20 Best Books to Learn Italian for Beginners & Beyond

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Some Italian words are universal: pizza, pasta, cappuccino…but beyond the realm of dining, things can get a little more complicated. Whatever your reasons for learning Italian, you’ll want to be prepared with the best possible chances of mastering it. To do that, you’ll need some books to learn Italian.

As the Italians say, we’re “buono come il pane” (good as bread, or as English speakers say, good as gold), so we’ve curated the ultimate guide to Italian grammar books, textbooks and audiobooks, and some extras to help you out.

trevi fountain

Editor’s note: To reach fluency faster, combine these books with popular apps such as Babbel and Mondly, tune into the famous Pimsleur audio course, or sit for comprehensive courses like MosaLingua. More in this comprehensive list of 50+ Italian learning resources, including FREE ones!

Best Italian books for beginners

We all have to start somewhere, and this is where it really helps to be realistic.

If you’re a complete novice, start there. If your last Italian class was more than a year ago, a refresher beginner’s course will not only make you feel like a genius, but motivate you to move on to more complex stuff.

Here are the best books to learn Italian for beginners. 

1. Italian: A Self-Teaching Guide (2nd Edition)

Other than an Italian-English dictionary, this should be the first book you purchase if you’re completely new to Italian.

It covers the basics from telling the time to the days of the week, and goes into basic grammar rules. Learn essential vocabulary and give some of the practice questions a shot.

The explanations are in English to help you grasp Italian’s most fundamental structures.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners who don’t know where to start
  • Introducing basic grammar before getting into details
  • Learning essential vocabulary and putting them into sentences
  • Learning through doing (there are practice questions at the end of each section)

2. Italian Vocabulary Builder: 2222 Italian Phrases To Learn Italian and Grow Your Vocabulary

Speaking of dictionaries, sometimes even they can overwhelm you when you’re trying to learn a new language. If you need a hand knowing which words to look up or what you need to know, I recommend investing in a vocabulary builder.

This one in particular is great for familiarizing yourself with Italian words and phrases with appropriate explanations. Each chapter contains practical phrases you’ll actually need, and will be helpful for when you move on to reading longer Italian texts.

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This book is best for:

  • Building your Italian vocabulary
  • Learning useful phrases and what context they belong in
  • Covering everything from adjectives to animals with detailed explanations

3. Easy Italian Step-by-Step

The word “grammar” might send shivers down your spine, but every language learner knows it’s a necessary evil. There’s not a lot of practical use in knowing a heap of Italian phrases but being unable to change the tenses.

Luckily, this book takes a gentle approach to introducing Italian grammar rules and vocabulary simultaneously. Learn the language patterns, and the rest will soon follow.

This is one of the best value for money guides out there – it’s packed with information but isn’t overwhelming for beginners.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners who require more time to get to grips with Italian grammar rules
  • Learners who like a no-nonsense approach who struggle with memorization tests
  • An all-round guide to mastering grammar, vocabulary and comprehension without unnecessarily complicated tasks

4. Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Italian All-in-One (1st Edition)

This is a blend of self-study guide and Italian textbook.

The overall physical quality isn’t anything to get excited about, but it’s lightweight and easy to carry around. What’s more important is the quality of the content, and on that front I have great news.

If you’re into having all your linguistic lessons in one place, this is a great place to start. Beginners in need of a workbook that doesn’t throw around complex grammatical terms or intense vocabulary lists should invest in this book.

This book is best for:

  • Do-it-yourself learners who want to go it alone but need space to practice and get started 
  • Beginners who like to have their work consolidated
  • Value for money advice and lessons

5. Italian Short Stories for Beginners: 20 Captivating Short Stories to Learn Italian & Grow Your Vocabulary the Fun Way!

Once you’ve moved beyond being a complete novice, you’ll probably be looking for a way to challenge yourself. If you’re edging towards intermediate, a great way to expand your comfort zone is to see your newly learned vocabulary in practice. 

At a glance, this book might seem complicated. I can hear you now: “How on Earth am I supposed to read a whole story in Italian? I just learned the word for cat!”

Keep calm.

Each story highlights useful vocabulary, and at the end you can read a summary in Italian and in English, to make sure you got the gist correctly.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners moving towards intermediate levels of Italian in need of a challenge
  • Understanding colloquialisms in Italian in the right context
  • Discerning accurate and natural conversations without pressure (answers are readily available in the book)

Also Read: Learn Italian: 50+ Apps, Podcasts, Online Courses and FREE Resources

Best grammar books to learn Italian

Grammar can seem difficult when learning a new language because your brain is hard-wired to use its default setting: the native one.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually fairly easy to get to grips with Italian grammar rules. The most complicated is probably learning articles and prepositions, of which there are many. Master those, and you’re set.

Here are some recommendations of grammar books to learn Italian.

6. Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Italian Grammar (3rd Edition)

Everyone has to start somewhere. Beginners who want simple explanations and space to practice their newly found grammatical prowess should opt for this book.

It outlines the basics of Italian grammar and has 250 exercises for you to try. However, the Kindle edition of this book doesn’t allow you to interactively fill in those exercises.

So, if you’re not into copying down from a screen, opt for the physical copy.

This book is best for:

  • Italian learners who like to work on paper
  • Beginners who need thorough but easy to understand grammar rules laid out to them
  • Ample practice questions with varied content

7. Schaum’s Outline of Italian Grammar (4th Edition)

This one is my personal favorite for beginners. The book starts out by going over Italian pronunciation rules. It contains so many examples throughout and space for you to practice – there are over 400 practice questions.

If you aren’t a languages buff and you’re turned off by complicated grammatical terms, don’t worry. Schaum explains what they all mean so you don’t get confused.

This is a great addition to supplement your Italian lessons, either through self-study or tuition.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners and intermediate level learners
  • Providing straightforward and broad understanding of Italian grammar
  • Easy-to-follow advice with accompanying practice questions

8. Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Pronouns and Prepositions

Here’s one for the intermediate Italian learners who have hit a brick wall.

Like I said, those pesky pronouns and prepositions can make learning Italian seem impossible. It’s not, and this is the guide that will clear the fog clouding your brain.

I know it’s another from the Practice Makes Perfect series, but this is the guide that took away my confusion. If, like me, you struggle with traditional classroom methods, this did what my teachers could not: understand where I was going wrong.

This book is best for:

  • Intermediate learners struggling with particular grammar rules
  • Learners who like a methodical approach 
  • Concentrated, focused attention on a common hurdle learning Italian

9. Italian Grammar Drills (3rd Edition)

Those of us who have learned other languages will be familiar with the complicated names favored by grammar teachers. There’s no way to learn them other than by getting used to them, unfortunately.

Traditional classroom methods in terms of efficacy are debatable, but if you like that approach then drills are the way forward. This one has plenty of practice questions, and has thorough explanations before you’re encouraged to give them a try.

This book is best for:

  • People who have already learned another language (other than Italian) or are familiar with grammatical terminology
  • Those who learn best through repetition and memory exercises
  • Intense chapters for learning particular grammar rules

10. Italian Grammar You Really Need To Know (Teach Yourself)

Lastly, this is a bread-and-butter guide for those of you who are bravely going it alone on your Italian learning journey.

For less than ten dollars, this guide takes a clear and concise approach to teaching you Italian grammar. It’s no more or less than what it claims to do: covers what you need to know.

For a broad, all-round introduction or recovering old memories of what you learned years ago, this is your best option.

This book is best for:

  • Teaching you to teach yourself Italian grammar
  • Covering the basics without going too deep

Best textbooks to learn Italian

It’s annoying when the only books to learn Italian feature someone called Alfonso (why is it always Alfonso?) teaching you how to introduce yourself over and over.

Some textbooks are outdated and outmoded. Luckily, there are some great textbooks on the market to help you put your knowledge into practice.

Here are some recommendations!

11. Italian Made Simple (Updated, 2nd Edition)

If you’re a newbie to learning Italian, then you can’t go wrong with this textbook. It used to have typos galore and mistranslations, but the publishers learned from their mistakes and this second edition is promising.

Using a variety of techniques, this book helps you grow into your Italian thinking cap. This will enable you to think in Italian as you answer the practice questions.

And on that note, there are the usual question-and-answer style exercises, but also word puzzles and games to lighten the load.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners moving towards intermediate level Italian
  • Learners who need a new strategy to improve their learning
  • Putting your knowledge into practice without being boring

12. The Ultimate Italian Review and Practice (Premium 2nd Edition)

Yep, that’s right. Grammar again. Before you roll your eyes, this is one of the few grammar guides on the market that I consider to be helpful for almost anyone learning Italian.

Beginners, you’ll love the focus on teaching grammar in a clear way that will undoubtedly result in improvement if you stick with it. Intermediates, this will cement what you already know in an engaging way.

You also get access to the app by the publishers if you get the ebook, which is an incentive to bring your language learning on your commute or the couch.

This book is best for:

  • People who want to practice grammar in particular
  • Learners who want to make sure they’ve grasped beginners level grammar before they move on
  • The accompanying app which has interactive features to help with more than just grammar

13. Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Reading & Comprehension

Intermediates, abandon the drills and memory tests for a second and brush up on your reading and comprehension skills.

Read this book before or alongside a short story of your choice and watch how quickly you improve. Most of what’s included here will crop up again in other texts you read, and it contains cultural references that will broaden your understanding of conversational Italian too.

This book is best for:

  • Intermediate learners
  • People interested in improving reading/comprehension skills
  • Insights into Italian cultural references

14. Italian Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook

This textbook is any self-teaching learner’s best bud. It’s aimed at intermediate learners, so if you’re going it alone you might feel hesitant to get stuck into it.

Don’t be put off, the tasks include learning how to write emails in Italian (useful, if you’re looking to score a job in Italy).

There’s also the opportunity to craft an “online profile” which, if you want to get on the Tinder market in Italy, might come in useful. Just saying.

Those are just a couple of examples, and seriously, this contains more actually relevant exercises than most Italian workbooks out there.

This book is best for:

  • Intermediate learners
  • Useful and relevant tasks that you actually need
  • Contains tips and tricks to help you master difficult topics (grammar, especially)

15. Fuggedaboutit! Italian Swear Word Coloring Book

Finally, if you’re my mom or offended by colorful language, skip to the next section. If you’re at the stage where learning Italian feels like stubbing your toe, read on.

I feel like we all get to a stage where we’re ready to throw a textbook at a wall or against our own heads. Don’t do that. You’ll lose precious brain cells needed for verb conjugations.

My solution?

Get an Italian curse word coloring book to accompany your studies. It’s a little cheeky but every language learner needs to let off steam. And, let’s be honest…it is in Italian.

This book is best for:

  • Learning words you absolutely will not find in most books to learn Italian
  • Letting off steam and giving yourself some much needed slack
  • Enjoying yourself before hitting the more…serious books again

Best storybooks & audiobooks to learn Italian

Learning a language requires more than just books. Immersing yourself in the language you want to learn is paramount, and that requires listening skills too.

Some of these storybooks provide an audiobook option. Audiobooks are one of the greatest sources to hear Italian aloud. And, most importantly, nobody gets offended if you ask the narrator to slow down.

Here are some of the best storybooks and audiobooks to learn Italian.

16. Italian Short Stories for Beginners

First up, beginners. Once you’re comfortable reading sentences, it’s time to hear them out loud.

These 20 stories have different characters, easily distinguishable storylines and simple language. Try repeating certain phrases after the narrator to improve your pronunciation.

This book is best for:

  • Complete beginners
  • Hearing Italian out loud without distractions
  • Getting comfortable with Italian pronunciation

17. Intermediate Italian Short Stories

Only you can know if you’re ready to move beyond beginner’s level Italian. When you’re ready, give these stories a listen.

These stories offer more vocabulary and more complex sentence structures than the previous recommendation, but the premise is the same.

Listening to stories will train your brain to recognize words and some may even introduce you to new vocabulary. That’s when the PDF will come in handy.

Remember that this version doesn’t come with a complete translation, and that’s all to the good – don’t be tempted to cheat.

This book is best for:

  • Intermediate learners
  • Accustomizing your ears to more complex Italian
  • Learning new ways of expressing yourself in a natural way

18. Le avventure di Pinocchio

It’s up to you whether you think this is cliche or classic. For me, listening to it was like being a little kid again.

The narrator has such a soothing voice, and even beginners will appreciate the simplicity of the storyline.

Most of us are familiar with the story thanks to Disney, but the original, as is often the case, is unbeatable.

Get a copy of the book and follow along, pause to underline words you need to look up, and get cozy with our favorite liar.

This book is best for:

  • All levels of learners
  • An excuse to relax while you learn Italian
  • A great example of authentic Italian literary craftsmanship

19. Learn Italian like a Native for Beginners

The greatest advantage of listening to this audiobook is access to a native speaker. This guide helps you to learn phonetics, grammar and how to answer questions in Italian.

Another advantage of this audiobook is it kind of feels like you have a tutor, so if you’re teaching yourself you may come to rely on the narrator as your how-to-pronounce-anything guru.

Work, travel, etc. are all included so it’s great for anyone who’s going to Italy on vacation for the first time.

This book is best for:

  • Learning pronunciation
  • Learning practical words and navigating conversation with basic Italian
  • Dialectical insight – which accent do you want to trick Italians into thinking you have?

20. Conversational Italian Dialogues

Sometimes it can be useful just to eavesdrop on the language you’re learning.

This compendium of Italian dialogues includes all the most frequently occurring words in Italian. This means that as a beginner, you won’t feel like a deer in headlights confronted with words you’ve only ever read before.

Another benefit is that it allows you to take a backseat for once, and absorb information rather than feeling bombarded.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners preparing for listening exams or upcoming conversations in Italian
  • Practicing understanding spoken Italian
  • Recognizing frequently occurring Italian words in different contexts

Tips & tricks for learning Italian

Whatever it is that made you want to learn Italian, don’t lose sight of it.

For me, it might have been watching The Lizzie McGuire movie. Every time I watch it, a part of me wishes Lizzie had the curse word coloring book when she confronted Paolo.

Anyway, my point is that you should love learning languages. Italian is no different. Books to learn Italian will be helpful, but it’s your motivation that will see you to the end.

Here are some of my tips and tricks!

italian books

Give yourself Italian treats while you learn

Italian food is delicious, and rewards make learning fun. My teachers were onto something when they semi-forced us to snack on breadsticks while reciting “Dov’è il supermercato, per favore?”

Download some apps

There are free options, but if you’re serious about learning Italian, invest in it. Apps like Duolingo will only get you so far. Babbel will help you get started, but afterwards, look at Pimsleur and Rocket Languages for more in-depth help and advice.

Here’s a list of the best 16 apps to learn Italian.

Invest in a tutor

Italian is the 4th most studied language in the world, so there are plenty of speakers out there who want to help you. 

Italki or Preply are your best options for one-to-one digital tutoring, and the best part is you can tailor your needs to suit you in the comfort of your own home.

Watch Italian movies

Nuff’ said.

Try making an Italian recipe

Bonus points if it’s written in Italian. Keep a dictionary on hand but away from the ingredients!

Motivational facts to help you learn Italian

If you’re still not convinced, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s a linguistic treat for reaching the end of the article. These three facts will motivate you, might make you laugh, and hopefully show you the majesty of learning languages.

  • The phrase “the bee’s knees” is thought to have originated from the Italian-American pronunciation of “ the business”. (Idiom, meaning something is the best). 
  • The word “mediocre” has Latin origins. “Medius” means “middle”, “ocris” means jagged mountain. So when something’s “mediocre” it’s “halfway up a mountain”. You can get to the top! 
  • In 1972, the Italian musician Adriano Celentano reached number one on the Italian music billboard with a song titled “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. It’s utter gibberish, and was supposed to emulate what English sounded to Italians. Give it a watch. If Adriano can do it…Never mind. It’s probably best to actually learn the language. Still, it’s hilarious.

Now that you’ve got Italian learning books covered, check out our guide on the best apps, podcasts, YouTube channels and free resources to learn Italian!

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