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

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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  719 ratings  ·  98 reviews
“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses…”



A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation,
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Broadway Books (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,672)
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Ciara
this is a memoir of how one non-italian woman spent 25 years becoming fluent in italian...or that's what i expected. it's really a lot more about the development of the italian language & the way the language unified the disparate regions throughout the italian peninsula & brought them together as a country. how much of this is bright shiny revisionist history, i am unqualified to say. i didn't dislike this book, but it was very different from what i expected. just look at the cover. doe ...more
Michelle
I flew through this book in a weekend, and I plan on reading it again.

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.

And the writing? A
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Brian
This is a really good read for those that have a similar fascination with the Italian language. But wait, there's more to it than that: its a really comprehensive history lesson about the Italian Peninsular, its people, culture, art, food, music, inventions and of course, the language that is woven throughout all time

Its so damn good i've read it three times - just the sort of history / entertainment i like - you can pick it up and start anyplace - always something fascinating pops out. Brava!
Elizabeth Hunter
The author's love for Italian is almost off-putting in its intensity. While she has some interesting stories about Italy and the development of the language, she also retails stories as truth that have been disproved, or at least disputed, without comment. And the detail of the language descends into long pages of trivia at times. It also rankled slightly that her knowledge of Italian is clearly much richer than her understanding of English and of language in general, so that she disparages the ...more
John
I chuckled on Page 2. On Page 14, I laughed out loud. It's not a funny book per se, but it certainly has its moments.
"La Bella Lingua" is as charming, quirky and vibrant as the Italian language itself.
Here are some samples:

"Business can remain unfinished a long time in Italy. A researcher tells of requesting a book from the catalog of the Vatican Library only to receive a notice stating, 'Missing since 1530.'" (Page 28)

"On our first visit, when Bob disappeared in search of parking, I informed th
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Susanne
If I had not spent a year and a half in Italy, I would not have found this book very interesting. It was humorous sometimes for me because I am familiar "Italian quirkiness" and the beautiful Italian language, but it was a little hard to follow her train of thought at times. Also, I believe the author is obsessed w/sex and anything having to do w/it, as most poets/author's quotes she used were somewhat suggestive, if not directly of an erotic nature (body parts, etc). Weird. I would only recomme ...more
Sarah
After hearing about "La Bella Lingua" by someone who was learning the Italian language, I expected to love this book. For me, the bright spots were in all the little stories about Italy, the culture, the language, and the history. The writing and construction were sort of hectic to me, and the author's random personal anecdotes didn't connect well enough with what she was trying to tell. That being said, if you have any interest in Italy and have spent time learning Italian then you will enjoy t ...more
Brooke
Enjoyed this book and I think I learned at least 5 new Italian words or phrases per page! The author helps translate some of the hardest ideas and themes of the Italian language and lifestyle. Love the chapter about Dante and his importance to Italians and the language. Wasn't really into the chapter on opera, but I'm not really a fan of opera in general so that doesn't help. Some parts get a little too detailed and mention too many significant people in a genre, making it confusing to figure ou ...more
Mark
I didn't think I needed to read any more books about Italy or Italians but I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Hales' 25 year adventure becoming fluent in Italian. Along the way she gives a history of Italian language, food, film, opera, literature and art history -- relating everything back to the language. Being an Italophile and Italian student myself I could relate to her foibles and was amused by the ephemera she brings to light. Especially the chapter on Italian cursing.
Caroline
This is a charming history of the Italian language and culture; the author includes stories on literature, word origins, history, and food. How can you not love a language where the polite form of "you" treats everyone like a princess, and vulgarities include a reference to Helen of Troy?
Rheo3000
Apr 23, 2013 Rheo3000 marked it as to-read
Shelves: started-gave-up
We get it, you like Italian, but I'm bored and its not fun reading a book where every couple pages a few phrases I don't know are thrown in, presumably for the sake of throwing them. Non so se continui a leggere ...
Ellie
When I first glanced at Dianne Hales's book, in which she tells the story of how she fell in love with Italian and her adventures in the process of learning it, I saw another flower in the Garden of Italian Delight. There are so many other books with the personal stories of American women who fall for Italy and go there to actually make their declaration of love, starting with the esteemed Under the Tuscan Sun (about buying a house in Italy) to the currently popular Eat, Pray, Love (about, among ...more
Elle Saverini
To resist writing passionately about anything Italian is to lie. And while careful research melded with precise facts earn her an 'A' for thoroughness, Dianne Hales' expository descriptions of everything from language derivations to food, opera and art betray the very esssence of Italian and its organic nature, from its Umbrian-Etruscan origins to the modern day vernacular. Her staid style and prim manners place her readers forever on the periphery of this luscious, select topic: the multi-layer ...more
Beth
The author is correct, this is a book demonstrating her love affair with the Italian Language. That doesn't tell the whole story though. It is the story of how she got deeper and deeper into the Italian culture, psyching it out from the language as it developed from Latin though various dialects to become a unifying effect as Italy was created. Apparently it all goes back to those books by Dante and Boccacio (which I should have read a long time ago) and included writings and art by Leonardo da ...more
Leah
Since I'm taking an Italian class I thought this would be the perfect time to finally pull this book off the shelf and read it. I had no idea what I was in for! The cute little cover should be changed to something serious and textbooky because this is basically a history of the Italin language. It's also a love letter to everything Italian, including food, art, literature, gestures. I took my time reading over the Italian words, pronouncing them in my head or enthusiastically outloud, scaring my ...more
Jim
This book took me by surprise as I expected to like it more than I did. In it she explores Italian life and culture from a number of different angles - the evolution of the language, art, culture music, film. But the overriding impression I get is how satisfied with herself she is. thus, I struggled to finish this book rather than add it to the growing list of books that I am reading when I don't have anything else at hand.

I've enjoyed this time of book in the past, most recently, Living in a Fo
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Jenb16
A fascinating and informative read about Italian language, history, and culture. Hales writes a beautiful love letter to Italy. A great read for anyone interested in learning all about the history and evolution of Italian culture and language.
Joanna
Even though I am Italian language lover myself, I was wondering if it was possible to write a book about the language without it turning out either boring or into one of those 'left big city to cultivate olives in Italian village' type of books. Ms Hales managed to do that.

Learning the roots and evolution of the language is a fantastic way of learning the history, literature, art, cuisine and culture of Italy itself. I feel like the author has made a very good research before writing the book a
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Farah Bader
I've never had a particular penchant for Dante or Petrarch or Boccacio but after flinging myself into this beauty, I might give the Divine Comedy or Decameron the old college try. I must admit that at times La Bella becomes tiring in its relentless praises of Italy and the Italian language and it would be nice if the language and the culture was given a more balanced appraisal. Regardless, reading Hales is still a constructive way to pass the time. And who knows? With her peppering of Italian ph ...more
Gabigabs
As a student of Italian Language and a traveler hoping to visit Italy in next year or so, I picked up this book with hope to learn a little bit more in depth about the country's history, traditions, and perhaps pick up a useful phrase here and there.

I was not disappointed. The book was well written - it's interesting, educational, yet funny, especially during parts when the author describes her first attempt and mishaps in Italian conversation.

I would recommend it to everybody with an interest
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Mooch
I read this book during my vacation in the Italian south. Ms Hales' light-hearted romp through the history of Italian language and culture certainly added to my enjoyment of being there. I am an Italiophile anyhow so a lot of the aspects she talkes about - food and art in particular - weren't especially new to me. However, I don't mind reading about Italian art again and again. Not at all!
I would consider this book a great primer for all things Italian. If you like Italy but haven't given the c
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Angela
La Bella Lingua is an interesting mini-history of post-ancient-Roman Italy through the lens of its language. As a student of Italian by the necessity of finding myself suddenly living in southern Italy, I found that this cleared up a lot of confusions I couldn't even clearly articulate to myself. The author is an American who falls in love with the Italian language and Italy itself, spending most of her time researching the book in Tuscany (with a dash of Rome). As such, it's mostly about Floren ...more
Lori
This is unlike many American-living-abroad tales. Rather than write about herself, the author writes of her innamorato. She confesses she has fallen "madly, gladly, giddily in love with the world's most luscious language." She invites you along as she describes her immersion in Italy and the Italian lifestyle. She also shares everything she loves about the peninsula's art, history, cinema, gastronomy, and literature. The reader becomes as enchanted as she is.
Ginaru
Read it twice and enjoyed it even more the second time. If you have a passion for Italy and all its loveliness and its quirkiness, you would thoroughly enjoy this book! Bravissima Dianne! La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
Nikki
This book captured my attention, primarily because of my love for the Italian language. Hales uses the main aspects of Italian life (food, music, love, and art) to beautifully describe the history of the Italian language. As an intermediate to advanced speaker of Italian, it was a great study in Italian idioms that you cannot learn by reading a text book. I would definitely recommend this book for someone interested in etymology.
John
I'd give this book one and a half stars if I could - I didn't hate it, but it was somewhat of a waste of time. As advertised, it's a personal account of Dianne Hales's love for Italian. The trouble is that personal accounts are really boring, and this one is no different. She gives a shallow history of Italian, for which I am grateful, but it's all fluffy and forgettable.
Ann Marie
A fun tour de force of the Italian language, encompassing Dante, Italian unification, opera, food, cursing, and more. I enjoyed meeting the author unexpectedly while volunteering at a gala at the Italian Cultural Institute in SF. I told her I'd been reading her book on Bart just an hour before. She got a kick out of it and was very gracious.
Peter
A good overall history of the development of the Italian language. I went into the book thinking it was going to be more focused on her experience of learning the language, rather than this history. I was expecting more of a "Under the Tuscan Sun" book rather than a history book, but I enjoyed it.
Brian Saul
Fascinating take on a beautiful language as explored - mined, really - by a new learner. Each page is so loaded with cultural references that it had me running to Wikipedia, Google, and my art books to explore each in more depth, making getting through the book a fun challenge!
Lesley
The book was interesting and had some humorous moments, but it started to feel more like a textbook and less like the lighthearted linguistic memoir I had hoped for. If you are looking for a history of the Italian language, this is a book for you.
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Ever since I was a girl, I had only one career goal: to write for a living. And so I have--more than a thousand articles for national publications, 15 trade books, 24 editions of the leading college health textbook.

Along the way I fell--madly, gladly, giddily--in love with Italian. Years of passionate study led to LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language,
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