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La Bella Figura: An In...
Beppe Severgnini
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La Bella Figura: An Insider's Guide To The Italian Mind

3.25  ·  Rating Details ·  1,190 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews

Join the bestselling author of Ciao, America! on a lively tour of modern Italy that takes you behind the seductive face it puts on for visitors—la bella figura—and highlights its maddening, paradoxical true self
You won’t need luggage for this hypothetical and hilarious trip into the hearts and minds of Beppe Severgnini’s fellow Italians. In fact, Beppe would prefer if you

269 pages
Published 2007 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 2005)
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Michael Goldman
While I learned that as an overthinker who flies by the seat of his pants when travelling, I may relate more to Italians than Americans, I think that's about all I learned.

Through a combination of strange prose and incomprehensible tangents, Beppe gets me more lost about his vision of Italy than a twisty Roman street. I set out to read the book to try to understand the country I'm about to visit and was left almost not wanting to visit it at all.

There were a few helpful tips (i.e. don't cross t
Kayla Chapman
Jul 19, 2012 Kayla Chapman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After living in Italy for a year, reading this book brought back memories and also explained a few hidden ideas in the Italian mind. Severini is hilarious in his description of his homeland but also acknowledges age-old problems that fill the country. I wouldn't recommend reading this book before your first trip to Italy because it will distort your view and may cause you to be hyper-critical. Read after you've been there a while or after you've left so you can laugh a bit. This book is filled w ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Tommy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
See the original review here:

I think it’s about time I take a break from fiction don’t you? Now, I am going to have to come clean here, my family have owned a property in Italy for many years and I have been going out there for a long time before that too. So what would make me want to read a book about a place I am already in love with despite the quite clearly obvious reason that I am already in love with it?

Well the answer is simple really, it’s Italy
I really enjoyed Severgnini's smart-ass sense of humor and wit. He's an Italian David Sedaris. He makes fun of and adores Italians at the same time, meanwhile pointing out all their contradictions, anxieties and passions in very Italian, self-effacing way. He says of Italians that they make fun of everything because they respect nothing, and he is not different. Like a comedian/anthropologist he dissects everything from the modern Italian family structure to the meaning of the Vespa and the tele ...more
Megan Baxter
Jul 30, 2007 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into Italian culture. Severgnini details the complexity of the Italian mind, from its attraction to all things beautiful, to its suspicion and personal interpretation of top-down authority (hence the "red lights are suggestions" thing.

Being an American completely in love with Italy (rolling amber hills, strong architecture, astounding artisitic genius), I found myself rethinking my view of this country. Now, my view is not shadowed, but it isn't idealistic either. I can now lo
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 ...more
Oct 01, 2007 Rochelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book on the plane to Italy, having already been there twice, I was hoping to gain further insight into the Italian psyche. I chose the wrong book. Mr. Severgnini did a disservice to his own people by keeping his observations facile and boring. I would not recommend this book to anyone. My advice -- if you want to learn about Italians, go to Italy and make friends with a local -- spend the $25 bucks buying them a pastry and a cafe' latte over some good conversation.
Feb 11, 2008 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Italy, especially those living here or planning a visit.
Not so much a travel guide as a sociological exploration, this book is packed with fascinating insights and telling weaknesses. The author, an Italian that has worked as an English journalist at The Economist and other venues, explains the difference between Italy and Italia - the former being an imaginative invention of the English later adopted by the Americans, and the latter being the real thing. But, don't worry about remembering which is which, because after explaining both the difference ...more
Sep 29, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Virginia Byrne
The premise of the book was intriguing: learn about Italy from an Italian's point of view. However, it was only when I read in the last pages of the book (after the conclusion of the story) that this book was a number 1 seller in Italy (and not America) that I realized why the book didn't absolutely grab me. The author is humorous and clearly well educated on his subject. Unfortunately for me (an Italian enthusiast, even), many of the references were too obscure. The tales jumped all over the pl ...more
May 15, 2011 Renee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
This "New York Times Bestseller" is awful. The book consists of general observations that are either obvious, ill-founded, or applicable to almost any culture, if they make sense at all. Here is an example, from page 6:
Ours is a sophisticated exhibitionism that has no need of an audience. Italians are psychologically self-sufficient. What's the problem? Well, we like nice gestures so much we prefer them to good behavior. Gestures gratify, but behaving takes an effort. Still, the sum of ten good
Aug 25, 2012 Kira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Forse questo sentimento nazionale è tradizione, forse è abitudine, forse è solo una pausa che si concede chi ha litigato troppo. Probabilmente, mescolato al resto contiene un po' di rimpianto: perché sappiamo, in fondo, che le nostre virtù sono inimitabili, mentre i difetti sarebbero correggibili. Basta volerli correggere. Basta convincersi che la testa degli italiani è un gioiello, non un alibi."

Leggendo i molti commenti negativi e legittimi dei lettori stranieri, suppongo il libro di Severgni
Elizabeth Tangora
Aug 05, 2010 Elizabeth Tangora rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hated
If the author was narrating this book to you over dinner or drinks, I imagine it would be a charming way of passing the time. Or if it was just a travel column published once a week I'd probably be a fan. But lumped into a book the twee observations about Italians just seem to go on forever. The paragraphs all have the same rhythm to them and by the 30th time I'd read about how "Italians are (adjective) and (adjective), but also (contradiction) and (contradiction)!" my eyes just rolled back into ...more
Emerline LA
Jan 03, 2013 Emerline LA rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelling
Cảm giác giống như nói chuyện điện thoại với một người Ý. Anh ta đi khắp nước Ý, dừng lại đôi chỗ để ngắm một quảng trường đông đúc hay bãi biển rực nắng hè, vừa kể những cảnh trước mắt vừa liên tục bình luận về những chuyện ngày xửa ngày xưa và vô vàn dây mơ rễ má từ những thứ vụn vặt nhất đến bản tính nước Ý - cái lối tư duy đã ngấm vào máu anh chàng. Anh ta đùa cợt với mọi thứ, từ Machiavelli đến ông thủ tướng đương thời, từ bệnh viện đến nhà thờ,bằng một giọng trào phúng đáng yêu. Và mình lặ ...more
Sơn Phước
Tôi cứ nghĩ rằng mình sẽ thích cuốn này lắm lắm. Tác giả sử dụng đủ các biệt pháp từ liệt kê, so sánh và đặc biệt là rất nhiều trích dẫn, có đồng ý lần không đồng ý. Ngay cả cách dẫn dắt vấn đề bằng chuyến du lịch vòng quanh nước Ý trong vòng mười ngày cũng đã thể hiện việc viết cuốn sách của tác giả là có chủ định, chứ không phải tùy hứng như nhiều người. Đoạn đầu khá hài hước và dễ chịu, sẵn sàng cho *** liền, nhưng về sau thì hơi ngấy. Phải chăng vì tôi đã đọc quá dồn dập hay vì hồi giờ vốn m ...more
Khalid Ismail
Apr 05, 2015 Khalid Ismail rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book never met my expectation and curiosity. I bought it to read about the Italian culture and tradition and how life is like in Italy. I figured out that the book is very far off what I thought it would be. How the Italians park their cars, traffic in the roads, how they shop in malls, blah blah blah !!!.
I didn't read the whole book. I stopped reading it after finishing the first half of it.

And definitely I won't read it is a waste of papers and time.
Tyler Scheff
Definitely didn't think this book would turn out the way it did. Many times I found the author just blabbing and jabbering about things that were important to him, not so much the reader. I think the author had a hard time just getting the point across, and liked to drag it out. Often times the author would go off subject and just yap about something that had nothing to do with the book (in my opinion).

As people were saying, this is not a book that you want to read in order to "get the knowledge
Sep 01, 2011 Brittany rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one, really
Well, I was hoping to learn a lot about Italy from this book; but I did something that I rarely do...I put it down before I got to the end. While I learned a couple of possibly useful tidbits, like the table fee at restaurants and the fact that pedestrians are more like target practice for drivers, overall I felt like this was written with SWEEPING generalizations. And the generalizations weren't limited to the Italians, they were also applied to Americans, Britains, Germans, etc. Since I'm tryi ...more
Jean Pham
Jan 31, 2014 Jean Pham rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave up reading after the first 30 pages. I expected to experience the landscapes of Italia as well as the stories behind their characteristics, turned out the author only bragged about some minor things that were over-generalized about Italians.
Kathy Davie
Sep 20, 2010 Kathy Davie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers, those interested in other cultures
Recommended to Kathy by: C Campbell
Read this before going to Italy! Funny. Inspiring. Thought-provoking. I really felt as though I had received an excellent introduction to the Italian mindset!
Jan 17, 2017 Julia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Obwohl Severgnini einen großartigen Humor besitzt, und diesen immer wieder zur Schau stellt, hat mich dieses Buch über weite Teile enttäuscht. Wer schon einmal in Italien war, dem werden viele der beschriebenen Situationen bekannt vorkommen. Der Autor möchte mit diesem Buch keine typischen, oft von Ausländern angenommenen, Klischees beschreiben - tut meiner Meinung nach aber leider genau das. Ein bisschen abgeändert könnte diese Geschichte vermutlich auch auf jede andere Nation umgelegt werden. ...more
Julia Mihhailova
Must-to-read for everyone who is planning to travel around Italy or to live in the country. The best description of tangled Italian soul and full set of hints and tips in one book. Entertaining, amusing and absolutely useful.
Nov 28, 2016 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Generally amusing, with some keen observations. Although as a longtime New Yorker, many of his observations of so-called "Italian" behavior could just as easily be ascribed to New Yorkers, Chicagoans, Bostonians, or really anyone living in close quarters.
Athan Tolis
Aug 28, 2014 Athan Tolis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
I did not leave my summer reading to chance. I actually went to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore to pick out this little book, much like I’d done a few years ago when I struck gold with George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia.” The catchy cover, featuring a stylish Latin Lover lying on the saddle of his Vespa grabbed me. I remembered Bill Emmott referring to Severgnini’s work in his “Good Italy, Bad Italy” so I figured I had a winner in my hands.


Turns out that books about countries like Greece,
Anna Atanasova
Общувала съм с доста италианци,докато живях във Великобритания. Книгата затвърди както моето мнение,така и наложеното,че са много екстровертен тип нация.Харесвам начина ми на общуване,въпреки че понякога порядките от южните части на страната,ми се струват прекалени.Когато контактуват с чужденци,се опитват да спазват някакви граници,които за останалите държави са нормални.Но при общуване италианец с италианец,тогава се вижда истинската им същност.И е много приятно да се наблюдава отстрани.Дори пр ...more
First of all, how Italian is the name Beppe??

This is very cute, with the chapters organized as a "tour of Italy." Personally, I feel like I've read more skillful accounts of a country's national character, but come to think of it, those were usually written by non-natives. This book offers more of a description than any kind of an explanation.

I am amazed at customer loyalty to certain brands of pasta, peas, cookies, and canned tomatoes. Why? Conservatism, consolation, and television, the same co
Turns out Bella Figura is more humor than cultural studies: mildly entertaining, mildly informative. Severgnini enjoys noting the idiosyncracies of Italian culture without bothering to offer much interpretation--beyond, We Italians are festive/ willful/ traditional/ etc., or more often just, We like it that way--it’s as though the pleasure of description is enough. Sometimes it is. I liked reading about more obscure stuff, such as why Italian light switches are “styled into invisibility” (his ex ...more
Jun 14, 2008 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-italiano
Un detallado mapa sobre "la cabeza de los italianos", sin cipreses ni chianti, con las hermanos del David y los primos de la Venus que comen, beben, duermen, se estacionan y trabajan.
Me parece que el libro es de interés para los extranjeros que vivimos en Italia, no precisamente al momento de nuestra llegada ni como preparación previa al expatrio. Es para más tarde, cuando hemos vivido en carne propia la italianidad y más de una vez hemos quedado perplejos, situaciones para reir o llorar.
No hay
Erol Yeşilyurt
İt is indeed a witty book. There are good observations and some good points are made, but it is falling short of providing a good analysis. Beppe Severgnini is usually writing in an ironic style and thus managing not to tackle the real issues or give thoughtful explanations like Tim Park does. Secondly, many, many points he makes about İtalians, can be made about Spaniards, Greeks or Turks among others. Thirdly the book is failing to give a picture of the life of a normal family; the class diffe ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Smarti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reisen
Als Einstieg in das "echte" Italien nicht schlecht. Ein Landsmann aus der Lombardei, der zudem einmal die auszeichnung zum "Europäischen Journalisten des Jahres" gewonnen hat, berichtet hier. Auf einer virtuellen Rundreise durch Italien in zehn Tagen lernt man so alle möglichen Aspekte des Italienischen Alltags kennen und bekommt einen Eindruck davon, wie der Italiener ticken könnte. Leider scheint einiges arg oberflächlich und verallgemeinernd. "Der" Italiener an sich wird hier mit "dem" Deutsc ...more
May 04, 2015 Maya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Сигурна бях, че с италианците сме доста близки по натюрел, а този прекрасен и забавен не пъте-, а народопсихолого-водител само потвърди тази сигурност. Не знам доколко италианците се съгласяват със заключенията и обобщенията на Севернини, но на много места в книгата беше достатъчно да сменя "италианци" с "българи", за да получа 100-процентово покритие - особено когато се отнася за политиката, спазването на законите и изборите. Всъщност, основната разлика между нас като народи май е по линията оп ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Updates needed 2 11 Feb 18, 2017 10:03AM  
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Giuseppe "Beppe" Severgnini (born December 26, 1956) is an Italian journalist, writer and columnist.

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“First of all, let's get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It's alluring, but complicated. It's the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.” 63 likes
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