For years I have been recommending Dianne Hales’ La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language to clients of my Italian Wine + Culture Tours. The exhaustive research together with the enjoyable historic and personal anecdotes and the beautiful writing make this book a must-read for those who want to understand Italy and Italian more profoundly. This spring, Dianne will be releasing La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World, a new book that explores Italy’s impact on Western culture from wine to music, from art to film.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dianne Hales earlier this month over a couple of cappucini at Emporio Ruli, an Italian cafe in Larkspur, California and talk with her about her about her new book, as well as Italian wine, food, travel and language-learning tips. Enjoy!
Interview with Dianne Hales
What inspired you to write La Passione?
People kept saying to me, “You’re not Italian. You worked so hard to learn all this stuff. What is it that really interests you about Italy?” And I would respond very truthfully, “The Italians.” Then I had this one Italian say to me, “You really are Italian. You have an Italian soul and you have our passion,” and I thought about that and I started asking Italians about passion. It turns out, it’s not just about that fiery romantic passion. A Roman told me once there are two types of passion: there are the passions you take to bed and then there are the other passions where you create, where you leave something behind, where you become something more than yourself, and that’s what I wrote the book about. I talk about art, a lot of crafts, music, film, fast cars, cheese-making and wine-making and the passion for these things.
Speaking of wine, do you have a favorite Italian wine?
The wine that comes from the vine my husband and I own (row 11, number 18) in the historic Vigna Lorenzo at Monte Vibiano Vecchio in Umbria. It’s a Merlot blend. [Readers, Dianne tells the incredible story of this vineyard in La Passione.]
And, a favorite Italian dish?
Homemade fiori di zucca (Stuffed pumpkin blossoms)
From all of your writing about Italy, you must have a favorite word in Italian?
Appassionata, which originated in the 14th Century meaning “taken by passion”.
Do you have a favorite off-the-beaten-path place in Italy?
La Maremma coast in Tuscany, near Porto Ercole. After our first visit to a charming hotel on the seaside, I said to my husband, “I want to come back here every year for the rest of my life.” And, we have.
What about a favorite Italian city?
That’s hard, but I’ll say Rome. I have a certain feeling for Rome.
I have a lot of clients who study Italian before a tour or as soon as they get back from one. Do you have any suggestions for those studying Italian?
I say try everything. One of the things that I found surprising was Italian comic books. They’re really fun; Diabolique was my favorite. And then watching Italian films with English subtitles. The more Italian you read, see or hear, the better off you will be.
La Passione: How Italy Seduced the world
will be released in April 2019. You can pre-order your copy here.
Other titles by Dianne Hales
Read Dianne HALES’s books and come to Italy!
Now through the end of April, receive all three of Dianne Hales’ books when you book a spot on one of La Dolce Vigna’s 2019 Autumn Tours.