December 2, 2023 | Rome, Italy

La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

By |2020-04-11T00:19:50+02:00January 1st, 2007|Books, Recent Reviews|

By Beppe Severgnini

Broadway Books, 2006. 217 pages.


urious about what makes Italians tick? Amid droll anecdotes and smatterings of history, Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini offers some clues.

Italians are ruled by their senses, he claims, and cling to a time-honored lifestyle. Chic, creative, and convivial, they can’t resist filling a vacuum with sensory stimuli. They overstuff their homes just as they overfeed their guests, and they choose everything from clothing to cars for styling rather than practicality. Bound by traditions rather than legalities, they amiably sidestep regulations but would never breach the “bella figura” by ordering a pizza at lunchtime. They distrust change and cling to their lifestyle while paying endless lip-service to the need for innovation. Even new technology paradoxically serves to cement the status quo as businessmen commuting home to lunch use the snazziest cell phones to alert Mamma to start boiling the pasta. Plenty of insights and ironies and, yes, stereotypes.

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