This is a memoir that will stay with you long after the book is finished. It is well-written, funny in parts, and thoughtful. Her experience of being half-Australian and half something else applies to many people in this country. After all, every Australian who is not indigenous has a migrant past.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Anderson

    Mezza Italiana is totally intoxicating, with wonderful descriptive writing that resonates across all cultures, especially anyone with an interest in Italy. Reading it was like escaping to Italy, experiencing romantic, gastronomic, historic and modern Italy all in one book. A very special book. Gavin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Well-written, emotive, and with much that I could relate to, being half-Italian myself. By the end, though, I found it started to get a bit repetitive. Good solid holiday read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The travel writing elements and family and cultural memories were interesting. But it was a little sad in the end.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Angela Smith

    A wonderful book so well written that it enabled the reader to see the beautiful landscape of Italy as well as clearly picturing the reproach on her Nonna's face. "Nonna not Nanna!" A wonderful book so well written that it enabled the reader to see the beautiful landscape of Italy as well as clearly picturing the reproach on her Nonna's face. "Nonna not Nanna!"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I really enjoyed this book although I was a little flat at the end. I knew it was building up however it just left me feeling very sad.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Connolly

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angela McCue

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ginger Sweeney

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire Peever

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michele

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mookie

  32. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  34. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

  35. 4 out of 5

    Annette

  36. 5 out of 5

    Rochelle Lee

  37. 4 out of 5

    Imogen

  38. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  39. 4 out of 5

    Ambra

  40. 4 out of 5

    Ney Zhein

  41. 4 out of 5

    susan margaret schroeder

  42. 4 out of 5

    Katey Ofarrell

  43. 4 out of 5

    John Bartlam

  44. 5 out of 5

    Jo Dernedde

  45. 4 out of 5

    Carlo

  46. 4 out of 5

    Celena

  47. 4 out of 5

    Annie

  48. 5 out of 5

    Nurseykaye

  49. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Webb

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