How to Be Italian

MAX AGUILERA-HELLWEG for TIME

AT HOME ABROAD: Severgnini takes time out from teaching at a Vermont college

Twenty-three years ago, Beppe Severgnini was a small-time writer at a local daily in his hometown, Crema. For most people, it's a town of 33,000 folded away in the hills outside the Milan metropolis. For him, he says, it's "my everything." So when he was tapped for a job at Milan's Il Giornale, a leading national paper, Severgnini humbly declined. He left journalism altogether to study law — his father's trade.

A few months later, he came to his senses. Il Giornale's editor Indro Montanelli took him aboard and, as if to quell...