Monday, December 18, 2006

An interview with Peter Carusone


Peter Carusone, author of 'Where’s the Minestrone? An Italian American Explores Italy' has kindly agreed to be interviewed about his Italian experience.

1. What made you decide to visit Italy?

The opportunity presented itself to teach there for a semester and continue to draw my regular pay from the University. I'd always thought about visiting the land of my family heritage and my new wife (wed less than a year) was very supportive.

2. Where did you visit while you were in Italy?

I taught in Torino where I spent most of my time but I also visited Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Milan, Sorrento, Amalfi, Cinque Terra, Alba, Asti, San Gimingano, Sienna, Verona, Lago Maggiore. On later trips I spend time also in Tuscany and Sicily.

3. What was your favourite place and why?

There were so many!! I would have to say Amalfi, the Spanish Steps in Rome, and San Marco Square in Venice. They are special places that so many people enjoy and one can relax there, watch the tourists, shop, eat and drink Italian wine. The architecture and breathtaking views make Amalfi special. The people and little places like the fountain and the obelisk make the Scala di Spana so special. And the music at night, the lights and the shops and the church make San Marco Square very special.

4. "Where’s the Minestrone? An Italian American Explores Italy" is a chance to see Italy for the first time through the eyes of an Italian American who thought he knew what it meant to be ‘Italian.’ How did your opinion of Italy change after your visit?

I thought it was a lot more 'foreign' than before--quite different in many ways from Italian-Americn culture I was used to. The people were just as friendly and hospitable as I expected, but they also have a tough exterior that makes it very difficult to penetrate to the Italian psyche. Italians are truly a creative and innovative people, their artistry with food and many things is to be admired. Their accomplishments are legend, all the more so impressive because of their penchant for chaos and disorganization. The food is quite different than the recipes my grandmother brought here many years ago. They have changed.

5. While researching your book, you were a Visiting Professor at the University of Torino in Italy. What was it like working in Italy?

In some ways it was hard, due to factors like a more laid back, easy going work attitude, the constant, unpreditable sciopere (strikes), unfamiliarity with the system (having to go to the bank location the check came from to cash it), and unfamiliarity with how to get around the city by bus, metro, etc. In some ways it was easy. I always had the feeling that not so much was expected of me. I could dress in jeans and sweatshirt if I wanted but everyone would know I was a tourist, too. It was so neat to walk into a store for the second time and discover that they know my name already! Stopping at il bar on the way to work, or on the way home from work was always a new and exciting experience.

'Where’s the Minestrone? An Italian American Explores Italy' is available to buy at http://www.lulu.com/Minestrone

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