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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
How to be an American in Italy by Jessica Scott Romano is a non-fiction travel guide providing an insider's guide for outsiders looking to either visit or even live in the microcosm of “Bel Paese”. Romano breaks down a total of fifty-five tips, although in truth the offerings are far more as several cover more than just one. These are categorized into six separate and distinct sections: Food and Drink, Daily Life, Cool Stuff, I Shouldn't Have To Say This, But..., A Few More Quick, Random Tips, and the single little straggler titled Ciao. Within the first five sections, they are further broken down by part and Romano is able to tear down walls most Americans have built for themselves about what they imagine Italy to be like and replace them with the truth about how all things Italian really are.
The first thing that sets How to be an American in Italy apart from the avalanche of other travel guides is how Jessica Scott Romano immediately begins with managing a tourist's expectation. It's rare for an author to immediately tell a reader that the food is an acquired taste and very little about their experience will reflect the dreamy ideas that have been put into their heads. For all of its beauty, delicious food, and rich culture, the authentic Italian experience can be a shock. Adaptability is paramount in any adventure and living your best life in one of the most extraordinary countries on the planet is not difficult unless you make it that way.
For me, Romano is at her best when she is pointing out the totally mundane. Need to know how to separate and take out the trash? Be careful—it's a labyrinth, but once or twice a year you'll likely be mailed a reminder. Is there a fire on your street and you see exactly zero fire trucks? Worry not, little American; the Italians distinguish flames from the air. As an American living in England, this is exactly the type of book I could have used to avoid so many embarrassing situations. Thankfully, Romano comes to the rescue for those who are ready to make their way to Italy. Highly recommended.