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Italy, Beyond the Tourist Traps

John Hooper says he is often a little puzzled by Italy.

约翰·胡珀(John Hooper)说,意大利时常让他有点摸不透的感觉。

“It’s a country that seems to be all on the surface, but actually a lot of things are hidden,” said Mr. Hooper, author of “The Italians,” a cultural study of the country that was published by Viking last month. “That can be at times sinister, but it can also be fascinating and rewarding, if you go off the beaten track.”

“这个国家似乎把一切都露在外面,但其实有很多东西都是藏而不露的,”胡珀说。上月,他的意大利文化研究之作《意大利人》(The Italians)由维京出版社(Viking)出版。“如果你独辟蹊径,可能偶尔会遭遇凶险,但也可能获得迷人而有益的体验。”

There's nowhere like Venice, says John Hooper, but you should steer clear of San Marco if you want to avoid the crowds.

That is why Mr. Hooper, 65, thinks life is too short for tourist traps. Many people, he said, tend to prioritize Italy’s famous sites over its more sincere side, when in fact they should do the opposite.


Mr. Hooper, who lives and works in Rome as a journalist for The Economist and The Guardian, recently gave some cultural and culinary advice for travelers wanting to see Italy from an insider’s perspective. Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Hooper.

胡珀是《经济学人》杂志(The Economist)和《卫报》(The Guardian)的记者,在罗马生活和工作。前不久,他给那些想从本地人的角度欣赏意大利的游客提了一些关于文化和美食的建议。以下摘录自与胡珀的对话。

Q. You mention Puglia in your book as a recently popular destination for tourists. What’s an area nearby that people don’t know about yet?

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A. Basilicata. The tourist industry there is almost nonexistent, and yet in many ways it’s as beautiful as Tuscany. The people are very welcoming. When you’re down there the roads are very poor, so it can take a long time to get around from one place to another. But if you do, it’s really worth it.


Pasta is such a go-to food choice for foreigners. Should it be?


The Italian food with which they’re familiar is southern Italian food because immigrants have tended to come from Campania, Sicily and so on. People are not prepared for the meat-heavy diet that you get in places like Emilia, around Bologna. Or the equally meat- and game-heavy diet that you get in places like Umbria and Tuscany. There’s certainly much more variety than people realize.


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Italians love to talk about food, right?


People become incredibly engaged in these conversations. Just recently — I was on the third floor, and I heard two people getting into the lift. And I thought: My God, there’s a terrible row going on. And as the lift drew closer to my floor, I heard “onion” and “bacon” and so on, and I realized it was an argument about pancetta.


What are faux pas to avoid with how you dress?


Even if you’re casually dressed, being smartly dressed helps. Otherwise people will be inclined to look down on you. Appearances count for a lot in Italy. If people dress in a slobbish way, then they can be expected to get the kind of treatment that is accorded to slobs.


What would be your first response if someone said: “I’m going to Italy next week. What should I do?”


Go to Venice. There’s just nowhere like it. Don’t expect the cuisine to be anything like what you imagine Italian cuisine to be. It’s a legume-based cuisine, and you find small aquatic creatures fried in batter and pickled dishes and goodness knows what else. Drink wines from the area. Don’t go to Venice, order Chianti and expect that you’re going to get something good. Order wine from the Veneto.


Try to get as far away as you can from Piazza San Marco. Look for areas of the city where there are still Venetians living. There are parts of Cannaregio where you can walk a number of streets and not come across a tourist.

尽量远离圣马可广场(Piazza San Marco)。寻找城里仍有威尼斯人居住的地方。在卡纳雷吉欧(Cannaregio)的某些地方,你可能走过好几条街都碰不到一个游客。



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