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.
Over the course of twenty-five years, she has studied Italian through Berlitz, books, CDs, podcasts, private tutorials and conversation groups, and, most importantly, time spent in Italy. In the process the Italian language became not just a passion and a pleasure, but a passport into Italy’s storia and its very soul. 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.
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 as she rehearses the many ways in which the language has seductively slipped into Western culture and consciousness.
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What starts off as an amusing book on Italian words and translations, quickly turns into a detailed history lesson and reading becomes quite tedious and boring!