“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, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.
For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Lingua, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle, and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy.
Throughout her first excursion in Italy—with “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phrase—Dianne delighted in the beauty of what she saw but craved comprehension of what she heard. And so she chose to inhabit the language. Over more than twenty-five years she has studied Italian in every way possible: through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, large blocks of time in Italy. In the process she found that Italian became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. She offers charming insights into what makes Italian the most emotionally expressive of languages, from how the “pronto” (“Ready!”) Italians say when they answer the telephone conveys a sense of something coming alive, to how even ordinary things such as a towel (asciugamano) or handkerchief (fazzoletto) sound better in Italian.
She invites readers to join her as she traces the evolution of Italian in the zesty graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, in Dante’s incandescent cantos, and in Boccaccio’s bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social graces remain woven into the fabric of Italian: even the chipper “ciao,” which does double duty as “hi” and “bye,” reflects centuries of bella figura. And she exalts the glories of Italy’s food and its rich and often uproarious gastronomic language: Italians deftly describe someone uptight as a baccala (dried cod), a busybody who noses into everything as a prezzemolo (parsley), a worthless or banal movie as a polpettone (large meatball).
Like Dianne, readers of La Bella Lingua will find themselves innamorata, enchanted, by Italian, fascinated by its saga, tantalized by its adventures, addicted to its sound, and ever eager to spend more time in its company.
Teacher Recommendations for Dianne Hales and La Bella Lingua
“Although the title may lead one to believe it deals solely with language, La Bella Lingua touches on much more. Dianne Hales, the author, writes about the history, art, music, folklore, cuisine and the every-day lives of the Italian people. She does so in an engaging manner that totally draws in the reader with, wisdom, astute observation and, always, humor. My colleagues and fellow members of the Italian Teachers Association of Central New York, a chapter of the American Association of the Teachers of Italian have heartily embraced the book recommending it to our students and friends.”
--Alfred J. Valentini, Adjunct Professor of Italian at Utica College, Vice President/Treasurer Italian Teachers of Central New York
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading La Bella Lingua, which not only made me smile, and of course feel so much at home, but also, thanks to your incredible amount of research, taught me a lot about my own culture! What you have achieved in your book perfectly illustrates what I, as President of IACE (Italian American Committee on Education), have been consistently encouraging and promoting: learning the Italian language will make us understand the Italian culture and mind, eventually empowering us to develop better exchanges with Italy, to the benefit of both our economies. So thank you, carissima Dianne, for your insight and your passion with La Bella Lingua, the timely arrival of which we welcome: it will no doubt become a precious resource to our teachers and students, and will gratify our own efforts in promoting Italian.”
--Berardo Paradiso, President Italian-American Committee on Education
“Thank you for the inspirational talk on learning Italian and all the nuances of my culture that I actually wasn't familiar with. Everyone raved about you and your book. We have made a friend that keeps on giving. You have created true excitement and for that we are very appreciative.
Ti ringraziamo per tutto quello che hai fatto e che continui a fare per promuovere la lingua e cultura italiana. Abbiamo scoperto un gioiello! (We thank you for all that you have done and that you continue to do to promote the Italian language and culture. We have discovered a jewel!”
--Phyllis Pizzolato, vice-president, American Association of Teachers of Italian, New Jersey
"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.”
--Professors Peter and Julia Bondanella, Indiana University
"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
“I have made your book a "must read" for my classes. It is just a wonderfully informative, historically accurate account of the development of one of the world's most beautiful languages. Allora ti faccio sapere che il tuo libro e` veramente un piacere per tutti noi che amiamo La Bella Lingua. (I am letting you know that your book is truly a pleasure for all of us who love La Bella Lingua.)”
--Luigi Leonini, Italian teacher, Garibaldi/Meucci Museum on Staten Island
“We have used La Bella Lingua in our classroom as a guide to Italian cultural mores. It is full of contemporary as well as classical terminology, which will prove indispensable to anyone traveling to Italy. Diane's work of Love for everything Italian is truly admirable and above all enjoyable. Bravissima!”
--Gregory Candelieri, Teacher, Amici Della Lingua Italiania, Burlington County, New Jersey
“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