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Black and white photo of Luigi Meneghello. Copyright: Effigie Edizioni

Photo credit: Luigi Meneghello by Effigie Edizioni

Resistance fighter and celebrated writer Luigi Meneghello (1922–2007) started the teaching of Italian at Reading in 1948.

Since then, our Italian studies programme has been defined by a multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to teaching and research, with current strengths in Italian literature (1800–present), history of the Italian language, translation studies, linguistics, migration studies, women's studies, history of ideas and publishing history.

Italian studies at Reading has a long track record of research success. The PhD programme in Italian studies has consistently attracted accomplished postgraduate students from overseas as well as from the UK.

Italian studies at Reading is also the first home of The Italianist, a multi-disciplinary, A-rated journal with an international reputation, which was founded in Reading in 1980.

Research centres

Staff in Italian studies contribute to the activities of the following research centres:


Staff research interests

We are happy to supervise graduate students in the following areas:

Professor Federico Faloppa

  • History of the Italian Language
  • Italian linguistics and dialectology
  • Migration studies: media, policies, discourses
  • Hate speech and anti-racist discourses
  • Language policy
  • Critical discourse analysis


Professor Daniela La Penna

  • Modern Italian literature and culture
  • Multilingualism in fiction and poetry
  • Cultural and intellectual history (1800–present)
  • Publishing history and periodical studies (1800–present)
  • Literary Translation: genres, agents, markets
  • Women's writing (1800–present)
  • War studies


Staff research activities and collaborations

Dott.ssa Rita Balestrini

Dott.ssa Rita Balestrini’s interests lie primarily in language assessment, evaluation, and independent learning. Balestrini’s pedagogical research explores the discourses informing the policies and practices of modern languages as a discipline.

Dr Chiara Ciarlo

Dr Chiara Ciarlo’s research interest is in the acquisition and expressions of agreement in L1 and L2 speakers, and its variation in adult speakers. She has carried out research on the acquisition and use of oblique subject pronouns in English-speaking children, and on the variation of subject clitic pronouns in Italian varieties.

She is currently studying the acquisition of agreement in foreign language learners, and how theoretical knowledge of this particular linguistic phenomenon can inform language pedagogy.

Professor Federico Faloppa

Professor Federico Faloppa has participated as co-investigator on various externally-funded research projects focusing on migration and language, including the AHRC-funded international network Researching and Documenting Key Words in European Migration Discourses and the ESRC-funded international network ProLanguage, which focuses on language policies and practices in refugee settings.

Prof Faloppa is a work-package lead in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) MultiMind.

He collaborates with the Academia della Crusca and is a consultant for the Italian NGO Carta di Roma. Professor Faloppa is an active member of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) and of the Alexander Langer Foundation.

Professor Daniela La Penna

Professor Daniela La Penna is Senior co-Editor of The Italianist. She has led and participated to numerous externally-funded projects funded by the AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme and MSCA.

She was Principal Investigator of Mapping Literary Space in Post-War Italy: Publishing Institutions and Literary Journals (AHRC, 2012-2015).

She was Co-Investigator for the Leverhulme international network Diasporic Literary Archives (2012-2014), which has established partnerships with the Beinecke Library at Yale University; Centro Manoscritti in Pavia; l'Institut Mémoires de l'Edition Contemporaine (IMEC) in France; The National Library and Archives Service of Namibia, and prominent archivists from Trinidad and Tobago.

Professor La Penna is a co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing.

Dr Charles L. Leavitt IV, Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Charles L. Leavitt IV is Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Notre Dame (US) and a former member of the department.  He specialises in modern Italian literature and cinema in a comparative context. 

He was formerly an Annese Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and a Presidential Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Notre Dame (USA).

Dr Paola Nasti, Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Paola Nasti is Associate Professor of Italian at the Northwestern University (US) and a former member of the department. A leading scholar in Dante Studies, Dr Nasti is a member of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies.

Dott.ssa Enza Siciliano Verruccio

Dott.ssa Enza Siciliano Verruccio is interested in:

  • language curriculum design and development
  • ab initio language learning and teaching
  • technology-enhanced language learning and teaching
  • the role of explicit instruction in SLA
  • language teacher training.



Recent and current doctoral research projects


Exploring post-colonial strategies in the English translation of Arabic fiction (ongoing)


The Memory of Women Resistance Fighters in Italy and France (ongoing)

  • Martina Biavati (SWW DTP)

  • Supervisors: Professor Daniela La Penna and Professor Claire Gorrara (Cardiff)


Multilingualism and language learning among young migrants and refugees: Palermo, a case study (ongoing)


Fernanda Pivano and the Italian Beat generation: Translation and literary agency in post-war Italian publishing market (ongoing)

  • Andrea Romanzi (SWW DTP)

  • Supervisors: Professor Daniela La Penna and Dr Carol O'Sullivan (Bristol)


Cecil and Sylvia Sprigge’s role in the cultural relations between the UK and Italy (1920s-1950s) (ongoing)

  • Penny Ditchfield

  • Supervisor: Professor Daniela La Penna


The paperback revolution: knowledge transfer between the British and Italian publishing industry: Penguin, Mondadori, Feltrinelli (ongoing)

  • Andrea De Falco

  • Supervisor: Professor Daniela La Penna


The evolution of the National Health System in Italy from the Unification to the Fascist Period (ongoing)

  • Pola Poletto

  • Supervisors: Professor Federico Faloppa and Professor Daniela La Penna


Dante e le Confraternite (2021)

  • Michael Biasin

  • Supervisor: Dr Paola Nasti


Percezione degli ebrei e conoscenza della cultura ebraica in Dante e nell’Italia medievale (2021)

  • Jacopo Buffo

  • Supervisors: Professor Daniela La Penna (formerly supervised by Dr Paola Nasti, Professor Catherine Leglu and Dr George Ferzoco).


British Military Encounters with Italian Civilians 1943-1946 (2021)

  • Fabio Simonetti (AHRC)

  • Supervisors: Professor Daniela La Penna and Dr Suzanne Bardgett (Imperial War Museums)


Italian intellectual Diaspora in the UK: Luigi Meneghello and Carlo Dionisotti (2019)

  • Marta Pozzolo (SWW DTP)

  • Supervisors: Professor Daniela La Penna and Professor Charles Burdett (Bristol)


Recent and ongoing PhDs in Italian studies span a broad range of periods and topics, and we welcome enquiries and proposals relating both to discrete specialisms and to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work.

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Find out more about studying for a PhD