"Please not: M. di Blasi, Frances Mayes" Top 5 Page for this destination Italy Tourist Trap Tip by Trekki

Italy Tourist Traps: 99 reviews and 63 photos

Very sensitive topic!!

I am well aware that a storm of protest might result now, and even if these women I am referring to here find this, I hope that they look deep into the mirror and hopefully find out if there is point to what I write now.

Some time after my trip to Venezia I looked for books about this magic city. That’s how I found “1000 days in Venice”, obviously Marlena di Blasi’s first book of this 1000-day-in-(somewhere Italy) series. I didn’t warm towards it after the first couple of pages and thought it might vanish after a while, but it didn’t. Quite contrary – it got worse with every page. The book was or is about one of these romantic stories “woman goes to Italy, falls in love with a local, marries, and...” In her case I somehow doubt that it was love but more something like a calculation to find a way to make business (she collects recipes and seems to be writing cook books). The way she describes how she chases her husband around to organise this or that for her life she is used or wants to have or for her recipe collection might amuse feminists but I found this downright disgusting (and I have some characteristics of feminism...). The end of the story in which she constantly complains about the city they live (Venezia), is that they leave Venezia and set out to “look for their dream house” somewhere else. I think the next station is Toscana, then comes Orvieto and obviously she has also visited a village in Sicilia as well. All these relocations result in a book of this “1000 days in..” series. Same story. Chasing her husband around, trying to make friends among the locals, get the secret recipes out of them, get bored and leave again.. I found it even symptomatic that she seemed to have announced a “gastronomic tour through Umbria”, given one forum post in the Italia forum. No wonder that the posters looked for these tours without avail. She is already gone... I seriously hope that she goes back where she comes from and won’t "bless" more Italian villages with her presence. I have not bought any more books of her but browsed through the Orvieto one in a bookstore, it was exactly the same style.

A similar kind of story was transformed into the book “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes. This is even more falling into the category of these novels where foreign woman is betrayed at home, needs distraction, goes to Italy, finds a house, renovates it with the help of emigrants, finds an Italian, shipwrecks the relationship, finds a writer of the same nationality as her and happily lives after. Place: Cortona. Did she ever ask herself why she does not let the house renovation be done by locals? Did she ever ask why she messed up the relationship? Maybe she thinks she lives on another planet, but definitely not in Italy. No, I haven’t bought her book (I would rather give the money to charities) but have browsed through it in a bookstore. Imho It is a pure waste of money buying this book. She does not describe Italia but her own unhealthy perception.

Unique Suggestions: There is no need imho buying these books, a waste of time and money.

When I read the book “La Bella Figura” by Beppe Severgnini I almost died of laughter because he describes exactly the books of these two women, without mentioning their names though. But is it obvious. That’s the quote out of his book I am referring to:
## Almost all modern accounts of the country fall into one of two categories: chronicles of a love affair, or diaries of a disappointment. The former have an inferiority complex toward Italian home life, and usually feature one chapter on the importance of the family, and another on the excellence of Italian cooking. The diaries take a supercilious attitude toward Italian public life. Inevitably, there is censure of Italian corruption, and a section on the Mafia.
By and large, the chronicles of love affairs are penned by American women, who display love without interest in their descriptions of a seasonal Eden, where the weather is good and the locals are charming. The diaries of disappointment tend to be produced by British men, who show interest without love. They describe a disturbing country populated by unreliable individuals and governed by a public administration from hell.

Fun Alternatives: This “love without interest” Severgnini describes is exactly the most critical issue with so many of the books that have been written by foreigners (women mostly). Unfortunately so many people fall for these books and so many people come just because of these kinds of books to Italia and look for these idyllic landscapes and towns.

But there are countless books which don’t fall into these categories, starting with the books of Beppe Severgnini. I loved his “Bella Figura” one, because he is quite frank with his compatriots but without insulting. He just writes about the plain reality, but in a funny and enjoyable way. Other books are the one of Luigi Barzini, “The Italians”, a very amusing book or the books of Dario Castagno about his life as tour guide in Toscana with very lovely and passionate descriptions of the region and its locals. Books by foreign women which do not fall in the category of utmost trash? I am afraid that I did not yet find one.

For German speaking, the books of series Lesereisen by publisher Picus or the series =gebrauchsanweisungen]Gebrauchsanweisung by publisher Piper are excellent to read. (Sorry for the strange link name, but it works)

© Ingrid D., January 2010 (So please do not copy my text without my permission.). Update June 2015: wording.

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jun 28, 2015
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