Saturday, October 01, 2011

Book Review: The Venice Experiment

Many of us have wondered what it would be like to pack it all in and move to an exotic locale. Coping with the daily routine could turn into a grand adventure or a long series of regrets.

Barry Frangipane took the leap. He and his wife Debbie sold their home in Florida and moved to Venice for a year.
The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad is a funny and informative account of their encounters with a place that could both charm and frustrate. Barry's account, written with co-author Ben Robbins, is an illustration of relocation culture shock. When you are moving to a tourist magnet with no streets, masses of tourists, and routine floods, you'd better be flexible.

Frangipane, who had the advantage of Italian relatives as well as a computer business that could be handled online - many of his clients didn't know he was in Venice - frequently found himself caught in the gaps between American assumptions and Italian realities. You can't get the required visa without presenting a signed lease that has been registered with the City of Venice and yet no landlord wants to register with the City? Well, rest assured that there is a little way around that requirement. There are 300 people backed up at the Italian passport control? Don't worry. The customs officers will unhook the ropes and wave everyone through. You are looking for an electric blanket? Don't try the department store. Go to the electric store but not on Wednesday morning because that's when they are closed.

Given the challenges, I was impressed with how quickly Frangipane and his wife were able to adapt. They kept their sense of humor, studied conversational Italian, expanded their circle of friends, and met many kind and supportive people.

A thoroughly pleasant book. Don't move to Venice without it. Even if you aren't planning a move, this is a great way to experience the fantasy.

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