Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Changed the World by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish

Did you know that October is Italian-American Heritage Month?

Whether or not you agree with the celebration of Columbus Day per se, you can use today to celebrate the contributions of Italians not only to the United States but also to the world. You can start by checking out 31 Days of Italians (PDF) from the Italian Historical Society of America.

And then may I suggest really digging into all the wonderful contributions made by Italians through one of my favorite books?

Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Changed the World
by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish

The word “sprezzatura” is defined by the authors as “the art of effortless mastery,” and as something that no one has demonstrated quite like the Italians. The volume is comprised of fifty fact-filled and entertaining essays that celebrate Italian contributions to the world.

Subjects include well-known Italians such as:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Michelangelo
  • Dante Alighieri
  • Machiavelli
  • Columbus
  • Palladio

and also some lesser-known Italian feats including:

  • the establishment of the world’s first university in Bologna;
  • the first medical school in Salerno; and
  • the inventions of both the piano and violin.

Catherine de’Medici, the godmother of French cuisine, and Cesare Beccaria, the founder of modern penology, are also featured. Other essay topics include Ovid, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, Petrarch, Monteverdi, Bernini, Garabaldi, Marconi, and, of course, the Ferrari and Italian fashion.

There’s a little bit of something for all interests within these 50 essays, and it’s especially convenient because you can read one at a time and let the information resonate or skip around to where your interests lead you.

Sprezzatura is also an excellent resource book–it can decide many “who was the first to” arguments in your house for years to come. Oh don’t pretend like you don’t have those too.

Happy Let’s Celebrate Italians Day!


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16 Beans of Wisdom to “Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Changed the World by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish”
  1. Gil

    Happy Columbus Day to you too! Even though the holiday is officially celebrated on Monday the 13th they had parades in Hartford & New Haven, CT on Sunday as not everyone gets the Holiday!

    Sounds fun, Gil, and a great idea to celebrate on the weekend.

  2. When I was growing up on the east coast Columbus Day was a pretty big deal. There was a huge parade in “the City” aka NYC.

    My sister who lives in DC has the day off.

    When I moved to L.A., Columbus Day was not really celebrated. We didn’t get the day off and there were no big parades. Not sure why.

    Happy Let’s Celebrate Italians Day to you as well.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..The Vatican Museum

    Btw, I just saw about the fires north of LA 🙁

  3. 10.13.2008

    Have you seen the Monty Python sketch “What did the Romans ever do for us”? I think it’s from “Life of Brian”.

    casalba’s last blog post..Double Rainbow

    I haven’t, but I’m sure I’d enjoy. Will look for it!

  4. 10.13.2008

    The only thing that marks Columbus Day around here is the absence of mail delivery. Sprezzatura looks like it might be fun, though…

    anno’s last blog post..Random News & Notes: Trying To Put a Chaotic Week Into Perspective

    Hah, ironically, I got some *great* mail today here in Italy (a bday card and an amazing package from Sara at Ms Adventures in Italy, including an Obama button) 🙂

  5. 10.13.2008

    Indeed, Michelle! I love times that celebrate particular cultures, because it allows us all to “strut our stuff” so to speak.

    BTW… I need to let you know about a cookbook I found in a used bookstore – it might be useful for your Friday columns.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..World Hunger Day, pt. 2 – How you can help

    Ooh yes, do share!

  6. 10.13.2008


    If it means I get to have Italian red wine and any kind of homemade Italian Food…you know I’m in 😉

    That books looks like a great, informative read. Have to put it on my *list*.

    My Mélange’s last blog post..Say Hello to my Little Friend

    Hope you get to enjoy some festivities Robin!

  7. Carla

    Columbus Day is big in Boston, as well as the whole Italian-American heritage month; many more feasts, events and concerts than usual. Happy Columbus Day!

    Enjoy Carla!

  8. 10.13.2008

    Thanks for the “heads up” on that book, which looks like a marvelous read. I spent some VERY short tourist time in Venice, Florence, and Sicily 25 years ago, and still marvel at the wonderful things I saw there…such imaginative and resourceful people!

    Enjoy your Holiday,


    shiborigirl’s last blog post..I’m “It”! I’ve Been Tagged

    I hope you’ll be able to come back sometime Kate!

  9. 10.13.2008

    Thanks for the book tip – always looking for good books to stock up on. Will add it to the ole ‘wish list’ at you-know-where. And Happy Columbus Day to you, as well.

    Fern’s last blog post..Driving me Crazy!

    Hope you enjoy it Fern 🙂

  10. 10.14.2008

    my boys are in-deep with their studying of western civ (ancient rome & mediaveal periods) & so much of our heritage is wrapped up in italy.

    qualcosa di bello’s last blog post..on the horizon…

    Ooh fun topic! I hope they’re enjoying it!

  11. mdicicco

    Hello Michelle,

    Thanks for the great post. I am currently reading the book and it’s wonderful. I recommend it to all!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! As you can probably tell, I love it as well 🙂

  12. Great post! we don’t celebrate Columbus day in our house but can definitely celebrate all things Italian! Here in SF we live in a historically Italian neighborhood and they have changed the name of the parade to “Italian Heritage Parade”

    I think “Italian Heritage Parade” is an appropriate way to go 🙂

  13. 10.11.2010

    Funny story about celebrating Columbus Day for Italian heritage – my first exchange with Italy was as a HS student in a Chicago suburb, when I was part of a group hosting a class of Italian HS students a number of years ago. We somehow ended up in the Chicago Columbus Day Parade, some folks in traditional Italian clothes, some of us just walking next to the float waving Italian flags. Very exciting! We ended up stopped at one point next to a group of protesters. We realized that a few of the protesters were friends from school. We stopped to talk and it was interesting to see both sides (our friends were not some of the more extreme protesters). Eye opening for all of us. The Italians learned about American style of protesting (not too far from the Italian style frankly) and our friends saw a different reason for the holiday.

    PS – Read the book and found it informative and mostly very interesting.

    PPS – Love the blog! Grazie tanto, Michelle!

    Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts and experiences, Alison — what a unique Columbus Day indeed!

  14. One of the things I love about Italy and Italians is that they are responsible for a special part of what is good about humanity. Although I am embarrassed when I think of Columbus and how he behaved when he came here, (I read his journals, he was so confused) he actually was more reasonable than many of the other explorers who came to this land to plunder. On the other hand, Columbus day for me has always been a day celebrating Italians in the USA, what we have brought, who we are, what we have accomplished, and what we are proud of.

    I’m sure his journals are quite interesting indeed; hope you had a wonderful day, Mimi 🙂

  15. Cristina

    Here in Canada it’s Thanksgiving weekend. we don’t have Columbus Day. I didn’t realize there was some ‘controversy’ over the whole thing! Italian heritage day sounds good though-we don’t have that either, but at our house, I guess that’s every day! Happy Thanksgiving/Italian Heritage Day!

    Thanks Cristina! Same to you!

  1. [...] than Sprezzatura, or “50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World.” My friend Michelle says it&#... italylogue.com/featured-articles/65-italy-gift-ideas-for-the-italophile-in-your-life.html



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