The No-fear Guide to Italian Reading for Beginners: 5 Free, Accessible Resources
Italian reading is a step-by-step process.
You can’t crack open some Dante and expect to contentedly close the book a few hours later, totally fluent in Italian.
Instead, beginner language students need reading resources that pose just the right amount of challenge. As you build your grammar knowledge and vocabulary, you can doggy paddle towards longer articles and more poetic books.
This post will be your guide, taking you through some unique places around the internet where even the newest Italian learner can find something to sit down and read.
Better yet, all these options are totally free.
- Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Italian Reading
- The Top 5 Free Italian Reading Resources for Beginners
Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Italian Reading
I know, I know… you want to start chatting with native speakers, exploring Italy and effortlessly ordering espresso like a local as soon as possible.
But to truly learn Italian, you can’t procrastinate reading practice. It’s a necessary step to fluency and the sooner you start, the easier it’ll be.
With consistent Italian reading, you’ll always find new words to add to your vocabulary. You’ll also naturally absorb Italian grammar rules and sentence structure. Even an hour or two of reading practice every week can make a big difference.
Many language learners put off reading practice because they’re not really sure where to start. If you pick up a book that’s too difficult and become swamped in unfamiliar words, you’ll get discouraged and stop.
So it’s important to look for material that matches your skill level. The books in our list below are suited for beginners with simple grammar and straightforward sentences. We’ll also provide Italian texts that come with translations, which are another great option for building vocabulary and comprehension skills without getting lost.
If you want to be able to mix multiple kinds of input (audio, visual, etc.) to improve your comprehension, you can try watching videos with subtitles. For example, you could watch FluentU’s Italian videos and follow along with the full transcript or the expert-edited Italian captions.
You heard right: Watching clips from your favorite Italian drama or this year’s movie trailers now counts as reading practice. This is especially true since, while you read books at your own pace, reading along to subtitles forces you to keep up with the video. Luckily, FluentU has handy arrow keys that let you replay any sentence as many times as you need.
You can also check the meaning of any word directly from the subtitles, add words to flashcard lists and complete review exercises for them and take post-video comprehension tests.
FluentU is just one example of how you can take your reading practice in unconventional directions. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and head beyond the covers of a book. The five free Italian reading resources below will help you get started.
The Top 5 Free Italian Reading Resources for Beginners
These short texts and reading exercises are specifically designed for beginner language learners. They’ll get new Italian readers off the ground and figuring out the basics of sentence structure.
ToLearnFree’s Italian course has over 100 exercises and dialogues covering a variety of fundamental topics, such as shopping, the weather or making appointments over the phone. So not only do these lessons boost basic reading comprehension skills, but they also help prepare students for real-world situations in Italian.
It’s always fun to read actual material catered towards native speakers, but sometimes it’s not the ideal place to start. What makes ToLearnFree so useful is that it offers an easy, vital first step into a challenging topic.
Some of the texts come with cartoons for added context, along with fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice exercises to flex your skills.
When you’re ready, ToLearnFree also provides similar lessons for intermediate and advanced students (just choose your level at the bottom of the page).
Okay, so let’s say you’ve started doing reading exercises online or in a textbook. Maybe you want to move on to something a little more substantial.
It’s good to be eager, and there are lots of places where your reading journey can take a step to the next level and maybe even be a little bit more challenging. Saber Italiano provides you with one of these fist steps.
Saber Italiano aims to make Italian learning entertaining. It provides a collection of short articles and stories for reading practice.
These Italian texts can be a little bit tricky for those just starting out, as they’re entirely in Italian without translations—but their bite-sized length and the fact that they’re chosen specifically for language learners makes them a great beginner challenge.
Plus, the articles come with comprehension quizzes, which are counted up for points at the end. This gives you a tangible, engaging way to track your understanding. These quizzes are also entirely in Italian, so they’re probably best for beginners who aren’t at the very start of their journey.
The lessons are clearly labeled based on difficulty at the top of each page, helping beginners figure out what’s best suited for them.
Like we just discussed, reading something entirely in a new language can be a little daunting, to say the least. It can be so intimidating that you might even want to avoid it. There’s good news, though: there are resources that are built to make it easy to figure out what’s going on, even if you’re just starting out.
Parallel Texts is one of these resources. It has a library of classic stories from around the world, all in Italian.
Now the anxiety might come in. How can a newbie student read a pages-long short story in a language they only just started learning? Well, that’s where the website’s main attraction works its magic. The site’s name comes from the fact that it offers two versions of the text side-by-side—one in Italian and one in English.
This means that you can pick up a story written entirely in Italian, but that also has a translation right beside it to turn to whenever things get confusing. You’ll be learning new words in context, which is both more effective and more engaging than diving for your dictionary every few seconds.
Parallel Texts has something for everyone, whether you want to read English-language titles in Italian or try stories that originated in Italy. If you’re a bookworm, don’t hesitate to sit down with a cup of tea and immerse yourself in a classic story in Italiano.
Logos Library has a huge library of documents—well over 400—that can be accessed online for free. These include Italian poems, stories and articles. These readings can obviously seem really challenging, especially for beginners, but Logos Library has plenty of tools that new students can use to navigate an intimidating-looking text.
Click on one of Logos Library’s many available articles and you’ll see author information, the option to download the text you picked and the ability to translate selected pieces of the text. Even a fully Italian poem can be translated with a click of the button, making a seemingly difficult experience much easier on a beginner.
Some texts even come with audio recordings, which can mix in ever-important listening skills with your reading.
Not everyone is a big fan of fiction. Maybe you want to read something that’s a little more informative, or maybe you just want to learn about Italian culture a little more directly. Don’t worry, there’s something out there for you, too.
ITALY Magazine is a publication about, well, Italy. It’s loaded with articles about contemporary Italian life at home and in immigrant communities.
The thing is, most of the articles are simply written in English. While these might be fine for cultural study, it might not be so helpful for reading practice. If you do a little bit of digging, however, you’ll notice that the website has a particularly useful resource: dual-language articles.
The magazine’s dual-language selection provides a wide variety of articles on Italian life and culture in both English and Italian. Like Parallel Texts, these are presented alongside each other. You can easily toggle between languages by clicking on the English/Italian tabs at the top of the article.
Not only will you get information on Italy and its everyday life, but you’ll also easily improve your reading comprehension by comparing the two translations.
With over 100 dual language articles to choose from, each clearly labeled for easy access, new students can jump right into cultural immersion and reading practice at the same time.
Reading is one of the most important things a student can do in honing their language skills, and it’s something that should be done often. With resources like these, of course, it’s also something that can be done easily.