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Penn State professor pens cultural handbook for travelers to Italy


The travel section of any bookstore is typically filled with books telling travelers “what” to do at their destination. Now a Pennsylvania State University professor who frequently visits Italy has written something more meaningful: A handy travel guide that delves into the “how” and “why” behind it all.

“A Guide to Italy: Cultural Insights and Tips to Maximize Your Trip” is available online and at brick-and-mortar booksellers.

“A Guide to Italy: Cultural Insights and Tips to Maximize Your Trip,” by Patrick Tunno, delves beneath the surface of everyday topics such as eating, shopping, traveling, Italian lifestyle and customs – delivering a wealth of cultural knowledge useful to travelers, whether they’re frequent visitors to il bel paese or simply those passing through.

Tunno’s aim in the book is to help readers understand and connect with the people and customs they will encounter, and discover the most rewarding way to experience Italy in a meaningful and authentic way.

“My hope for you is that you leave Italy with something more than a collection of selfies and souvenirs,” he writes. “Whether you’re wandering the cobblestone streets of a rural village or navigating a cosmopolitan urban landscape, my goal is to unlock the door so that you can experience meaningful and memorable encounters.”

In a section called “Connecting Meaningfully with Locals,” Tunno makes a case for visitors slowing down and limiting their Italian experience to one or two areas, as a way to truly experience local culture and build meaningful connections with people.

“Trying to see too much and check things off a bucket list might make for great Instagram posts, but you’ll only scratch the surface of the destination by visiting major tourist attractions and miss the authentic culture of a place.”

Tunno shares his passion for the language in the “Learning Italian” chapter. Where some guidebooks might settle for simply listing a few all-purpose phrases, the professor digs deeper, delving into key verbs, pronunciation and grammatical nuances, and even exploring the Italian proclivity for speaking with hand gestures.

“I advise observing them and not copying something unless you know what it means, which may vary across regions,” he writes. “Be very careful not to appropriate any obscene gesture. Even in jest, you could offend someone or appear to be mocking the culture. For example, holding up your index finger and pinky while grasping your middle fingers with your thumb to make horns is known as a corn and can imply someone’s spouse is cheating on them.”

“A Guide to Italy” is brimming with unique insights from an experienced traveler, with unexpected tidbits on everything from when to smile, why Italians stare, how to dress, la bella figura (making a good impression), and telltale signs that a restaurant is a tourist trap (souvenir shops nearby, accordion player, enormous menus, complimentary limoncello).

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