In the early 1970s, shortly after his arrival at Indiana University, Peter Bondanella became interested in Italian cinema. Bondanella worked for a decade to produce Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present(1983). This book immediately placed American scholarship on Italian cinema upon solid foundations. It won the President's Award of the American Association for Italian Studies in 1984. With three editions and many printings, it remains the standard work in the field. A subsequent publication, The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World (1987) became the Winter 1987 Selection of the History Book Club and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize that same year. Bondanella's work in Renaissance studies has also brought him scholarly acclaim. Through his monographs on Machiavelli and Guicciardini and his translations of texts by Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Cellini, and Vasari, he stands out as one of this country's most accomplished Renaissance specialists. Bondanella has also made a crucial contribution to the general field of Italian studies with his Dictionary of Italian Literature, now in its second edition. Bondanella has been published by such widely distributed presses as Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Norton, New American Library, Viking Penguin, MacMillan, and Continuum.
He received major fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Lilly Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery. His status as a scholar had not been achieved at the expense of his teaching. Bondanella was committed to mentoring students closely. Besides regularly teaching undergraduate students at all levels (topic courses, language, literature, film), he wrote three books with IU graduate students to help start them on a scholarly career. A tribute to Bondanella's leadership was his appointment as chairperson of the IU Department of West European Studies and director of the West European Studies National Resource Center from 1992-2001. He also served as the Bloomington co-chair of the Alliance.
Bondanella made decisive contributions to international scholarship with his studies of individual Italian film directors. His critical work, The Cinema of Federico Fellini (1992, Princeton University Press) was awarded the CONGRIPS Book Prize in Italian Studies. Much of the research for this book was based on more than 30 original manuscripts that Bondanella brought from Italy to Indiana University's Lilly Library. His most recent books include The Films of Federico Fellini (2002, Cambridge University Press), The Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel (2003, Cambridge University Press), Hollywood Italians: Dagos, Palookas, Romeos, Wise Guys, and Sopranos (2004, Continuum International), New Essays on Umberto Eco (2009, Cambridge University Press), and A History of Italian Cinema (2009, Continuum International). In addition, he completed a number of recent translations or critical editions of Italian classics: Benvenuto Cellini's My Life (2002, Oxford University Press), Dante's Inferno (2003, Barnes & Noble), Dante's Purgatorio (2005, Barnes & Noble), Machiavelli's The Prince (2005, Oxford University Press), and Dante's Paradiso (2006 , Barnes & Noble).
After retirement in 2007, Bondanella was awarded a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship in 2008 to work on the cinema of Federico Fellini, and in 2009, he was elected to membership in the European Academy of Arts and Sciences for his scholarly contributions to the fields of Comparative Literature, Film Studies, and Italian Studies.