12 Best books to practice Italian language – from beginner to advanced level

By Go! Go! Italia staff
22 Feb 2024
Reading Time: 4 minutes
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When it comes to Italian language acquisition, the right books can be invaluable companions, guiding learners through the nuances and intricacies of this beautiful language.

Whether you’re a beginner, at an intermediate level, or aiming for advanced proficiency, we’ve curated for you a list of what are, in our opinion, the best books to practice Italian. We chose Italians authors, to enhance your Italian practice at every stage of your language learning journey.

Image of best books to practice Italian

(Picture of our favorite bookstore in Rome, Libreria tra le Righe. Photo by Paola)

Beginner Level

Viaggio nel tempo by Geronimo Stilton (2004)

The popular Geronimo Stilton series takes you on exciting adventures through time and space. In the book Viaggio nel tempo (which means “Journey through time”), a fun story unfolds, making it an ideal read for beginners. Not only does reading Geronimo Stilton introduce you to Italian vocabulary, but the extensive series also provides ample material for practicing the language.

Le avventure di Cipollino by Gianni Rodari (1951)

Gianni Rodari is a must read. Le avventure di Cipollino (Adventures of Little Onion) follows the adventures of Cipollino, a little onion with a big heart. Rodari’s imaginative storytelling and straightforward language make this book accessible to beginners while offering a fun reading experience.

Storie della buonanotte per bambine ribelli by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (2017)

Storie della buonanotte per bambine ribelli (Good night stories for rebel girls) features a collection of inspiring tales about real-life extraordinary women. Each story highlights the achievements and resilience of these women, encouraging readers to dream big and break barriers. Through vivid storytelling and vibrant illustrations, the book celebrates the power of courage, determination, and individuality, inspiring readers of all ages to pursue their passions and make a positive impact on the world. The simple language structure makes it accessible for beginners, making it an excellent choice for language practice.

Photo of best books to practice Italian

Intermediate Level:

Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1958)

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), offers an immersive reading experience for intermediate learners. Set in Sicily during the Risorgimento, this novel provides rich historical and cultural insights, while its elegant prose challenges readers with more complex Italian language structures.

Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1881)

Carlo Collodi’s timeless classic, Le avventure di Pinocchio (The adventures of Pinocchio), offers learners at an intermediate level an enchanting tale of a wooden puppet’s quest to become a real boy. With its rich narrative and vivid characters, this novel provides intermediate learners with ample opportunities to enhance their Italian reading comprehension skills.

Seta by Alessandro Baricco (1996)

Seta (Silk) by Alessandro Baricco, one of our favorite authors of all time, is a mesmerizing tale of a French silkworm merchant’s journey to Japan in the 19th century, where he becomes involved in a forbidden romance amidst his quest for valuable silkworm eggs. Baricco’s elegant prose and evocative storytelling make for a captivating read, exploring themes of love, obsession, and cultural exploration in a rapidly changing world.

Novecento by Alessandro Baricco (1994)

Novecento (Nine Hundred) is another captivating novella by Alessandro Baricco, set on a transatlantic ocean liner in the early 20th century. It follows the extraordinary pianist Novecento, who was born and raised aboard the ship, and his remarkable musical talent. Through Novecento’s story, Baricco delves into themes of genius and the longing for freedom in a concise and memorable narrative.

In altre parole by Jhumpa Lahiri (2015)

In altre parole (In other words), it is the first book in Italian written by an American author of Bengali origin who moved to Italy and now lives in Rome. This book talks about the passion for the Italian language, the beauty of the Italian language, the desire and difficulty of learning and mastering it, and how to achieve this goal in life. The book won the International Prize “Viareggio-Versilia” in 2015.

Advanced Level:

La Storia by Elsa Morante (1974)

Set against the backdrop of World War II, Elsa Morante’s La Storia (History) is a sweeping epic that follows the lives of multiple characters navigating the tumultuous events of the war. With its lyrical prose and intricate plot, this novel challenges advanced learners to delve into nuanced themes while honing their Italian language skills.

L’amica Geniale by Elena Ferrante (2011)

Elena Ferrante’s L’amica geniale (My brilliant friend) is the first installment in the acclaimed Neapolitan novels series. Set in post-war Naples, this compelling saga explores the complexities of friendship, identity, and societal change. Advanced learners will appreciate Ferrante’s masterful storytelling and the opportunity to engage with contemporary Italian literature at its finest.

Resto Qui by Marco Balzano (2018)

Marco Balzano’s Resto qui (I’m staying here), is a historical novel set in the Italian region of South Tyrol. The story revolves around Trina, a resilient mother who writes to her missing daughter. Amidst the backdrop of Italian Fascism and German Nazism, Trina’s family faces unimaginable hardships. The novel explores themes of politics, war, and human endurance, as Trina recounts decades of inhumane circumstances to her absent daughter. Balzano’s unvarnished tone and stoical narrator make this novel a powerful exploration of memory and resilience and a great choice for advanced level learners.

Venuto al mondo by Margaret Mazzantini (2008)

Venuto al mondo (Twice born) by Margaret Mazzantini is an internationally bestselling novel that explores love, grief, and the all-consuming power of motherhood during the Bosnian war. Gemma, an Italian woman, returns to Sarajevo after sixteen years, bringing her son, Pietro, to learn about his birthplace and the father he never knew. The novel weaves past and present, delving into Gemma’s memories during the four-year siege of Sarajevo. Mazzantini’s eloquent prose challenges readers with nuanced vocabulary and complex sentence structures.

Our tips for reading in Italian

Whether you’re just starting your Italian language journey, navigating the complexities of intermediate proficiency, or striving for advanced fluency, remember this rule of thumb: don’t be discouraged if you don’t know every single word you read. Instead, view it as a chance to expand your vocabulary. Most importantly, focus on understanding the overall sentence meaning—the rest will follow. Buona lettura! (Happy reading!)

Looking to level up your Italian? Contact us and we will help you find the best Italian course suited for your needs. Interested in Italy and Italian culture? Read more on the Go! Go! Italia blog and follow us on our social media.

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