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During this lovely season of giving and gifting, I am excited to share something dear to my heart: a brand-new website, completely redesigned by the brilliant web designer Madeira James of LBL Xmasxuni.com. She created my very first site ten years ago but after a decade online and more than 1.7 million visitors from countries around the globe, we felt ready for a new look.

The new site includes excerpts and information on my previous books on Italy: LA BELLA LINGUA and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. It also showcases my upcoming book, LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World. You can preorder a copy now and check the website for updates as we count down to its official publication date of April 16, 2019.  

This is also the season for heart-warming stories. One of my favorites, which I came across while researching LA PASSIONE, is set in the postcard-pretty Tuscan town of Castiglion Fiorentino. The Friends of San Filippino, a nonprofit created by Rita Morgan Richardson, an Italian-American from Nashville, is raising funds to restore an abandoned Baroque chapel that has fallen into ruin. Click here to watch a video summary of the group's progress, with uplifting music and messages sure to fill your heart Mona bow with joy.

December and January bring an abundance of joyful celebrations in Italy, including:

*December 6: La festa di San Nicola, the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of shepherds and the inspiration for America's Santa Claus

*December 8: La festa dell'Immacolata, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic holy day honoring Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus

*December 12: La festa di Santa Lucia, the festival of lights    

*December 24,  La vigilia di Natale, the Christmas vigil

*December 25: Natale, the birthday of the baby Jesus

*December 26:  La festa di Santo Stefano, Saint Steven's

*December 31: La festa di San Silvestro, Saint Sylvester's day, or New Year's Eve (la vigilia di Capodanno)

*January 1: Il Capodanno, literally the top of the year

*January 6: L'Epifania, Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the Re Magi, the three wise men, who brought gifts to the infant Jesus from afar

As we celebrate feasts and families, I thank all of you for your continuing support and friendship and extend warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Buone feste!

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting LanguageMONA LISA: A Life Discovered  and the upcoming  LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World.

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