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Beginners Course

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Summer Preparation: Italian

Language work

You are strongly advised to study as much basic Italian grammar as possible before you arrive in Cambridge. Additional independent study and/or attending language courses either in Great Britain or abroad is encouraged, but not expected.

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of the course, you should complete the following minimal preparatory work by the start of the academic year:

  • Work through the basic information on sounds, spelling, nouns, articles, and verb forms in the present tense, regular verbs in the present tense as in the course textbook Soluzioni: A Practical Grammar of Contemporary Italian, De Rome, D., Hodder Education, 3rd edition, 2015.
  • You can complement this with work on the following material on the web:
  • Finally, make sure you do all the work on Essential communicative basic material available on the University of Cambridge Language Centre website:
    • Just in Time Essentials (*Please note this is protected access material, so you will need your University of Cambridge Raven pass activated).

Literature and Culture: Preparatory Reading

A. General introductory and background material for paper ITA3: ‘Texts and Contexts’.

  • The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, ed. Peter Brand and Lino Pertile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; 2nd rev. edn 1999)
  • Oxford Short History of Italy, general editor John Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 7 vols, 2000-2004)
  • Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, ed. by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

B. Set texts for the first-year course ‘Texts and Contexts’ (ITA3)

Before arriving in Cambridge, you can best prepare for this course by getting to know some or all of the core texts, in translation or in the original:

  • Dante Alighieri, Commedia (early 14th century; selected canti only: Inferno 5, 10, Purgatorio 11, Paradiso 33)
  • Niccolò Machiavelli, Il principe (1513)
  • Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare (1963)
  • Il sorpasso (directed by Dino Risi, 1962)
  • Linguistics*Course material will be provided in lectures

For each of the first four texts students will be provided with a course handbook (handbooks contain contextual material, further reading and suggestions for supervision work).


  • Soluzioni, A practical Grammar of Contemporary Italian, De Rome, D., Hodder Education, 3rd edition, 2015
  • Attiva il Lessico, livello 1 & 2 (A2/B1 & B1/B2), Le Monnier, 2013
  • Spazio civiltà, Medaglia C., Medaglia F., Loescher Editore, 2013

You should purchase both of these books before you come up to Cambridge, together with a good bilingual dictionary (recommendations below).

Recommended reference texts

English Grammar for Students of Italian, Primorac, K. and Adorni, S., 2011, Olivia & Hill Press, 3rd edition. 

Bilingual dictionaries (suitable for your first year):

  • Collins-Sansoni Italian Dictionary
  • Il Grande Dizionario Garzanti inglese 2003 + CD ROM Oxford-Paravia Italian Dictionary, ed. by C. Bareggi, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Oxford-Paravia Italian Dictionary, ed. by Cristina Bareggi, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Additional resources

  •, Italian grammar for English speakers, Gruppo CSC, Bonacci Editore, 2010. This is a comprehensive basic grammar of Italian, with a variety of exercises and activities that will also be useful for further practice during the academic year. 
  • Any title of your choice from Italiano facile, primo livello (principianti), Alma Edizioni, You are welcome to start enjoying reading and listening to Italian with any of the titles on the list. The stories use about 500 words of vocabulary and are a great introduction to the pronunciation and intonation of the language, as well as some basic vocabulary and structures. 
  • Almost any of the commercially available language courses (intended for tourists or business in the first instance) on CD, audiobook or ebook, are helpful to get a good idea of the sounds and structures of Italian. Special mention may be made of BBC Talk Italian.

Obtaining Italian books

The main and most efficient source of language books is the Italian Bookshop in London ( Cambridge students are entitled to a discount.