I didn't enjoy the book, but I sort of enjoy that it just exists, because it’s the latest generation of a tiny but noble and ancient genre of books - which goes something like “British Man Goes to Foreign Land and Has a Bad Time because of Culture Shock, Then Has a Good Time Unsubtly Thinking he Passes a Native, Then Has a Bad Time Again from Deeper and More Lasting Culture Shock, Then Probably Goes Home and Writes This Book.” Also known as “British travelogues,” or really, just “travelogues.” British travelers have been writing these books since they first had the idea to travel as far as I can tell, and they’re marvelous historic records, but as this one is not yet firmly in the past, man oh man do you spend the book just wanting to smack the fountain pen and glass of barolo out of Jones’s stupid hands, as he does irritating things like italicizing all the Italian words in the book (even the Italian words everyone totally knows), which he drops on you like relentless little bombs of token culture just so you’ll be sure to notice that he speaks Italian so very well. In Italy they eat pizza. Also his writing is ponderous.
But, okay yes, his book totally hits the main value of travelogues - foreigners notice things about cultures that are so important and ingrained to the culture that actual members of the culture don’t even think about them, and then some of them write it down. So thank you, Jones, for making this interesting historic record of how 20th century Italians related to their history in life, politics, the media, and beyond, which all seems pretty messy. Thankfully he moved home right after it was published and presumably there someone made him stop acting like “Lawrence of Italia.”