Life in Italy

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La Cucina … mangiamo!

Words connected with la cucina (kitchen, cooking)

mangiare to eat
avere fame to be hungry
servire to serve
prendere to take (used also to have something to eat or drink).
Prendi una coca cola? Would you like (take) a Coke? Do you want a Coke?
Prendi un piatto di pasta? Will you have a pasta dish?
I Pazzi ci hanno servito una bella cena the Pazzis served us (treated us to) a nice dinner.
il piatto plate, dish
lavare i piatti wash the dishes
aprire to open
Puoi aprire la bottiglia di vino? Can you open the wine bottle?
coprire to cover
aprire to cover
Ho coperto la pentola I covered the pot.
l'elettrodomestico the appliance
la cucina a gas the gas stove
la cucina elettrica the electric stove
il forno the oven
In questa casa abbiamo una cucina a gas. In this house we have a gas stove.

February 2011
Betsy Mignani

 

Carnevale

Carnevale (Carnival) e' una festa allegra e divertente.  It is celebrated in the period leading up to martedì grasso (fat Tuesday).  The next day is of course mercoledì delle cenere (Ash Wednesday).

For Carnevale (Carnival) which is celebrated all over Italy but most famously in Venezia, you may want a maschera (mask) and a costume (a costume).  Some traditional figures are Arlecchino (Harlequin), with his suit of molti colori (many colors), Pulcinella, with the long camicia bianca (white shirt), and many figures from the Italian "Commedia dell'Arte."

In some cities, la gente (people) va per le strade e le piazze (go out in the streets and piazzas) divertendosi (having fun).   They throw coriandoli (confetti) and stelle filanti (streamers).

The classici dolci di Carnevale (traditional treats) are fried dough sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, named differently depending on what region you are in.  While chiacchiere is common they are also called grostoli, sfrappole, galani, frappe (in Rome), bugie, cenci, stracci, crostoli, rosacatarre, zonzelle, pampuglie, lattughe, lasagne.  Others, fritelli tondi (round fried balls), are called tortelli in Milano and central Italy, castagnole in Emilia Romagna and in Friuli Venezia Giulia, while in Venezia, frìtole.   How do you call them?   Buon appetito!


March 2011
Betsy Mignani

 

Quanto?

We saw a few months ago how to say quando (when).
Now let's look at quanto (how much).

Abbastanza - enough, sufficiently Ho dormito abbastanza ieri.
I slept enough yesterday.
Circa - about, approximately Sono circa le due.
It's about two o'clock.
Così - so Lei è così stanca
She is so tired.
Meno - less Il barbiere ha lavorato meno ieri.
The barber worked less yesterday.
Molto - quite, very, very much La ragazza canta molto bene.
The girl sings very well.
Più - more Parla più piano per favore.
Speak more slowly please.
Poco - little Mi piace poco fare le spese.
I don't like shopping very much. (I like it little).
Quasi - almost, nearly È quasi ora di andare a casa.
It's almost time to go home.
Solo - only Vorrei solo finire questo libro.
I only want to finish this book.
Troppo - too, too much Ho mangiato troppo.
I ate too much.

Molto, poco, solo and troppo are also used as adjectives and then the endings have to agree with the nouns they modify.

Ho letto pochi libri durante le feste.
  - I read few books during the holidays.

Ci sono molte macchine sulla strada.
  - There are many cars on the road.

C'è troppa maggiorana nella zuppa.
  - There's too much marjoram in the soup.


December 2010
Betsy Mignani

 

Al telefono - On the phone

Pronto (chi parla?) Hello (who is this?)
Buon giorno, sono Francesco. Good day, this is Francesco.
Vorrei parlare con Laura. I would like to speak to Laura.
Non c'è, è appena uscita. She's not here, she just left.
Vuole che le riferisco un messaggio? Would you like me to take a message?
Grazie, telefono più tardi. Thanks, I'll call later.
   
telefonare, fare una telefonata to call, make a call
fare un numero to dial a number
rispondere (al telefono) to answer (the phone)
suonare, squillare to ring
il cellulare, il telefonino the cell phone
riattaccare to hang up
   
Qual è il prefisso per Roma? What's the area code for Rome?
La linea è occupata. The line is busy.
La bolletta telefonica The telephone bill.
  
  
  

January 2011
Carlo Mignani

 

I Cinque Sensi e i Gusti

I SENSI

vista - sight verb - vedere Vedo l'albero.
udito -hearing verb - sentire Sento la musica.
tatto - touch verb - toccare Tocco la mano.
odorato - smell verb - sentire l'odore di Sento l'odore del fiore.
gusto - taste verb - sentire il sapore di Sento il sapore del gelato.

I SAPORI

dolce - sweet   Il sapore della pesca è dolce.
amaro - bitter   Il sapore dell'indivia è amaro.
salato - salty   il sapore delle acciughe è salato.
agro - sour   il sapore del limone è agro.
piccante - spicy   il sapore del peperoncino è piccante.

Nota:

l'indivia si mangia, meglio evitare l'invidia!
You eat endive, but better avoid envy!

September 2010
Carlo Mignani
 

Quando?

Dimmi quando, quando, quando ...

When you want to say when something happens, use these expressions ...........

 
Adesso now
Dopo later
Più tardi later
Prima before, earlier (also "first")
Poi then, after
Oggi today
Stamattina this morning (contraction of "questa mattina")
Stasera this evening (contraction of "questa sera")
  
Ieri yesterday
Ieri mattina yesterday morning
Ieri sera yesterday evening
Ieri notte yesterday night (last night)
  
Domani tomorrow
Domani mattina tomorrow morning
Domani sera tomorrow evening
  
A colazione at breakfast
A pranzo at lunch
A cena at supper, dinner
  
La settimana prossima next week
L'anno prossimo next year
  
La settimana scorsa last week
L'anno scorso last year

October 2010
Betsy Mignani

 

La Strada del Vino
(the wine road, exploring wine country)

Just about every Italian region has a varied and centuries-old tradizione vinicola (wine tradition).  In the strada del vino dell'Alto Adige (Alto Adige wine road) the Italian world intersects with the German-speaking world.

In Toscana (Tuscany), wine production dates from the tempo degli Etruschi (time of the Etruscans).  Here there are several different DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine paths.  La strada del vino della Maremma allows one to degustare i sapori (taste the flavors) and to appreciate the tradizioni locali (local traditions) and ancient historical reality of this region.

In Sicilia (Sicily) la strada del vino della Val di Noto comprises around 30 wineries among which the Nero d'Avola, Moscato and Moscato di Siracusa.  Le delizie vinicole (the wine delights) join with the bellezze naturali (natural beauties) and the testimonianze archeologiche (archeological evidence) in this area of southeast Sicily, once among the richest and most powerful parts of Magna Graecia

July 2010
Carlo Mignani
 

Some more useful idioms and definitions

colpa - blame, fault

  1. per colpa di - because of
  2. Non andiamo in ferie per colpa della crisi. We are not going on vacation because of the crisis.
  3. È colpa mia. It's my fault

colpo - blow, shot

  1. Ho sentito un colpo di pistola. I heard a pistol shot.
  2. Lui ha preso un colpo alla testa. He got a blow to his head.

di colpo - suddenly

  1. Di colpo mi sono ricordato che avevo un appuntamento. Suddenly I remembered I had an appointment.
  2. colpo di telefono - telephone call
    • Le ho fatto un colpo di telefono prima di venire. I called her before coming.
  3. a colpo d'occhio - at a glance
    • Ho visto l'errore a colpo d'occhio.  I saw the error at a glance.

ballo - dance

  1. essere in ballo - to be at stake
    • In questa iniziativa c'è in ballo il futuro della mia impresa.  In this undertaking the future of my company is at stake.
  2. tirare in ballo - to bring up something
    • Non tirare in ballo di nuovo quella questione.  Don't bring up that matter again.

entrare - come in, enter

  1. entrare in carica - enter office
    • Quando lei è entrata in carica ha fatto un sacco di promesse.  When she came into office she made a lot of promises.
  2. entrare in possesso - come into possession
    • Lucia è entrata in possesso della macchina nuova ieri. Lucia came into possession of the new car yesterday.
  3. entrare in vigore - to take effect (law)
    • La nuova legge e' entrata in vigore a luglio. The new law took effect in July.
August 2010
Carlo Mignani
 
 

Le Chiese

Sacred Christian buildings are all churches, but there are different names.  When traveling in Italy it may help you to know them.

Chiesa (church), besides indicating the community of the faithful, also means every edifice used for prayer and religious rites.

Basilica comes from the original buildings that were dedicated to justice or commerce in ancient times.  In Rome, the basiliche maggiori are the 4 principal churches: San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro and San Paolo fuori le Mura (outside the walls).  It is usually characterized by a central navata (nave), side aisles and a semicircular apse.

Cattedrale is the principal church of the diocese where is found the cattedra (chair) of the vescovo (bishop).

Duomo is the seat of the local church community's founders.  If it coincides with the bishop's seat it is a "Duomo cattedrale."  The best known are the Duomo di Firenze and the Duomo di Milano.

Battistero is a building, annexed to a church, specifically for baptisms.  An example is the famous Battistero di San Giovanni next to the Duomo in Florence.

Monastero (monastery) is a microcosm of buildings, scuole (schools), orti (orchards), and biblioteche (libraries) where a community of monaci (monks) or monache (nuns) lives.

Abbazia (abbey) is a group of buildings headed by an abate (abbot), independent from the local bishop's jurisdiction.  In the Middle Ages, they were subjects of kings, now the Pope nominates them.

Parrocchia (parish church) is the church of a local community which has a priest assigned by a bishop.

March 2010
Betsy Mignani
 

Caravaggio, the tormented artist

Quando non c'è energia, non c'è colore, non c'è forma, non c'è vita.    ...... Caravaggio
When there is no energy, there is no color, there is no form, there is no life.

Born in Milan in 1571, died in 1610, active in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily, he is one of the most celebrati pittori nel mondo (celebrated painters in the world) together with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Velasquez and Rembrandt.  For his carattere aggressivo (mercurial character) he was responsible for many crimes, including assaults, percosse (beatings), ferite (woundings), possession of illegal arms and finally omicidio (murder).  His potenti amici (powerful friends) could not protect him anymore and he had to fuggire da (flee) Rome.

Always known by the art experts, he was ignored by the grosso pubblico (public at large) until a very successful esibizione (exhibition) in the early 1950's in Milan.

The importance of Caravaggio consists in dipingere (depicting) real, common people, down to the last wrinkle, in contrast to the idealized prevailing Mannerism of the time. Caravaggio è il primo artista moderno (is the first modern artist).

Now 400 years dopo la sua morte (after his death) capiamo e apprezziamo (we understand and appreciate) him because parla la nostra lingua (he speaks our language), depicts our own obsessions about sex, death, the yearning for independence and freedom, the corruption of power, the decay of the flesh.

Una mostra (an exhibit) is now being held at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome to celebrate the 400 years since his death, with quadri (paintings) from the più importanti musei del mondo (most important museums of the world).

May 2010
Carlo Mignani
 
 

 Che tempo fa?

(What's the weather?)


Fa freddo.   It's cold.
Fa caldo.   It's hot.
Fa bel tempo.   It's nice weather.
È nuvoloso.   It's cloudy.

C'è vento. 

 There's wind.
C'è nebbia.   There is fog.

Nevica. 

 It's snowing.
Ha nevicato il 19 dicembre.   

C'è pioggia. 

 There is rain.
Piove spesso a primavera.   It rains often in spring.

C'è una tempesta. 

 There is a storm.
Era una notte buia e tempestosa.   It was a dark and stormy night.

C'è umidità. 

 It's humid.
È umido a Washington durante l'estate.   It's humid in Washington in summer.

È gelato. 

 It's freezing. (yes, it's the same word, only here it's an adjective)
Non mangio gelato quando è gelato.   I don't eat ice cream when it's freezing.

January 2010
Carlo Mignani
 

Idioms


a voce - in person
Preferisco parlartene a voce.

I prefer talking to you about it in person.

avere voce in capitolo - to have a say in the matter
Non fidarti delle sue promesse; non ha nessun voce in capitolo.
Don't believe his promises; he has no say in the matter.

chiedere a gran voce - to ask all together
Hanno chiesto a gran voce di aggiornare la seduta.
They all asked together to adjourn the meeting.

correre voce - to be rumored 
Corre voce che tu sia per sposarti.
It's rumored that you are about to be married.

fare la voce grossa - to act tough
Fa la voce grossa ma non è arrabiato sul serio.
He acts tough but he's not really angry.

sottovoce - in a low voice
Parliamo sottovoce perché la mamma sta dormendo.
Let's talk in a low voice because mother is sleeping.

spargere la voce - to spread the rumor
Hanno sparso la voce che stava per essere arrestato.
They spread the rumor that he was about to be arrested.

February 2010
Carlo Mignani
 
 

When the runways (le piste) were made of water (acqua)

The first civil aviation flights (voli civili) were inaugurated in Italy in 1926 along the route (lungo la rotta) Trieste - Torino, in northern Italy.

Its characteristic was that no airport was involved; in fact the flight did not take place on airplanes, but on seaplanes (idrovolanti).  The line was not direct, stopping (fermandosi) at Pavia, and Venezia and utilizing the rivers (utilizzando i fiumi) Po and Ticino.

The fascist regime (il regime fascista) was in favor of this type of transportation (tipo di trasporto) and tried to extend it to the rest of Italy (estenderlo al resto dell'Italia).  The main advantage was the maintenance cost (il costo di manutenzione), much lower than traditional airports (molto più basso di un aeroporto tradizionale).  The technological developments after WWII (lo sviluppo tecnologico dopo la Seconda Guerra Mondiale) and the need to accommodate an ever-increasing number of people (un numero sempre maggiore di gente) made this form of transportation obsolete (ha reso questa forma di trasporto obsoleta).

Today the only active seadrome (l'unico idroscalo attivo) in Italy is at Como.

November 2009
Carlo Mignani
 

HOLIDAY CARD GAMES
(Giochi con le carte per le feste)

The traditional card games (giochi con le carte) of Briscola, Tressette, Scopa, etc. and those played during the Christmas holidays (le feste di Natale) all over Italy are two different things.  To play Briscola, Tressette or Scopa, you must have 2 or 4 players (giocatori).  These games are rather serious (piuttosto seri); there is not much variation (variazione) and traditionally are played only by men who, in a more or less dogged style, ( stile accanito) can play them for many hours.  In today's Italy they are often considered old fashioned.

The traditional card games of the Christmas holidays such as Sette e Mezzo, Bestia, Mercante in Fiera, Tombola etc., are more varied ( hanno una maggiore varietà) and everybody, men, women and kids (uomini, donne e ragazzi) can play them and have fun.  Often one bets money (scommette soldi) in moderation, and the outcome is immediate.  They are not traditionally dominated by men and you do not have to have 2 or 4 people to play them.  That means they are more appropriate ( appropriati) during the holidays when one plays with family and friends, when the number of people is not easily predictable and can even change by the minute.  In these games, a gathering ( una tavolata) of 5 to 9 people is ideal.

Recently a new card game is spreading across the peninsula "Buracco".  Do you know how to play it?

December 2009
Carlo Mignani
 
 

Italian Regions - the North West

The north west of Italy includes the Valle d'Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardia and Liguria regions. It features very distinct natural panoramas.  The mountains (le montagne) of the Alpi that reach 4800 meters (over 15700 feet), the plain (la pianura) in the valley of the Po, and the undulating and hilly coast (la costa) that meets the Mediterranean.

It is an area rich with history.  During the Middle Ages (Medioevo) it was the center of ferment of towns such as Legnano, toward independence (indipendenza) from the emperor (imperatore).  The renaissance saw the development of the Signorie, or small independent states like the Gran Ducato of the Sforza in Milan.  Here industry grew for the first time in Italy at the end of the 1800's (Ottocento) and gave rise to the "miracolo italiano" after WWII, especially in the industrial triangle (triangolo industriale) of Milano - Torino - Genova.

Torino was the capital of the Regno di Savoia, from which came the push for the unification of Italy.  Torino was the first capital of Italy and, with the Fiat, the capital of the automobile.  Today with the world crisis (crisi) of the automobile, the Piemonte region is evolving in a post industrial sense with "slow food."

Lombardia continues to be the region with the chief industrial production (produzione industriale) of Italy and one of the greatest in Europe.  Milano has transformed into the main Italian financial and commercial (finanziaria e commerciale) city.

Liguria with the port of Genova has been the traditional "door" (porta) to Milano and Torino, exporting (esportando) products to the rest of the world.  After a period of crisis, Genova has recovered with the business of importing (importando) from Asia, Africa and South America toward Italy and Europe.

August 2009
Carlo Mignani

 

Andiamo alla spiaggia!

Italy is surrounded by il mare (the sea) so Italians love to go to la spiaggia (the beach).  Pack your bag with your asciugamano (towel), costume da bagno (swimsuit), la crema solare (sunscreen), i sandali (sandals) and gli occhiali da sole (sunglasses).  Don't forget to bring una sdraio (beach chair) and un ombrellone (beach umbrella).  Find a place on the beach, get comfortable and relax.  Make a castello di sabbia (sand castle) and watch as the onde (waves) carry it back out to sea.  Top off the day with a nice dinner of pesce (fish) or frutti di mare (crustaceans) at one of the beachside ristoranti (restaurants).  Buon divertimento!

September 2009
Betsy Mignani
 
 

FALSE FRIENDS

Many Italian words look like English words and have similar meanings.  Technically called "cognates," this is true especially where the English and Italian share a root from Latin.

For example, dizionario is dictionary, museo is museum, stazione, station, studiare, to study, etc.

The appearance can trip you up when the meanings are quite different.  Some examples:

camera - room, not a photographic tool (macchina fotografica)

libreria - bookstore, not a library (biblioteca)

magazzino - warehouse, not magazine (rivista)

parente - relative in general, not Mom and Pop (genitori)

confrontare - to compare, not to confront (affrontare)

tastare - to touch, not to taste (assaggiare)

argomento - topic, not argument (disputa)

fabbrica - factory, not fabric (tessuto)

sale - salt, not a sale. (vendita, svendita, saldo)

These are called "false friends" or falsi amici.

As the expression goes, "Fidarsi è buono, non fidarsi è meglio." (To trust is good, to be skeptical is better!)

June 2009
Betsy Mignani
 

Cani Randagi (Wild Dogs)

In Italy there are about one million wild dogs, (cani randagi) abandoned by man, that survive in the wilderness, form packs (branchi), breed with wolves (lupi) and are a menace (minaccia) to man.

They are concentrated especially in the central and southern Apennines where the Italians did not find it convenient to cultivate the land anymore.  In these hills and mountains, wild game multiplied, man fell back to a more fertile altitude and the wild dogs flourished.

In the 70's about 100,000 cani randagi a year were killed (mostly shot by farmers (contadini)).  Today the law prohibits eliminating (l'eliminazione) randagi, so they multiply and generation after generation (generazione) they become wilder.

Especially worrisome is the crossbreeding of randagi and lupi for the conservation of the purity of the wolf, recently reintroduced in several areas in Italy, but also for the danger that they can pose to weekenders and travelers.  You see what appears to be a pack of dogs, but they could have all the characteristics and the DNA of wolves.

While the pounds (canili comunali) cannot hold all these dogs, the problem persists since the campaign of sterilization (sterilizzazione) and education (educazione), convincing dog owners (padroni) not to abandon their dogs, takes time.

July 2009
Carlo Mignani
 
 

The Ides of March and the Roman calendar

The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martiae) is the name of the date 15 March in the Roman calendar. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months. In Roman times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was assassinated, in 44 BC.

The ides is thought to have originally been the day of the full moon. The Romans considered this an auspicious day in their calendar. The word ides comes from idus, Latin, meaning "half division" (of a month). Other designations were kalends, or the first day of the month, thought to have been the day of the new moon, and nones, for the half moon, occurring on the 5th or 7th day of the month.

Originally the calendar began with March, named for the god of war, Mars. Counting forward from there, September was the seventh month (septem = 7), October was the eighth (octo = 8), and so on. But as there were only 10 months, the days ran out before the year was over, so in 712 BC January and February were added to the end of the calendar, filling in the winter when there was no work in the fields. Since this still only came to 355 days, Julius Caesar, on the advice of the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, set about rectifying the discrepancy. In 45 BC the new calendar came into force with 12 months and a leap day every 4 years in February. This was called the Julian calendar and was used for centuries. After Caesar's death Quinctilis, which had been the fifth month, was renamed Julius and later Sextilis renamed Augustus in honor of Augustus.

A minor change by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 removed February 29 from years ending in hundreds, except when divisible by 400; this is the Gregorian calendar still in use today.

March 2009
Betsy Mignani

 

ITALIAN EXPRESSIONS

Many picturesque Italian expressions use the word "occhio" which means "eye".

a occhio - approximately, by eye

  • Ho misurato lo spazio a occhio.
    I measured the space by eye.

a perdita d'occhio - as far as the eye can see.

  • Il panorama si estendeva a perdita d'occhio
    The view stretched as far as the eye can see.

a quattr'occhi - privately (at four eyes)

  • Vorrei parlare con lui a quattr'occhi riguardo a quel problema.
    I would like to talk with him privately about that problem.

a vista d'occhio - before one's very eyes (very fast)

  • Il ragazzo è cresciuto a vista d'occhio.
    The boy grew right before my eyes.

ad occhi chiusi - with one's eyes closed, very easily

  • Lei può risolvere i cruciverba ad occhi chiusi.
    She can do crossword puzzles with her eyes closed.

chiudere un occhio - turn a blind eye, close an eye

  • Questa volta il vigile ha chiuso un occhio e non ti ha dato una multa.
    This time the policeman turned a blind eye and didn't give you a ticket.

costare un occhio della testa - to cost a fortune (cost an eye of the head)

  • Quella villa è costata un occhio della testa.
    That house cost a fortune.

April 2009
Carlo Mignani

 

Colorful Expressions

Italians use many colorful expressions. Here are some examples.

Quattro gatti - only a few people (literally four cats)

  • Doveva essere una riunione importante, ma c'erano solo quattro gatti.
    It should have been an important meeting by there were only a few people.
  • Il Canada è un paese grande, ma ci abitano quattro gatti.
    Canada is a large country, but few people live there.

Farsi in Quattro - To knock oneself out (literally to make oneself four), etc.

  • Si è fatta in quattro per aiutarti.
    She knocked herself out to help you.

In bocca al lupo - Good luck (in the mouth of the wolf)

  • In bocca al lupo per l'esame domani.
    Good luck on your test tomorrow.

Che macello! - What a mess! (macello = slaughter house)

Non avere peli sulla lingua - not to mince words (to not have hair on the tongue).

  • Non ha peli sulla lingua e dice sempre quello ch pensa.
    He does not mince words and he always says what he thinks.

Pappa e ciccia - hand in glove, in agreement (mush and meat)

  • Lui e il suo compagno di banco sono pappa e ciccia.
    He and his schoolmate are hand in glove.

Ogni morte di Papa - very rarely (each death of a Pope)

  • Vai a trovare tua zia? Si' ogni morte di papa.
    Do you go to visit your aunt?  Yes, rarely.

A quattro occhi - privately (at four eyes)

  • Non dirgli niente, vorrei prima parlarne con lui a quattro occhi.
    Don't tell him anything, I want to talk to him about it privately.

January 2009
Carlo Mignani

 

Amore

When we say: "I love tennis. I love my wife. I love my parents. I love pasta", do we mean the same thing?

The word "love" in English is overused, but in Italian you have to be more specific.

The word amore (love) is mainly used for passion and infatuation, being "in love", or the expression of romantic love in literature, melodramas, etc.

Lui era il suo primo amore.  He was her first love.

Si sono amati appassionatamente per due anni.
They loved each other passionately for two years.

I due fidanzati sono proprio innamorati.
The two fiances are really in love.

Affection for someone is best expressed with "volere bene"
Si sono voluti bene per 60 anni, poi lui è morto.
They loved each other for 60 years, then he died.
Certo che voglio bene a mia madre.
Of course I love my mother.

Affection for a thing, however is piacere or adorare.
Mi piace il tennis.  I love tennis.
Adoro i quadri di Van Gogh.  I love Van Gogh's paintings.

But affetto is also used.
Il suo affetto per i bambini l'ha portata a fare la maestra.
Her love of children led her to be a teacher.

A strong liking for something is a passione or andare matto per qualcosa
La sua passione per golf era evidente a tutti.
His love of golf was evident to everyone.
Vado matto per il cioccolato. I love chocolate.

Even though tennis was a gentleman's game, love is translated as zero!
Il punteggio era trenta a zero.
The score was thirty love.

Never finish a letter with the word love, use instead Forti abbracci e bacioni.

February 2009
Carlo Mignani
 

Nomi Italiani

Each of us has a name and a surname, but in other times and countries there were different customs.  For example the Romans used three names, such as Marcus Tullius Cicero or Gaius Julius Caesar.  The first was the prænomen of which only about 30 were used, the second, the nomen, or gens, was the family name originally derived from their tribe.  The third, the cognomen, indicated the branch of the family.  In Italian the first name is called nome and the last name is cognome.

In Italy, most first names have their origin in Latin, German or the Bible.

Alberto German adal-berth = shining noble
Anna Hebrew grace, favor
Carlo German karl = strong man
Claudio Latin claudus = lame
Emanuele Hebrew immanu-El = God is with us
Filippo Greek phillippos = lover of horses
Francesca Latin from France
Franco German free man
Giorgio Greek gheorgòs = farmer
Giovanni Hebrew Jeho-hanan = God is gracious
Giulio Latin down-bearded youth
Giuseppe Hebrew yosef = God will increase
Guido German wido = man of the forest
Marco Latin from the god Mars
Paolo Latin small, humble
Patrizia Latin patrician
Pietro Greek stone
Roberto German hrod-beraht = bright fame
Rosa Latin rose
Silvia Latin wooded, forest

November 2008
Carlo Mignani
 

Cognomi Italiani (Last Names)

Can you imagine calling a majestic figure like Giuseppe Verdi, Mr. Green?  Many Italian last names are quite colorful.  Gambarotta is "broken leg," Battipaglia "beat the hay", Tagliabue, the ex-baseball commissioner literally means "cut the steer".  Going through the list of names of our club I could not miss Ammazzalorso or "kill the bear". Where are our last names coming from?

Many indicate paternity: Di Martino, De Francesco, De Carlo, etc. (di=of)

Others a geographic origin: Di Napoli, Taormina, Trevisan, Milanesi, etc.

An occupation: Fabbri (smith), Sartori (tailors), Mercanti (merchants), Calzolari (shoemaker), Pastori (shepherds), etc.

Color: Rossi (reds), Bianchi (whites), Verdi (green), etc.

Some indicate a place: Montagna (mountain), Rivera, Valli (valley), Villa etc.

Other animals: Cavalli (horses), Gatti (cats), Leone (lion), Galli (cocks), etc.

Physical conditions: Longo (long), Piccini (small), Grossi (big), Zoppi (lame)

Last names can became names of everyday usage: cicerone, the guide that illustrates the monuments in a city or in a museum comes from the famous Roman orator Cicero; Lancia, Romeo, from the names of industrialists that built those cars; voltaggio, (volt) measure of electricity from the last name of the physicist Alessandro Volta.

Can you imagine going through high school with a last name like Bocchino, probably originally to mean small mouth, but now slang for a sexual act?!

December 2008
Carlo Mignani
 

Shopping

On a trip to Italy, it may occur to you to buy something!  If you are hungry, but not hungry enough for a  ristorante  or  trattoria,  you could go to a  tavola calda  (hot food bar).  Then pick up some  paste  (pastries) or  biscotti  (cookies) at a  pasticceria  (pastry shop) or some  frutta  (fruit) at a  fruttivendolo  (produce market),  un panino  (a sandwich) at a bar,  pane  (bread) or  pizza al taglio  (slices) at a  panificio  or  forno,  or general items at an  alimentari  (grocery store).

After eating, you are ready for some serious shopping.  Look for  vestiti  (clothes) at a  negozio di abbigliamento   (apparel store), some  scarpe  (shoes),  calze  (socks, stockings) or a  cinta  (belt) where you see  calzature  (shoes), or a  borsetta  (handbag) at a  pelleteria  (leather store).  For something special like  orecchini  (earrings),  una spilla   (a pin) or  una collana  (a necklace), head to a  gioelleria  (jewelry store).

In Rome, the  negozi di marca   (brand name stores) are clustered around Piazza di Spagna, but the  prezzi sono alti  (prices are high).   Prezzi medi  (moderate prices) can be found on Via Nazionale and  prezzi bassi  (low prices) or  sconti   (discounts) favor the area around Largo Argentina.

August 2008
Betsy Mignani
 

De Gustibus

In Italy during the '50s, la gente  (people) and le notizie  (news) did not travel much among regioni  (regions).  I was 10 years old when, from Rome, we went for the first time to visit my father's relatives in the seashore town of Rapallo in Liguria.

Una tavolata  (dinner party) and di parenti  (of relatives) eating "pasta al pesto":

Who are these strange people that speak with a funny accento  (accent) and use parole  (words) that sometimes I can't even understand? I should call them zii  (uncles) and cugini  (cousins), but they put green stuff on their pasta.  Yuk!  I remember that I made such a fuss that they had to cook a new batch of pasta with my regular beloved red sauce.

Growing up, I learned to love seppie  (cuttlefish), calamari  (squid), trippa  (tripe) and especially the traditional Roman pajata  (the calf intestine whose last meal was hopefully milk).  After I married Betsy, initially I felt personally offended when she would not go near the pajata, no matter how much I tried.  But I could never stomach le lumache  (snails) that during the Festa di San Giovanni were on sale like popcorn.

And so, some people like la spiaggia  (beach), others le montagne  (the mountains), some are pazzi per calcio  (crazy for soccer) while others collect francobolli  (stamps), and some never stop speaking about their passion like it's the only thing.

Our ancestors devised a Latin phrase De gustibus non disputandum est  (of tastes there is no arguing).  If you just mention de gustibus, most people understand immediately that maybe it is better to change the subject.

May 2008
Carlo Mignani
 

Ristrutturare
(remodeling)

After the massive migrations to the cities of the 50's and 60's, nowadays the Italians want to go back to the country: they want " una casa per le vacanze " (a vacation home).

Since the real estate prices have been soaring also in the countryside, the word in fashion today is " da ristrutturare " (to remodel): "comprare una casa da ristrutturare " (to buy a home to remodel).  The work could include " il sistema elettrico " (the electrical system) and " l'impianto di riscaldamento e raffreddamento " (the heating and cooling system) and " i bagni " (the bathrooms), but it could extend to " i pavimenti " (the floors) or even " il tetto " (the roof), etc.

" Un casolare " (farmhouse), " casetta o appartamento " with work to be done is less expensive, can be owned immediately and can be " ristrutturato con comodo " (remodeled at leisure).

April 2008
Carlo Mignani
 

Gelato

One of the greatest pleasures of a trip to Italy is eating gelato .  In many places you pay the cashier first and take the scontrino (receipt) to the bancone (counter), usually with a small mancia  (tip - 20 cents or so).  You ask, "Per favore,  (please) vorrei (I would like) un gelato. "  Or you could, using the formal style say "Mi dia uno piccolo"  (May I have a small one?).  You may want a cono  (cone) or a coppetta  (dish).

The barista  (barman) may ask "Quale sapore?"  (What flavor?)  You will note that most locals ask for two flavors together.  So you say "cioccolato e vaniglia " (chocolate and vanilla).  But don't stop there.  Why not cocco  (coconut), limone  (lemon), caffé  (coffee), fragola  (strawberry), melone  (melon), stracciatella  (a sort of chocolate chip), zabaglione  (egg custard with a hint of port) or tiramisu .  Very popular are nocciola  (hazelnut) and bacio  (chocolate hazelnut).  It will take you many tries to eat them all but you are in luck, Italy is full of gelaterie  (ice cream shops)!

June 2008
Betsy Mignani
 

San Marino's Life Expectancy

What would you do to add 5 years to your life? How much money would you spend if you could buy those five years? $100,000, $1,000,000, all you have?

Boys born in San Marino, a tiny independent state nestled in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, are expected to live to age 80, the world's longest male life expectancy at birth, according to the World Health Organization.  Newborn boys in the US have a 75 year life expectancy, at 33rd place, tied with Cuba.  Life expectancy is correlated mostly to diet but also to health.  In Europe, health insurance has been considered an individual right for more than half a century and is offered to all its citizens.

The healthy Mediterranean diet, however, could not simply explain most of the difference.  The Emilia Romagna region, known for its gastronomic delights, is the home of tortellini, Parmigiano Reggiano, ravioli, mortadella, prosciutto, ragù alla bolognese, zampone, and many local kinds of cured meats (salumi).

During Roman times, it was intersected by the Via Emilia, the most famous consular Road in Northern Italy.  More recently, Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini were 2 of its most famous sons.  In the 1500's, the Marchesi Pallavicino were sending the famous salame, "culatello", as a gift for the weddings of the famous and powerful instead of jewelry.  This treat has a pear shape and a delicate and sweet taste.  It cannot be mass produced like salami and prosciutto.  It is still handmade by a few families that transmit its secrets through the generations.

Parma is home of the Parmigiano Reggiano, already cited in the 1300's in the Decameron of Boccaccio.  The tagliatelle were invented in 1487 during the Bologna wedding of Lucrezia d'Este with Annibale Bentivoglio, the duke of Ferrara, by mastro Zafirano who took inspiration from the blond hair of the charming bride.  The invention of tortellini is said to be inspired by the sudden vision of a naked Venus.  The cook wanted to reproduce, with pasta, her belly button.  Food and sensuality mix harmoniously in the way of life of the region.

Mortadella has been produced in Bologna since the Middle Ages.  The Zampone, invented 2 centuries ago, is made of pork, ground rinds and spices.  Many more salumi are produced locally in small towns.

I have a personal interest in the story.  Both of my grandfathers were born within a 50 mile radius of San Marino and both died early of heart attacks.  Being of mature age, I am particularly interested in knowing what the inhabitants of San Marino are doing to deserve the primacy in longevity.

How have they managed to live longer than anybody else?  Maybe the wine? Could it be the daily exercise of walking up and down the hills of this tiny but steep town?  We do not know yet, so stay tuned.

September 2008
Carlo Mignani
 

Magari

Magari is an expression much used in Italian.   Magari comes from the Greek and means "  o beato " (Oh, blessed). It's used in different ways.

First, as an interjection, used to express   speranza  (hope) or    desiderio  (desire).

For example:     Hai vinto la lotteria? Magari!  (Did you win the lottery? I wish!).   Ti piacerebbe venire al mare? Magari!  (Would you like to come to the beach?  If only I could!)

Or, second, as an adverb of doubt;   forse  (maybe)

 Magari domani piove, ma è meglio innaffiare il giardino . (Maybe tomorrow it will rain, but it's better to water the garden.)

 Magari non viene all'appuntamento, aspetterò solo altri 5 minuti.   (Maybe he's not coming to the appointment, I'll wait only 5 more minutes.)

Lastly, as a conjunction, anche a costo di  (even if).

 Verrò anch'io a pescare con voi, dovessi magari partire all'alba.   (I'll come fishing with you even if I have to leave at dawn.)

July 2008
Carlo Mignani