10 Italian Novels for Beginners to Read Your Way Into Italian Culture (Plus Short Stories)
A good book can take readers on adventures they wouldn’t otherwise experience.
And they’re fabulous resources for language learners!
Even if you’ve just started learning, there are some easy Italian novels for beginners you can try reading.
Here are 10 great options, plus some short story collections for those not quite ready to take the plunge into full-length novels.
- Italian Novels Perfect for Beginners
- 1. “Leavventure di Pinocchio” (The Adventures of Pinocchio)
- 2. “Marcovaldo”
- 3. “Luna d’inverno” (Winter Moon)
- 4. “Principe azzurro e dove trovarlo” (Prince Charming and Where to Find Him)
- 5. “Le Avventure di Alice nel paese delle meraviglie” (The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland)
- 6. “Lo hobbit” (The Hobbit)
- 7. “L’amico ritrovato” (The Reunion)
- 8. “La storia” (History)
- 9. “Il piccolo principe” (The Little Prince)
- 10. “Io non ho paura” (I’m Not Scared)
- Other Italian Books to Get You Reading
- How to Choose the Best Beginner-friendly Italian Novel for You
- And One More Thing...
Italian Novels Perfect for Beginners
1. “Leavventure di Pinocchio” (The Adventures of Pinocchio)
Summary: The classic tale of a wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy.
Most of us are well-acquainted with Disney’s rendition of the classic, “Pinocchio,” but not everyone is aware that there’s more to the story than what appears in the film.
This is the full version of the tale, told in side-by-side English and Italian text.
More than 150 illustrations enhance the story, giving readers an in-depth look at the story. Plus, it’s a story you already know, it will be easier to keep up with the Italian text.
Summary: This novel by Italo Calvino humorously portrays a daydreaming man named Marcovaldo as he navigates through the changing seasons.
This charming tale about a man from the city who appreciates nature is for upper beginner level learners. Keep a dictionary handy, refer to it if necessary and enjoy this intriguing tale.
This novel makes readers wonder about the “square peg, round hole” theory. In other words, how does one get by when in a situation not ideally suited to their inherent nature? Marcovaldo and his journey provide one explanation for this complex question!
3. “Luna d’inverno” (Winter Moon)
Summary: This novel by Ilario Varesé is fast-paced tale of werewolves and family ties, with intriguing characters and engaging writing.
“Luna d’Inverno” is a little more advanced than absolute beginner level. It’s closer in level to intermediate and great for a “next step” challenge.
An unexpected event puts the pack of wolves in jeopardy—wondering how they’ll handle this new issue is a super way to increase language skills while falling into the story!
4. “Principe azzurro e dove trovarlo” (Prince Charming and Where to Find Him)
Summary: This whimsical book by Cecile Bertod humorously takes on traditional fairy tale characters and their quest for romance.
This novel is geared toward upper-level beginner or intermediate level learners. It’s a smooth transitional novel for those who want to go to the next level.
The young adult plot centers around a group of students who are trying to form attachments and pair off romantically. Many readers will relate to the characters in this angst-filled tale.
And even if you don’t, you’ll have fun keeping up with the events in their lives!
The vocabulary in this novel is a bit more difficult and it’d be beneficial to have a translation app or dictionary handy while reading.
5. “Le Avventure di Alice nel paese delle meraviglie” (The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland)
Summary: This whimsical classic tale follows Alice as she encounters bizarre characters and navigates a fantastical world.
The Italian translation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is just as fun and exciting as the original in English. Knowing the story really helps when trying to pick up context clues when you stumble up on a word, phrase or sentence that you don’t understand.
As with any Italian novel, keep a dictionary or dictionary app handy when reading.
6. “Lo hobbit” (The Hobbit)
Summary: J.R.R. Tolkien’s most famous work follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who reclaims his kingdom from a dragon.
This is another classic that many people have already read in their first language, so it’s a good choice to consider when choosing Italian novels.
Although not the easiest book to read in Italian on this list, if you’ve read it in another language, this should provide the background and context you need to read this with confidence.
7. “L’amico ritrovato” (The Reunion)
Summary: This World War II novel by Fred Uhlman explores the rekindling of a childhood friendship between a Jewish boy and a German aristocrat’s son.
Unlikely friendships usually make for great stories, and that’s definitely true with this novel.
When a nice Jewish boy meets a German aristocrat’s son in Germany during World War II, an unlikely but important friendship is hatched that mirrors the political tensions in the country. This makes for a captivating read.
The language overall is quite simple, so you should be able to follow this heartwarming story fairly easily.
8. “La storia” (History)
Summary: This poignant historical novel by Elsa Moranta follows a young Jewish girl’s experiences during World War II.
Many don’t know that Italy was almost as heavily involved in World War II as France, England and Germany. That’s a good reason to read this poignant novel, which follows a smart, young Jewish girl during the war.
As you can imagine, this is a tough story with some very sad aspects, but since the language is quite simple, it’s a very good choice for one of your first novels to read in Italian.
9. “Il piccolo principe” (The Little Prince)
Summary: The most famous novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this book tells the story of a young prince’s journey through various planets.
Almost everyone know the story of “The Little Prince,” so why not try reading it Italian?
Having this background and context makes for an interesting read in Italian. You know the basics most likely, so you can focus on the characters and the language.
10. “Io non ho paura” (I’m Not Scared)
Summary: Set in rural Italy, this novel by Niccolò Ammaniti follows a young boy who discovers a dark secret.
Set in the 1978 in Southern Italy, this novel follows an inquisitive boy who uncovers some scary secrets when he’s out exploring on his own, including finding a boy who’s being held captive against his will.
The book uses rather simple Italian, so it should be a perfect choice for readers who want an adventure story told through the eyes of a teenage boy.
Other Italian Books to Get You Reading
“First Italian Reader: A Dual-language Book”
Summary: Classic Italian short stories in one anthology volume.
This is a good place to begin if you’re not much of a reader or if you feel you’re not quite ready for a full-length novel.
The works are classic short stories from 55 famous authors including Dante, one of Italy’s most renowned writers.
The material hasn’t been simplified from the original work and having a good grasp on some beginner-level grammar is helpful for reading this. However, there are side-by-side translations available, with Italian on one page and English on the next, so even if your skills are limited this is something you can read and understand.
“Il Marchese Solchi” (The Marquis Solchi)
Summary: This graphic novel features a dark marquis, with plenty of twists, turns and adventure.
This graphic novel is part of a collection specifically written for Italian learners. Designed for mature readers, this is a fast-moving adventure which uses basic vocabulary to convey the illustrated action and dialogue.
The plot is a tale of a marquis who must please a queen—whatever the cost.
Note that the story is described as “lurid” (though it’s also been toned down a bit from the original) so it’s not for the young or faint-of-heart.
If you’re not sensitive, though, the content can actually help you remember what you read and learn better: Research has shown that “peculiar” images are easier to remember, so pairing language learning with them can help your studies stick in your mind better.
“Storie della buonanotte per bambine ribelli” (Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls)
Summary: 100 short stories about amazing women.
Intended for children, this incredible collection of stories about 100 inspiring women is a must-read for every age. Malala Yousafzai, Rita Levi Montalcini, Frida Kalo, Serena Williams—and many more!—are portrayed on these pages.
In any language, this is a wonderful book. Reading it in Italian offers learners the opportunity to learn, grow and be inspired by those world-changing female figures we admire so much.
Summary: A collection of short stories narrated by a young boy.
This popular 1886 Italian short story collection by Edmondo De Amicis is a bit like a “Catcher in the Rye,” Italian style.
It follows the inner thoughts and notions of a schoolboy called Enrico as he deals with his social life and the strict social norms of the time.
Because it’s written by a school boy, the language is easy to follow for beginners.
How to Choose the Best Beginner-friendly Italian Novel for You
No matter what level you are, but especially if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to make sure you choose level–appropriate Italian content.
Those listed here are meant to get you started reading novels in Italian and are ideal for beginner-level learners. If you want to search for other options, beginners should look for easy, familiar vocabulary that’s just a bit difficult for you. You want to challenge but not discourage yourself. It’s better to start off with easier novels and work your way up a level.
And don’t forget to level up when you’re comfortable. Progress is a good thing!
Another important tip is to find novels in a genre you enjoy. Beginner level Italian novels are available in every genre, so whatever your interest, there are books for you to enjoy! Romance, thriller, drama, whatever you’re into—all at your fingertips!
Reading alone isn’t enough. Keep a notebook and pen handy and take notes as you’re reading. They don’t need to be long and involved, but this extra bit of work will help you with any plot twist or character motivations you might need to remember.
If you come across new words and want to find the correct pronunciations or definitions, you can watch how native speakers use them on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
To gain the full benefit of reading novels for beginners in Italian, spend as much time reading as possible. Remember, this reading practice will allow you to reap lots of benefits in other areas of your language learning.
Curl up with a good book and be entertained while you’re learning. What’s not to love about that?
And One More Thing...
If you're as busy as most of us, you don't always have time for lengthy language lessons. The solution? FluentU!
Learn Italian with funny commericals, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday Italian by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles. Tap on any word to instantly see an image, in-context definition, example sentences and other videos in which the word is used.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.
Once you've watched a video, you can use FluentU's quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
FluentU will even keep track of all the Italian words you’re learning, and give you extra practice with difficult words. Plus, it'll tell you exactly when it's time for review. Now that's a 100% personalized experience!
The best part? You can try FluentU for free with a trial.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)