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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a little book to dream on --- armchair travel to Italy
I can remember traveling to Italy when the dollar was strong and the lira was downtrodden. Trading dollars for lira was quite the jolly experience --- at the currency exchange in Rome, you practically needed a shopping bag to carry a few hundred dollars in Italian money.

Now the Ferragamo is on the other foot. The Euro reigns supreme, and here in New York, the...
Published on September 24, 2008 by Jesse Kornbluth

versus
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute Coffee Table Offering...
I had expected a fairly comprehensive text on all things Italian, so I was
surprised when a 5 x 5 inch hardcover arrived at my door. The book is a collection of text with photos, of things considered "the best" of Italy or places/ideas that are quintessentially Italian. Each vignette occupies facing pages in the book...photos on one side and text on the other...
Published on February 1, 2009 by Bella


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute Coffee Table Offering..., February 1, 2009
By 
This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
I had expected a fairly comprehensive text on all things Italian, so I was
surprised when a 5 x 5 inch hardcover arrived at my door. The book is a collection of text with photos, of things considered "the best" of Italy or places/ideas that are quintessentially Italian. Each vignette occupies facing pages in the book...photos on one side and text on the other. There are addresses and websites referring the reader to a place (i.e. best place to get gelato) or other information. The photos and illustrations are first rate, and the text offers basic information without overwhelming the reader. A cute display book that doesn't take up too much room on a table...
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a little book to dream on --- armchair travel to Italy, September 24, 2008
This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
I can remember traveling to Italy when the dollar was strong and the lira was downtrodden. Trading dollars for lira was quite the jolly experience --- at the currency exchange in Rome, you practically needed a shopping bag to carry a few hundred dollars in Italian money.

Now the Ferragamo is on the other foot. The Euro reigns supreme, and here in New York, the best restaurants and shops post their prices in dollars and Euros, for the convenience of our currency-advantaged foreign guests.

For the foreseeable future, Americans --- well, my friends and I, anyway --- might as well not have passports.

But if you think I'm going to say that my expedition to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is as satisfying as dinner in the Roman ghetto, dream on. I have only to close my eyes to smell the wood smoke of a Tuscan evening, or hear the madness of traffic in Rome, or see a cathedral ceiling.

And then, when I open my eyes, I can do some smart importing of Italian products and culture --- I can splurge on artisanal foods from Gustiamo.com, watch movies like The Conformist, read about Elizabeth Gilbert's hunt for the perfect pizza in Eat, Pray, Love.

And, with the help of Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best, I can do some delightful armchair traveling.

It doesn't take much to get me dreaming, so I don't want a thick tome. This nice square book, with glorious photos and great design, is itself very Italian --- and, like a serving of pasta at Dal Bolognese in Rome, just enough to satisfy.

The book is a list of 50 categories. Each gets a two-page spread: smart text, full-page photo. Like a luxury magazine, only on a single subject --- the glory of the Italian spirit. Like....

Balsamic Vinegar --- in the fine print, there's a description of a vinegar-inspired restaurant in Modena with only four tables.

Il Caffé --- always good to be reminded that Italians never order cappuccino after dinner. "It impedes the digestion." Espresso only, please! (And how nice that the authors agree that Sant'Eustachio coffee is indeed the best.

Il Capodanno --- why red underwear is a hot item in December. (It wards off the evil eye.)

I Gesti Italiani --- a guide to hand gestures.

La Gondola --- did you know it takes 500 hours and 7 types of wood to make one? And that they're custom-built to work with the individual gondolier's weight?

La Mezzaluna --- the half-moon kitchen utensil. Safer than a knife and more efficient. I'm ordering a mezzaluna now.

Pizza --- Why was the original called marinara? In honor of hungry fishermen, who craved it when they came ashore.

But let me serve one large helping. Here's the entire entry for a beloved car. I knew nothing:

LA CINQUECENTO (The Fiat 500)
What is the subject of a love song, a character in an animated film, and has doors that make men weep? The Fiat 500, of course. In the 1930s, while England had the Morris 8 and Germany the Volkswagen, Mussolini's Italy was experiencing vehicle envy. To address the problem, Fiat chairman Giovanni Agnelli summoned his engineers to create a car for the masses. After the head designer came up with a model that caught fire on its test run (with Agnelli in tow) he was summarily dismissed, and Dante Giacosa was brought on board. His solution, the 500, was introduced with great fanfare in 1936, and dubbed Topolino (Mickey Mouse) for its disarming cuteness. An overnight sensation, it was able to conquer winding medieval roads as well as hopeless parking situations. The rear-engined Nuova Fiat 500, or Cinquecento, was introduced in 1957, featuring reverse-opening "suicide doors" which were later discontinued-much to the disappointment of many an Italian male who could no longer gawk at the shapley legs of a signora entering and exiting the car. Although production ceased in 1975, making it a coveted collector's item, the Cinquecento made a triumphant reappearance in 2007, on the fiftieth anniversary of its auspicious debut.

Good enough to eat, yes?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tasty antipasto to sample the flavors of Italy, October 23, 2009
By 
B. McGill (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
Just as a good antipasto plate offers a bite of cheese and a bite of olive, Italianissmo offers a quick nibble of Italian style, food and culture. And like a good appetizer, it leaves it readers hungry for more -- the good way. It's a light, quick read ranging from Italian language and gestures to ceramics and cinema. And, yes, pizza.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute Book but Not Very Informative, March 23, 2010
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I expected this book to be a bit more informative about Italian culture than it turned out to be. It is a fun, miniature book that devotes one page to each of various topics, i.e.,gelato, romance, paper. But if you want a book that actually delves into Italian culture, this is not the book for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, informative and elegantly presented, July 31, 2012
By 
D. B. Howson (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
Italianissimo, The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best, by Luise Fili and Lise Apatoff, is a pocket-sized hardcover book, published by The Little Bookroom of New York, and listed among the travel and guide books of the same publishing house. I recently found my copy in the books section of a trendy gifts and decorative items store, where the intriguing title on the red and white cover of this minute square book first caught my attention. A brief browse through the dazzling pictures and design of its pages was enough to wedge my heart and I decided to take it home.

Witty, informative and elegantly presented, within its small size (the book consists of about 100 pages) Italianissimo (literally very Italian) presents a colorful and unique digest of 50 iconic - and few unknown - symbols of Italian culture, spanning from pasta and the art of eating to the Fiat 500 and post World War II neorealist cinema.

The content of each section is written with great style and complemented by fascinating snapshots of real Italian life style related to the topic. The majority of the photos are unique prints coming from the Photographic Archives of Fratelli Alinari of Florence, the oldest company in the world operating in the photographic industry since its establishment in 1852. Some of the photos are also part of the private collection of Louise Fili.

The authors did a good job of choosing each of the subjects described, unfolding the basic symbols and elements of the Italian culture, without reducing these to a rehashed roundup of Italian stereotypes. Here is what I picked as my favorite chapters:

BELLISSIMO - Superlatives and Diminutives, is about the "Italian's natural passion for exalting the topic at hand", and how the significance of words and terms can be artfully heightened - or simply transformed - by extending words like bello (beautiful) to bellissimo (very beautiful), or casa (house, home) to casina (small house) or casotto (shed), this way making everyday small talks much colorful and attractive.

IL CALCIO - Soccer, on how kicking a ball or any other spherical object is part of the genetic code of any male Italian, and how during international championship games a unique sense of patriotism prevails over regional differences and distinctions. And I can testify by personal experience that in those occasions one goal into the net will bring sixty millions of Italian voices in a single laud "Forza Italia!"

IL MANGIARE - The Art of Eating, is probably my favorite chapter, in that clarifies how, factually, there is no such thing as `Italian cuisine' per se, but rather an art and tradition of cooking which is distinguished by Italy's regions (there are 20 of them, with 110 provinces) and based on each "...unique cultural influences, climates, and local ingredients.", as the authors beautifully describe.

LA MODA - Fashion, is about the "effortless elegance" of the Italians and the success of the Italian fashion industry, based on "strong family tradition and pride in craftsmanship". Mentioned here are some excellent fashion families, such as Gucci, Versace, Fendi, Missoni, Zegna and Ferragamo. But, to me, the authors should have left room also for names and families like Prada, Sorelle Fontana, Benetton, Trussardi, and - last and definitely not least - Bulgari, all important contributors of the success of Made in Italy and Italian fashion.

I could go on and on, but I want to leave to you the pleasure of discovering more. Italianissimo makes for a great original gift and it can be enjoyed by any reader - and armchair traveler as well - in the span of an afternoon. I recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming and Informative Little Book, April 28, 2012
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
This 111 page book is just under 6x6 inches square and has stout covers and heavy glossy paper with loads of lovely pictures to interest the reader. The book is heavy enough not to take along on a trip to Italy and its best uses are to read before you go and to return to once you come back. Its charming contents will rekindle memories and bring happy smiles. The contents of the book revolve around iconic words and phrases, organized alphabetically. Thus, we start with L'Aceto Balsamico' (Balsamic Vinegar), followed by 'L'Aperitivo' (pre-prandial drinks). We move on to 'Authority Figures', an informative short essay on types of police forces; their functions and their uniforms. Next is 'La Bella Figura': the importance of 'looking good' and of behaving properly in a given situation. A selection of other topics includes coffee (a very useful menu decoder as Italians enjoy many special variations), soccer, carnival, colorful ceramic dinnerware, the Italian Woman, ex-voto objects, gelato, a few expressive hand gestures (illustrated and described), open-air markets, Italian fashion, neo-realist cinema, eyeglasses and sunglasses, olive oil, Parmigiano cheese, the evening stroll, pasta types, patron saints, pizza and so on, until we reach 'Vespa', the beloved motor scooter than first brought automobility to the working class and to young men. Each entry is well-written, evocative and succinct: readers get the complete idea but are left open to learning far more about each topic. We are left 'open' to a wonderful culture and to asking ourselves 'what can I read next?'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute book!, September 4, 2013
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
Though I've not yet been to Italy, this is a cute little book to send you dreaming! Good information to prepare me for when I do get to travel there!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, July 15, 2013
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
One of the books purchased before going to Italy for the first time. It is simple, easy and fun to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italianissimo, July 6, 2013
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
High quality photos and simple yet clear and accurate explanations make this a delight to read and a valuable resource for Italo-philes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewel, June 4, 2013
By 
Allen Kay (Scotts Valley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best (Hardcover)
It's physically small. Each essay is brief. The essences of the Italian experience are there. Consume one page as an after-dinner delight. Fun and educational without trying to be.
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Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best
Italianissimo: The Quintessential Guide to What Italians Do Best by Louise Fili (Hardcover - September 2, 2008)
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