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I bought this on the basis of the title and Kindle sample which both seemed to indicate that the focus of this book was indeed the language of Italy with its abundant quirks and curious history as a relatively recent national tongue.

That is part of what this book does, and I enjoyed that aspect of it and the fairly cosy and anecdotal approach of the author. Clearly, the chapter about literature is relevant to the development of the language and she gives broad brush accounts of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and others. My disappointment began to develop round about chapter 5 when the book morphs into a fairly superficial history of aspects of Italian culture, the very things I know a bit about and which have spurred me on to learn the language. The art history chapter, for example, strikes me as more than a little too stereotypically from the 'Renaissance art means Italian art' angle: Vasari is the guide (Vasari is very interesting and important!) but he is a hugely partisan figure who mythologises almost as much as he reveals in his desire to place Italy, and more particularly Tuscany, at the centre of all good things. For me that mythologising is at least as interesting as the myths, but she makes no reference to that, which is a pity as that impulse is relevant to a book on Italian cultural history. And the focus on language is lost.

Other chapters explore food, music, love and other rather sentimental aspects of the country's 'persona', and I felt just a little shortchanged as the book increasingly fails to live up to its title. I, personally, found these chapters less and less interesting as I her judgements became more sentimental and superficial: I raced through the last couple of chapters because it was beginning to be tiresome. I'm sure it will be perfect for lots of people approaching it with different expectations and interests (the ratings so far illustrate that and I don't argue with the judgements expressed). Not a terrible or boring book by any stretch of the imagination, (to be fair, the writer gives much interesting information for those new to Italian culture) but from my perspective, just a little disappointing: I wanted more on the language!
3.5* really, but rounded down to 3 to offer a contrast to the more positive reviews.

(I would have to recommend 'The New Italians' by Charles Richards, and Tobias Jones 'The Dark Heart of Italy', each of which takes a less saccharine, and in my view far more interesting, view of this endlessly fascinating culture. The latter is the more up to date and acerbic.)
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on 5 February 2016
As a middle- aged Englishman struggling to learn Italian and keen to know more about Italy and its language, I have bought several books about life and living in Italy. Most of these have been disappointing, largely because of their inexpert, amateurish writing style. In contrast therefore, it was a pleasure to come across Dianne Hales’s informative and very readable ‘La Bella Lingua’.

Every chapter is interesting and well researched as evidenced by the extensive bibliography but just as importantly, the author has made the effort to seek out distinguished academics and other experts in their fields of study. This results in her giving an informed but broad overview of the topics which invites further investigation if you so wish.

But this is no dusty text book; the author’s obvious journalistic skill means that the information is delivered in an approachable and witty manner which kept me turning the pages and taking notes (particularly the idioms) to add to my own understanding of the language.

A very well considered piece of writing to which I shall return frequently.
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on 14 October 2012
I purchased this book as a new student of Italian language and I am now smitten with everything Italian and eager to learn more.
Dianne Hale's book left me chuckling away to myself as I read her anecdotes about her early experiences with the Italian language and Italian men.
The book covers everything from the origins of the language, Italian Art, Italian Cooking, Italian Literature, Dante and a few essential 'parolaccia', [dirty words], thrown in for good measure.
La Bella Lingua is an essential read for anyone even mildly interested in Italian culture and has certainly inspired me to continue my studies.
A superbly written book in every way imaginable.
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on 16 January 2017
I bought it a present but I read few lines before wrapping it and I did love what I read: intelligent and meaningful and funny. The person who received it sent me a long appreciative comment too.
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In many ways La Bella Lingua is a delight and the opening chapters really had me hooked, Dianne Hales’ enthusiasm made me want to start leaning Italian immediately.

I found it to be quirky and curious, informative and passionate and seems to sum up my own expectations of what learning the Italian language might be like and how important it is to understanding all things Italian.

So I took many new facts and opinions away with me and would recommend it if you have any interest at all in all things Italian. The language is fascinating, the food is delicious and as a holiday destination it is almost unrivalled, so do go armed with the information and love Dianne Hales imbues in this book.
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on 4 March 2012
I recently started to learn the Italian language and wanted to know more about the Italian language and culture. This book gives you a valuable insight in to the language and culture of Italy, talking about the people that moulded the language from a bunch of dialects in to the standardised Italian that is spoken today. You can also pick up some useful 'parolacce' !!!
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on 18 July 2014
I have read this book three times and no doubt will read it again! It is really funny in parts and taught me so many things about Italian culture and language that I would probably not have learnt otherwise. A great reference book. I went on a trip to Florence last year and it was so much more enjoyable for having gathered information from this book beforehand.
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on 26 December 2012
This is an amazing book that provides a real insight into Italian history, culture and so much more. I have learned so much from Dianne Hales passion for everything Italian. I'm studying Italian myself and this has developed my understanding of art, history, love of food, traditions, music and of course l'amore. The last chapter includes 'interesting ' vocabulary! It has made me laugh, smile, almost cry and of course further deepened mia passione a tutto d'italiano. Anna
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on 20 October 2013
The writing is, by any standard, outstanding and the book is a delight to read. The author's enthusiasm for the "Italian thing" shines through and encourages her readers to follow suit. However, even if you have no interest in even attempting to become bi-lingual, there is so much of interest in it that it is worth reading for its own sake.
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on 13 July 2014
I have bought two copies for myself and my son, we speak Italian which is not our first language and thought it would he fun to read. .It is a book which you can pick up and read from time to time.
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