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I would like to talk about a book I enjoyed very much, Italian Neighbours by Tim Parks.
It is a collection of all the "Italian Experiences" the author made while living in Montecchio near Verona. Being Italian, I found it really amusing and very interesting, because it tells about all the innocent manias we have. It was interesting to see how weird and exotic, if I may say that, some of our typical habits may seem to a foreigner; I mean, sometimes you realize some things are a bit weird and you laugh at them yourself, but sometimes you just cannot realize, because you grew up with that and it is normal for you.
The book is a bit old, so some things have changed slightly, especially in politics (well, not that they have improved anyway), but, you know, people and things change in 15 years...Everything is described with that sort of light irony that is a chracteristic of the English sense of humour, and I enjoyed every bit.
A lot of the things he notices are still there, though, as if they were buried very deep into the Italian soul: well, I know a load of "car worshippers", my aunt is a cleaning freak and so on.
I think what has improved most, at least as far as I know, is the relationship to our pets. The author is shocked for the way people treat their dogs (and rightly so), but now many people changed their minds about animals in the house, and the way they should be treated. I let my cats sleep on my bed and know a lot of people that do too. It is increasingly becoming a true "love affair", even if there are still some people (and I would really like to meet one) that throw away their dog, because they are going on holiday and it is too much of a fuss to take it with them!
Mr.Parks is amazed at the quantity of moped and small vehicles he sees sprinting around, well, I never really took notice of it, before some foreign friends told me: we drive like maniacs!
Some of the things he notices about bureaucracy are the same ones that make us crazy all the time, especially because of their uselessness, even if the situation has improved a bit in the past few years.
I laughed out loud when I read the description of the flat they were going to live in, he said the furniture was awful and "coffin-style" and, having visited many a house in that style I couldn't have found a better definition!
Well, I don't want to spoil your amusement telling you everything, in case you decide to have a go. All I can tell you is that the descriptions are always very detailed, but not heavy or lengthy, just the essentials to make you "see" what he means. I don't always agree with the things he notices, but maybe it is just because he lived in the Veneto and I live in Piedmont; it seems just a small distance, but the way we think and behave is very different (though not as much as between the noeth and the south). I found it even more interesting for that reason, I got to know how it is living over there.
I enjoyed the book so much that I finished it in two days, so now I am reading it again. If you are interested in my country and want to know a bit more than the tourists' impressions I suggest you read Italian Neighbours, I found it very nice.