Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 16: If They Are Roses (Book Review)

Sometimes strangers know what you need, even when you do not. Rewind to a week ago. I was at a bar trying to score some late night internet to fuel my Breaking Bad addiction. Sitting outside, trying to download the next episode, I'm interrupted by a waiter. "Siamo chiusura," he said. Moments like this are really frustrating for me. "Sorry, I don't speak Italian," I replied, totally embarrassed. "Nous fermons!" Apparently I needed to clarify, "I only speak English." With a shake of his head he said "That's bad. We're closing," he took the plates he had been collecting behind the counter. When he came back he handed me this book "If They Are Roses" by Linda Falcone, he had a "happy to help" look on his face. "Grazie!"

If you're going to Italy, buy this book.

Linda Falcone is a writer, currently employed by The Florentine, an English newspaper in Florence. She writes a weekly column that focuses on an Italian word or phrase, which she combines with her personal experiences, to use as a magnifying lens for examining Italian culture. Whether she's explaining how Italians can be happy even though they may not get what they want, through their use of "vorrei" (would want), or how they're open to surprising opportunities with "prendere la palla al blazo" (catch the ball at the bounce). Linda has a knack for spoon-feeding readers Italian culture in bite-size portions. It's my pleasure to review Linda Falcone's "If They Are Roses," which I recommend to anyone traveling to Italy.

Ci penso io!

Her book, "If They are Roses" is a collection of her cross cultural insights. The chapters are short and packed full of wit. They're the perfect length for a traveler who may only have a few minutes to read each day. Additionally, Leo Cardini has graced the book with hilarious comic styled illustrations that intrigue and communicate. Between the writing and the illustrations, this book fulfills two of my traveling goals.

Woo hoo! The back of the book!

My main purpose for traveling is to learn about different cultures. While the language barrier can be negligible in many instances, talking to locals is a bit of a problem. Becoming fluent in Italian isn't feasible in a few weeks, thankfully knowing the basics goes a long way. Linda's book has helped me learn a plethora of useful phrases and understand the etymology behind them. I'm learning about the language and about the culture simultaneously. It's amazing how the language informs the culture and the culture informs the language. Not only can I better remember the phrases, I can better remember the culture. All thanks to the bartender. "Prendere la palla al balzo!"

You can read all of Linda's Florentine articles online. Or pick up a copy of the Florentine if you find yourself in this beautiful city. Ciao!

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