Such a lovely book! As a person who has studied Quakerism or the Religious Society of Friends, and attended Friends' meeting when I was a graduate student in Philadelphia, I appreciated Damiani's insights sometimes framed through Friends' testimonies. Like so many people who read books like this, people with a love for Italy and dream of living abroad, this book did nothing to dampen my fervor for the kind of adventure Damiani chronicles. In fact, I very much appreciated her advice, about half-way through the book, to try, to the extent possible, to make it happen. That portion of the book came at just the right time for me because, while I wasn't contemplating living abroad at that moment, I was searching for a new center in my newly retired life and her words helped me find it. I am returning to scholarship, Ms. Daminai, inspired by your words. There is so much in this book, friends, to inspire you, to make you smile, and cook! Lots of wonderful recipes. I'm not one to re-read books, but I will do so with this because I know there will always be ideas and observations that will find a new home in my heart and psyche, ones that slipped by or for which I wasn't quite ready when I read them previously. Thank you, Michelle Damiani, for a really lovely book.
I am staying in Spoleto, located in the less touristed Umbria region ofItaly for the month of April. On a day trip to Spello, I came across its book in a small shop. The owner told me how the author and her family came from virginia, USA, to live in Spello for 1 year to experience the Italy they loved! I downloaded the Kindle version and began reading about their life in Italy. I am so glad I did as my friends and I gained a huge amount of important information that helped us experience Italy with much more insight, being able to plan our side trips using Michelle's info from the book!!!! We even went so far as to add visiting Dwight and Raphael, owners of the Paolini and Stanford Cantina Winery near Offida on our way back from a wonderul visit to the Adriatic Sea. They were so gracious, showing the bed and breakfast and explaining their comment to organic wine, with as little artificial disturbance to the grapes, etc. By the way, Dwight said he was still waiting for his copy of the book! We also experienced Ascoli, Bevagna Todi, the giant celery, and many festivals,etc!!! Even yestetday we were experiencing gelayo yet again and overheard some Amrrican travelers st the nect table. After exchanging all our USA conections, i gave the the information on how to get Il Bel Centro as it would be such a grest resource for their time in Umbria, slso!!Thank you, Michelle for the added dimension you gave our wonderful stay in Umbria!!! Chiao!
My husband and I have been to Italy many times over the past 20 years. We are retired now and love spending a week or two in an apartment just enjoying the relaxation, the food and culture, and the vibe of an Italian town. Last summer we were in Spoleto which is not far from Spello. I'm now more motivated than ever to spend a month or more in one place to really get to know a town and its people. I loved this book for many reasons. First of all, Michelle is a very talented observer and writer. She can capture the smallest idea or observation in the most beautiful words. I enjoyed all her comments about the differences in culture between our two countries. I smiled to myself many times, thinking, "yes, that's exactly what I would expect". On a deeper level, I am taking away many ideas for my own self improvement. I seem to share some characteristics with Michelle which have held me back over the years, a certain level of insecurity and thinking that what I do or how I say something has to be perfect before I can put myself out there. In the comfort and acceptance of the warm and loving friends they made in Spello, Michelle and her daughter Siena gain confidence and a new way of looking at themselves. There is a lot to absorb in this book. I wish I had highlighted more passages than I did so that I could go back to them and let them sink in more deeply. There is so much more to this book than the normal whimsical account of things going wrong in an Italian town -- Bravo on a top-notch account of being an ex-pat for a year. This is a book to be savored and contemplated while allowing yourself to daydream!
I absolutely couldn't get enough of this book and want more! I loved the daily struggles of living in a new country with all it's cultural differences, not to mention the language. I loved the growth of all family members. Gabe sounds like a little character. Siena blossomed, Nicholas grew as did the love of Mom & Dad. I loved how each family member helped each other with these struggles making the adjustment easier. Watching the bonding of this family was awe inspiring. They've aced this challenge! I admire people who can do this in any country but Italy is my favorite. I learned so much about my own history and family when reading this. I could identify very well. I think this family needs to spend 5 years with these adopted family members. I'd love to be their adopted Zia. I was sad when the story ended......I need more followup, and hopefully, learn that they've returned to this beloved town.
Il Bel Centro is a beautifully written book that should be devoured. Through Michelle Damiani's insightful and prose-like journal of her family's year-long stay in the lovely town of Spello, Italy, you will be transported. You will feel what she feels, see what she sees, and yearn to experience everything, just as she did. I have read many books of people's experiences while living as expats in Italy, but none moved me like this book did. Written in the style of an almost day-to-day diary, you witness and revel in the personal growth of each family member as they become totally accepted into this beautiful community. I almost couldn't bear to finish the book as I, too, felt grief at their having to end this amazing year in Spello. Michelle Damiani is a gifted new author and I would give this book 10 stars if I could. Brava, Michelle!!