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 worldÕs most loved and lovable language” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle, and food in a true opera amorosaÑa labor of her love of Italy.
Throughout her first excursion in ItalyÑwith “non parlo Italiano” as her only Italian phraseÑDianne 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 oups, 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 ItalyÕs 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 affiti on the walls of Pompeii, in DanteÕs incandescent cantos, and in BoccaccioÕs bawdy Decameron. She portrays how social aces 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 ItalyÕs 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.