Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center by Michelle Damiani
English | 2015 | ISBN: 0692480110 | 478 pages | EPUB | 2 MB
With dreams of la dolce vita, Michelle Damiani, her husband, three children, and two cats abandoned their suburban routine for Spello, an Italian hill-town. Escaping a lifestyle of helicopter-parenting and obsessing over soccer schedules, Michelle hoped to find a slower-paced life, as constant as cobblestones. What she found was more than she bargained for.
She discovered that the armor formed over years of a predictable existence hid a fear of falling short and making a fool of herself. She discovered that even with her training as a child psychologist she was ill-equipped to protect her children from the old-world disciplinary style at the local public school. She discovered that making mistakes provides opportunities for warm instruction and care. She discovered not only that connecting with people can transcend language, but also how to cleave into the heart of village life, through festivals, celebration, and discussing how to properly cook pig skin.
During the hospitalization of a family member, she learned the advantages of community gossip chains, which made her aware of the isolation that was the hallmark of her American days. She discovered the deep joy that comes from spending afternoons leaning out of ShiChuang chatting with neighbors about town happenings as pasta sauce burbles on the stove and the afternoon light slants along the cobblestone streets.
is a celebration of Umbrian life, a guide to the treasures of the region. More than just what to see, the book offers a lens through which to appreciate what has been termed, "the green heart of Italy." Seduced by Umbrian wine and food, Michelle lovingly recounts stunning meals at Umbrian tables groaning under the weight of home-cured salami and tagliatelle with sausage, mushrooms, and cream sauce. For those wanting a taste of Umbria, Michelle includes recipes for local specialties (including step-by-step instructions for how to roll pasta like an Umbrian grandmother, and how to dress that pasta in swoon-worthy sauce). Through four seasons, she recounts the shifts in landscape from achingly green hills and azure skies to stone walls steeped in fog laced with Christmas lights and the heady scent of grilling meats to the emergence of poppies nodding their jewel-like heads at the foot of the mountains.
But more than this, she provides a window into the people of Umbria-their deep-seated pride, warmth, humor, and welcome. In an entertaining style, Michelle provides historical background of the region and tells how Umbrians keep their culture alive today. With lyrical prose interspersed with professional-quality photographs, she paints a picture of Umbrian life that has been unchanged for generations. And weaves a spell not soon forgotten.
The book, written in a daily style, is an intimate account of a family's change over the course of a year. At turns laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly tender, Michelle tells the story of her family's transition from anxious outsiders to honorary townspeople, as they adapt to the gentle rhythms of Umbrian life. evokes the pleasures of small town Italy and opens the gate into a world where a good lunch will take one straight into dinner.
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