Il Bel Centro


About the Book: With dreams of la dolce vita, Michelle Damiani, her husband, three children, and two cats abandoned their suburban life for Spello, an Italian hill-town. Escaping a lifestyle of helicopter-parenting her children and obsessing over soccer snack schedules, Michelle hoped to find a slower-paced way of living, as constant as time-worn hands kneading pasta. What she found was more than she bargained for. She discovered that the armor formed over years of a predictable existence hid a fear of falling short and making a fool of herself. She discovered that even with her training as a child psychologist she was ill-equipped to protect her children from the old-world disciplinary style at the local public school. She discovered that making mistakes provides opportunities for warm instruction and care. She discovered not only that connecting with people can transcend language, but also how to cleave into the heart of village life, through festivals, celebration, and discussing how to properly cook pig skin. During the hospitalization of a family member, she learned the advantages of community gossip chains, which made her aware of the isolation that was the hallmark of her American days. She discovered the deep joy that comes from spending afternoons leaning out of windows chatting with neighbors about town happenings as pasta sauce burbles on the stove and the afternoon light slants along the cobblestone streets. Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center is a celebration of Umbrian life, a guide to the treasures of the region. More than just what to see, the book offers a lens through which to appreciate what has been termed, “the green heart of Italy.”

About the Author: Michelle Damiani is a freelance writer, clinical psychologist, and food lover currently living in Charlottesville, VA. Her heart, however, is in Spello, Italy, where she and her family spent a year growing accustomed to being fish out of water, grappling with the hardships of parenting on foreign soil, and ultimately cleaving into the soul of Italian village life. Before that year abroad, Michelle wrote short fiction–one of her stories was recently awarded first place in the Hook Short Fiction contest, juried by author John Grisham. While in Italy, she used the time that her children were in Italian public schools to write a blog about their experiences. The blog, Il Bel Centro, was awarded the bronze award for best Italian blog by Expatsblog. Once back in Charlottesville, she transformed the blog into a book, Il Bel Centro: a Year in the Beautiful Center, now available in print and e-book.

About the Darla Bruno’s Work: “Darla showed me the places in my manuscript that needed to be filled and deepened. What people often tell me they like best about my book—how human and real it is, how much each member of my family is fully expressed, and how it goes beyond the traditional expat memoir—is a direct result of her discerning eye.”

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