Whether you’re a parent or an author, your  first born always remains close to your heart.

This month marks a landmark birthday for my first book on Italy and its culture: LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language. My publisher is celebrating with a not-to-be-missed offer: a digital copy for just $1.99 — less than the price of, well, almost everything —downloadable here or at other online book retailers until May 5.

A book that keeps selling long after publication is said to “have legs.” I like to think that LA BELLA LINGUA sprouted wings that continue to carry it to new readers and to bring wonderful new people into my life.

In its eventful first decade, LA BELLA LINGUA became a best-seller in the United States, Canada and Australia, the subject of an acrostic (as well as a best-seller) in the New York Times, and the topic of several dissertations by Italian graduate students. In 2011 the President of Italy awarded me the highest recognition the government can bestow on a foreigner: a knighthood, with the title of Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) for the contributions LA BELLA LINGUA has made in promoting the Italian language. It is currently being translated into Italian—and Chinese!

Most gratifying to me has been the response of readers–from Vancouver to Paris to Sydney to Singapore. An artist who lives on a remote ranch in South Africa wrote that LA BELLA LINGUA  inspired her  lush paintings of Italian fountains and gardens.  A humanities professor in New York confessed that for two months he kept LA BELLA LINGUA in his  car, “bringing it out when I stopped at a wine bar for a drink or a bite to eat. And now that I have finished–what am I to do?”

A college student recalled choosing LA BELLA LINGUA from all the titles in a bookstore as a middle-schooler, reading it every year since, and learning Italian—first on her own, then in class. She based her college admissions essay on LA BELLA LINGUA’s being her favorite book and won a full scholarship to Northwestern. Still “wildly in love with languages,” she wrote to say, “You changed my life irrevocably,” and signed her note, “A grateful student.”

LA BELLA LINGUA changed my life too. Through Italians I met while researching it, I discovered the largely unknown story of the real woman in Leonardo’s famous painting and wrote MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. This immersion in Renaissance Florence led to my most recent adventure: a quest for the secrets and sources of the fierce creative Italian  drive that has produced so many master works of art, music, crafts, food, wine, literature, cinema, fashion, and design. Just released, LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World  has been hailed as an ” effervescent love letter to all things Italian” and a “delightful excursion into the heart of Italian culture.”

Whether you are Italian by birth or affinity, have visited or plan to visit Italy, are an armchair adventurer, or simply love pizza, pasta, or Prosecco, I invite you to get to know my literary “children.” But be forewarned: Like me and many of my readers, you might be swept away by la passione Italiana!