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La Bella Lingua:

My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language

In English a book that keeps selling long after publication is said to “have legs.” La Bella Lingua, published in 2009, sprouted wings. This New York Times best-seller—hailed as a “love letter” to Italy and its culture—has captivated readers around the world.

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.

For years I was told that La Bella Lingua couldn’t be translated  because of its many idioms and colloquial expressions.  However, the distinguished Italian publisher Treccani has done the seemingly impossible and produced an Italian translation by Maria Baiocchi and Anna Tagliavini. La Bella Lingua: La mia storia d’amore con l’italiano is available at, IBS internet bookshop, and some independent bookstores in the United States, including San Francisco’s Libreria Pino.

At its official presentation in Rome,  Massimo Bray, direttore generale of Treccani,  described La Bella Lingua as “un libro importante per diffondere l’interesse e l’amore per la lingua italiana” (an important book for spreading interest and love for the Italian language). An Italian reviewer,  Professore Pasquale D’Ascola, praised the book as “elegante e snello, così valentino, denso di sapere, di studio e di amore per l’italiano e per i native” (elegant and graceful, like a Valentine, full of knowledge, of study and of love for Italian and for its natives).


“A charming love letter to the language and culture of Italy”
—Publishers Weekly
“A joyous, funny and warmly affectionate celebration of Italy, its history, literature, food, music, movies and its people.”
—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 lovely and humorous account of one person’s love with a particular language.”
—Chicago Tribune

“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

“Hales’ readers can come to experience Italy with as much passion and intensity as she recounts in her excellent book.”
—The Florence Newspaper
“A wonderful journey of all things Italian rolled up in an enjoyable history lesson. Don’t be a brutta figura! Go now and buy it!”
—ComUNICO, the national UNICO newsletter