Snow-covered mountaintops of the Alps... Foamy espresso... Rocky cliffs over sapphire blue water... Cobblestone streets and scooters... Welcome to Italy!
How to be Italian covers many aspects of Italian life, including eating, drinking, fashion, love, travel, and living la dolce vita — the sweet life. From photography of the city and oceanside views of Italy’s coast to illustrations, this 215-page book is packed with information, but it’s also an image lover’s paradise. The photography often displays pops of color, such as a red car against cobblestone, a yellow jacket among beige buildings, and bright ocean waves with swimmers wearing red, pink, and blue swimsuits.
Maria Pasquale, the author of How to be Italian, has Italian ancestry but was born in Australia. American readers may appreciate this perspective, for the author’s culture shock may mimic what we would experience, such as her surprise at the Italian definition of being on time:
“The cultural contrast of my upbringing means that my precise Australian punctuality doesn’t fly at all in Rome. My first years in the city featured a string of turning up to restaurants on time and waiting up to an hour for Roman friends to casually roll in. Or I’d message on the way to say I was running ten minutes late, to still arrive first.”
The book is divided into topics, so it can be read in order or by flipping through and choosing a topic. In each section, the author notes the regional differences in Italian culture. For example, depending on where you are in Italy, the food is different: “every region, town, and village have their own pasta combination, which will already be predetermined on menus. Like scialatielli with seafood on the Amalfi coast… pasta alla norma in Catania… and tonnarelli cacio e pepe in Rome. Oh, and every region has its own bread or flatbread too…” In this writer’s opinion, this makes for an even richer reading experience. We feel we are truly learning about Italy as a country, and not just generalizations.
A Lifestyle and Common Thread Throughout HOW TO BE ITALIAN: Dolce Far Niente
“The dolce far niente is a way of life. Coined in the South… the term is tied to the southerners’ Mediterranean way of life: sea, sun and fun. In its simplest form, it is the art of living in the moment: an affectionate and literal term for the sweetness of doing nothing and revelling in it.”
If you’re anything like this writer, you’re an American that has grown up in hustle culture, and learning about Dolce Far Niente informs you that there is another way to live. One without feeling guilty for taking breaks or struggling to enjoy the simple things. You may even feel waves of envy when you learn about the untouchable August Holiday, or the time of year when many shops and restaurants are closed for weeks at a time. You’ll also learn common vacation destinations depending on where in Italy the traveler is from. The Milanesi tend to visit lakes, such as Lake Como or Lakes Garda, whereas the Romans commonly visit coastal Sperlonger or the island of Ponza.
This book would be a great fit for someone who wants to learn more about Italy and for those looking to travel there, as it’ll go over some words, phrases, and cultural elements that will help any traveler during their time in the country. This could be a good coffee table read, as it provides photographs, easily digestible chapters based around a topic, and page-long subtopics within each chapter, allowing for reading in quick bursts.
For more information and to purchase visit the Amazon page for HOW TO BE ITALIAN.
Images courtesy of Smith Street Books
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About the Author: Nichole Gould
Today, she does things a little differently and her writing covers topics of disillusionment, nature, family, homecoming, and growth. She attempts to tackle these topics in an experimental and dreamy way, through both nonfiction and fiction, and sometimes, when she’s feeling confident, poetry. Nichole also spent a semester in Oregon, studying writing and hiking among the moss. Although she misses traveling, she enjoys exploring the magic of the Great Lakes in her home state of Michigan. When she’s not writing or traveling, you can find her reading, bookstore hopping, looking for her dream job as a recent grad, or hanging out with her 16-year-old cat, Kyle.