Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Let me tell you about my new favorite book, How to Be Italian: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel, and Love la dolce vita. It is beautifully written by Maria Pasquale, the author of I Heart Rome. Born to Italian parents, Maria always knew Rome was her destiny, although she was raised in Melbourne. With a formal background in political science and history, she is now an award-winning food and travel writer and journalist and contributes regularly to USA Today, CNN, Condé Nast, and The Telegraph.

Her lifestyle blog HeartRome has readers in over 100 countries, a social media network that exceeds 40,000 and has been featured in BBC Travel and Vogue, among others. In Rome, you’ll find her walking the streets of Trastevere, checking out the latest bar for an aperitivo or dining with friends. How to be Italian is Maria’s second book.

Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian

Why do I love this book so? For myriad reasons! 

First, it is a lovely look (both photographic and written) into life in Italy. There's so much packed into this gorgeous book, from history to culture to language and geography. How to Be Italian is a compelling, interesting glimpse into Italy, with photos that make you long to be there. If you've got a bit of fernweh, this is the Italian answer.

This book is also a deep dive into Italian culture. There is much to learn here; my favorite section was the food one (of course). I have to say that once I got to the coffee section (Coffee: An Italian Institution!), I had to pause and make several of the coffee drinks that were new to me. My favorite? Bicerin (thank you, Maria!). 

Bicerin coffee plus a book! Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian

How to Be Italian is a constant unfurling of Italy...when I re-read it (because once is NOT enough), I discovered even more treasures. 

As with all cultures, understanding (even a little bit!) of the worldview is a gift beyond measure. Perhaps pull up an Italian radio station on Radio Garden while you revel in the joy of Italy that emanates from this book.

Whether you've been to Italy many times, planning to go, or are armchair traveling at the moment, How to Be Italian is an extraordinary book that will enrich your life. Highly recommended! 

We were lucky enough to chat with Maria, and ask about the joys and challenges of writing, living in Italy, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian

Please tell us about your new book, How to Be Italian...
It’s a celebration of Italy and the Italian people. It allows the reader to take a heartwarming dive into the Italian psyche and character it explores how they think, live, eat, drink, dress, travel, love, speak and have fun. It’s not a travel book or a food book, but it will make you want to eat and travel! I’d describe it more of a lifestyle book and it helps to uncover what sets Italians apart and why they are the way they are - to ultimately give some light-hearted insight on the Italian spirit and character 

You have a unique perspective as an Australian-Italian living in Rome. What inspired you to write this book? 
It’s the book I’ve always had in my heart. I was born and raised in Australia to Italian migrants and so Italy has just always been a part of my life, my family. Growing up we ate Italian, spoke Italian and lived Italian. And throughout my life I’ve come to realise that the world is enamoured with Italy: its coveted lifestyle, its products and brands and even the Italians. While my first book, I Heart Rome is my love letter to Rome, this one is to Italy. For being so good to me and for being the greatest romance of my life. 

Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian

What were some of the joys and challenges of writing this book?
Writing during a lockdown in Melbourne was not easy. While creativity comes naturally to artists and writers, it still requires clarity and discipline - two things that were hard to harness in such a dark period of our lives. Thankfully Italy has always been an inspiration for me and I dug deep to give it the just attention it deserves. When I had writers block I would stop, breathe, close my eyes and think about how Italy makes you feel. At least for me, this technique transported me when I needed to the bars, the beaches, the piazza. I hope the book does that for readers too.   

What might people be surprised to learn about Italy, whether as a visitor or living there?
That is in no way perfect. But so many aspects of it are. It’s a complex country with many contrasts and contradictions and its infamous bureaucracy is a by-product of this. It doesn’t work in ways many foreigners are used to things working but it does work in its own unique way. Unlocking the why is key to understanding the how. 

On a lighter note, they’ll be surprised not to find the Italian cuisine or ‘customs’ they might have become accustomed to outside of Italy. Garlic bread, spaghetti bolognese - not Italian. Drinking an Aperol spritz with your main meal - not Italian. Cappuccino after dinner - not Italian. 

What do you hope readers take from reading How to Be Italian? 
I do hope it fills their heart with joy! I believe Italy has this unique ability to do that. 

How can people find your work? +
HeartRome on all social channels 
Book/s are available globally online and in bookstores. 

What’s up next for you?
I’ll be in Melbourne for Christmas and hosting a number of fun promotional events. Writing is always next. It’s something I can’t help. Sharing stories of people and place is something that gives me great joy and will continue to be a part of my life. 

Read This: Joy, Culture, and Celebration in Maria Pasquale's How to Be Italian