Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region

Course No. 2858
Professor Kristina Olson, PhD
George Mason University
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Course No. 2858
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Develop the tools to speak about the present, the past, and the future
  • numbers Learn vocabulary on numerous useful subjects
  • numbers Discover how to describe the places you visit in Italy and have real conversations by delving into Italian nouns, adjectives, and adverbs

Course Overview

From the masterworks of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante, and Verdi to the dazzling panorama of Roman life in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Italian culture is passionate, groundbreaking, and timeless. Italian art, cuisine, cinema, technology, and fashion are mainstays of our contemporary world, and Italy remains one of the most magnetic and popular destinations for global travelers.

With its musicality, sensuality, and rich expressiveness, Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world—as well as the doorway to one of the world’s most iconic cultures.

What better way to know this magnificent culture than through the extraordinary beauty of its language?

If you’d like to learn to speak Italian, and delve into the wonders of Italian culture, The Great Courses’ Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region is the ideal place to start. Adding to our cadre of other popular language programs, this exciting course presents a carefully chosen learning system that is both fun and highly effective for adult learners.

Professor Kristina Olson of George Mason University, an acclaimed teacher and scholar of Italian language and literature, has designed this course with a core premise: Italian is inseparable from Italy itself, and to understand the language, you must understand the “Bel Paese”—the beautiful country.

As a country to discover, Italy offers the fabulous cities of Rome, Genoa, Venice, Florence, and many more, as well as the romantic beauties of Tuscany, Umbria, Calabria, and 17 other fascinating and diverse regions. In Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region, you’ll not only gain a solid grasp of the fundamentals of spoken Italian, but you’ll also take a grand tour of Italy’s 20 regions. You’ll practice the language itself through studying and exploring the glorious cultural riches of Italy.

An inspiring and dynamic teacher, Professor Olson makes Italian directly accessible, grounding you in the core elements of Italian grammar, vocabulary, and usage, and providing substantial practice in speaking, comprehension, and reading. You may be amazed to discover that within the first half of the course, you’re reading substantial texts describing each region in Italy and its culture—and that you have the skills to understand them.

Starting from the beginning, you’ll build conversational skills step by step through exercises, dialogues, games, and dramatic scenarios, both in the video lessons and in your course workbook. Along the way, you’ll learn many wonderful expressions that make Italian so delightful to speak and hear, and you’ll become familiar with the vibrant hand gestures that the Italians are famous for.

Whether you want to learn Italian in order to travel to Italy, to converse with Italian-speaking friends, or to connect with your own Italian roots, this course will teach you what you need to know, and more.


Enjoy the Thrill of Speaking Italian

Successful language teaching involves strategic choices regarding how to present the material to the learner, and in which order. In these 24 lively and engaging lessons, Professor Olson demonstrates remarkable skill in acquainting you with Italian grammar and vocabulary, starting from ground zero, such that you can see and grasp the structure of the language readily and easily.

The lessons teach you the building blocks of conversational fluency in Italian, such as these:

  • Learn to express actions, thoughts, and feelings by working with verbs such as essere (to be), avere (to have), fare (to do), andare (to go), and volere (to want).
  • Gain the basis for facility with all verbs by learning the three verb conjugations in Italian, for verbs ending in -are, as in amare (to love); -ere, as in leggere (to read); and -ire, as in partire (to leave).
  • Learn to tell time and to speak about time in Italian, as well as to count and use numbers;
  • Develop the tools to speak about the present, the past, and the future, by practicing the present indicative tense (as in “I eat”), the present progressive (“I am eating”), the basic past tense (“I ate/have eaten”), the imperfect tense (“I was eating”), and the future tense (“I will eat”).
  • Discover how to describe the places you visit in Italy and have real conversations by delving into Italian nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, noting how the forms of nouns and adjectives change to reflect gender and number.
  • Learn vocabulary on numerous useful subjects, from social greetings, eating and drinking, and the calendar to geography and climate, art and architecture, sports and outdoor activities, the family, the human body, and more.
  • Learn to express likes and dislikes, affirmative and negative statements, and to ask and answer questions—essential tools for everyday conversations.

Throughout the course, graphics, diagrams, and animations clearly illustrate the material at hand.

Discover Italy’s 20 Magical Regions


It’s been said that Italy is a living art museum, not only in the legendary beauty of its visual art, but of its towns and cities—its sublimely crafted architecture and townscapes, from medieval Siena and Bologna to the glories of Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In this course, you’ll travel the entire Italian peninsula, taking in its exquisite urban settings, superlative landscapes, and characteristic culture through hundreds of vivid color images, as you learn to speak the language.

Among Italy’s stunningly diverse regions, you’ll discover:

  • Campania—Take the measure of this storied area of Italy, containing the beloved city of Naples, historic Pompeii, and the scenic Amalfi coast, and practice describing its architecture, history, and natural beauty;
  • The “Marches”—In this richly endowed region, practice your conversational skills as you discover the birthplace of Raphael and Rossini, with its imposing medieval castles, breathtaking mountain scenery, and world-famous artisanal industries;
  • Il Veneto—Treasures of Il Veneto include alpine vistas; the beauties of Lake Garda, Venice, and Verona; and the artistic legacy of Palladio, Giotto, and Titian. Expand your linguistic knowledge in speaking about star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet and Francesca and Paolo; and
  • Tuscany (Toscana)—One of Italy’s most famous and popular regions for travelers; learn the passato prossimo (past) tense as you reflect on the Renaissance jewel of Florence; the region’s food and wine; and the genius of Boccaccio, Michelangelo, and



Learn This Glorious Language through Its Culture


Throughout these lessons, Professor Olson introduces you to the rich diversity of Italian life, including one of its most internationally recognizable cultural touchstones: food. You’ll learn to speak about Italian cuisine and food products, from Ragù alla Bolognese (Emilia-Romagna) and Perugina chocolates (Umbria) to the celebrated wines of Piemonte.

You’ll also delve into Italian cinema by speaking about landmark films such as Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto, Francesco Rosi’s Tre Fratelli, and Antonioni’s Deserto Rosso. And you’ll explore historical culture in ways such as describing Botticelli’s daily routine during the Renaissance and tracing the writing of Carlo Levi’s celebrated novel Christ Stopped at Eboli.

The course workbook goes hand in hand with the video lessons, offering you key translations, useful vocabulary, supplemental activities, grammar review, maps of Italy, and even a listing of suggested films and novels by region.


In Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable immersion into Italy’s splendorous language and culture. Andiamo! (Let’s go!)

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    Benvenuti to Italian and Italy's 20 Regions!
    Begin with a preview of the content of the course, as you will study the Italian language within the cultural context of Italy's 20 geographic regions. Learn about vowels and consonants in Italian, and important principles of pronunciation. Study the subject pronouns, the verbs essere and stare (both meaning to be"), daily greetings, and practice the elements of a simple conversation." x
  • 2
    Nouns and Articles / Sicily
    Discover the island of Sicily, as you build knowledge of Italian grammar and vocabulary. Dive into a text describing Sicily's topography, history, and ancient treasures. Using the text, explore Italian nouns as they express gender and number. Then look at indefinite articles in Italian (a" and "an" in English) and definite articles ("the" in English), and learn a practice dialogue." x
  • 3
    Nouns and Adjectives / Sicily II
    Delve further into the history and culture of Sicily in this lesson. Study the plural forms of nouns, and how numbers are spoken in Italian. Practice both elements using an imaginary dialogue concerning a Sicilian literary character. Learn how to describe people, places, and things with adjectives; how adjectives reflect gender and number; and practice describing a Renaissance painting. x
  • 4
    Verbs Ending in -are / Lombardy
    Take an overview of the region of Lombardy; its geography, culture, and food traditions. Learn the present indicative conjugation for -are" verbs, covering a group of highly useful verbs. Use your new knowledge in talking about daily routines and discussing a classic Italian film, Il Posto. Review numbers in Italian, and look at one of Lombardy's gems, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci." x
  • 5
    Verbs Ending in -ere / Lazio
    The region of Lazio contains the city of Rome, and much history regarding Italian art, politics, and society. Take in its cultural highlights as you practice second conjugation" verbs, ending in "-ere". Build facility with these verbs in the present indicative, using a text about the iconic film La Dolce Vita. Learn idiomatic expressions using avere (to have), and ways of forming questions." x
  • 6
    Verbs Ending in -ire / Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige
    Start this lesson by reading texts describing two of the northernmost regions of Italy, the Valle d'Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige, focusing on their mountainous geography and beautiful landscapes. Then study third conjugation" verbs, ending in -ire, taking note of important irregular -ire verbs. Also learn the calendar, seasons, days of the week, and vocabulary concerning sports activities." x
  • 7
    Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns / Puglia
    Grasp how possessive adjectives (my," "your," and "our" in English) and possessive pronouns ("mine," "yours,"and "ours") function in Italian. Explore their use in text describing the geography, scenic landscapes and coastline, and traditional houses of the Puglia region, and add important vocabulary about the family. Practice what you've learned in discussing Tre Fratelli and Le Mine vaganti, two films set in Puglia." x
  • 8
    Prepositions / Abruzzo and Molise
    Travel to the beautiful regions of Abruzzo and Molise, which feature stunning natural scenery, fine cuisine, and much history. Dig deeply into the use of prepositions in Italian (as in from," "with," and "about" in English), which connect all the parts of speech. Also, note how prepositions express unspecified quantities, and learn vocabulary about the weather and seasonal activities." x
  • 9
    Modal Verbs, Sapere, and Conoscere / Liguria
    Modal" verbs are verbs that precede another infinitive, as in "I want to eat." Work with dovere (to have to), potere (to be able to), and volere (to want to), as you discover Liguria's natural beauties, picturesque towns, and culinary and artistic riches. Then investigate the verbs conoscere and sapere, which relate to knowledge, and look into the creations of Genoese architect Renzo Piano." x
  • 10
    The Imperative Mood / Campania
    The imperative mood expresses commands, as in, Repeat after me," in English. Explore the two types of imperative verbs in Italian, the informal and the formal, and when to use each. Also, study irregular forms of the imperative. Practice the imperative by describing the popular Campania region, famous for its capital of Naples, its ancient sites, beautiful islands, and the scenic Amalfi Coast." x
  • 11
    Direct Objects / Emilia-Romagna
    Here, your subject matter for practice is the beautiful central region of Emilia-Romagna, which boasts the medieval city of Bologna, stunning Adriatic beaches, and a wealth of famous food specialties. Study direct object pronouns (as in it" and "them" in English, standing in for nouns), as well as two vital adjectives, buono and bello, and use them in describing the sights of Emilia-Romagna." x
  • 12
    Indirect Objects / Friuli-Venezia Giulia
    Continue your study with the indirect object pronouns, which function as in I give the book to him" in English. Also explore double object pronouns, as in "I give it to him." Then practice the verb piacere, which expresses likes and dislikes, as you explore the multilingual region of Fruli-Venezia Guilia, highlighting its beautiful and diverse scenery and the fascinating city of Trieste." x
  • 13
    Irregular Nouns / Basilicata
    The less-visited southern region of Basilicata contains rich treasures of history and culture. Discover its ancient rock-carved houses and lunar landscapes as you return to Italian nouns, working with their plural endings and irregular forms. Then add the interrogative nouns and pronouns (who," "what," "why"), as you learn about Carlo Levi's celebrated novel which made this region famous." x
  • 14
    Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs / The Marches
    Reflexive verbs direct the action onto the subject, as in I wash myself." Practice key Italian reflexive verbs along with their pronouns for talking about daily routines and wellness. In the Marches region, reflect on its picturesque scenery, Renaissance and medieval architecture, and the legacy of Raphael and Rossini, and learn the vocabulary of the body as well as how to tell time in Italian." x
  • 15
    Reciprocal Verbs and Negatives / Veneto
    The splendors of the Veneto region are your material for this lesson, from its iconic visual artists and the glorious city of Venice to its traditions of literature and theater. In speaking about the region, add reciprocal verbs, which describe actions that are shared reciprocally, as in, They love each other." Also, explore negative constructions and the expressive range of Italian adverbs." x
  • 16
    Present Progressive and Suffixes / Piedmont
    Study text describing the rich attractions of the Piedmont region, its alpine geography, the beautiful capital of Torino, and famed artisanal products. Work with the present progressive construction, which describes actions occurring in the present moment, as in I'm eating lunch." Learn about Italian suffixes, word endings that convey extra meaning, and about expressive Italian hand gestures." x
  • 17
    Indefinite Pronouns, Ci, and Ne / Sardinia
    Indefinite pronouns describe nonspecific qualities or quantities, as in some," "any," or "many" in English. Study how these work in Italian, as you discuss ancient sites, agriculture, and tourism on the scenic island of Sardinia. Also, explore the unique pronouns ci and ne, which replace phrases within sentences. Then see how the beauties of Sardinia have been depicted in Italian films." x
  • 18
    Passato Prossimo with Avere / Umbria
    The verdant region of Umbria is known as The Green Heart of Italy." Read text about its natural beauties, art and architecture, artisanal industries, and religious history. Work with the basic past tense, the passato prossimo ("Have you eaten?"). Learn to form this compound tense with avere (to have), and use it in discussing Umbrian culture. Also, study regular and irregular participles." x
  • 19
    Passato Prossimo with Essere / Tuscany
    Tuscany is perhaps Italy's most celebrated and popular region, and the cradle of the Renaissance. Learn about its breathtaking medieval cities, beloved food specialties, and its iconic artists and writers. See how the passato prossimo tense is used with the auxiliary verb essere. Study expressions of time, and practice your skills in describing the life of Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli. x
  • 20
    The Imperfect Tense / Calabria
    The imperfetto (the imperfect) describes actions in the past that were ongoing or not completed, as in I was reading." Read text about the untamed beauty, prehistory, and Greek/Byzantine legacy of Calabria, noting the use of the imperfetto. Learn to conjugate the imperfetto, and practice choosing where to use it, as opposed to the passato prossimo, in text on the treasures of ancient Calabria." x
  • 21
    The Impersonal Voice / Liguria II
    Take a second look at the natural beauty and artistic culture of Liguria. Study the impersonal voice, which is used to refer to an unspecified subject, as in One should" or "Everyone knows." See how this voice expresses what people can do, see, or experience. Then return to modal verbs, as well as conoscere and sapere, and see how these verbs take on different meanings based on the tense used." x
  • 22
    The Imperative with Pronouns / Campania II
    Return to the culturally rich Campania region as you review the imperative mood (commands), and learn how the imperative functions with pronouns (where Eat the pizza!" becomes "Eat it!"). Explore both the informal and formal imperative, double pronouns ("Give it to her."). Then practice them in describing Campania's ancient cities, scenic beauties, and beloved culinary specialties." x
  • 23
    The Future Tense / Lazio II
    Speak about the sights and history of Rome, the eternal city, as you learn the future tense in Italian (I will go."). Practice the conjugation of the future tense, and explore the verb stem changes that characterize it. Take into account the different meanings of the future tense, including its use to express probability, as well as the future perfect construction ("I will have gone.")." x
  • 24
    Comparatives, Superlatives, and Arrivederci! / Tuscany II
    Conclude the course with a return to the beloved region of Tuscany. Expand your knowledge of the past tense in discussing Tuscany's topography; food culture; and literary giants Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Learn to make comparisons, of equality (as good as") and of inequality ("better than"). Finally, explore Italian superlatives ("the worst", "the best")." x

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  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • Printed course workbook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course workbook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • Printed course workbook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Kristina Olson

About Your Professor

Kristina Olson, PhD
George Mason University
Kristina Olson is an Associate Professor of Italian and the Italian Program Coordinator at George Mason University, where she has taught Italian language, literature, and cinema since 2005. She earned her PhD in Italian from Columbia University. Professor Olson is the author of Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio, and the Literature of History and several articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. She is the coeditor of Open...
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Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 9.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid introduction and lively style I've traveled to Italy a few times but never studied the language. Italian is similar to Spanish but my limited knowledge of Spanish didn't help me enough. Now with Dr. Olson's course, I know that I will enjoy my trips to Italy much more, and with a solid grasp of the basics of the language. I like her lively style. Grazie mille, Professoressa!
Date published: 2020-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good, well-rounded course A very good introduction to a wonderful language. I enjoyed the cultural material that went along with the lessons.
Date published: 2020-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravissima! Molto Bene! Prof is clear, and the language is beautiful. I'm surprised by how much I learned in a video course.
Date published: 2020-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning Italian If you do the homework, you’ll start to learn Italian. Well done course.
Date published: 2020-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful language I bought this course a few days ago and I am extremely satisfied with this one. Ms Kristina is very knowledgeable and thorough and she makes it very relatable with real life examples. My former knowledge of French and Spanish really helped me a lot. I am very happy so far with the way my learning is happening. I am a huge fan of the great courses and I am looking forward to completing the course soon.
Date published: 2020-11-16
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