Dianne Hales La Bella Lingua Becoming Italian
facebook twitter goodreads
home about Dianne La Bella Lingua blog Viva L'italiano! speaking of italian media contact newsletter
Sign up for
Dianne's Newsletter!

Dianne Hales - La Bella Lingua

La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian,
the World's Most Enchanting Language

New York Times bestseller

La Bella Lingua pb

Order the book
Table of Contents
Read an Excerpt (PDF)
Readers Guide (PDF)
Q & A

 Watch the Video!

Centuries before there was an Italy, there was Italian. Its roots date back thousands of years to the volgare, the street Latin of ancient Rome. Italian's storia—a word that translates both as "history" and "story"—is a rich, juicy, dramatic saga virtually unknown outside of Italy. La Bella Lingua tells the adventurous tale of how Italian became Italian and follows its path through the realms of history, art, literature, manners, music, cooking, cinema and, of course, amore.

You don't need to know any Italian to enjoy La Bella Lingua. If you love Italy, you'll love learning about its language. If you come from an Italian family, you'll discover more about your heritage. If you're studying Italian, you'll find a new perspective that takes you beyond vocabulary and grammar. If you're traveling to Italy, you'll appreciate more about the people you meet and the places you visit. And if you're an armchair adventurer—well, buckle your seat belt!

Order the Book

Order La Bella Lingua
Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million Random House

La Bella Lingua Australia
Australian Edition

Sites selling the paperback:

In Italy and Europe

The Book Depository: (free worldwide shipping from the UK)

In Australia
HarperCollins Australia

Table of Contents

Introduction: My Italian Brain and How It Grew
1. Confessions of an Innamorata
2. The Unlikely Rise of a Vulgar Tongue
3. To Hell and Back with Dante Alighieri
4. Italian's Literary Lions
5. The Baking of a Masterpiece
6. How Italian Civilized the West
7. La Storia dell'Arte
8. On Golden Wings
9. Eating Italian
10. So Many Ways to Say "I Love You"
11. Marcello and Me
11. Irreverent Italian
12. Mother Tongue

Praise for La Bella Lingua

"In this charming love letter to the language and culture of Italy, journalist Hales recounts her inebriation with Italian's sounds and her lovesickness over its phrases. Enamored of this lovely and lovable language, Hales immerses herself in Italian culture on numerous trips to Italy in her attempt to "live Italian." She comes to think of Italian as "a lovable rascal, a clever, twinkle-eyed scamp that you can't resist even when it plays you for a fool." Hales regales us with the mysteries of the language, such as when a color becomes more than hue. She tells us that yellow, for example, refers to a mystery "because thrillers traditionally had yellow covers." In her rapture over the language, she also swoons over Italian literature (from Dante to Manzoni), opera (Verdi and Puccini) and cinema (Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini) as she rehearses the many ways in which the language has seductively slipped into Western culture and consciousness."
   —Publishers Weekly

"An economic crisis has a way of curbing one's ability to rent a Tuscan villa for the summer, but, thankfully, there are other, more affordable means to indulge a passion for all things Italian. Among them: getting a copy of Dianne Hales' wonderful new book, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair With Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language."
   —San Francisco Chronicle

"A lovely and humorous account of one person's love with a particular language."
   —Chicago Tribune

"Your book has been a fine companion during a period of intense travel. I dipped into it in dozens of hotels and airplanes! What a big adventure. Italy offers so many levels of discovery. I so enjoyed yours!"
   —Frances Mayes

"La Bella Lingua is a joyous, funny and warmly affectionate celebration of Italy, its history, literature, food, music, movies and its people. For the novice and the aficionado alike, it's an instruction guide to help appreciate the most loved and lovable language, but also how to really live like a true Italian."
   —What's New in Italy

"A delightful, informative tour of both the history of the Italian language and her own account of innamoramento (crazy head-over-heels love) with la bella lingua."
   —Everett Potter Travel Report

"La Bella Lingua is a book for those people who wish to take full advantage of their time in Italy. This unique book serves as a history, a guide, and lexicon for English speaking travellers in Italy... Hales' readers can come to experience Italy with as much passion and intensity as she recounts in her excellent book.
In Hales' journey to master fluency of Italian she encounters truly unforgettable people and places. Her ancedotes are filled with useful information and are truly enjoyable to read. ...Guide books offer polite and utilitarian phrases to readers such as Non parlo Italiano but Hales teaches Italian as it should be spoken: with style."
   —The Florence Newspaper

"One of the Five Best Reads of 2009"

"Dianne's passion lights up every page of her information packed, humorous, clever, enchanting, inspiring book. Its 14 chapters took me on a marvelous voyage of discovery, history, stories and fun, written in a 'let's sit down together and have some gelato' style."
   —Mama Margaret & Friends newsletter

"The best book on Italy since Barzini's classic The Italians."
   —Matt Tyrnauer, director of Valentino: The Last Emperor

"An impassioned student, Dianne Hales takes us along on her delightful pilgrimage to the speaking heart of Italy. The rhythmic beat she comes to feel and love teaches her how to live, in beautiful and idiomatic Italian, "a language as rich in flavors and varieties as Italian cooking." The reading pilgrim's reward is this delicious feast of a book, a strong mix of cultural and spoken treasure."
   —Susan Cahill, Author of Desiring Italy & The Smiles of Rome

"Dianne Hales is just about pitch perfect as she weaves the engaging story of her innamoramento with Italian, hitting the high notes of Italian culture... a lovely, touching tribute to the many fine civilizing gifts that Italy has shared with the world.
Any smart traveler to Italy would want to read La Bella Lingua. It's not only readable and engaging but informative about things not easily found in guidebooks and common tourist materials."
   —Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, whose many books on Italian literature and cinema include The Italian Renaissance Reader, Italian Cinema, and the Cassell Dictionary of Italian Literature

"Dianne taught me my own language...What a bella figura, thanks to La Bella Lingua! Molte grazie, signora Hales."
   —Beppe Severgnini, author of Bella Figura and Ciao America!

"l'ho letta 'tutta d'un fiato,' degustandola come un ottimo bicchiere di Chianti! Ho colto in ogni parola, espressione, frase, riferimento, traduzione, interpretazione... il suo grandissimo 'innamoramento' e 'amore' per la lingua italiana."
(I read it all in one breath, savoring it like an excellent glass of Chianti! I grasped in every word, expression, phrase, reference, tradition, interpretation your very great infatuation and love for the Italian language.)
   —Prof. Pasquale Fantasia, Ufficio Scuola Consolato d'Italia, Detroit

"Her decades-long affair with all things Italian is so vividly told, you'll soon be craving gelato."
   —Girlfriend Getaways

"La Bella Lingua will keep you turning pages, nodding along in agreement, laughing, even learning... And Dianne's writing? A sheer pleasure. Truly. La Bella Lingua is a must for any lover of the Italian language."
   —Michele Fabio, www.bleedingespesso.com

"To say Dianne's journey and her book were captivating would be an understatement. The uniqueness of her story, the vibrant prose contained within this non-fiction book, and her tales of some of her mishaps as she learned to speak Italian, kept me turning the pages, eager to learn more. Her book honors Italy and Italians everywhere. A highly recommended read—but beware—it will make you want to vacation there yourself. Brava Dianne! Encore!"
   —Mirella Patzer, www.bestofitaly.blogspot.com

"La Bella Lingua is the kind of book you want to savor slowly, like a small piece of fine chocolate melting on your tongue... In Dianne's expert hands a grammar lesson becomes an ambrosial experience, and by drawing on the riches of Italian art, history, cooking, literature, film, customs and romance (as well as countless anecdotes from her travels and research), Hales tempts us to fall as madly and deeply in love with Italian as she has."
   —Michelle Ward, the sweet life blog at www.lolalina.com

"Hales' unrestrained joy of all things Italian jumps off each and every page as the author traces the history of modern Italian from its multiple origins in the dialects of the country. As we follow the historical journey of Italy's linguistic twists and turns throughout the centuries, Hales interjects humorous anecdotes and folk tales. Around each corner of her narrative lies another surprising jewel of a discovery... A wonderful journey of all things Italian rolled up in an enjoyable history lesson. Don't be a "brutta figura!" Go now and buy it!"
   —ComUNICO, the national UNICO newsletter

"Ms. Hales captures the real essence of not only the language, but the culture of "il bel paese." ... She stuffs her pages with the history of the language and its people. She explores the very foundations of modern western culture through the contributions of great Italians and their culture throughout history... Ms. Hales' style is never preachy, never overly reverent. She is an experienced journalist who takes the reader on a voyage of discovery and along the way she shares her admiration, occasional frustration and always her humor. I highly recommend this book. It is a great summer read and would even be useful in the classroom. I think teachers of the language and anyone who shares the author's love of Italian will enjoy this book."
   —Alfred J. Valentini, Adjunct Professor of Italian at Utica College, Vice President/Treasurer Italian Teachers of Central New York