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La testa degli italiani resta l'ultima regione inesplorata del Paese, e vale un viaggio. Un viaggio attraverso l'Italia con amici stranieri, ai quali viene "tradotto" sistematicamente il Paese: le regole imperscrutabili della strada e l'anarchia ordinata di un ufficio, la loquacità dei treni e la saggezza di un albergo, la rassicurazione di una chiesa e l'affollamento in c La testa degli italiani resta l'ultima regione inesplorata del Paese, e vale un viaggio. Un viaggio attraverso l'Italia con amici stranieri, ai quali viene "tradotto" sistematicamente il Paese: le regole imperscrutabili della strada e l'anarchia ordinata di un ufficio, la loquacità dei treni e la saggezza di un albergo, la rassicurazione di una chiesa e l'affollamento in camera da letto, l'importanza di una spiaggia e la democrazia del soggiorno (anzi: del tinello). Dieci giorni, trenta luoghi. Da nord a sud, dal cibo allo sport, dalla morale alla politica. Un'esplorazione ironica, metodica e sentimentale.


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La testa degli italiani resta l'ultima regione inesplorata del Paese, e vale un viaggio. Un viaggio attraverso l'Italia con amici stranieri, ai quali viene "tradotto" sistematicamente il Paese: le regole imperscrutabili della strada e l'anarchia ordinata di un ufficio, la loquacità dei treni e la saggezza di un albergo, la rassicurazione di una chiesa e l'affollamento in c La testa degli italiani resta l'ultima regione inesplorata del Paese, e vale un viaggio. Un viaggio attraverso l'Italia con amici stranieri, ai quali viene "tradotto" sistematicamente il Paese: le regole imperscrutabili della strada e l'anarchia ordinata di un ufficio, la loquacità dei treni e la saggezza di un albergo, la rassicurazione di una chiesa e l'affollamento in camera da letto, l'importanza di una spiaggia e la democrazia del soggiorno (anzi: del tinello). Dieci giorni, trenta luoghi. Da nord a sud, dal cibo allo sport, dalla morale alla politica. Un'esplorazione ironica, metodica e sentimentale.

30 review for La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Goldman

    While I learned that as an overthinker who flies by the seat of his pants when travelling, I may relate more to Italians than Americans, I think that's about all I learned. Through a combination of strange prose and incomprehensible tangents, Beppe gets me more lost about his vision of Italy than a twisty Roman street. I set out to read the book to try to understand the country I'm about to visit and was left almost not wanting to visit it at all. There were a few helpful tips (i.e. don't cross t While I learned that as an overthinker who flies by the seat of his pants when travelling, I may relate more to Italians than Americans, I think that's about all I learned. Through a combination of strange prose and incomprehensible tangents, Beppe gets me more lost about his vision of Italy than a twisty Roman street. I set out to read the book to try to understand the country I'm about to visit and was left almost not wanting to visit it at all. There were a few helpful tips (i.e. don't cross the road at walk signals, Italians don't necessarily respect red lights) but I think it's honestly written for Italians who already understand Italy and want to reflect on it, laugh at it (occasionally I did), and say, "hey, that's me." It's sort of worthless for foreigners - and I often got the impression that was not even the audience (despite the title). This novel is in such sad shape that I actually learned more from the epilogue summarizing it from an American's viewpoint than I did from the rest of the book. I would have been better off making a photocopy of those pages to take to Italy and not wasting two weeks that could have been spent reading travel books (hint, hint, an Italian wouldn't mind breaking copyright for that purpose).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Neither very enlightening nor very funny, this book does NOT do what it says on the tin. Yes, it's written in an easy and lightweight style, but it seemed to me to be empty of anything really revelatory or thought-provoking about its subject. Although it is framed as a 'journey' through Italy, it does little to evoke or describe the differences in temperament or landscape in the regions of the country. This book was full of the kinds of generalisation about Italy that I might have expected from Neither very enlightening nor very funny, this book does NOT do what it says on the tin. Yes, it's written in an easy and lightweight style, but it seemed to me to be empty of anything really revelatory or thought-provoking about its subject. Although it is framed as a 'journey' through Italy, it does little to evoke or describe the differences in temperament or landscape in the regions of the country. This book was full of the kinds of generalisation about Italy that I might have expected from a non-native, but seemed pretty unforgivable from an Italian writer. For anyone who wants to understand the complexities of Italy in a much more informed and nuanced way, I would recommend giving this little book a miss and trying Tobias Jones's "The Dark Heart of Italy".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    See the original review here: http://justanotherbooknerd.tumblr.com... I think it’s about time I take a break from fiction don’t you? Now, I am going to have to come clean here, my family have owned a property in Italy for many years and I have been going out there for a long time before that too. So what would make me want to read a book about a place I am already in love with despite the quite clearly obvious reason that I am already in love with it? Well the answer is simple really, it’s Italy See the original review here: http://justanotherbooknerd.tumblr.com... I think it’s about time I take a break from fiction don’t you? Now, I am going to have to come clean here, my family have owned a property in Italy for many years and I have been going out there for a long time before that too. So what would make me want to read a book about a place I am already in love with despite the quite clearly obvious reason that I am already in love with it? Well the answer is simple really, it’s Italy from the eyes of an Italian. You can go to your local book shop and spend hours looking through all the ‘Tuscany through my eyes’ type books written by Englishmen and Americans. To be honest it’s rather rare for an Italian to go ‘you know what, I’m tired of all this crap you write, here is an honest account of Italy.’ This book is that rarity, it’s the answer to a call for an honest insight into the way that Italians view their Italy. The book starts with one simple mantra. ‘Your Italy and my Italia are not the same thing.’ To be honest we can all relate to that point. The amount of things I hear about the English, only to sit there and reflect that it is utter nonsense is staggering. Do I say anything about it? Of course not, I’m English. What we have here is an honest account of Italy that often had me nodding my head along in agreement and more often than not laughing out loud at it’s downright silliness. Severgnini doesn’t pull any punches either, he appears to be rather insightful into the ways of many cultures, often drawing fairly accurate comparisons to his own Italia. Severgnini takes us through ten days in Italy, starting at the airport and moving through Milano, Napoli and Roma. He even comes quite close to where my family are in Casole D’elsa, which personally was quite a nice touch for me. Throughout these ten days and your interactions with the Italian people you are going to gain an insight into just what is going through their minds when they see you, when they do the things they are doing or more often than not when they sit down doing not much at all. Ordering a cappuccino after 11am? I don’t think you shall ever dare to do so again after reading this book. Like I said, a lot of this stuff I already knew so it was hilarious to read someone talking about it all so frankly and honestly. Before it had always seemed to be like a set of unwritten rules that the entire populous simply adhered to. Now however we have a witty, comical, insightful book with which we can use to completely disregard said rules (a common Italian trait). If you’re interested in Italy or are planning a holiday there then this is probably going to be one of the best books that you could read in order to prepare yourself for the experience. Of course you could always wing it, but I assure you, the Italians will judge you!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I really enjoyed Severgnini's smart-ass sense of humor and wit. He's an Italian David Sedaris. He makes fun of and adores Italians at the same time, meanwhile pointing out all their contradictions, anxieties and passions in very Italian, self-effacing way. He says of Italians that they make fun of everything because they respect nothing, and he is not different. Like a comedian/anthropologist he dissects everything from the modern Italian family structure to the meaning of the Vespa and the tele I really enjoyed Severgnini's smart-ass sense of humor and wit. He's an Italian David Sedaris. He makes fun of and adores Italians at the same time, meanwhile pointing out all their contradictions, anxieties and passions in very Italian, self-effacing way. He says of Italians that they make fun of everything because they respect nothing, and he is not different. Like a comedian/anthropologist he dissects everything from the modern Italian family structure to the meaning of the Vespa and the telefonino (cell phone) to car language -- "a short toot of the horn means 'Hi!' a long one 'I hate you' and flashing lights means 'I'm after you!'" He explains the difference between our concept of Italy and the Italian concept of Italia, if there is a unifying one. "Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It's alluring, but complicated. In Italia, you can go round and round in circles for years. Which of course is great fun." Italia is alive, hard to understand and fascinating it its contradctions and sensibilities. Italy is steeped in a romantic notion of the past, it is a museum. I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in Italy or Italians.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Tangora

    If the author was narrating this book to you over dinner or drinks, I imagine it would be a charming way of passing the time. Or if it was just a travel column published once a week I'd probably be a fan. But lumped into a book the twee observations about Italians just seem to go on forever. The paragraphs all have the same rhythm to them and by the 30th time I'd read about how "Italians are (adjective) and (adjective), but also (contradiction) and (contradiction)!" my eyes just rolled back into If the author was narrating this book to you over dinner or drinks, I imagine it would be a charming way of passing the time. Or if it was just a travel column published once a week I'd probably be a fan. But lumped into a book the twee observations about Italians just seem to go on forever. The paragraphs all have the same rhythm to them and by the 30th time I'd read about how "Italians are (adjective) and (adjective), but also (contradiction) and (contradiction)!" my eyes just rolled back into my head out of sheer boredom. I wouldn't call the overall tone of the book smug, but it was definitely so pleased with all the clever observances it had that it would throw them all at the reader, whether they made any sense or not, in addition to the times Italian behavior was compared to American behavior I've never observed. The author is probably great fun to talk to, but the book needed a much more severe editor.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Chapman

    After living in Italy for a year, reading this book brought back memories and also explained a few hidden ideas in the Italian mind. Severini is hilarious in his description of his homeland but also acknowledges age-old problems that fill the country. I wouldn't recommend reading this book before your first trip to Italy because it will distort your view and may cause you to be hyper-critical. Read after you've been there a while or after you've left so you can laugh a bit. This book is filled w After living in Italy for a year, reading this book brought back memories and also explained a few hidden ideas in the Italian mind. Severini is hilarious in his description of his homeland but also acknowledges age-old problems that fill the country. I wouldn't recommend reading this book before your first trip to Italy because it will distort your view and may cause you to be hyper-critical. Read after you've been there a while or after you've left so you can laugh a bit. This book is filled with stereotypes and often generalizes Italians which obviously isn't true Overall, entertaining and mostly true.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rochelle

    I read this book on the plane to Italy, having already been there twice, I was hoping to gain further insight into the Italian psyche. I chose the wrong book. Mr. Severgnini did a disservice to his own people by keeping his observations facile and boring. I would not recommend this book to anyone. My advice -- if you want to learn about Italians, go to Italy and make friends with a local -- spend the $25 bucks buying them a pastry and a cafe' latte over some good conversation. I read this book on the plane to Italy, having already been there twice, I was hoping to gain further insight into the Italian psyche. I chose the wrong book. Mr. Severgnini did a disservice to his own people by keeping his observations facile and boring. I would not recommend this book to anyone. My advice -- if you want to learn about Italians, go to Italy and make friends with a local -- spend the $25 bucks buying them a pastry and a cafe' latte over some good conversation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Great! I loved learning more about Italian culture and many things surprised me. I definitely would recommend giving this a read if anyone is interested in traveling to Italy or just wants to learn more about their customs and way of living. It’s very short and each chapter we “travel” to a different location in the beautiful Italia!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    A fascinating look into Italian culture. Severgnini details the complexity of the Italian mind, from its attraction to all things beautiful, to its suspicion and personal interpretation of top-down authority (hence the "red lights are suggestions" thing. Being an American completely in love with Italy (rolling amber hills, strong architecture, astounding artisitic genius), I found myself rethinking my view of this country. Now, my view is not shadowed, but it isn't idealistic either. I can now lo A fascinating look into Italian culture. Severgnini details the complexity of the Italian mind, from its attraction to all things beautiful, to its suspicion and personal interpretation of top-down authority (hence the "red lights are suggestions" thing. Being an American completely in love with Italy (rolling amber hills, strong architecture, astounding artisitic genius), I found myself rethinking my view of this country. Now, my view is not shadowed, but it isn't idealistic either. I can now look at Italy more as Italia , which has its share of political strife, an erratic history of genius and disaster, arguments between North and South, and yet maintains a welcoming National character and a devotion to itself that rivals other great nations. While a lot of Americans view Italy as quaint and idealistic, according to Severgnini, the national feeling is actually "complicated, angry, buried beneath rhetoric, sarcastic and camoflaged in cynicism. But it exists, and can even be gracious...Still there are many Italians who yearn for a better country, but no longer seem to be able to dream the dream." Yet he remains hopeful, which relieves me. As unpredictable as it can be, his Italy is still "a special place, and it's sad to watch it struggle."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Not so much a travel guide as a sociological exploration, this book is packed with fascinating insights and telling weaknesses. The author, an Italian that has worked as an English journalist at The Economist and other venues, explains the difference between Italy and Italia - the former being an imaginative invention of the English later adopted by the Americans, and the latter being the real thing. But, don't worry about remembering which is which, because after explaining both the difference Not so much a travel guide as a sociological exploration, this book is packed with fascinating insights and telling weaknesses. The author, an Italian that has worked as an English journalist at The Economist and other venues, explains the difference between Italy and Italia - the former being an imaginative invention of the English later adopted by the Americans, and the latter being the real thing. But, don't worry about remembering which is which, because after explaining both the difference and its importance, he then proceeds to refer to both ideas with the uniform monikor "Italy" for the rest of the text. Still, it was thrilling, as an American living in Italy, to see an Italian author write "Italians prefer good looks to good answers," "we like nice gestures so much we prefer them to good behavior" and "In Italy rules are not obeyed as elsewhere"! Oh, beautiful and soothing it is to see that it's not just me sensing these realities!!! On that last one he elaborates: "We think it's an insult to our intelligence to comply with regulation. Obedience is boring. We want to think about it. We want to decide whether a particular law applies to our specific case. In that place, at that time." He cites this in regards to traffic laws, taxes, religion - you see everybody, I have not been making this up!! There are many fascinating tidbits to be gleaned, such as a fascinating 2page history of the Vespa, the history of the word "ciao" and the fact that in the last 50 years the population of Italy has "risen by nine million but the number of available bedrooms has shot up from thirty-five million to one hundred and twenty-million." Severgnini made me quite glad by pointing out a distinctive characteristic of nearly all the Italian literature I've read and tried to read: "The average American novelist will write, 'She went to the window and said...' An Italian writer will dedicate a page to the complex psychological process that prompted the character first to go to the window and then to open her mouth." And, my bet is he's talking about the NON fiction!! And, it would be funnier if he were exagerating. Then there's a characteristic of Italian journalism that he actually himself demonstrates when with very little pretense he writes, "Some people have even tried to play down the awful scene in the Champions League derby match with AC Milan, which was suspended live on television to the entire world in a deluge of rockets and bottles." ...the awful scene??? What awful scene!? Like most Italian journalists I find here, he doesn't actually tell what happened, he just gives his opinion about what happened. Sure, soccer is a big part of Italian culture, but not for 100% of Italians (that's Italy, not Italia) and much more relevantly, it would seem that the book that uses "we" to mean Italians and "you" to mean the reader would be intended for non-Italians who would have to be at least a little bit less likely to know what on earth he is talking about if he doesn't tell us what on earth he is talking about! And it's the same in spoke communication as well: "Speaking abstrusely is, for many, a source of pride...It doesn't matter if the listener or the reader understands nothing." But, you are to be very impressed by the fancy words they are using and the strikingly obscure subjects they mention. Most useful and interesting to me were his spectacular clarification of the success of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, his debunking of the dual legends of the luxurious Naples and slack jawed Naepolitians, and his the incredibly extensive list of cultural observations and affirmations that I fit only a small glimpse of here. I found many of the ideas not mentioned here to be either grossly-self delusional or typically glazed over, but that there was enough honesty and insight to more than counterbalance that, as in that this has become the most interesting cultural examination of Italy that I have yet come across. The reason I give the book 5 stars and the reason that I will be recommending it to many of my friends is because of his effective and ringing claim that "If Italy doesn't leave you bewildered, it means it has conned you."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The premise of the book was intriguing: learn about Italy from an Italian's point of view. However, it was only when I read in the last pages of the book (after the conclusion of the story) that this book was a number 1 seller in Italy (and not America) that I realized why the book didn't absolutely grab me. The author is humorous and clearly well educated on his subject. Unfortunately for me (an Italian enthusiast, even), many of the references were too obscure. The tales jumped all over the pl The premise of the book was intriguing: learn about Italy from an Italian's point of view. However, it was only when I read in the last pages of the book (after the conclusion of the story) that this book was a number 1 seller in Italy (and not America) that I realized why the book didn't absolutely grab me. The author is humorous and clearly well educated on his subject. Unfortunately for me (an Italian enthusiast, even), many of the references were too obscure. The tales jumped all over the place with little or no segue. For as detailed as he described many of the scenes, I couldn't get a clear vision of what Beppe was showing me. For as funny as he tried to be, I didn't understand all the jokes. There were two places in the book that really drew me in, and that was because I had actually experienced them before. As evidenced by the book's popularity in Italy, I think Beppe Severgnini is great at telling a story to the people who already know it, but lacks in the ability to properly include those of us he is trying to educate. I found the summary of the book in the form of the epilogue to be sufficient and better suited to tell the story than the previous 209 pages. If you want to know more about Italia, I'd recommend starting with the epilogue to this book. If you're further intrigued by some of the statements there, go ahead and start from the beginning. That said, I might consider picking up his other book, Ciao America! to see if I can relate better to that story and give his promising writing style another chance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    Well, I was hoping to learn a lot about Italy from this book; but I did something that I rarely do...I put it down before I got to the end. While I learned a couple of possibly useful tidbits, like the table fee at restaurants and the fact that pedestrians are more like target practice for drivers, overall I felt like this was written with SWEEPING generalizations. And the generalizations weren't limited to the Italians, they were also applied to Americans, Britains, Germans, etc. Since I'm tryi Well, I was hoping to learn a lot about Italy from this book; but I did something that I rarely do...I put it down before I got to the end. While I learned a couple of possibly useful tidbits, like the table fee at restaurants and the fact that pedestrians are more like target practice for drivers, overall I felt like this was written with SWEEPING generalizations. And the generalizations weren't limited to the Italians, they were also applied to Americans, Britains, Germans, etc. Since I'm trying to gain some insight into Italy before an upcoming trip, I thought it best to find a more practical source of information than this. I will say that Beppe does have a sarcastic sense of humor from time to time that I quite enjoyed; it just wasn't enough to keep me interested.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Khalid Ismail

    This book never met my expectation and curiosity. I bought it to read about the Italian culture and tradition and how life is like in Italy. I figured out that the book is very far off what I thought it would be. How the Italians park their cars, traffic in the roads, how they shop in malls, blah blah blah !!!. I didn't read the whole book. I stopped reading it after finishing the first half of it. And definitely I won't read it again...it is a waste of papers and time. This book never met my expectation and curiosity. I bought it to read about the Italian culture and tradition and how life is like in Italy. I figured out that the book is very far off what I thought it would be. How the Italians park their cars, traffic in the roads, how they shop in malls, blah blah blah !!!. I didn't read the whole book. I stopped reading it after finishing the first half of it. And definitely I won't read it again...it is a waste of papers and time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Beppe Severgnini takes us on a tour of the Italian mind, and what a mind it is. Intelligent. Intuitive. Good intentions. Intimate. Genius. Gusto. Guts. Generosity. Clever. Funny. Paradoxically true, which is always the truest sort of true.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Davie

    Read this before going to Italy! Funny. Inspiring. Thought-provoking. I really felt as though I had received an excellent introduction to the Italian mindset!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ciaran Monaghan

    Most of the observations in this book - as far as I can see - are not specific or unique to Italy but could be attributed to almost any country or culture, particularly 'Western' countries. The author relies on tired and tiresome stereotypes to illustrate what one country (UK, USA, Germany, France) does differently to Italy and Italians, none of which are true, at least not anymore. Even if there is something interesting that he touches upon, it is explained in so little detail that it offers no Most of the observations in this book - as far as I can see - are not specific or unique to Italy but could be attributed to almost any country or culture, particularly 'Western' countries. The author relies on tired and tiresome stereotypes to illustrate what one country (UK, USA, Germany, France) does differently to Italy and Italians, none of which are true, at least not anymore. Even if there is something interesting that he touches upon, it is explained in so little detail that it offers no insight. Rather, it reads more like an ageing man's gripes with the modern world and modern culture, hearkening back to some simpler time. Overall, not one to try if you want to learn more about Italy, nor for any other reason.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Valentina

    This book is about Italy from the eyes of an Italian native. In the beginning, the author says, ‘Your Italy and my Italia are not the same things.’ Of course, they are not. Italians live an everyday life made of routine and common places, such as paying bills, going to work, caring for the family, and doing the usual things. Foreigners fantasize of being in Italy to soak in the beauty of the arts, tasting food and wines, experiencing life with as little rules as possible (we are known as unruly) This book is about Italy from the eyes of an Italian native. In the beginning, the author says, ‘Your Italy and my Italia are not the same things.’ Of course, they are not. Italians live an everyday life made of routine and common places, such as paying bills, going to work, caring for the family, and doing the usual things. Foreigners fantasize of being in Italy to soak in the beauty of the arts, tasting food and wines, experiencing life with as little rules as possible (we are known as unruly), the gestures and the creative life Italians lead. The way he portrays “his Italia” is harsh, complicated, hard to understand to others, full of contradictions, generalizations, and ancient rules. He distorts the view of us Italians in a way that almost prefers foreigners would not go to Italy because it is a scary place. Bella figura translates as “To Make a Good Impressions”. Italians are very cordial and want to impress everyone they come in contact with, especially foreigners. The book is amusing and ironic, but as a native Italian, I expected the author, to bring out that good character Italians have, all the good products we make of which we are proud of, and he could have been a bit more reverent about the country.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    This "New York Times Bestseller" is awful. The book consists of general observations that are either obvious, ill-founded, or applicable to almost any culture, if they make sense at all. Here is an example, from page 6: Ours is a sophisticated exhibitionism that has no need of an audience. Italians are psychologically self-sufficient. What's the problem? Well, we like nice gestures so much we prefer them to good behavior. Gestures gratify, but behaving takes an effort. Still, the sum of ten good This "New York Times Bestseller" is awful. The book consists of general observations that are either obvious, ill-founded, or applicable to almost any culture, if they make sense at all. Here is an example, from page 6: Ours is a sophisticated exhibitionism that has no need of an audience. Italians are psychologically self-sufficient. What's the problem? Well, we like nice gestures so much we prefer them to good behavior. Gestures gratify, but behaving takes an effort. Still, the sum of ten good deeds does not make a person good, just as ten sins do not necessarily add up to a sinner. Theologians distinguish between actum and habitus: a single incident is not as serious as a "habit," or "practice." In other words, if you want to understand Italy, forget the guidebooks. Study theology.What does that even mean? It's confusion and tangents masquerading as profundity. Are Italians really "psychologically self-sufficient"? Doubtful, and Severgnini doesn't make any case for it. Do Italians prefer good gestures or habitual good behavior? Severgnini makes one statement, then argues for the other side. The entire book (which I quickly disposed of, otherwise you'd get more quotes) reads this way. It's not a funny book, either, despite what some reviewers and the jacket copy might say. Definitely avoid.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Scheff

    Definitely didn't think this book would turn out the way it did. Many times I found the author just blabbing and jabbering about things that were important to him, not so much the reader. I think the author had a hard time just getting the point across, and liked to drag it out. Often times the author would go off subject and just yap about something that had nothing to do with the book (in my opinion). As people were saying, this is not a book that you want to read in order to "get the knowledge Definitely didn't think this book would turn out the way it did. Many times I found the author just blabbing and jabbering about things that were important to him, not so much the reader. I think the author had a hard time just getting the point across, and liked to drag it out. Often times the author would go off subject and just yap about something that had nothing to do with the book (in my opinion). As people were saying, this is not a book that you want to read in order to "get the knowledge of Italy" under your belt before you travel. Honestly, I would say just go to TripAdvisor or read some of Rick Steve's novels. I studied in Florence, Italy for 1 semester (and still here, actually) and I've learned more from just being here and talking to people. Reading a book like this puts a picture in your head and creates false expectations... It was just a bad, boring book. But remember, this is MY opinion. This was also the first book that I couldn't (or didn't want to) finish because it was just so...plain.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John

    I really liked the author's "Ciao, America!" quite a bit, so got a hold of this one on Italy. Interesting approach of covering national sociological observations and regional differences together, rather than treating the latter separately. I really liked the author's "Ciao, America!" quite a bit, so got a hold of this one on Italy. Interesting approach of covering national sociological observations and regional differences together, rather than treating the latter separately.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I gave up reading after the first 30 pages. I expected to experience the landscapes of Italia as well as the stories behind their characteristics, turned out the author only bragged about some minor things that were over-generalized about Italians.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deedee

    Who knew? Italians are just like Americans, except they are worse drivers. (See: red lights don't mean stop, they mean: look around and consider whether or not to stop.) Very disappointing read. Who knew? Italians are just like Americans, except they are worse drivers. (See: red lights don't mean stop, they mean: look around and consider whether or not to stop.) Very disappointing read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Noritaka Hara

    Maybe out of his warm compassion, my Italian brother gave this book as a Christmas present to me, one of those being fascinated continuously and, at the same time, confused by Italians. Italy is an unarguably attractive nation. Great foods, emotional and friendly people, scenic nature, and massive cultural legacies. Lured by its obvious attractiveness, foreigners, including me, often fantasizes about them and bear stereotypes. The author gives you rich insights into the Italian mind and explains Maybe out of his warm compassion, my Italian brother gave this book as a Christmas present to me, one of those being fascinated continuously and, at the same time, confused by Italians. Italy is an unarguably attractive nation. Great foods, emotional and friendly people, scenic nature, and massive cultural legacies. Lured by its obvious attractiveness, foreigners, including me, often fantasizes about them and bear stereotypes. The author gives you rich insights into the Italian mind and explains from where it comes. His argument might provide explanations of your perplexion or make you laugh when you see the Italian mind in your friends. For instance, he describes that Italians are generally suspicious of change but horrified by routine, and rely on their genius intuition and improvisation, often ending up losing against less talented nations, just because they are more disciplined and have boring foresight. Reminds you of something? There are, of course, characteristics I don't appreciate, such as recurring improvisation (unless it is a jazz session by experienced musicians). However, it is also true that their generosity, intimacy, and foods are something you envy and make you (or me) keep visiting there and loving them.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Journalist Beppe Severgnini takes his readers through Italy in 10 days, linking each place he visits with an aspect of Italian life - traffic, politics, football etc. Through this he aims to explain the Italian psyche, revealing the real Italia that he describes as an 'offbeat purgatory'. A bit of a mixed bag - there are flashes of real insight, and moments of humour, but it can also be quite repetitive, has some strange generalisations (particularly about Americans) and sometimes struggles to Journalist Beppe Severgnini takes his readers through Italy in 10 days, linking each place he visits with an aspect of Italian life - traffic, politics, football etc. Through this he aims to explain the Italian psyche, revealing the real Italia that he describes as an 'offbeat purgatory'. A bit of a mixed bag - there are flashes of real insight, and moments of humour, but it can also be quite repetitive, has some strange generalisations (particularly about Americans) and sometimes struggles to convince. The visits to different towns are primarily a vehicle for exploring the Italian mindset - this is after all the premise of the book, but if you are interested in the places themselves, then this isn't the book for you. Severgnini writes well, with a straightforward conversational style. His tone is warm and tolerant, and pleasantly lacking in cynicism. He covers a wide variety of topics, sprinkled with some interesting bits of trivia, but the central idea - understanding the Italian mind - remains elusive and a bit muddled.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Msimone

    This is a book by an Italian journalist who describes how Italians live to the foreigner who might not recognize the deeper meaning beneath the observed "bella figura" - appearance behavior, posture, and speech of Italians. Severgini takes the reader on a tour from the airport of Malpensa to his home town in Crema describing and interpreting signposts of urban and country living, Unlike Tim Hawks' books "Italian Neighbors" and "Italian Education" that recount the way things are in Italy through This is a book by an Italian journalist who describes how Italians live to the foreigner who might not recognize the deeper meaning beneath the observed "bella figura" - appearance behavior, posture, and speech of Italians. Severgini takes the reader on a tour from the airport of Malpensa to his home town in Crema describing and interpreting signposts of urban and country living, Unlike Tim Hawks' books "Italian Neighbors" and "Italian Education" that recount the way things are in Italy through personal anecdotes based on his life as a British ex-pat, living, working in Italy married to an Italian, this book is more cynical than humorous. Beppe Servergnini focuses on a list of "ways things are" and "have been" in schools, banks, work-place, relationships, in Italy. In other words, the author takes the reader on a brief tour to reveal what Italians experience living in a society and how they deal with systemic frustrations with indifférence or acceptance or circumvent bureaucraties and social expectations to thrive.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I can't decide how I feel about this book. If you have no knowledge of Italy at all, or haven't spent much time there, I can't imagine you will enjoy it. As someone just a thesis short of a degree in Italian Studies, I am not entirely sure I got much out of it either...it's very intimate and very particular and probably very amusing to an expat living in Italy long term. It rambles and wanders, commenting on various elements of Italian culture (like schools or cappuccino or what have you), but i I can't decide how I feel about this book. If you have no knowledge of Italy at all, or haven't spent much time there, I can't imagine you will enjoy it. As someone just a thesis short of a degree in Italian Studies, I am not entirely sure I got much out of it either...it's very intimate and very particular and probably very amusing to an expat living in Italy long term. It rambles and wanders, commenting on various elements of Italian culture (like schools or cappuccino or what have you), but in a way that I think to fully appreciate you would REALLY need to know Italy well.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I got a kick out of this on many levels. I think it may upset and annoy some that a country that appears to be so disorganized from their point of view is a delightful place. It's a place full of potential and quirks and amusement. It's got history, location, genius, respect for family. There is theater and drama all over the place. Great stuff. I would love to travel there. Sadly, thanks to Commie Chinese mismanagement I don't think many of us will be doing much international travel for a while I got a kick out of this on many levels. I think it may upset and annoy some that a country that appears to be so disorganized from their point of view is a delightful place. It's a place full of potential and quirks and amusement. It's got history, location, genius, respect for family. There is theater and drama all over the place. Great stuff. I would love to travel there. Sadly, thanks to Commie Chinese mismanagement I don't think many of us will be doing much international travel for a while.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hazy

    More of a book written by an Italian for Italians, so a lot of the references didn't translate well for me. Not really a travel book in the conventional sense, though there are some interesting tidbits about towns and cars. Was not a fan of the humor, which felt a bit like generic 90's stand up (BRITS BE LIKE THIS, GERMANS BE LIKE THIS). Just wasn't as fun a read as I was hoping, which is a shame because the author seems like a great public speaker. More of a book written by an Italian for Italians, so a lot of the references didn't translate well for me. Not really a travel book in the conventional sense, though there are some interesting tidbits about towns and cars. Was not a fan of the humor, which felt a bit like generic 90's stand up (BRITS BE LIKE THIS, GERMANS BE LIKE THIS). Just wasn't as fun a read as I was hoping, which is a shame because the author seems like a great public speaker.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan Barnes

    Some chapters better than others, lots of valid and interesting points about Italy. Two trips in and the book is certainly accurate based on my experiences, hopefully many more to come. Overall enjoyed the book but it was choppy, not always on message or to the point. Lots of reading between the lines, not unlike Italy itself. The best stuff isn't the most obvious. Some chapters better than others, lots of valid and interesting points about Italy. Two trips in and the book is certainly accurate based on my experiences, hopefully many more to come. Overall enjoyed the book but it was choppy, not always on message or to the point. Lots of reading between the lines, not unlike Italy itself. The best stuff isn't the most obvious.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie Moronta

    The book was overall good. I read it during my study abroad program in Florence, Italy. The book helped me better understand the enviroment I was living in and what I should expect of my surroundings and people when in certain areas of Italy. If you are ever traveling to Italy, I reccomend reading this to help you prepare for your trip. Its an easy read.

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