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La Bella Figura: An Insider's Guide to the Italian Mind Paperback – 1 Aug 2007

2.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Aug 2007
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (1 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034093607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340936078
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,007,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"* 'A keen observer of human nature, he watches his compatriots with amused insight... Laugh-out-loud funny.' - International Herald and Tribune * 'A luscious disquisition on the Italian national character' - The Washington Post"

Book Description

WATCHING THE ENGLISH for the Italians... an affectionate, witty guide to Italians at their most enchanting and infuriating --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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2.6 out of 5 stars
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I bought this book as a fun read during my travels to Tuscany but ultimately gave up on it so that I could get on and enjoy my holiday in beautiful surroundings that bore little resemblance to those described by the author. I found the writing smug and cynical and, in some places, so repetitive that I thought there had been copy and paste errors. As with other authors who stereotype entire regions (Bill Bryson, Peter Mayle), Severgnini's claims that "all people in Milan do this" and "all buildings in Tuscany are like this" didn't square with the experiences I was having on my travels. This is the only review I've written for a book I haven't finished, so perhaps it is not entirely a fair one; however, the sun is shining in Italy and, despite the assertion that no one drinks a cappuccino in the afternoon, I think I'll go and do just that.
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Format: Paperback
Beppe Severgnini is an author as comfortable in English as he is in his native Italian. This is a highly readable mini-travelogue , highlighting all of the places in Italy that a Briton would consider as a holiday destination and embellishing it with colourful stories of the locals, while selecting the best of civic traditions as well as those of the wider sense of "Italianess". The observations seek to bring out the best of the Italians and those that could be deemed to be " curious/eccentric" are treated with sympathy and humour, but above all they are tailored to an english speaking and in particular, a British audience.
Clearly, he has a fondness for his adoopted country (he lived in the UK for several years) and its citizens and you get the feeling that working on it was a labour of love. highly recommended
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Format: Paperback
I thought that this book was aimed at people like me....If so this book is not just off target but out of the stadium!

If you have had any experience of Italy, or read books by Tobias Jones, Tim Parks or Joe McGinniss etc. I would save your cash.

The author uses the book as an excuse in delivering elaborate rhetoric - in an impressive use of language (English). Rather like a rower with one oar this doesn't get us anywhere much...

To give an example... the fact that many Italians do not regard traffic signals with too much seriousness is worthy of much comment. Is there anyone with any interest in Italy that does not know this already?

Need I say more?
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Format: Paperback
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".
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Every so often since the 1990s the journalist Beppe Severgnini publishes a volume of his latest destination he has lived and worked in, and has it translated into various tongues. La Bella Figura (2008), a 10 day journey inside the Italian mind and down the length of his home land, is in its present format quite different. It is aimed at English speaking Italophiles wishing plausible answers to complex questions, something a self proclaimed Italian Anglophile feels he can provide.

It is an attempt to demonstrate that the foreigner's image of Italy is very different from the real Italia of the natives. In a nutshell, "Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages such as hills in the sunset, olive groves and raven haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. In Italia you go round and round in circles for years. Which, of course, is great fun."

Excellent start and intention: it is much more than pizza, Mafia, corruption of public administration, Berlusconi and his bunga bunga parties, and of over paid football and film stars clad in Armani, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, as featured in the columns of world press.

Though focusing on certain key tourist hot spots since the past Grand Tours of the rich: Milan, Florence and Tuscany, Rome, and Naples, Severgnini's ten chapter day tome is not a traditional tourist guide.
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... if you already have a copy of Severgnini's "An Italian In Italy". It's the same book, whose original title was "La testa degli Italiani". Sharp practice by the publishers.(Hodder).
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