My thanks to the innovative digital publisher Acheron Books for the opportunity to talk about our shared love for Italy and its language. Click here for the original post.
1) How did your love for Italy come to be?
Years ago I was giving a talk in Switzerland and decided almost on a whim to swing down to Italy. At the time I knew only one Italian sentence: “Mi dispiace, ma non parlo italiano.” (I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Italian.) I repeated it constantly. But I was so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate with the charming Italians I met that I decided to study the language. Even before I really got to know Italy, I fell in love with its language. Italian opened up new worlds to me and let me to new adventures and friends throughout Italy.
2) How do you explain this passion for Italian?
I once asked a former attorney who had become a chef and started a prestigious culinary academy in Florence how she had acquired her passion for food. "Signora," she said. "We do not so much choose our passions as they choose us." Italian chose me.
As a journalist, I also know a great story when I see one—and the story of how Italian became the world's most enchanting language has everything: drama, passion, comedy, beautiful women, gallant heroes, jealousy, rivalry, unscrupulous scoundrels—not to mention glorious music and fabulous food. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know about Italian—where it came from, how it evolved, why it's so musical and vibrant. I had so much fun in Italian classes and conversation groups that I didn't want to stop my Italian education—and I never have.
3) Usually Italy is attractive for its history and culture, but you decided to focus on Italian language, which is spoken just in our country and in a small part of Switzerland.
As a spoken language, Italian ranks 19th, just ahead of Urdu, Pakistan’s official tongue, but even in today's global economy, when everyone needs to know English, Italian ranks as the fourth most studied language—after English, Spanish and French. In the United States it has become the fastest growing language taught in colleges and universities. So I’m certainly not alone in my passion for la bella lingua.
4) Your initiative related to promoting the knowledge of Italian language gained and it's still gaining much success: how would you explain that?
I’m actually amazed by it. Since I started my blog and website six years ago, I’ve gotten more than a million hits. About two-thirds come from the U.S. Others are from around the world: England, Canada, China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Serbia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia.
What’s touched me most is the passion so many people share for Italian. One man wrote to say that he is studying the language because speaking Italian is the closest he can ever come to singing. A fan described herself as an Italian woman trapped in the body of an Irish-American nurse anesthesist in New Hampshire. An Italian-American told me that she reads passages from LA BELLA LINGUA to her ninety-year-old brother, who’s lost his sight but delights in memories of his homeland. An artist on a ranch in South Africa was inspired to research and paint scenes from Italian gardens.
Last year when I traveled across the U.S. on a book tour for MONA LISA: A Life Discovered, I met people who told me that LA BELLA LINGUA had inspired them to take Italian lessons, or look up relatives in Italy, or translate a nonna’s recipes, or in a few cases even move to Italy. I’m just thrilled to be the “middle-man,” as we say, who connects all sorts of people with Italy—whether of Italian heritage or not -- and its language.
5) Do you have more Italy-related projects in the works?
The paperback version of MONA LISA is coming out in August so I will be promoting that. I am working with a professional guide to set up walking tours of Florence so others can see the city as I did: through the eyes of a quintessential Renaissance woman.
There’s a campaign underway to restore Sant’ Orsola, the dilapidated convent where Lisa died and was buried, and I’d love to help any way that I can. And along the way I hope to follow up on some leads and see if any blossom into a book.
We thank again Dianne Hales and we wish her even more success with her next projects. Perchè l'italiano è una lingua stupenda.
Acheron Books is the first publishing house that produces Italian fantasy, science fiction and horror fiction and distributes it worldwide in the English language in e-book format. The name “Acheron” represents the meeting of two worlds: Italian fantastic fiction, represented by the Acheron River from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and the mysterious Acheron Empire created by Robert E. Howard. Acheron also means above all transformation and evolution.