SPEAK LIKE AN ITALIAN

How Many Italian Christmas Songs Do You Recognize?

Are you ready for the holidays yet? We’ve had so much fun preparing for the festivities right along with you – we’ve taken you on a tour of some of the best European-style Christmas markets in the U.S., we’ve cooked up a holiday meal, and we’ve shared how to celebrate the holidays like an Italian.

In the whirlwind of shopping, cooking, and wrapping, sometimes it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the holidays. So this week, we’re encouraging you to sit down, relax, and enjoy the company of those around you.22

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In Italy, relaxation time often involves music (and wine, of course!), so this week we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Italian Christmas songs to accompany your holiday parties. Take a listen and sing along! (more…)


Speak Like an Italian: 3 Italian Phrases You Should Know

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If you’re planning on visiting Italy anytime soon, you might be worried about the language barrier.  Learning Italian can take some time, and is sometimes easier said than done.

While Rome wasn’t built in a day, there are some easy phrases that will help you communicate in Italy and sound like a natural in front of the locals. Whether you grew up listening to Nonna and Papa’s fluent Italian, you’re trying to remember what you learned in high school, or you’ve never heard a lick of Italian in your life, these four quick tips will provide a boost of confidence when you’re not sure what to say to your new Italian friends!

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Speak like an Italian: words we borrow from Italy

dolce vita fellini movieItalian phrases: That’s a poster from Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic film, left, “La Dolce Vita” (which means literally “sweet life”), gave the English language not one but two popular expressions.

Italian has given the English-speaking world so many wonderful words and phrases. Here are a few of them and their origins.

paparazzi

This word was coined by Italian director Federico Fellini for his 1960 film La dolce vita. One of the photographers that follows the main characters around Rome is named Paparazzi. (more…)


How do you say ‘have a good weekend’ in Italian?

Here’s a list of simple Italian sayings that can really come in handy, especially when you’re trying to say have a great weekend!

Work/Study

Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.

Senses

Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.

Travel/Recreation

Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.

Health/Rest

Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].

Greetings/Salutation

Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.

Which ones are we missing? Please feel free to add others in the comment section…


Italy has a new prime minister

italian prime minister

Image via Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s blog.

From Wikipedia:

Letta received from the president Giorgio Napolitano on 24 April 2013 the task of forming a new government, after weeks of deadlock following the 2013 general election. On 27 April 2013, Letta formally accepted the task of heading a new grand coalition government (with support from his party, right-wing People of Freedom and the centrist Civic Choice) and presented the list of members of his cabinet.

The third youngest Italian to become head of state, Letta became Italy’s first prime minister to appoint an African Italian to a government post when he made Cécile Kyenge his minister of Integration.

Click here for New York Times coverage of Italy’s new government.


Pepperoni pizza: avoiding a false cognate in Italy

peperoni pizza italy

We’ve written about “false cognates” (also known as “false friend”) here before.

One of the most common false cognates — words or expressions that have often comically different meanings in Italian and English — is pepperoni pizza.

If you order a pep[p]eroni pizza in Italy, the pizzaiolo will make you a pizza topped with bell peppers (peperoni in Italian).

If you want a pizza like the one above (akin to the American pepperoni, made with salty and sometimes spicy dried sausage, thinly sliced), you need to order a pizza alla diavola, a devil’s style pizza, a name owed to the fact that spicier sausage is generally used in Italy for this type of pizza.


Ciao, one of the Venetians’ greatest gifts to the world

Ciao… It’s a word that you hear nearly every day. Whether Italy, France, Germany, England, or the U.S.

It’s one of those words — a popular salutation — that has become a thread in the fabric of our lives. From teenagers to their grandparents, from celebrities to Joe the Plumber, from New York to Los Angeles and every neighborhood in between, even if you don’t use the word, you know what it means…

In English ciao is used exclusively as a salutation when saying good-bye.

In Italian, it’s used as both a greeting and a farewell. And when saying good-bye, Italians will often say it twice: ciao ciao

The word comes from sixteenth-century Venetian dialect, ciao from the Latin sclavus meaning slave.

It was commonly used at the court of Venice (at the height of the Most Serene Republic of Venice) to express respect as in the saying, “I am your humble servant.”

In English it’s commonly pronounced similarly to the word chow (/ˈtʃaʊ/).

In Italian, the oh in the (letter) o is more prominent (ˈtʃaːo).

The Venetians, who have a five- as opposed to seven-vowel system (like that in Italian), emphasize all the vowels: chee-ah-oh.

Such a small word but such a great legacy. All stretching back to a form of courtesy in Renaissance Venice.


Ordering a coffee in Italy

Above: A classic caffè macchiato (not cappuccino).

In Italian, an espresso is called simply caffè or caffè espresso

A caffè can be served ristretto or corto (REE-streh-toh or COHR-toh), i.e., with less water, more flavor and aroma, and less caffeine.

It can also be served lungo, with more water, less flavor and aroma, and more caffeine.

A caffè can be macchiato (MAH-kee-AH-toh), literally “spotted” with a dash of steamed milk.

It can also be corretto (cohr-REHT-toh) or spiked with a distillate, often grappa but also brandy (fruit distillate).

And a caffè can also be served liscio (LEE-shoh), without the addition of anything. (In the morning, you’ll often hear the barista ask her/his patrons if they’d like their espresso liscio or macchiato (MAH-kee-AH-toh) since many people drink their coffee macchiato in the morning.

We’ll devote another post to the art of the cappuccino. But in the meantime, please remember: Italians never drink cappuccino after 11 a.m.! Live like an Italian: drink your cappuccino only in the morning (there’s a reason for this).


Mamma mia! Italian sayings…

Now that we’ve started some useful Italian lessons, let’s move on!

Italians are known for gesticulating emphatically while speaking. Here are our favorite Italian expressions that are just begging for the accompanying hand gestures.

1. Mamma mia! This means literally, my mother, but it is definitely a term that can express everything from exasperation to wonder. Your kid didn’t clean his room…again? Mamma mia!! The garbage stinks to high heaven? Mamma mia!! That Spaghetti alle Vongole just made you have a foodgasm? Mamma mia!!

Get it?

2. Basta! This means enough. You can say this (politely, followed by grazie) when an Italian mother has shoved a second heaping serving of spaghetti your way. You can also yell it when you just can’t take anymore of whatever you’ve had enough of (attitude, food, tickles, or inane conversation).

3. Uffa! There’s no translation for this, but it is yet another way to express that you are highly annoyed. The trains are on strike AGAIN? Uffa! Your feet hurt from walking around Rome in those new shoes you bought? Uffa! Flight delays? UFFFFAAAAA!!!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, stay tuned for more Italian lessons!

Image via ArtTrav.


Speak Like an Italian: (Avoiding) False Cognates

Above: In Italian a “camera” is a bed room. A “macchina fotografica” is a camera. Confused?

We want you to be able to speak like an Italian, but we must warn you that there are some pretty easy ways to stick your foot in your mouth if you’re not careful.

Today’s Italian lesson is on false cognates, or “false friends.”

Cognates are words that basically sound the same in both languages in question. For example, there’s intelligente (intelligent) and farmacia (you guessed it, pharmacy). But don’t get caught asking for pepperoni on your pizza if what you want is cured sausage because what you’ll end up with is bell peppers. This is why it’s called a false cognate.

We don’t want you to get caught in a sticky situation where either hilarity or calamity can ensue, so here’s our top ten list of false friends:

1. Sensibile: it means sensitive, not sensible.

2. Baldo: courageous (You can describe to the local authorities that the taxi driver who ripped you off is baldo, but you won’t be referring to his head.)

3. Collegio: boarding school or dormitory (Explaining your educational background might make your new Italian friends think that you are very rich.)

4. Morbido: soft (Your little brother’s obsession with horror movies is… soft? I don’t understand!)

5. Genitori: This means parents. Get your mind out of the gutter.

6. Fabbrica: factory (Farm is fattoria and fabric is tessuto. Confused yet?)

7. Camera: room (Want to take a picture with your… room? Instead, make sure and ask for the macchina fotografica.)

8. Romanzo: novel (No, you do not want to have a great novel on your vacation, you want a storia d’amore.)

9. Educato: polite (Telling someone that their children are so educated when you mean polite is not an insult, but it may be confusing when referring to a toddler.)


Guest post: A Kiss at Midnight by Brenda Hoops Rouse

Love like an Italian…

Another New Year’s Eve in Baltimore alone was not an option. It was time for a change, and before I knew it I had booked a trip to Genoa for a week. If all went according to plan I would arrive in time for dinner and fireworks. I had been to Italy before, and both times, I saw it through the eyes of the man I was traveling with. This time, I would see Italy through my eyes.

I had seen Italy (Rome, Florence and Carrara) through the eyes of my artist lover back in the 80’s. I had seen Italy (Bordighera, Italian Riviera, and Alba) through the eyes of my future husband in 1992.

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Guest Blogger: Do Bianchi on Italian sayings

We’ve invited Italian culture maven Do Bianchi to contribute here occasionally here at Live Like an Italian. After all, he’s been living like an Italian for nearly twenty years! 😉

For my first post here, I thought it might be fun to offer up a simple list of Italian expressions. They are all what we call in linguistics optatives, a “mood” (as you say in Latin grammar) that expresses a desire that something be achieved, as in the case of buona giornata or have a nice day… Buona lettura! (Enjoy reading them!)

Work/Study

Buon lavoro = may your work be fruitful.
Buona lettura = enjoy your reading.
Buona lezione = may the lecture/class be fruitful.
Buon seminario = may the seminar/class be fruitful.
Buono studio = may your study be fruitful.

Senses

Buon appetito = enjoy your food.
Buon ascolto = enjoy the music [listening].
Buona degustazione = enjoy the tasting.
Buona spaghettata = enjoy your spaghetti [pasta].
Buona visione = enjoy the movie.

Travel/Recreation

Buona continuazione = enjoy the rest of your day/activity.
Buona domenica = enjoy your day of rest [the day of the Lord].
Buone feste = happy holidays.
Buon fine settimana [buon weekend] = have a great weekend.
Buona permanenza = enjoy your stay.
Buon proseguimento = enjoy the rest of your stay/activity.
Buone vacanze = enjoy your vacation.
Buon viaggio = have a safe trip.
Buon volo = have a safe flight.
Buon weekend [buon fine settimana] = have a great weekend.

Health/Rest

Buona guarigione = I wish you a speedy recovery.
Buon riposo = sleep well [get well soon].

Greetings/Salutation

Buona giornata = have a great day.
Buon giorno = good day [greetings].
Buona notte = good night [good-bye].
Buon pomeriggio = good afternoon [greetings].
Buona sera = good evening [greetings].
Buona serata = have a great evening.

Which ones are we missing? Please feel free to add others in the comment section…

—Do Bianchi


Ciao vs. Buon Giorno

The famous “Ciao” moped was produced by Piaggio from 1967-2006.

Everyone knows the Italian word ciao: it’s become part of the cultural fabric of every English-speaking country.

What a lot of people don’t know is that ciao is used in Italy as both a greeting — as in hello — and a farewell — as in good-bye.

Although the expression is now considered standard Italian, it is Venetian in origin. It means literally slave or servant (from the Latin sclavus) and it was commonly used by courtiers in the sixteenth-century in greeting or saying farewell: [I am your humble] servant.

Another way that ciao is commonly mis- and re-interpreted in English-speaking countries is that in Italy, ciao is used strictly in informal settings. Outside of Italy, it is used regardless of the “register” of formality required by the setting.

For example, if you were to say ciao to a waiter in a restaurant, she or he would be offended by your presumptuously informal tone.

The proper way to greet a restaurateur or shopkeeper (or any other professional acquaintance for that matter) is by saying buon giorno (good day) or buona sera (good evening). And both can be used as both greeting and farewell.


Briciole, an amazing resource for Italian food and recipes

The photo above comes from Briciole’s Valentine’s Day post.

Friday has become Italian Food Lover Friday at Live Like an Italian…

The photo above comes from the number-one resource for Italian recipes and Italian gastronomy pronunciation, Briciole (BREE-choh-leh), meaning [bread] crumbs by Umbrian native Simona Carini who lives in Northern California.

Not only does Briciole publish Italian recipes and cooking tips, she also provides audio clips with authentic Italian pronunciations of the ingredients she uses and the dishes (Italian was Simona’s first language).

Click here to visit Briciole, one of our favorite Italian food blogs.

Buon weekend a tutti!


San Valentino protector of bee keepers?

Above: The relics of San Valentino (3rd century A.D.) Terni, Umbria.

Did you know that 3rd-century martyr San Valentino is not just the patron saint of lovers? He is also the protector of affianced couples, persons who suffer from fainting, bee keepers, and happy marriages.

Very little is known about the life of San Valentino and the celebration of his feast day (today, February 14). In fact, his association with happy marriages and lovers is probably owed to an ancient Anglo-Saxon belief that birds mate in mid-February.

In Italy today, Valentine’s day is celebrated much as it is in the U.S.: lovers from all walks of life treat their beloved to romantic meals.

In Italian you say…

BOO’OHN SAHN VAH-lehn-TEE-noh


How do you say Merry Christmas in Italian?

Buon natale (boo’OHN nah-TAH-leh) – Merry Christmas!

Buone feste (boo’OH-neh FEH-steh) – Happy Holidays!

Buon anno (boo’OHN AHN-noh) – Happy New Year!


Buon giorno! Speak like an Italian…

One of the most important things to remember when you travel to Italy is that Italian reserve ciao as a salutation for friends and family. Buon giorno (good day) and buona sera (good evening) are used in any and all professional settings and when strangers meet and/or interact.

Most don’t realize that if you say ciao to someone you don’t know, it could be interpreted as condescension or an insult. (When you address someone you don’t know with ciao, it implies that you belong to a higher rung in the social ladder. The President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano can say ciao to someone he meets in a shop, for example, but if you or I say ciao to a salesperson in a shop, it will be met with a cold shoulder.)

So whether you dine in a restaurant, visit a retail shop, or buy a ticket for the vaporetto water bus in Venice, always use buon giorno (boo-OHN JOHR-noh) or buona sera (boo-OHN-ah SEH-rah) to greet the waiter, salesperson, or ticket seller.

These expressions can also be used to say good-bye. For the next post in our “speak like an Italian” series, we’ll write about good-byes. 🙂


Speak like an Italian (order a coffee)

Vorrei un caffè per favore.

vohr-REH’EE uhn caf-FEH PEHR fah-VOH-reh

I would like a coffee (espresso) please.

In Italy, the word “caffè” denotes an espresso.