Even if you claim to not be able to speak any Italian, surely you will know this one: bella/bello, or beautiful in English. Why is it that everyone around the world knows this word in Italian? Because, of course, Italy is world-famous for beautiful things, particularly art.
For many, speaking the Italian language is the key to understanding la cultura italiana with all its very beautiful songs, paintings, literature and films. Here are seven Italian artists that will inspire you to get started!
Franco Battiato is a true Italian legend. ‘Il Maestro’ is not only a famous singer, but also a composer, film-maker and painter. He even tried to be a politician in Sicily until he insulted the president of the parliament – some of that Italian emozione in action. His lyrics sometimes are quite absurd and definitely worth learning Italian for.
Among many other great works, Cesare Pavese wrote ‘La Casa in Collina’, or ‘The House on the Hill’, a masterpiece novella set during the First World War. His lush description of the Italian countryside during the war is an example of the Italian language at its most expressive.
The 24 films of legendary director Federico Fellini should be top of anyone’s list if they want to immerse themselves in Italian culture. ‘La Strada’, ‘Le Notti di Cabiria’ and ‘La Dolce Vita’ are just a few of the best. Of course, you can watch them with subtitles, but in Italian the dialogue of these films really becomes poetry.
Widely regarded as one of the best painters of the Baroque period, Artemisia Gentileschi was a trailblazer for women in art. She was the first women to be accepted Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, and is still famed today for her ultra-realistic depictions of strong and suffering women from the Bible. Her most famous work, ‘Giuditta che decapita Oloferne’ , is a violent image of a woman, Judith, beheading her oppressor, Holofernes.
One of Italy’s most popular but elusive characters, Lucio Battisti is beloved for his emotional songs about the troubles of being a modern man. Though he was one of Italy’s premier singers from the 60s to the 90s, he never achieved the same recognition outside his home country, partly because his lyrics sound best in the original Italian!
‘La vita è bella’, which Roberto Benigni both directed and starred in, is the poignant story of a Jewish father who tries to protect his son from the truths of the concentration camp they are forced to live in during the Second World War. He does this by using his imagination and using the Italian language to make it all seem like a game. ‘La vita è bella’ is based on a true story and was critically acclaimed, with Benigni winning the Oscar for best actor for his performance.
‘Creazione di Adamo’, Michelangelo’s most famous work forms part of the ceiling mural at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City and is a must-see for any lover of beautiful things. You need to be inside the chapel to really appreciate how impressive it is. Painted in the 14th century, it is incredibly realistic and full of energy, particularly the gap between Adam and God’s fingers!