Wednesday, January 19, 2011

La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini

Subtitled An Insider's Guide to The Italian Mind this is an entertaining, accessible and revealing discussion about Italian habits and culture.

We are met at the airport and taken round Milan , Tuscany, Naples and Sardinia then back to the airport. Along the way we are introduced to Italian ideas and behaviour including their relationships with the church, their families and neighbours. It's a fun filled journey though sometimes it can get a little irritating, as the author hops from topic to topic excited to get everything in. I found the earlier chapters were more focussed than the later ones. The section on traffic for example I found particularly entertaining.

Many non-Italians are familiar with the chaotic traffic in Italy, either from personal experience or from other people's stories. However this book reveals the fact that the red traffic light for an Italian opens up a whole philosophical discussion about the nature of red, the relativity of safety and risk, while the chaotic parking is all part of an internal desire to park as close as is possible to the place one is visiting, even if there is a perfectly good carpark around the corner (this however doesn't explain the cars parked on stairs leading from carparks that I saw when I visited Turin.) And all the blaring horns? Well the Italian drivers are composing symphonies!

We are given similar entertaining insights into hotels, houses (including bathrooms, bedrooms and windows), restaurants, piazzas, airports and beaches. Hard facts and statistics are slipped in amongst opinions, amusing anecdotes and quotes from literature, making it entertaining and educational at the same time.

La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini, translated by Giles Watson, published by Hodder and Staughton

Read for the Italy in Books Challenge


Elizabeth Rimmer said...

My high water mark for parking used to be Cork, where I swear they can move a car sideways, but cars parked on stairs trumps that!

Jeane said...

I would love to read more of his books and like this one books about Italian habits! Elizabeth, didn't notice that in Cork? Or is there a Cork outside Ireland?

Brighton Blogger said...

I have this book ready on my shelf... Let's see what I can find out more about what's in my Italian mind!