'Hooper has written a fascinating, affectionate and well-researched study that delivers the tantalising flavour of a country as hot, cold, bitter and sweet as an affogato' The Telegraph
'This portrait of a nation is required reading for anyone heading to a Tuscan villa or Puglian beach this summer' Financial Times
Sublime and maddening, fascinating yet baffling, Italy is a country of endless paradox and seemingly unanswerable riddles.
John Hooper's marvellously entertaining and perceptive book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians. Looking at the facts that lie behind - and often belie - the stereotypes, his revealing book sheds new light on many aspects of Italian life: football and Freemasonry, sex, symbolism and the reason why Italian has twelve words for a coat hanger, yet none for a hangover.
British journalist Hooper (The New Spaniards) draws on his years of experience as a correspondent in Italy to produce a nuanced look at its national character. He begins by describing the history of the peninsula, along with the topographic and linguistic variety that distinguishes its various regions. Topics like politics and the economy recur throughout, while the Catholic Church, soccer, the Mafia, and food receive their own sections or chapters. Hooper ranges from important issues, such as the centrality of family and the treatment and role of women, to minor ones, like the national penchant for sunglasses. Hooper continually returns to Italian vocabulary to explain terms that have no direct English equivalent but which are central to life in Italy. He selects certain people as examples of specific traits, suggesting that Silvio Berlusconi, for instance, managed to weather so many political setbacks before being convicted of tax fraud, in part because he seemed to offer an ability much desired among Italians: that of doing quello che gli pare (whatever he likes). This is a fascinating study of the fundamentals and foibles of Italy's people.