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La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language Paperback – Apr 20 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; unknown edition (April 20 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767927702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767927703
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #127,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A praiseworthy feature of La Bella Lingua is the way Hales peppers her narrative with hundreds of Italian words, idioms, and figures of speech—all chosen with gusto and brio and clearly translated into English—to introduce readers to the sonic and semantic seraglio that is the Italian language. A separate chapter on ‘Irreverent Italian’ highlights la parolaccia, the earthy lexicon of invective and jocular sensuality that contemporary Italians imbibe with their mother’s milk but foreign students of Italian rarely get to savor.” —Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish, authors of Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World

“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 & Peter Bondanella, authors and editors of The Italian Renaissance Reader, Italian Cinema, and the Cassell Dictionary of Italian Literature

“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 and The Smiles of Rome

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Dianne Hales is a widely published journalist and health writer. She lives with her family in Marin County, California. You can find out more about Dianne at her Web site ( or and on Facebook.

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hales, who makes her living writing in English, took her love of the Italian language much further than most of us could manage. It became a second profession, delving into its history and its current state. She analyzes the effect of Dante's writing on modern Italian, stressing that in spite of the fact that Italian is many levels and dialects, it is held together by a common source, the Tuscan dialect of Dante's time. She covers dialectal differences, slang, bad language and its levels of impropriety, Italian literature and a great deal more, including advice on how not to offend or appear like a bumpkin (cafone). If you want to learn Italian, or if you speak Italian and want to learn to speak it better, this book will speed your way.
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Format: Paperback
I have always thought there should be more books about the love of languages and how people come to love them and use them. What "La Bella Lingua" contains in addition to this is bits of information about history and culture - about how Italy and Italians came to be and how they live and lived. Dianne talks about Italian literature - important Italian writers like Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch - in such a way that it made me want to delve into their works too.

Dianne writes about her love for Italian opera and Italian cinema. One of her Italian teachers once told her that there are 2 ways to speed up your Italian learning: 1)Get an Italian lover or 2)Watch Italian movies. She chose the 2nd option, so anyone who doesn't know much about Italian cinema will likely enjoy reading about the movies she's watched and bits about the history of Italian cinema.

I liked that there were Italian words scattered throughout the book (with English translations of course)- there are expressions and slang, including how Italians curse. Even if you don't use the vulgar words, it's still a good idea to know what you might end up hearing in the streets if you decide to go to Italy.

Of course, Italian food and the importance of it to Italians (and well- other parts of the world too) is talked about. The way she describes the kind of food her Italian friends cooked for her in Italy makes me want to go there myself and try "real Italian food" made in Italy. It's easy to see how important it is to Italians to "eat well" and to not eat alone- there are many sayings related to food and eating with company.

It makes sense that there's a chapter about love - Dianne claims that love is indeed "lovelier" in Italy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A true love letter to the Italian language and the land that speaks it. A wonderfully broad overview of history and culture and the rollicking language. A very engaging read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa42933e4) out of 5 stars 148 reviews
76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f1e360) out of 5 stars A must read for Italian language lovers May 12 2009
By Michelle Fabio, Bleeding Espresso - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has been enchanted by the always beautiful, often frustrating Italian language and tried to grasp its basics as well as its intricacies, Dianne's tales will not only ring true but also comfort you.

From obscure word etymologies to entertaining anecdotes, La Bella Lingua will keep you turning pages, nodding along in agreement, laughing, and even learning--I picked up quite a few new words myself even though I've been living in Italy for six years now.

And Dianne's writing? A sheer pleasure. Truly.

La Bella Lingua is a *must* for any lover of the Italian language and assolutamente warrants five espresso cups out of five.

~ Michelle Fabio
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f1e3b4) out of 5 stars An Italian Vacation in a book June 29 2009
By v.x.kirsch - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book, I wanted to read it right away. I did so and as a result, I have fallen even more in love with the italian language.
When I was a student in Firenze years ago, before I knew much of the language, I used to read billboards and ads and think that the italian words were the most beautiful that I had ever seen without knowing what they meant.
This book covers all aspects of the language from historic to artistic to poetic to the not so poetic! I learned so much in every chapter that I hated to see it end. This book will take you on a memorable voyage over the landscape of what is truly the world's most beautiful language.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f1e7ec) out of 5 stars Grazie, Sra Hales! June 21 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a languishing adult student of Italian, I am grateful for Sra Hales' book and envious of her linguistic and cultural accomplishments. Her enjoyment of all things Italian both in Italy and her native San Francisco area are generously shared with the reader.
There are two improvements I would like to see in the next edition: More translations - a fair number of words weren't translated and, if possible, a glossary.
I would also love a well-spoken unabridged audio version.
PS. I've added Mastroianni's I Remember DVD to my Netflix list.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f1ebac) out of 5 stars Bravissima! Sept. 1 2009
By Linda Blondis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved every minute of reading and thinking about this book.I bought an additional copy to lend to friends, because I want to keep my autographed copy. But a caveat: Dianne and I were both members of a fiction writing workshop. Dianne was a wonderful reader and great critic, working to make everyone's writing better. And despite her protestations, she wrote an elegant novel that was inbued with all things Italian and created living, breathing characters. I never told her, but I was always jealous of her felicity with the language. I was thrilled when I learned that she wrote La Bella Lingua.

It has exceeded all my expectations. As a lover of romantic languages and the opera, I would have been happy had the book only been about Dianne's adventures with the language. But it is far more than that. It is a wonderful tapestry woven from well researched history or the Italian peninsula and personal anecdotes, with a charming narrative voice, as though you were having a glass of wine with a good friend who was telling you stories. Dianne creates real, recognizable people, even if they died four hundred years ago. I found myself laughing out loud many times.

Dianne manages a mountain of research and wisely divides the book into areas like the history of Europe; art; music; architecture; cuisine; film. and my personal favorite, what we would call swear words. There is so much material, but she deals with it with humor, while always focusing on the human aspect.
I learned an amazing amount. Who knew that there was an important female Renaissance poet, for example? I can no longer impress my friends by explaining with Viva Verdi meant during and immediately after his lifetime, now that Dianne has explained it.

I loved the tone of the book and the fact that Dianne gently pokes fun of her own linguistic gaffes. I'll Always remember Signor Domani Mattina from Milano. Everyone who has ever dared speak a language other than his native one has made similar mistakes. This stops a lot of people from ever trying. As Dianne illustrates, just keep going; laugh at your own
mistakes, and think of them as material for future stories.

I've studied both French and Italian for years, but have developed nowhere near the mastery which Dianne has with Italian .I even studfied at some of the same schools, but it just didn't take with me. I think this fascinating and eminently readable book should be taught in Italian courses, as well as courses in Western Civilization, and art. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good storytelling and learning about another cradle of civilization.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3f1ec90) out of 5 stars Not what I expected but enjoyable Aug. 2 2011
By C. G. King - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I expected to be bathed in this lovely expressive language more from a learning point of view than historical, but the history offered insights you may value. Experiencing a language on so many levels obviously added great depth as well as pleasure for the author and I really learned a lot, although I found some parts a bit dry.

Although I knew Italian was a collection of dialects crystalized into a national language not all that long ago in spite of the antiquity of the land and people, I didn't realize how that came about, nor the critical steps, texts and people responsible. This book describes it all from the impact of Dante's Inferno to opera. There's a delightful passage about the wonderful librettist, Da Ponte, pairing with Mozart for the three great operas, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte and how Da Ponte not only brought vivid style and language to the operas, but to Columbia University where he became the first professor of the Italian language in America. He was introduced to the college by Clement Moore. Who knew! Tidbits like that enchanted me.

Stories of the impact of Marcello Mastroianni were fascinating as well as how Petrarch's sonnets influenced the more structured written Italian as opposed to spoken Italian. I enjoyed learning that Italian is so versitile not through a vast number of basic words, but the vast ability to alter words to mean so many different things through prefixes and suffixes, modifiers, etc. And conversely how it has multiple words for things like face, that convey very different concepts.

As a lover of the Italian experience, much of this information delighted me, but some of the history was just that and felt rather tedious. As I ground through the lengthy discussion of the Inferno, I got to wondering if I could go on, and the extensive discussion of vulgarity was really more than I needed to know, but in the end I was very glad to have read this book. I recommend it to lovers of all things Italian who want to understand the people and culture better through development and use of its language.