“Strano e difficile a crederci, ma è proprio così! “ Strange and hard to believe, but that’s right!

This is how Italian journalist and blogger Veronica Triolo begins her post on an American writer who con sorriso, grinta ed entusiasmo, si è appassionata al nostro paese” (with a smile, determination and enthusiasm, became passionate about our country).  This passion, she notes,non è superficiale e non è basata sui soliti banali stereotipi (isn’t superficial nor based on the usual banal stereotypes) but reflects years of study and research on every aspect of Italian culture: from history to art, music, fashion, cinema, food, wine and lifestyle.

When we met after a presentation of LA PASSIONE at the British Institute in Florence, Veronica wondered how her  “pazzo e disordinato paese” (crazy and messy country) was able to fascinate and inspire me.  You can read her complete interview in Italian at fragolosablog.com. Here is an English translation of some key questions:

Your passion for my country is really flattering. Don’t you have the impression we take all we have — history/art/cultural heritage/lifestyle/food/fashion — for granted?

Italians grow up surrounded by cultural riches—in their churches, monuments, countryside, wherever they turn.  Rather than taking it for granted, I think that they accept and appreciate the beauty around them as a given, part of their heritage and birthright.  They may not realize how extraordinary their patrimony is until they get to know other  countries and cultures—or until foreigners like myself, looking at Italy through what one reader called “virgin eyes,” point out Italy’s unique contributions to Western civilization.

What are the main differences of attitudes towards life of an American, compared to an Italian?

Americans come from so many different cultures and countries that we have a broad range of attitudes so it’s hard to generalize.  However, many Americans focus on pursuing goals, whether educational or economic, so at times we strive so hard to achieve them that we lose touch with the everyday joys of living.

Many Americans are always on the go, rushing to appointments, wolfing down fast food, working all hours of the day and night.  Italians also work hard, but they take the time to savor a good meal, to chat with friends, to hold their families close, to stop and appreciate beauty wherever they may find it.  This is one of the important “life lessons” I’ve learned from Italians.

What is the most efficient way or method to promote Italy abroad? (Your book being a perfect example.)

I wrote all three of my Italy-based books—LA BELLA LINGUA, MONA LISA and LA PASSIONE—to share the richness of your culture with other foreigners.  The more that non-Italians learn and understand about Italy’s language, history, art, crafts, food, fashion and other cultural endeavors, the more they can appreciate them.

Italy has done a remarkable job in promoting its culture through the “Made in Italy” promotions. As I note in LA PASSIONE, people in every part of the world sip espresso, drive Fiats, buy Italian purses and clothes and relish Italian cooking. In my view, the world seems more Italian than when I first discovered Italy thirty years ago. I’m happy to play some small part in continuing to spread a passion for Italy and its wonderful, warm-hearted people.

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting LanguageMONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA PASSIONE: How Italy  Seduced the World. For more information,  visit diannehales.com.