The Venice Experiment is almost my idea of a dream trip. I would love to spend a year living somewhere, and really exploring the culture. I feel like when you live in a culture you have such a different travel experience. That kind of travel experience leads to a wonderful book.
Ben Robbins opens the book with a forward that gives a brief history of Venice and a brief history of Barry Frangipane. The forward, a part of the book I regularly skip, I don’t usually care for forwards, especially when they are written by someone other than the author. I read it, honestly, because I was writing this review. Reading it was important. It gives you the insight that you need to understand the author of the upcoming book.
Barry Frangipane takes over as the main author in the first chapter. Barry reminds me of that friend we all have that can pick up and “run away” for a week, a weekend, or a month, and has the best time, and comes back with a million new friends, and six million amazing stories that make you want to come away with him on the next adventure.
Barry starts out with an introduction to the major players in the book, himself and his wife. Importantly, Barry includes a bit of their courtship, which is important in understanding the later stories. Barry is self described as both well off and impulsive.
Both Barry and Debbie’s impulsiveness make the book enjoyable. From Barry suffering his family’s wrath for Debbie’s impulsive decision, to hunting down the best foccacia and gelato on the islands of Venice, during his break from Italian school, he is a tour guide who would find adventure even in the most terrible situations.
While some situations I am sure were frustrating in the moment, having to go to the hospital, getting the phone and internet hooked up, Barry puts a spin on them, so that they feel like adventures. They aren’t rants on Italian inefficiency, but a joy to experience with Barry at your side.
The adventures continue, with trips to the mountains to get out of the humid Venice summers, to the daily trip to the bar for espresso. Even the homeless turn into an adventure for Barry, who learns that there is a community, and in Venice, they are truly grateful for food, and not just looking for money to get drunk on.
The one thing that bothers me about the book is the classic Thanksgiving story. Why is it as a culture, we have to celebrate Thanksgiving in other countries. I don’t want to. I don’t like it. It always works out the same, the main characters have trouble finding all the ingredients and it works out in the end and everyone loves it, and the common language at the feast is whatever the local language is, Italian, French, etc. Although it was a slightly less than typical story, with Barry describing the ingredient location process as a scavenger hunt, and a sign to both of them about how far they had come in the learning of Italian, I still feel like it’s a plot device, or an expected experience. I would rather just have authors skip over it. Or so I say. I would probably read the same book with that section missing, and then bitch in my review that the traditional thanksgiving section is missing. Oh well, can’t win them all, but I’d like to see one fail spectacularly. I think that would make me feel better.
Overall on a rating scale of 5 stars I would give the book a solid 4 stars, possibly 4 and 1/3 stars.
Sit down with a cup of something hot, Debbie’s choice drink of caffe corretto con grappa, or Barry’s choice espresso, and enjoy.