Italian-Style Cultural Immersion

For good measure, I tried to find other sources of Italian media and incorporated them into my daily life. The following is a list of resources for anyone who wants to learn more about Italian culture:

  1. Blogs: The Transparent Language Italian blog is an invaluable resource in learning the intricacies of Italian grammar, and includes insider details on holidays and volcanic dust in Italy. I particularly love this post on commonly used gestures in Italy. Since I am gearing up to study food, I also follow some Italian food blogs written partially in English, including Dulcis in Furno and Briciole.
  2. Newspaper: La Repubblica, based in Rome and the second most circulated newspaper in Italy. Scan the news and see if you can figure out what’s happening in the US. If all else fails, resort to Google Translate.
  3. Movies: I sat through a number of pretty terrible Italian movies until I wised up and began asking for recommendations instead of choosing randomly. Oscar-winners Life is Beautiful and Nuovo Cinema Paradiso are obvious choices. For a change of pace from sad-violin dramas, La Sconosciuta (The Unknown Woman) is a fast-paced (by Italian standards) psychological thriller. And in the canon of classic Italian film, you cannot ignore the contributions of Vittorio De Sica and Frederico Fellini. I watched De Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) and Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis), which are both set in periods around World War 2. Fellini’s work is interesting because it moves over time from neorealism to somewhat uh quirkier art films over time. While I enjoyed La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, I found his later work to be a a bit more…eccentric. Amacord follows the life and ongoings of a small town in Fascist Italy (I found the lack of centralized plot off-putting), and E la Nave Va (And the Ship Sails On) portrays a luxury cruise ship carrying a love-sick rhinoceros and the friends of a deceased opera singer, as they travel to bury her at sea. Yeah. Watch at your own risk.
  4. Books: For a glimpse into contemporary Italian living, I recommend Tim Parks’ Italian Neighbors. It does for small town Italian living what Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon did for the City of Light. The novel follows a British expat who moves to Italy and gradually acquaints himself to the intricacies of wine-making, combative neighbors, and the proper techniques for bribing bureaucrats. I laughed out loud on many occasions.
  5. Music: There is a lot of Europop out there, and they also listen to a lot of American tunes, but I was much more interested in quality music, preferably spoken at a comprehensible rate (not so much rap). Jovanotti is an Italian singer-songwriter who blends the Italian Cantautore tradition with funk, rap and other world influences. I was floored by the beauty of “Fango” (Mud). The chorus includes the line “Io lo so che non sono solo/ anche quando sono solo,” or “I know that I am not alone / even when I am alone.”

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