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Review: The Venice Experiment

- September 16th, 2011

VeniceExperiment
The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad
By Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins
Savory Adventures Publishing, 2011

I think it’s normal to feel jealousy when others return from a fabulous travel experience armed with glossy photos and stories of adventure in far-flung destinations. Even if you had just returned from your own trip, the travel buzz starts again and you feel a desire to head out and explore.

If only time and money weren’t an object, survey after survey shows, Canadians would fulfill their number one dream to travel more. How amazing would it be to throw aside all responsibility and worry and leave for a year of travel and exploration?

Each time you turn a page in Barry Frangipane’s memoir, The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad, be prepared to feel a little twinge of jealousy.

Frangipane tells the story of how he convinced his Louboutin-wearing wife Debbie to quit her job, pack up their lives in Florida and leave to live for a year abroad in the sinking city of Venice, Italy. 

Think Eat, Pray, Love without the long spiritual lessons or post-relationship re-awakening.

Of course, as any North American who lives abroad for an extended period of time will affirm, Frangipane and his wife experienced their own, very personal transformation. There’s something about the easy pace of life and joie de vivre found in countries abroad that can change even the busiest or most frazzled North American for the better.

Frangipane’s story captivates from the start, as he describes problems many North Americans face while adjusting to life abroad, before adapting to the laissez-faire attitude of locals that reminds us perhaps we, too, shouldn’t sweat the small stuff so much. In Venice, he found electricians never returned to finish the job, stores to be closed at the oddest of times and discovered a bevy of local rules and regulations that no one really seemed to follow.

This novel is quick and easy to digest, though some plot details appear unexplained at times and are repeated unnecessarily. This is part of the charm, though. You almost feel as if you’re reading a travel diary where thoughts have poured onto the page unfiltered.

It’s the community Frangipane describes and the people he and his wife become intertwined with in Venice that are the heart of this story. Friends are made instantly in Venice and are counted on in a variety of situations — whether that be borrowing a hard-to-find working oven to cook a turkey or when looking for an apartment recommendation.

The Venice Experiment will immerse you in the everyday world of a destination so exotic to some, but proven through Frangipane’s book to be so warm, welcoming and full of the pleasantly unexpected.

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