Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.
-Anna Akhmatova, poet

Italy is a feast for the senses: millions of tourists are overwhelmed each year by the beauty of Capri, the magic of Venice, the magnificence of Rome or Florence. The uncomparable smell of freshly brewed coffee, the taste of a pasta dish, the sounds of a Verdi opera, and art just at every corner of the country, even the most remote one. This sense of beauty gave birth to the Renaissance, to some of the world’s most famous architects, painters, sculpturs and musicians. Yet beyond this postcard-like dream that every tourist who ever went to Italy encountered, there is, like in any other country a more differentiated and realistic picture of the peninsula. There are parts of Italy and aspects of its society that are unfamiliar and contradictory to most visitors. The books that follow are ones that scratch at the seductive surface of Italian life to get at the infinitely more fascinating reality below.

John Hooper spent more than a decade in Rome as a foreign correspondent to The Guardian and The Economist, understanding Italy and the Italians like no other. With the view from the outsider, he analyses the impact of history, geography and traditions on the Italian lifestyle, looking at football, opera, food, sex, their love of life and beauty, the role of Freemasonry, their wild political scene and much more. He also mentions in an entertaining way, how language reflects culture and vice-versa: for example, their love for fashion is reflected in the fact that the Italian language has twelve words for coat hangers. But, surprisingly, there is no word for hangover.