Bellagio Library/

The Betrothed

by Alessandro Manzoni, translated by Michael F. Moore

Michael participated in the Bellagio residency program in 2015. During this residency, he worked on his translation of The Betrothed (Penguin Random House, 2022; originally 1827). Michael is a translator and interpreter. He received his Ph.D in Italian from New York University. Michael is the former chair of the Translation Committee of PEN America (formerly the PEN American Center) and the Advisory Board of the PEN/Heim Translation Fund. For many years he was an interpreter on the staff of the Italian Mission to the United Nations.

A few words with Michael

“I was one-third of the way through the translation when I arrived at Bellagio. The location itself gave me perspective: Manzoni describes the landscape of Lake Como in a painterly fashion. At Bellagio I could look out of the window of my studio and see the light falling on the mountains and the villages reflected in the lake just as he described.

“The main topics in The Betrothed are social justice, colonialism, and the politics of an epidemic. Chapters 31 and 32 describe the outbreak of the bubonic plague in Milan in 1630; Manzoni’s account holds up a mirror to our own age.

“My advice to future residents is to write with paper and a fountain pen. That way, when you look up, you’ll see this amazing landscape rather than your computer screen.”

A Quote from The Betrothed

The branch of Lake Como that turns south between two unbroken mountain chains, bordered by coves and inlets that echo the furrowed slopes, suddenly narrows to take the flow and shape of a river, between a promontory on the right and a wide shoreline on the opposite side. The bridge that joins the two sides at this point seems to make this transformation even more visible to the eye and mark the spot where the lake ends and the Adda begins again, to reclaim the name lake where the shores, newly distant, allow the water to spread and slowly pool into fresh inlets and coves.


The Betrothed is a cornerstone of Italian culture, language, and literature. Published in its final form in 1842, the book has inspired generations of Italian readers and writers. But until now, it has remained relatively unknown to English readers. Michael F. Moore’s new translation brings Manzoni’s timeless literary masterpiece to this new audience.

In the fall of 1628, two young lovers are forced to flee their village on the shores of Lake Como after a powerful lord prevents their marriage, plunging them into the maelstrom of history. Manzoni draws on actual people and events to create an unforgettable fresco of Italian life and society. In this greatest of historical novels, he takes the reader on a journey through the Spanish occupation of Milan, the ravages of war, class tensions, social injustice, religious faith, and a plague that devastates northern Italy. Within Manzoni’s epic tale, readers will also recognize powerful echoes in our own day.

Explore More

To find out more about Michael’s work, read his piece in Words Without Borders, “The Lost Translator”, or watch Michael discuss The Betrothed and its translation with Italian Innovators. Michael also participated in events to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Manzoni’s death in 2023.

You can also read excerpts from chapters 31 and 32 of The Betrothed on Lithub.