Antonio Tabucchi SOSTIENE PEREIRA – Italian Book Club

Antonio Tabucchi SOSTIENE PEREIRA – Italian Book Club

In our new book club we will be reading Antonio Tabucchi’s most famous book called Sostiene Pereira.

Sostiene P

Title: Sostiene Pereira

Author: Antonio Tabucchi

Published: 1994

The author and the book

Born in 1943 in Pisa, Tabucchi was a prolific writer, translator from Portuguese and academic. He taught Portuguese literature at the University of Siena, specialising in the works of Fernando Pessoa. He travelled extensively, studied in France and used to spend half of the year in Portugal. In 1975 he published his first novel called Piazza D’Italia. He reached success with Notturno Indiano. This book was published in 1984, won a prize in France and it was made into a film.

He has also published:

Viaggi e altri viaggi


Piccoli equivoci senza importanza

Il tempo invecchia in fretta

Si sta facendo sempre piú tardi


Here are some sources where you can find more information about Tabucchi and his books:


The plot

The book is set in Portugal in the summer of 1938 during Salazar’s dictatorship.

Pereira is a journalist with a long-standing career who has recently taken a new job with the Lisboa. This is a minor conservative newspaper of catholic inspiration. Pereira is responsible for editing the cultural pages.

Pereira is mediocre, aging, lonely man. Having lost his wife early on, he regrets never having had children. He has medical problems and leads a simple, repetitive life. This man states that he is above politics and doesn’t get involved in it, shielding himself from all current events.

Pereira is obsessed the concept of death and one day he comes across a philosophical article on death written by a recent graduate called Monterio Rossi. Hence, he decides to meet him and during the meeting offers him a job at the paper.

Pereira soon realises that Rossi is anti-fascist, a subversive whose articles cannot be published in his paper due to censorship. Despite this, he helps the young man, pays his work with his own money. He even starts helping him and his anti-fascist friends, housing them and hiding them.

The young Rossi is ultimately perceived by Pereira as the child he never had. And Rossi, his girlfriend and his friends, ultimately, manage to wake Pereira from his indifference and apathy. In the end, the young Rossi is killed. At this point, Pereira takes action and writes an article denouncing the violence and the killing of Rossi. He manages to get it published in his paper and leaves the Country with a false passport.


Why read this book

Published in 1994, this book has become a classic of Italian literature, winning in the same year the prestigious prizes Campiello and Viareggio. Furthermore, this is the most famous book by Tabucchi and it was also made into a film with Marcello Mastroianni.

This deceptively straight forward story is filled with layers of meaning, humour and sharp character descriptions.

Written in an easy style, it is ideal for upper intermediate and advanced students wishing to read authentic material in Italian.


Quotes from the book:

“Stai bene a sentire, Pereira, disse Silva, tu credi ancora nell’opinione pubblica? Ebbene, l’opinione pubblica è un trucco che hanno inventato gli anglosassoni, gli inglesi e gli americani, sono loro che ci stanno smerdando, scusa la parola, con questa idea dell’opinione pubblica, noi non abbiamo mai avuto il loro sistema politico, non abbiamo le loro tradizioni, non sappiamo cosa sono le trade unions, noi siamo gente del Sud, Pereira, e ubbidiamo a chi grida di più, a chi comanda.”

“[…] la filosofia sembra che si occupi solo della verità, ma forse dice solo fantasie, e la letteratura sembra che si occupi solo di fantasie, ma forse dice la verità.”

“Pereira sostiene che uscì turbato da questo breve colloquio e dalla maniera in cui era stato congedato. Si chiese: in che mondo vivo? E gli venne la bizzarra idea che lui, forse, non viveva, ma era come fosse già morto. Da quando era scomparsa sua moglie lui viveva come se fosse morto. O meglio: non faceva altro che pensare alla morte, alla resurrezione della carne nella quale non credeva e a sciocchezze di questo genere, la sua era solo una sopravvivenza, una finzione di vita.”

How to join the book club

Join our book club! We read selected chapters of a given book and develop speaking in sessions moderated by a native teacher passionate about literature. Click if you wish to know how our book club works. Book your session here.

How to talk about hobbies and free time in Italian


Talking about hobbies and interests is a great way of starting a conversation in Italian, getting to know new people and make friends.
So, in this blog we’ll learn how to talk about hobbies in Italian, how to ask about somebody’s hobbies, how to say hobbies, interests and sports in Italian. Finally, we will put together an easy conversation starter that you can use straight away.
At the end, we will also teach you how to discuss preferences in an easy way, with the verb piacere. So, let’s start with learning:

5 ways of asking about your hobbies

  1. Cosa fai nel tempo libero? (What do you do in your spare time?)
  2. Cosa ti piace fare nel tempo libero? (What do you like to do in your free time)
  3. Quali sono i tuoi interessi? (What interests do you have?)
  4. Quali sono i tuoi hobby? (What are your hobbies?)
  5. Fai sport? (Do you do any sports?)

The word hobby in Italian

In Italian the word hobby is translated as passatempo, however, we commonly use the English word hobby. However, please note that Italians do not say hobbies but hobby. In Italian the word is not pluralised, but it used only in its singular form. In fact, all words adopted by the Italian language from foreign languages are only used in their singular version. So to say: ‘what are your hobbies?’ we say: quali sono i tuoi hobby?

So how do you answer the previous questions?

Here are some examples of simple conversations. The first one is related to sports (see below examples of sport vocabulary):

Italian conversation

Fai sport? = Do you do any sport?

Sì, mi piace nuotare e correre = Yes, I like swimming and running.


Here is another example of conversation, with a different question related to hobbies:

Italian conversation
Quali sono i tuoi hobby = What are your hobbies?

Cucinare e fare giardinaggio = Cooking and gardening.


And one more, this time related to interests:

Conversation in Italian

Quali sono i tuoi interessi = What are your interests?

Nel tempo libero mi piace andare al cinema e viaggiare. = In my free time, I like going to the cinema and travelling.

Let’s see some vocabulary related to: sports, hobbies and interests in Italian:

Listen carefully to learn the pronunciation of these words.

Pay special attention to the verb giocare. Also notice that giocare is followed by the preposition a.

So in Italian we say:

giocare a tennis = to play tennis

giocare a calcio = to play football

giocare a golf = to play golf

giocare a rugby = to play rugby

giocare a pallacanestro = to play basketball

giocare a hockey = to play hockey


Notice again the verb giocare. In this case it is not used to talk about a sport but for example cards.

Also in this case you will use the preposition a. Here are some more examples:

giocare a carte = to play cards

giocare a Monopoli = to play Monopoli

giocare a scacchi = to play chess

giocare a dama = to play draughts/checkers

In terms of pronunciation, also notice the sound of the double consonant in ballare.

In this group of vocabulary notice again the pronunciation of the double consonant in leggere/viaggiare/campeggiare.

Also the verb andare (=to go) also wants the preposition a in the case of:

andare al cinema = go to the cinema

andare a teatro = go to the theatre

andare a ballare = go dancing


However, in other cases wants the preposition in as in:

andare in palestra = go to the gim

andare in piscina = go to the swimming pool

Prepositions in Italian need to be learnt by heart. A quick tip to learn preposition is to group them together in a little story that you can remember.

The expression: mi piace

The expression mi piace, means I like and it comes from the verb piacere. However, it is not conjugated in the usual way. We are going to look at this verb in more details in a future blog, for now it would be great to start using as it is.

A grammar snippet: mi piace + infinitive

The expression mi piace is followed by the verb in the infinitive form, so you do not need to conjugate it.
So if I ask you:
Quali sono i tuoi hobby?
Can you answer using Mi piace…?
For example: Mi piace correre e dipingere.
The word e means and…

Conversational Italian classes

Italian conversation class

If you have been searching for ‘Italian conversation classes near me’, look no further, we offer conversational Italian classes on Zoom so that you can access them from wherever you are. Please click here to have a look. If you have been studying Italian on your own, online, or even in a classroom setting and you need help with your speaking, this is the Italian course for you. Even if you feel a bit rusty, don’t worry, this class offers guidance to get you back into the language with ease.

In our classes we offer guidance to students to help their fluency even at beginner level. Have a look at this video for a quick tip on how to say more when speaking in Italian:

Who we are

Our native teachers are all fully qualified to teach Italian as a foreign language to adults. Additionally, they have been teaching Italian classes for adults extensively and are expert in what they do. Here is a link about who we are. People often mentioned us when talking about the best online Italian lessons they have had, please see their feedback here.

However, let’s start with clarifying:
  • What are conversational Italian classes?
  • Why are they different from regular lessons?
  • Why is a conversational Italian class not a chat?
  • What to expect from an online Italian conversation class?
  • Where can you find them?
Conversation class
Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels
What are conversational Italian classes?

If your current method of studying does not allow you to practice speaking or to practise it enough, a speaking class is what you need.

Firstly, we design our conversational Italian class to develop speaking. To achieve this, the lesson needs to offer stimulating topics so that students are compelled to speak. Moreover, and especially at lower levels, the lesson needs to be structured so that students don’t lose focus and don’t run out of things to say. Hence, the lesson needs to be divided into stages: some of them will focus on speaking, some on lexis and some on pronunciation. And in so doing, the lesson will be varied and more interesting.

Why are they different from regular lessons?

Conversational classes are different from a regular lesson because they have one main aim: speaking. Specifically, the focus of a conversation class does not have to compete with different aims such as developing other skills, for example listening, writing and reading and of course, grammar. Undoubtedly, these skills are essential for learning Italian and indeed are the basis of our more complex Italian courses. Please see our full range here.

Having said that, if you are taking an online course or doing self-paced learning, you can develop all of the above skills with the exception of speaking. So this course is focused on filling that gap.

Finally, even though speaking is the focus of the conversational class, it will also focus on developing your vocabulary and pronunciation. These are crucial to your speaking and should go hand in hand in a conversation class.

Why is a conversational Italian class not a chat?

A conversation class is not just an informal chat, but a class planned to develop speaking. To clarify, a chat is great in real situations especially when you can take your time. This can be very beneficial to your language skills. However, in a classroom setting, time is limited. This is why planning and structuring the lesson offers a richer and more effective way of developing speaking.

In addition, at Parla Italiano, we design the activities specifically for your level so that you can feel in control and enjoy the experience in a relaxed environment. Having said that, students in our classes, can experiment with new language and unleash their creativity as well.

What to expect from an online Italian conversation class?

So, what can you expect from this class?

  • You can expect to be guided by an experienced teacher.
  • To develop speaking in a relaxed setting.
  • And to widen your vocabulary as well as improving your pronunciation.
  • You can expect a focus on fluency and improve the speed of your conversation.
  • Furthermore, you can expect interesting topics and engaging conversations.
  • Finally, you can expect a fun language class with games and enjoyable activities.
Please get in touch, we are here to help you

If you are interested in knowing more about our classes, either for conversation, our regular courses, our book club, an assessment of your current level or any other language related queries, please get in touch here! I will be happy to help.


Countries and nationalities in Italian

Di dove sei? Where are you from?

Countries and nationalities are written and pronounced differently – in most cases – in Italian.

In this blog I will answer some of the main questions about countries, nationalities and grammar rules related to this topic. Therefore, if you wish to know:

  • How to say nationalities in Italian?
  • Where can I find a list of nationalities in Italian?
  • Adjectives of nationalities in Italian, what is the rule?
  • Masculine and feminine of Italian nationalities
  • What is the plural of nationalities?
  • How to ask where someone is from, in Italian? And how to answer.

Please read on…

How to say nationalities in Italian?

Here is a video to hear how to pronounce some nationalities in Italian:


Here is a list of some of the main nationalities.

List of nationalities

How to say nationalities in Italian.

Nazione (Country)Nazionalità (Nationality)
Regno Unito/Gran Bretagnabritannico
Repubblica Cecaceco
Repubblica Slovaccaslovacco
Stati Unitistatunitense



Adjectives of nationalities in Italian

Nationalities are adjectives and they follow the grammar rule of all adjectives, this means that they change ending to agree to the noun’s gender (feminine/masculine) and number (singular/plural). For example:

An Italian man = Un uomo italiano (singular masculine)

Two Italian men = Due uomini italiani (plural masculine)

An Italian woman = Una donna italiana (singular feminine)

Two Italian women = Due donne italiane (plural feminine)


What is an adjective?

An adjective is a word added to a noun to describe it. For example, some adjectives for the noun uomo (man) could be buono (good), intelligente (intelligent), italiano (Italian), so you can say: è un uomo italiano, intelligente e buono.


The two categories of Italian adjectives

Adjectives usually belong to two categories in Italian, adjectives which, in the masculine singular, either end in -o or in -e.

For example:



The adjectives of nationalities ending in -ese will have the -e ending so they belong to that category.

Feminine and masculine of adjectives

In Italian every noun is either feminine or masculine and the end of the adjective must agree with the gender of the noun.

For example:



However, as you can see, if a noun ends in -e, it does not change in the feminine.

What is the plural of nationalities in Italian?

The plural of nationalities is the same as the plural of adjectives and it is as in the table below. In other words if an adjective, in the singular masculine ends in -o, in the plural it will end in -i, etc:

–         O

–         E

–         I

–         I







–         A

–         E

–         E

–         I








Some exceptions

Some nationalities do not follow the rule, for example:

Belgio – belg-a

Vietnam – vietnamit-a


Are nationalities capitalized in Italian?

In Italian nationalities are not capitalized nor are languages. Conversely, Countries are always written with a capital letter.

Therefore, to say: I am Italian, I live in Italy and I speak Italian, you say:

Sono italiana, vivo in Italia e parlo italiano.

As well as countries, cities and continents are also written with the capital letter.


How do you ask someone, where s/he if from?

Here are some useful phrases:

Di dove sei? = where are you from? (informal)

Di dov’è? = where are you from? (formal)


To answer you can say:

Sono + nationality

Therefore, you can say: sono inglese

Or you can be more specific and say:

Sono + di + city

For instance: sono inglese di Londra

How to learn Italian numbers

Italian numbers 1 to 10

One of the first items on the list if you wish to learn Italian is the numbers. These are mostly easy to grasp, have a predictable pattern and, in no time, you will be able to count from 1 to a trillion.

In this blog you will learn:

  • Italian numbers from 1 to a million and beyond
  • how to write and how to pronounce the numbers in Italian
  • the rules of exceptions of Italian numbers
  • a few tricks to make them easy to remember
  • the simple and predictable pattern of Italian numbers
  • the Italian (European) number formatting
  • interesting idioms about numbers
  • and you will also get some practice

 The numbers 1 to 10

Language learning would not get off on the right foot, without learning the 1, 2, 3. So lets start with learning the first basic set from 1 to 10 and see how they are written.

Italian numbers 1 to 10
Italian numbers 1 to 10

However, it is important to learn how to pronounce them. Take a look at this short video. After the first listening, you can play the video again, and pronounce the number in the pause between each of them. Practise makes perfect!

The number 0

Also note, that the number 0 is ‘zero’ and the z is pronounced /ds/ so the sounds is: /dsee-roh/

So now that you have learned the first ten numbers, let’s have a little practice.

Practice 1:

What is the result of:

uno + tre =

quattro + cinque =

nove + uno =

sette – due =

sei + due =

uno + cinque =

dieci – sette =

Write the answers in letters and then see them at the bottom of the blog.


The numbers 11 to 20

After mastering the first set of numbers, you are now ready to learn the numbers from 11 to 20. Here is a short video to hear how to pronounce and write them:

As you can see, you need to learn these numbers by heart, however, there is a pattern with these numbers. For example, the numbers from 11 to 16 start with the second digit and end in ‘dici’ as in undici, dodici, tredici, and so on.

I’d like to add a quick note about the number 15. Unlike the others, 15 is slightly different and for that it is usually less memorable. A quick memory trick is to think of the word ‘queen’ and imagine the number with a crown, as it sounds a bit like it:  15 = quindici.

Unlike the others, the numbers from 17 to 19 take the opposite pattern, they start with ‘dici’ and finish with the second digit, for example: diciassette, diciotto, diciannove.

So now that you have mastered the numbers up to 20, let’s have a little practice.

Practice 2:

What is the result of (write the answers in letters and check them at the end of the blog):

uno + tredici =

quattro + undici =

sei + dodici =

quattordici + due =

diciannove – cinque =

venti – otto =

sedici – quindici =

diciassette – otto =

diciannove – diciotto =


The numbers 20 to 100

Thirdly, even if you must learn the first 20 numbers, the rest are pretty easy. They work like the number in English so you simply combine the two digit together. For example for 22 you simply put together 20 (venti) and 2 (due) to form ventidue. If you need the number 35 again you combine 30 (trenta) and 5 (cinque) to form trentacinque. The two numbers become one word so no spaces or hyphens required.

So now, it is time to see and hear the tens (le dicine) to help you combine these with the previous set:


There are two exceptions when putting numbers together and this is when the unit starts with a vowel. This is the case with uno (1) and otto (8).

In this case there is an elision of the previous word. For example to form 21 you need venti (20) and uno (1), so venti loses the vowel at the end and you will get ventuno. 28 is ventotto, 31 is trentuno, 38 is trentotto, and so on.

The accent

In Italian the graphical accent is required only in very few cases. One of these is when a number greater than 20 ends with 3. In this case you have to write the 3 (tre) with the accent which is an acute accent. For example: 23 = ventitré, 33 = trentatré, 43 = quarantatré, etc.

Practice 3:

Can you write the result of these addition and subtractions in letters? Then check if you are correct at the end of the blog:

venti + nove =

ottanta + otto =

trentadue + ventisei =

novantaquattro – trentatré =

tredici + venti =


Number 100 to a 1000

To conclude this first part, you should now be able to count from 0 to 100. Going from 100 to 900 is fairly simple. As you already know from the previous video, 100 is cento. To form the other hundreds simply add the unit to cento, for example 200 = duecento, 300 = trecento, 400 = quattrocento, and so on. Until you get to 1000, which is mille.

To count in thousands is also very simple, you start with mille (1000) and then you use the basic digit adding mila at the end. 2000 is duemila, 3000 is tremila, 4000 is quattromila, and so on.

However, please note that in Italian is not possible – as it is in English – to say 11 hundred but you must say millecento (1100), duemiladuecento (2200), etc.


The very large numbers

Before we conclude, here

our final list of the very large numbers. See how they are written and play the video for hearing their pronunciation.


Number formatting in Italian

Last but not least, a note about commas and full stops when writing your numbers in digits.

In Italy, as it is the case in most of the European countries, the full stop and the comma are used in the opposite way as the British and Americans do. So the comma is used as a decimal marker and the full stop is used to separate groups of three digits in larger numbers.

So for example in Italian, one point five is written like this: 1,5 and a thousand is written like this: 1.000. Can be confusing if you don’t know it and it takes a bit to get used to it.


Essential vocabulary:

Numeri cardinali

Numeri ordinali

Numeri primi

Numeri dispari

Numeri pari

Numeri decimali


Common idioms with numbers

1. Farsi in quattro (per qualcuno)

This means to work hard to help someone, to do all that you can to help someone.

Example: Antonella si è fatta in quattro per aiutare il fratello.

2. Su due piedi

This means immediately, without preparation. At once or on the spot.

Example: Non so rispondere alla tua domanda su due piedi, ma posso fare un po’ di ricerca.

3.  Sudare sette camicie

This means to work really hard for something. To go through a great deal of trouble for something or someone.

Example: Ho sudato sette camicie per insegnare i pronomi combinati.

For more idioms, please follow me on instagram, where I publish daily content for Italian students:

Parla Italiano’s school on instagram


Answers to practice 1:


Answers to practice 2:


Answers to practice 3:


Elsa Morante L’ISOLA DI ARTURO – Italian Book Club

Learning Italian by joining a book club


Title: L’Isola di Arturo

Author: Elsa Morante

Published: 1957

Learning Italian by joining a book club

Why we read this book in our book club

For this session of our book club, we have chosen L’Isola di Arturo by Elsa Morante. Morante is one of the most remarkable contemporary Italian writers, winner of the prestigious prize Premio Strega. L’Isola di Arturo is beautifully written. It is the enchanting, coming of age tale of Arturo on his little island. It is written from his point of view and Morante teaches us to love and care for him as we follow him as he grows. We learn about his love for his father, his own loneliness and struggles, his intense emotions and imagination.

This book will capture you and after reading the excerpt chosen for you for the book club, you will no doubt wish to read the entire book. This is what the book club is all about, discovering a new author, reading a carefully chosen excerpt and falling in love with it or not. If the latter is the case, this is also good; you can read something else next time. For each of our book club sessions we pick a new book and carefully select one chapter for you to read.


L’Isola di Arturo: the story

L’Isola di Arturo is set in Procida, a little island in the bay of Naples in 1938. The protagonist is Arturo Gerace, a teenage boy who lost his mother at birth, and who lives in a dilapidated mansion with an absent father. Arturo is free to roam the island, lives a wild and solitary existence accompanied inseparably by his dog Immacolatella.

The island is a paradise where news of the outside world arrives muffled and delayed creating a suspended world. His imagination is fuelled by the adventures he read about in books. Moreover, he dearly loves and admires his father who, however, is often absent and only comes to the island for brief visits. What’s more, Arturo has also lost his mother who died giving birth to him. Both parents – due to their absence – are reworked by Arturo’s imagination and become for him mythical figures in his life. Therefore, his only true companion is Immacolatella, the dog with whom he shares all his adventures.

His solitary existence is broken by the arrival of his father’s new bride Nunziatella for whom he soon develops feelings.

Arturo spends his childhood and adolescence in the Island. However, as he discovers more about his father and life, he becomes disenchanted and decides to leave Procida. Finally, he leaves to fight in the second world war.


What we will be discussing in this book club

Our book club discussions vary according to the books we read and the contributions of the participants. The moderator provides enough structures to ensure that discussions flow, however, also flexibility and freedom so that participants have enough space to express their ideas.

For this particular book, we will start by focussing on defining the characters, their specific traits and what these mean for the story and for the overall meaning of the book.

We then focus on specific quotes from the book either suggested by the teacher moderator or by the participants. We will discuss what the quotes suggest and what bearing these elements have on the story itself.

During the book club there is a focus on specific language used in the book, and again, both the moderator and the participants will contribute either interesting or new language to analyse or simply to put forward and explain.


Interesting quotes from the book:

“Si dirà: parlare tanto di una cagna! Ma io, quand’ero un ragazzino, non avevo altri compagni che lei, e non si può negare che era straordinaria. Per conversare con me, aveva inventato una specie di linguaggio dei muti: con la coda, con gli occhi, con le sue pose, e molte note diverse della sua voce, sapeva dirmi ogni suo pensiero; e io la capivo. Pur essendo una femmina, amava l’audacia e l’avventura: nuotava con me, e in barca mi faceva da timoniere, abbaiando quando c’erano ostacoli in vista. Mi seguiva sempre, quand’io giravo per l’isola, e ogni giorno, ritornando con me sui viottoli e nelle campagne già percorsi mille volte, s’infervorava, come se fossimo due pionieri in terre inesplorate. “

The father
“Mio padre non scriveva mai lettere, non faceva mai sapere sue notizie, né mandava nessun saluto. Ed era favolosa per me la certezza che pure egli esisteva, e che ogni istante da me vissuto a Procida, lo viveva lui pure in chi sa quale paesaggio, in chi sa quale stanza, fra compagni stranieri che io consideravo gloriosi e beati solo perché stavano con lui (non dubitavo, difatti, che la frequentazione di mio padre fosse il titolo di aristocrazia più ambito per tutte le società umane).“

Life on the Island
“In sostanza, io conoscevo la storia fino dai tempi degli antichi egiziani, e le vite degli eccellenti condottieri, e le battaglie di tutti i passati secoli. Ma dell’epoca contemporanea, non sapevo nulla. Anche quei pochi segnali dell’epoca presente che arrivavano all’isola, io li avevo appena intravisti senza nessuna attenzione. Non m’aveva incuriosito mai, l’attualità. Come fosse tutto cronaca ordinaria da giornali, fuori della Storia fantastica, e delle Certezze Assolute. ”

“A uno non basta la contentezza di essere un valoroso, se tutti quanti gli altri non sono uguali a lui, e non si può fare amicizia.“

“Beh, il primo pensiero, il massimo di tutti, è questo: Non bisogna importarsene della morte!“


The author and the book

Elsa Morante was born in Rome in 1912. She started writing very early writing short stories. Then she wrote a children’s book called Le Bellissime avventure di Caterì dalla trecciolina. During World War two, as Morante was of Jewish descent, she was forced to flee Rome for the countryside.

In 1948 Elsa published Menzogna e Sortilegio, which won the Viareggio Prize. This book was also published in the US finding international success.

She published L’Isola di Arturo in 1957. This book also won a prize, the prestigious Strega Prize. She was the first woman to be awarded this prize.

The author published one more national bestseller in 1974, La Storia. Her final novel was Aracoeli published in 1982.

Elsa Morante was married to the famous writer Alberto Moravia from 1941. Their relationship was competitive and troubled. In the end, they divorced 27 years later. Elsa died in 1985.


Elsa morante’s work:


  • Menzogna e sortilegio 1948
  • L’Isola di Arturo 1957
  • La Storia 1974
  • Aracoeli 1982

Short stories:

  • Il gioco segreto 1941
  • Le straordinarie avventure di Caterì dalla Trecciolina, 1942
  • Lo scialle andaluso 1963
  • Racconti dimenticati 1937-47
  • Aneddoti infantili 1939-40


  • Alibi 1958
  • Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini 1968

Children’s books

  • Le straorinarie avventure di Caterina 1959


  • Pro e contro la bomba atomica 1987

Further reading

Here are some sources where you can find more information about Elsa Morante and his books:

Elsa Morante

Elsa Morante


How to join the book club

Join our book club! We read selected chapters of a given book and develop speaking in sessions moderated by a native teacher passionate about literature. Click if you wish to know how our book club works. Book your session here.

Alessandro Baricco SETA – Book Club

alessandro baricco seta

Title: Seta
Author: Alessandro Baricco
Published: 1996

Why we read this book in our book club

For this session of our book club, we have chosen Seta by Alessandro Baricco.

We have chosen this book because the story is intriguing and the narrative captivating. It is the curious story of Hervé, at first, appearing uninspiring and not at all special. But as we follow his voyages, we also witness his awakening to life. Baricco’s language is poetic and enchanting. It is not difficult for a student of Italian compared to other authors. In addition, this is a short story, so if – after reading the chapter – you wish for more, finishing this short book will be within reach of any B2 students.

This is what the book club is all about, discovering a new author, reading a carefully chosen excerpt and falling in love with it or not. If the latter is the case, this is also good; you can read something else next time. For each of our book club sessions we pick a new book and select one chapter for you to read.

Seta: the story

Seta is set in the mid-1800 in France in the small village of Lavilledieu in the South of France. It is the story of Hervé Joncour a silk merchant and specifically a silkworm merchant. He is married and has no children. He is a quiet man with no expectations, whose destiny seems to have been decided for him.

After a pandemic which affects the silkworms, Hervé is forced to travel to the far East and visit Japan to illegally purchase silkworms. For the last two centuries Japan has been closed to the external world. During his first travel to Japan, Hervé meets the mysterious Hara Key. He also sees a girl and he falls in love with the idea of her. He returns to Japan multiple times hoping to see her again.

The book tells the story of this idealised and impossible love, but also about the more real one closer to home, which is rediscovered by Hervé towards the end. It talks about the metaphor of travelling and of the awakening of a man to life.

What we will be discussing in this book club

Our book club discussions vary according to the books we read and the contributions of the participants. The moderator provides enough structures to ensure that discussions flow, however, also flexibility and freedom so that participants have enough space to express their ideas.

For this particular book, we will start by focussing on defining the characters, their specific traits and what these mean for the story and for the overall meaning of the book.

We then focus on specific quotes from the book either suggested by the teacher moderator or by the participants. We will discuss what the quotes suggest and what bearing these elements have on the story itself.

During the book club there is a focus on specific language used in the book, and again, both the moderator and the participants will contribute either interesting or new language to analyse or simply to put forward and explain.

Interesting quotes from the book:

“Pioveva la sua vita, davanti ai suoi occhi, spettacolo quieto.”

“Per mille volte cercò gli occhi di lei, e per mille volte lei trovò i suoi. Era una specie di triste danza, segreta e impotente.”

“È uno strano dolore. Morire di nostalgia per qualcosa che non vivrai mai.”

“si chinò su quanto era rimasto della sua vita, e riiniziò a prendersene cura, con l’incrollabile tenacia di un giardiniere al lavoro.”

“Ogni tanto, nelle giornate di vento, scendeva fino al lago e passava ore a guardarlo, giacché, disegnato sull’acqua, gli pareva di vedere l’inspiegabile spettacolo, lieve, che era stata la sua vita.”

The author and the book

Alessandro Baricco was born in Torino in 1958. He studied philosophy at university and at the same time studied piano at the conservatory. His love of music and literature inspired his first book, a paper on Gioacchino Rossini. He published his first novel, the critically acclaimed Castelli di sabbia, in 1991 and has won the Premio Selezione Campiello and the Prix Médicis Étranger. In 1993 he published Oceano Mare which has won the Premio Viareggio and the Premio Palazzo al Bosco. In 1994 he wrote Novecento and Seta was written in 1996.

All his books have been translated into various languages. Baricco has also written numerous papers and articles. He has written and directed for the theatre. He has also created TV programmes on literature such as Pickwick, del leggere e dello scrivere and Totem. In 1994 he created and founded a school of creative writing based in Turin called Scuola Holden. He has also directed a film called Lezione Ventuno.

Seta is one of best-known books by Baricco. This international best seller has been translated into 30 languages. François Girard made it into a film with Michael Pitt, Keira Knightley, and Alfred Molina. The book is a short story written in his unique style, simple and poetic.

Alessandro Baricco has written 13 novels:

  • Castelli di Sabbia, 1991
  • Oceano Mare, 2993
  • Novecento, 1994
  • Seta, 1996
  • City, 1999
  • Constellations, 1999
  • Senza Sangue, 2002
  • Questa Storia, 2005
  • Emmaus, 2009
  • Mr Gwyn, 2011
  • Tre Volte all’Alba, 2012
  • Smith & Wesson, 2014
  • La Sposa Giovane, 2015

Further reading

Here are some sources where you can find more information about Alessandro Baricco and his books:”

How to join the book club

Join our book club! We read selected chapters of a given book and develop speaking in sessions moderated by a native teacher passionate about literature. Click if you wish to know how our book club works. Book your session here.

Three steps for reading in a foreign language: solving the jigsaw puzzle

Three steps for reading in a foreign language

Three steps for reading in a foreign language

Why is reading in a foreign language so important for learning it?
Why is reading in a foreign language difficult?
Are there any techniques to make it easier?

Read on to find the answers to these questions.

The power of context and stories
The British Council, in one of their campaigns, told us that it only takes a 1000 words to learn a language. This is true if we consider that even mother tongue speakers use a relatively small vocabulary in their everyday life. However, words must be meaningful and related to context for a learner to retain them. The internet is full of lists of words, nevertheless if you have ever tried to learn Italian by memorising words, you will already know that this does not work.

The power of context and stories does not only lie in making vocabulary memorable, but also has the power of contributing meaning to a word, even a new word, that the student has never come across before. Reading is an invaluable way of learning a language and it is especially powerful for learning new vocabulary and phrases.

Why is reading in a foreign language difficult?
Most students find reading Italian literatures difficult. I can see two reasons for this. One is that the material is too hard because the students are still at the intermediate stage or below. The second is that the level of the student is high enough, but the student lacks the right techniques and the mindset. There is a solution for both cases.

Use graded material
If the material is too challenging, this is because these students are intermediate level or below. In this case, the solution is simple: reading graded material will help learning without being overwhelming. Graded materials are books which are written according to the level of the students. They are based on the number of words used. For example the one marked as 400-500 words are for beginners, 1000/1500 are for pre-intermediate level and so on. Start with one that you think you can manage and as your reading becomes easier upgrade to the next level. Even at pre-intermediate levels the next tips should help.

Use the correct reading techniques
The second problem is when a student reads in the same way as they read in their own language: expecting to understand each individual word. This is a common mistake amongst my more advanced students. Unfortunately, this can become exhausting because there will be numerous words that, when first read, they might not be familiar with.

Solving the jigsaw puzzle
Reading a text in a foreign language is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. When you start, you only see a pile of pieces. If you tried to put them together randomly you might be overwhelmed by the task. So, you might start by getting some clues about the puzzle, for example by looking at the picture on the box and by identifying the borders. In a similar way, before reading start to get some clues about the genre of the book, the book cover, the title, the table of contents, the titles of the chapters and any illustrations available. Our brain is wired to produce meaning based on a variety of clues and our previous experiences, trust yourself and let the brain to its job.

3 steps for reading any texts
So, after you got some clues about the book, you are ready to start, and these techniques should help:

1. First read: get the feel
Read as if you want to get the feel of the book, as if you were immersing yourself in a warm bath. Relax and read the entire section from start to finish. This could be the full chapter or if the chapter is too long, choose to begin with half of it. In your first read don’t use the dictionary. Don’t worry about what you don’t understand, focus on what you do. To go back to our puzzle analogy: use the key words you do understand to piece the rest together.
After finishing, try to summarise what you have understood. Use logic, what do you think happened, so what usually follows?

2. Second read: get the gist
The second read is when you will start underlining some words which you think are key to understand the sentence or the paragraph. These words should be crucial to the meaning of the chunk of text and very few. Even in this second read, don’t use the dictionary. Your understanding after the second read will be far greater compared to the first, even without the dictionary. Read again till the end. Trust yourself and the ability of your mind to understand more than you think.

3. Third read: dig deeper
The third read is when I would use the dictionary. Using it only now will ensure that those words have become already meaningful to you even if you don’t grasp them completely and therefore also more memorable. The work that you have done without the dictionary has given those words some meaning already, and you have built up the overwhelming desire to understand what they mean. In the same way as when you only have a small piece missing in the puzzle, you can already imagine what you are looking for. This process is what enables your long-term memory. This is because our minds have been designed to retain only information that is perceived as important.

Changing your mindset about reading
Ultimately, for reading in a foreign language, we need to change our mindset. Abandoning the fear of unknown words and accepting that we need a fresh way to approach an authentic text written for native speakers. Learn like children do; throwing yourselves into the new, using your imagination and especially enjoying your reading.

To sum it up:
In short, reading in the target language requires the same techniques as solving a jigsaw puzzle. At the beginning it looks complicated but if you stick with it all the pieces fall into place. Follow the techniques described without fear and trust yourself and the process.

Happy reading!

Fancy join our book club?
We read one selected chapter of a given book and develop speaking in sessions moderated by native teachers.
Click here if you wish to know how our book club works. You can book your session here.

Book Club Reading: Un ragazzo normale

Learning Italian by joining a book club

Learning Italian by joining a book club

Book Club Selected Reading

Title: Un ragazzo Normale
Author: Lorenzo Marone
Published: 2018

The author and the book

Lorenzo Marone was born in Naples in 1974. He worked as a lawyer for ten years, he then left this profession to become a writer. He published his first book, La tentazione di essere felici, in 2015. This has been translated into 15 languages and it was made into a film (La tenerezza) directed by Gianni Amelio. He has written 8 books and won numerous prizes such as Premio Stresa and Premio Selezione Bancarella then he published Un ragazzo normale in 2018 and won the Premio Giancarlo Siani.

He has also published:

La tristezza ha il sonno leggero
Magari domani resto
Cara Napoli
Tutto sarà perfetto
Inventario di un cuore in allarme
La donna degli alberi

Here are some sources where you can find more information about Lorenzo Marone and his books:

The story

Mimì is the protagonist of Un ragazzo normale. He’s twelve, wears glasses, loves reading and he is super smart. This boy is also obsessed with astronauts, comic books and the film Karate Kid. He lives in a building block in Naples in the area of Vomero where his father is the doorman. Il Vomero is the area populated by the middle and upper classes.

The boy spends all his spare time outside with his friend Sasà or in the two-room apartment that he shares with his parents, his teenage sister and his grandparents.

This child is fixated with getting a spiderman costume that his parents cannot afford, he is in love with Viola, a girl who lives in one of the upstairs apartments and daughter of more affluent parents. He is also into telepathy and tries various experiments with whoever he finds that is agreeable to them.

The book is set in the year 1985, which was a strange year for Naples. For example, it was the year that it snowed. This is an event in Naples, considering that prior to that, it only snowed in the years 1929, 1956 and 1971. During 1985, he also meets Giancarlo who becomes his superhero. Giancarlo is a 25 years old journalist who drives a green Citroen Méhari and writes dangerously about the Camorra. The boy is instantly inspired by the journalist and becomes his friend.

To understand the story completely, it is important to mention that Giancarlo was a real person: Giancarli Siani. He was murdered by the Camorra in 1985 because of his work. At the time he was reporting about the links between politicians, constructions contracts and organised crime.

Why read this book?

We choosed this book for various reasons. It is beautifully written and it is amusing and moving at the same time. It gives a good view of a very recent past and consequently, offers a more current view of Italy, its values and culture. The author is an award-winning writer, who has enjoyed critic and public success.

Quotes from the book:

“Le cose straordinarie, quelle che resteranno per sempre nella tua vita, arrivano spesso in punta di piedi e all’improvviso, senza tuoni e particolari avvisaglie. Proprio come quella nevicata dell’85.”

“Perché alla fine di quella terribile e magnifica estate capii che gli unici superpoteri a disposizione di noi poveri umani sono i rapporti che riusciamo a costruirci, gli amori, le amicizie, gli affetti. Sono la qualità di queste relazioni a fare la differenza fra chi è super e chi, forse, lo è un po’ meno. Perché quella maledetta sera capii di essere solo un adolescente che si era trovato, per una serie di circostanze, ad avere a chef fare con qualcosa di più grande di lui. Capii di essere un ragazzo normale. Come lo era Giancarlo, un ragazzo normale.”

Learning Italian by joining a book club

We read one selected chapter of a given book and develop speaking in sessions moderated by native teachers.
Click here if you wish to know how our book club works. You can book your session here.

Book Club: La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa

la lunga vita di marianna ucria

La lunga vita di Marianna Ucria di Dacia Maraini

Book Club – 7 giugno 2021

È un romanzo storico, pubblicato da Rizzoli nel 1990 e vincitore del Premio Campiello. È stato pubblicato in 24 lingue ed è il libro di Dacia più popolare. Ne sono state vendute più di un milione di copie.

Chi è Dacia Maraini

Dacia Maraini è un’affermata scrittrice italiana nata nel 1936. Autrice prolifica, tradotta in più di 20 lingue, è una scrittrice, poetessa e saggista di successo sia di pubblico che di critica. Ha vinto numerosissimi premi letterari, fra i quali il Campiello, lo Strega, il Mondello ecc.
Dacia è figlia dello scrittore ed etnologo toscano Fosco Maraini e della nobile pittrice siciliana Topazia Alliata. La nonna materna era una cantante lirica e figlia di un diplomatico cileno. La nonna paterna era la scrittrice Cornelia E. Crosse di origine inglese e polacca.
Dopo un’infanzia difficile, si trasferisce a Roma, mantenendosi con vari lavori. Fonda insieme ad altri una rivista letteraria. A partire dal 1960 inizia a pubblicare i suoi primi romanzi e diventa un’autrice di grande successo.

La Lunga Vita di Marianna Ucrìa

La storia è ispirata ad un’antenata di Dacia Maraini, da parte della madre. Marianna Alliata Valguarnera D’Ucrìa.
La vicenda si svolge nella prima metà del 1700, in Sicilia, nella località di Bagheria. In quel periodo i matrimoni erano combinati dai genitori per assicurarsi che le ricchezze rimanessero in famiglia. È il periodo dell’inquisizione, delle condanne a morte e di pubbliche impiccagioni.
Marianna è la figlia sordomuta del duca Ucrìa e della duchessa Maria. Viene data in moglie a soli 13 anni allo zio Pietro Ucrìa. Diventa madre di otto figli e poi nonna. Il libro narra la sua vita.

To book a book club session, please follow the link and choose your session/s here:

For further information and any question you might have, please email: or phone: +44 7941 092593 (UK number).

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