Books on Italy
La Bella Lingua
My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language
Centuries before there was an Italy, there was Italian. Its roots date back thousands of years to the volgare, the street Latin of ancient Rome. La Bella Lingua tells the adventurous tale of how this zesty language became Italian and follows its path through the realms of history, art, literature, manners, music, cooking, cinema and, of course, amore.
Handcrafted by poets and wordsmiths, Italian embodies its native speakers’ greatest genius: the ability to transform anything—from marble to melody, from the humble noodle to life itself—into a joyous art. While other tongues do little more than speak, Italian thrills the ear, beguiles the mind, captivates the heart, enraptures the soul and comes closer than any other idiom to expressing the essence of what it means to be human.
Praise for La Bella Lingua
—What’s New in Italy
“The best book on Italy since Barzini’s classic The Italians.”
—Matt Tyrnauer, director of Valentino: The Last Emperor
“A delightful, informative tour of both the history of the Italian language and her own account of innamoramento (crazy head-over-heels love) with la bella lingua.”
—Everett Potter Travel Report
—The Florence Newspaper
—ComUNICO, the national UNICO newsletter
A Life Discovered
Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered blends biography, history and memoir to introduce Mona (Madame) Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo—daughter of Florence, woman of the Renaissance, wife, mother and muse. Intrigued by new findings confirming the identity of Leonardo’s model, Dianne Hales set off on a personal quest for the flesh-and-blood woman in the world’s most praised and parodied painting.
Who was this ordinary woman who rose to such extraordinary fame? Why did the most renowned painter of her time choose her as his model? What became of her? And why does her smile enchant us still?
Mona Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, a quintessential woman of her times, was caught in a whirl of political upheavals, family dramas and public scandals. Descended from ancient nobles, she was born and baptized in Florence in 1479. Wed to a truculent businessman twice her age, she gave birth to six children and died at age sixty-three in 1542.
Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered transports readers to the squalid street where Lisa was born, traces her colorful family history and captures the tumult and pageantry of Renaissance Florence. Her story creates an extraordinary tapestry of daily life in a city bursting into fullest bloom and a culture that redefined the possibilities of man—and of woman.
Praise for Mona Lisa
—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome
“Biography, history and memoir are woven together in Hales’ lyrical biography of Lisa Gherardini.”
—About.com Italy Travel
—San Antonio Express News
How Italy Seduced the World
No country has matched Italy’s impact on culture. Just think of painting without Leonardo, opera without Verdi, fashion without Armani, food without the signature tastes of pasta and pizza. The first universities, first banks, first public libraries? All Italian.
Dianne Hales attributes these landmark achievements to la passione italiana, a primal force that stems from an insatiable hunger to discover and create; to love and live with every fiber of one’s being. This fierce drive blazes to life in the Sistine Chapel, surges through a Puccini aria, and rumbles in a gleaming Ferrari engine.
Our ideal tour guide, Dianne sweeps readers along on her adventurous quest for the secrets of la passione. She swims in the playgrounds of mythic gods, shadows artisanal makers of chocolate and cheese, joins in Sicily’s Holy Week traditions, celebrates a neighborhood Carnevale in Venice, and explores pagan temples, vineyards, silk mills, movie sets and fashion salons. In sumptuous prose, she introduces us to unforgettable personalities brimming with the greatest of Italian passions—for life itself.
A lyrical portrait of a spirit as well as a nation, La Passione appeals to the Italian in all our souls, inspiring us to be as daring as Italy’s gladiators, as eloquent as its poets, as alluring as its beauties and as irresistible as its lovers.
Praise for La Passione
“A” is for Amore
The differences go beyond pronunciation. To me, each letter brings to mind a word that represents a different aspect of Italian life and culture. I’ve put together my alphabetical musings in a new e-book you can download as a free PDF here.
Based on decades of research, writing, and wandering, “A” Is for Amore takes readers on a whimsical letter-by- journey through the Italian ABCs. You’ll travel to Florence and Rome, savor Italians’ favorite dishes, delve into the worlds of fashion and wine, meet Dante, Leonardo, and the irresistible Italian man, and gain a new appreciation of the Italian “H” (acca) and “Z” (zeta).
If you love Italy, you’ll learn more about the country and its people. If you come from an Italian family, you’ll discover more about your heritage. If you’re an Italian student or teacher, you’ll find a light-hearted perspective that complements vocabulary and grammar lessons. If you are an armchair adventurer, you don’t need to know any Italian to enjoy the ride.
“A” Is for Amore is my love letter to Italy, its people, and all my readers, with great appreciation for your support. I hope this small gift will entertain and uplift you.