An Italian Discovers the U.S.
By Beppe Severgnini
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780767912365, 256pp.)
Publication Date: May 13, 2003
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In the wry but affectionate tradition of Bill Bryson, Ciao, America! is a delightful look at America through the eyes of a fiercely funny guest — one of Italy’s favorite authors who spent a year in Washington, D.C.
When Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Georgetown they were determined to see if they could adapt to a full four seasons in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and, of all things, after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounters with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, Beppe explores this foreign land with the self-described patience of a mildly inappropriate beachcomber, holding up a mirror to America’s signature manners and mores. Succumbing to his surroundings day by day, he and his wife find themselves developing a taste for Klondike bars and Samuel Adams beer, and even that most peculiar of American institutions -- the pancake house.
The realtor who waves a perfect bye-bye, the overzealous mattress salesman who bounces from bed to bed, and the plumber named Marx who deals in illegally powerful showerheads are just a few of the better-than-fiction characters the Severgninis encounter while foraging for clues to the real America. A trip to the computer store proves just as revealing as D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, as do boisterous waiters angling for tips and no-parking signs crammed with a dozen lines of fine print.
By the end of his visit, Severgnini has come to grips with life in these United States -- and written a charming, laugh-out-loud tribute.
Beppe Severgnini is a columnist for Italy’s Corriere della Sera and also writes for The Economist. A bestselling author in Italy, his books include Inglesi, a portrait of modern Britain. Severgnini lives with his wife in Crema, Italy.
"A bella laugh...Wonderfully funny perspective. No Dickensian outrage is to be found in these pages, no close to Toquevillian analysis; Ciao, America! is fun from first page to last, pure and simple."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"Severignini is a master in the vein of Bill Bryson...Ciao, America! is a sardonic tale of cultural bewilderment, an incisive peek into the mundane obsessions of our American existence that makes the commonplace seem not only insane but extremely funny."
"A delightful read, full of wonderful anecdotes that capture the eye-opening absurdity of life in the United States."
"Witty...Whatever you have taken for granted in America is what Severignini observes with the freshness and charm of the outsider, here for an extended visit. He gives us back ourselves-- with our manners and mores and even the fine print on our No Parking signs--in a shining mirror."
-Philadelphia Weekly Press