San Valentino è alle porte: chiudiamole!

Se cercate notizie sull’origine della festa dedicata all’amore, c’è il rischio che vi scoppi la testa. Sì, proprio così. C’è una versione della sua genesi capace di soddisfare ogni genere di palato, ciononostante, dopo aver trascorso giorni di lettura frustrante, potrete riscontrare in ciascuna trasposizione due sacrosante costanti.

  • Costante numero 1: è comunemente accertato e accettato che il germe della festa di San Valentino tragga origine dai Lupercalia, una festività pagana del IV secolo a.c. che si celebrava nel mese purificatorio, appunto febbraio, in onore del dio Fauno, o Luperculus, protettore del bestiame ovino e caprino dall’attacco dei lupi. Da qui in poi iniziamo a leggerne di tutti i colori, fino all’avvento del vescovo Valentino di Terni nel III secolo d.c.
  • Costante numero 2: Valentino muore tra atroci sofferenze. Cosa possiamo imparare da tutta questa storia? Un bel niente, a parte il conto dei secoli a disposizione che questa festa ha avuto per tartassare il genere umano. Per non scadere nel qualunquismo più becero limiteremo ad 1 il numero delle banalità in quest’articolo: San Valentino non ci interessa, non interessa a nessuno, interessa a tutti (più o meno) e il più delle volte è esattamente uguale a se stesso. Perciò auguriamo a ciascuna coppia il suo Buon San Valentino.

A voi che nonostante i problemi e le difficoltà amate le solite 3 cose: cena fuori in un ristorante elegante, gadget orribili e 50kg di romanticismo preconfezionato.

A voi che festeggiate il vostro primo San Valentino tra l’imbarazzo e l’eccitazione… godetevelo finché non diventerete come la coppia vista in precedenza.

A voi che siete una coppia da molto tempo e scoprirete che è il 14 Febbraio solo quando uscirete a comprare le sigarette. Dal tabaccaio passerete 60 secondi di pura angoscia facendovi mille domande (gli/le devo comprare un regalo? ma quanto costano questi cioccolatini? e se invece lui/lei se n’è ricordato/a?) per poi rendervi conto di non essere Barbie e Ken e soprattutto che è domenica. C’è poco a cui pensare.

A voi, incurabili sognatori, creatori di mondi paralleli. Tutti i vostri amici faranno di tutto per trattenervi con i piedi per terra ma la vostra fantasia non potrà mai essere ostacolata.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Infine, buon San Valentino a voi che odiate questa festa e cercate di non esserne contagiati. Apprezziamo tutti il vostro sforzo e vi sosterremo.

PS: C’è chi sicuramente avrà modo di essere felice!


Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.


Let it snow! 5 must-visit winter landmarks in Latium

Brace yourselves, winter is coming! Or, we should say, it’s already here. Temperatures dropped so dramatically during last week that Romans are experiencing somenthing very unusual: a real winter!

Although the idea of the Colosseum covered in snow might be fascinating for many, people in Rome consider the possibility of a snowfall as a real disaster: at the first sight of a snowflake public transportation freaks out (you don’t say?), people just get confused not knowing what to wear and all the streets become an indistinct cluster of dirty snow, ice and mud.
Anyway you should fear not, Latium is stuffed with wonderful places to visit… especially in winter time.

  1. Soratte Mountain. Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte wrote Horace in one of hisveduta_del_mte_soratte odes, and he had a reason to, since he used to own a villa at the slopes of this solitary mountain. Due to its unmistakable shape and its proximity to Rome, the mount Soratte has been through the years a sacred site (dedicated to the god Soranus), a holiday destination for noble Romans, a place of pilgrimage (it hosts a paleo-christian hermitage), a palce of interest for foreign intellectuals (“Soratte stands out by itself in magnificent solitude. This mountain is probably made of limestone and belongs to the Apennines” wrote Goethe) and, finally, a miltary base complete with an enormous bunker during the II World War. Despite legends that that this mountain was host to the gate of hell, or that it had particular esoteric properties, this fascinating place is definetly something you’ll want to visit while its beautifully frosted with snow. You may even revive the emotions experienced by Horace during his quiet winter holidays.
  2. Civita di Bagnoregio. A Few kilometers north from the Soratte Mountain you will find this medieval town, which is known worldwide for its suggestive position and for the fact that it is only accessible through a long bridge that hangs over a deep ditch. Being relatively close to Rome and to other (literally) magical places such as Bomarzo, Civita di Bagnoregio is the perfect location for a magical winter tour: amazing food (the area, the Tuscia, is renowned for its tasty cold cuts and bodied red wines), breathtaking landscapes and an occasion for a detour in the less know history of central Italy, made of small hamlets, old gentry and popular religion.
  3. The Monti della Laga National Park. Placed in between Latium, Marche and Abruzzo, this national park, adjacent to the more popular Abruzzo National Park hosts a variety of landscapes and places of interest that are particulary enjoyable during the winter. 2014-11-20-10-56-15.jpg.1920x810_defaultFrom the exotic view of the Giano Mountain with its colossal (and controversial) tribute to Mussolini to the frozen Campotosto Lake, offering a breathtaking view of the Gran Sasso, this park stretches from the ski resort of the Terminillo Mountain, just near Rieti, to the lovely town of Amatrice, place of birth of the famous bucatini all’amatriciana, and is surrounded by charming mountain villages all along its valley. If you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of city life, you won’t find a better place to go.
  4. Lepini Mountains. A one hour trip by car from Rome will take you to this astounding place, where sea views and mountain sceneries blend in a unique and picturesque territory that is seeping with history and traditions. 4356139063_c16963a733_bAnciently inhabited by the pre-roman population called Volsci, this area is now full of small villages, abbeys, monasteries and places of interest such as the house of Aldo Manuzio (the guy who basically invented books as we know them today) and the necropolis of Caracupa. If you head toward the sea, past the city of Latina, you can also find enchanting coastal lake, which are excellent of bird watching… even in winter.
  5. Mount Guadagnolo. Just few kilometers from Rome, in the comune of Capranica Prenestina, this peak soars, offering a priviledged view on the metropolitan city and its suburbs. Famous for its handamade fettuccine, the nearby village of Capranica is a lovely town which has preserved the charm of the medieval suburban territory.

Have any suggestion? Did we miss something? Leave a comment, we would love to hear your suggestions!

Special thanks to our student Andrea Schorn for her help editing this article!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Something “extraordinary” is happening in Rome!

Poor Romans! Without having had the chance to recover from the 2000 Jubilee, they now have to face a new, extraordinary one, 10 years in advance. Needless to say, out of the ordinary is also the tense and alarmist atmosphere in which this event is about to be held.

Here’s an example of the spirit with which roman politicians greeted the announcement of this “Jubilee of Mercy”:

The guy in therapy is the former Major Ignazio Marino, who resigned just before the beginning of the Jubilee Year.

The guy in therapy is the former Major Ignazio Marino, who resigned just before the beginning of the Jubilee Year.

And here’s how roman citizens allegorically welcomed this great opportunity of communion and universal brotherhood:

Not everyone here is so lucky to have a family house on the seaside, though.

Not everyone here is so lucky to have a family house on the seaside, though. And no, Ostia is not enough far from Rome to be considered a safe shelter from pilgrims!

As a matter of fact, Pope Francis surprised many with his suddend announcement and the Eternal City doesn’t seem to be quite ready for the event:

You don't understand: those are not ugly temporary hurdles: those are a cunning solution for long queues!

You don’t understand: those are not ugly temporary hurdles: those are a cunning solution for long queues!

Piazza del Popolo is already graciously decorated.

Piazza del Popolo is already graciously decorated.

But do not fear, for I am with you:

I guess there's a big chance of someone getting offended by this.

I guess there’s a big chance of someone getting offended by this.

After the scandals that have been shooking Rome in the past few months and forced the former Mayor Ignazio Marino to resign, the task of leading the capital during the Jubilee could only be entrusted to the prefect of Milan Francesco Paolo Tronca. Our bright Home Secretary Angelino Alfano stated: “Our choice is Tronca, because the Jubilee should work just like Expo did”. Hell yeah!

If you have experienced the legendary 7 hours queue for the Kazakhistan Pavillion, than you don't need any caption for this picture.

If you have experienced the legendary 7 hours queue for the Kazakhistan Pavillion, than you don’t need any caption for this picture.

It’s been less than a week from the great opening of the Holy Door, and we want to make sure that all pilgrims will acknowledge our effort, as a country, to provide the best and safest Jubilee experience they can get:

Security checkpoints every two steps...

Unobtrusive but effective security checkpoints every two steps…

...sagaciously improved public transportation...

…sagaciously improved public transportation…

...with the pious hope that each and every one will find their own space. If not externally, at least internally.

…with the pious hope that each and every one will find their own space. If not externally, at least internally.

Romans, on the other hand, are left with just one big question:

And only God knows if we will ever get an answer.

And only God knows if we will ever get an answer.

What do you think about it? Share your opinion in the comments!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Neapolitans are such stuff as dreams are made on, part 2

[Continues from the first part]

'A capa

‘A capa

'O puorco

‘O puorco



'O muorto che parla

‘O muorto che parla

'O chianto

‘O chianto

As we already said, under law, Tombola has to be considered a gaming. Nevertheless, it is universally acknowledged that it may not be the most exciting game in the world, except if you are planning to play it at home with your italian family during Christmas time…in this case it may be even worst. Is the coup of grace imposed by Christmas tradition after the blow-out meal and from which we can not escape. Tombola is technically a gamble because every participants shall be obliged to pay a significant sum of money which is then redistributed as prizes to the winners. The staggering figures ranging from 5 cents to figures much higher, infact some daredevils pay even 1 euro. Tombola is usually played in a family context. We are talking about biblical reunion with realtives until the seventh line of relatedness, most of whom you didn’t know they were relatives.
Let us get into the rules of procedure.

Ground rules


Traditional italian dish: cartella with rigatoni

One player is chosen for the role of croupier and has at his disposal a backboard on which there are all the numbers from 1 to 90 and a dice-box with pieces numbered similary. His hard task is to extract the pieces at random and announce to the other players the number rolled, sometimes with the quote of the Neapolitan Smorfia. For the difficult task you need the following features and abilities:

  1. Eyesight of a hawk
  2. Discerning 66 from 99
  3. Discerning 69 from 96
  4. Deciphering the dash under 6 and above 9

Players generally purchase one or more folders; every time a number is drawn, if it is present on one or more folders, the player has to cover the appropriate box.
In the homemade Tombola folders are simple cardstocks printed or written by the player himself and numbers are covered with beans, lentils, pasta, shredded paper, chickpeas or little pieces of tangerine peel.
Croupier has to extract numbers and announce them. Here’s a typicall scene:


On the first row from the right you can appreciate the infamous dash under the number 6.

Croupier: 68 ‘a zuppa cotta
Player 1: Cosa? 78?
Player 2: Asino cotto!
Croupier: No… 68, sei-otto
Player 1: Ma il 78 non è uscito?
Croupier: sì, è uscito 10 minuti fa
Player 2: Ma come? Allora ho fatto ambo!
Croupier: Siamo per la cinquina

Usually prizes are awarded to the following scores:
AMBO: 2 numbers on the same row of the folder
TERNO: 3 numbers on the same row of the folder
QUATERNA: 4 numbers on the same row of the folder
CINQUINA: 5 numbers on the same row of the folder
TOMBOLA: 15 numbers, in other words all the numbers of the folder
TOMBOLINO: the second TOMBOLA after the first

Croupier has to deal with players like…
Croupier: the first number is…48 “morto che parla
Player X: AMBO!
…or with impossible rhymes such as:
– 78 (spelled: settantotto) Asino cotto
– 50 (spelled: cinquanta) La gallina canta

The ultimate objective must be cover all the numbers on the folders before the other players, which usually requires a time ranging from 2 hours until + ∞.

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Neapolitans are such stuff as dreams are made on

In 1976 the unforgettable Massimo Troisi and his mates Lello Arena and Enzo Decaro premiered their new acting company “La Smorfia” at San Carluccio’s theatre in Naples. The actor explained in an interview how this name came out: “It refers to a certain way, typically Neapolitan, to solve their own troubles: playing Lotto and hoping for a straight number… “Smorfia”, in fact, is nothing but the interpretation of dreams and various daily events that have to be translated into numbers to play Lotto”.

Tombola numbers

Tombola numbers

La Smorfia, also called Cabala, is a book used in the past to draw from dreams corresponding numbers to play lottery. According to the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition – the Qabbalah (Kabbalah in Hebrew) – every word, letter or sign in the Bible has a mysterious meaning, that’s why the Kabbalists created a kind of interpretive doctrine to reveal the hidden meanings behind the apparent reality. The origin of the term Smorfia, instead, it’s more uncertain, but the most accepted explanation is that it’s linked to the name of Morfeo, the god of dreams in the Greek mithology. Smorfia has spread to other cities in Italy, but it’s in Naples that had the greater success due to the strong tradition of lottery.

But let’s dive into history to learn more. The Neapolitan Tombola was born in 1734 out of a social battle between King Charles III of Bourbon and the Dominican Friar Gregorio Maria Rocco. The King was probably quite willing to make official the lottery in the Kingdom because it would have increased the public purse; by contrast, the Friar considered the lottery an amoral and misleading leisure for the faithful. And the winner was… no surprise, the King of course! On condition that during Christmas time the game would have been suspended to not distract people from prayers. Unwilling to give up on the game, Neapolitans turned a public game into a more intimate and familiar one: the 90 lotto’s numbers were enclosed into a wicker package and these numbers were drawn on folders.

22... 'e pazzi!

22… ‘e pazzi!

The 90 numbers matched as many meanings, which change from region to region, but those of the Neapolitan tombola are the most allusive, smutty and sometimes raunchy: 4, ‘o puorco; 16, o’ culo; 47, ‘o muorto; 90, ‘a paura… Have you ever heard the Italian saying “la paura fa 90”?

To be continued…

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Superstition ain’t the way

In the neapolitan Smorfia, number 17 stands for 'a disgrazia (the disgrace).

In the neapolitan Smorfia, number 17 stands for ‘a disgrazia (the disgrace).

Stevie Wonder used to sing: “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, than you suffer” suggesting that superstition ain’t the way. What would Stevie have written if he had lived in Italy? He might not have believed that black cats bring bad luck or that breaking a mirror brings seven years of misfortune, but surely and unconsciously, he would have dreaded number 17.
Being Italians, we should quote Eduardo De Filippo instead, whose opinion was that “essere superstiziosi è da ignoranti, ma non esserlo porta male” (literaly: “Being superstitious is a sign of ignorance, but not being superstitious brings bad luck”).

For Italians and all the latin-greek countries, number 17 is the equivalent of number 13 for the anglo-saxons. This custom dates back to the Romans. On that matter it is said that 17, in the Roman numerals XVII, is the anagram of VIXI, which means “I have lived”, and therefore takes the meaning of “I am dead”. Historians might relate this custom to the famous Teotoburg Forest battle in 9 a.C., in which the seventeenth Roman legion was destroyed by the Germans. For Christians, instead, are 17 days passed between the proclamation by God to Noah and the advent of the Doomsday.
Moving on to modern ages, it must be quoted the neapolitan “Smorfia”, a tipical Christmas game in which number 17 symbolizes “la disgrazia”.

Superstitious people do not like number 17 individually, and that is a fact, let alone if it is combined with “friday” – specifically, that Holy cursed Friday when Jusus Christ was crucified.
Superstitions about number 13 are not to be outdone. A specific reference to this number has been found in the scandivian mithology: Loki, the God of deception and chaos, was the thirteenth god of the nordic panteon and temperamentally inclined to betrayal and wickdness. Some people say that Friday 13 is an inauspicious day too. It was on friday 13th, back in 1307, that the King of France, Philip the Fair (Filippo il Bello for us Italians), succeeded in arresting 546 Templars and their last grand master Jacques de Molay. The conspiracy conducted by the King and Pope Clemens V started persecutions against the Order all over Europe. There are many negative references to this number in the Bible: just think of the Ultima Cena (or Last Supper) where Judas the traitor was the thirteenth person to sit at the table with Jesus and apostles.
According to italian people number 13 has both positive and negative aspects. Remembering what happened to Jesus, for example, in Italy we don’t really like to go out for a dinner being a group of 13 people. Nevertheless, 13 is in general considered a lucky number since 13 corresponds to the pools to win a lottery!

Now just count the heads...

Now just count the heads…

It is to fare 13 al Totocalcio that we owe numerous figures of speech in other contexts for expressing delight or that we have been lucky with someone or something. And here we should open another front of discussion, about the weight of football in Italian popular culture and speech…

Anyway, not just 13 and 17 are so devalued. There is also a phenomenon called Tetrafobia – a phobia of number 4, widespread in East Asia. Countries like China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan build skyscrapers without numbering the floors 40-49; the reason is that in the chinese language the word for “four” (四,pinyin: ) sounds like the word “death” (死, pinyin: ).

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

Arabismi nella botanica: da “arancio” e “limone” al verbo “limonare”

Histoire_et_culture_des_orangers_A._Risso_et_A._Poiteau._--_Paris_Henri_Plon,_Editeur,_1872Tra gli ambiti che riportano un elevato numero di arabismi uno dei più proliferi è il settore della botanica. Indichiamo con botanica tutti quei lemmi che si riferiscono ad alberi da frutto e frutti, ortaggi, spezie e piante, la cui coltivazione in Italia è stata spesso introdotta, attraverso la Sicilia, dagli arabi. Tra le più comuni troviamo ad esempio arancio: dall’ar. persiano n ā r a n ğ, vede la caduta di n- ritenuta parte dell’articolo (un narancio > un arancio) e l’accostamento paraetimologico ad oro, secondo la tendenza per la quale un parlante mediamente colto avvicina una parola nota ad una ignota. La forma narancio è attestata in Boccaccio, nel Sannazzaro, nell’Ariosto e in alcuni dialetti, ad esempio il veneziano naraza. «Il nome del frutto è (…) maschile in tutta la Toscana, fuorchè in zona fiorentina e valdarnese (…). La disposizione porterebbe a vedere nell’arancia fiorentino un innovazione che potremmo interpretare come dovuta ad un livellamento analogico con i nomi degli altri frutti». Questo lemma è interessante non solo per la sua produttività nella creazione di derivati quali aranceto, aranciera, arancino, arancione ed altri, ma anche per la capacità, essendo perfettamente integrato nella nostra lingua, di aver dato origine ad importanti locuzioni, prima fra tutte fiori d’arancio: simbolo, per il loro candore, della purezza, sono usati (oggi per lo più artificiali) nelle acconciature delle spose il giorno delle nozze, per cui l’espressione stessa, fiori d’arancio, è sinonimo frequentemente di nozze; una delle prime attestazioni della locuzione la troviamo nel Palazzeschi (4-317): «Avevano nei capelli dei mazzetti di fiori d’arancio; e fiori d’arancio portavano alla vita, sul petto e in fondo alle sottane». Per quanto riguarda l’etimologia del lemma prendiamo come riferimento la congettura che troviamo nell’opera di Pietro Andrea Mattioli, medico senese del XVI sec., che tradusse il Codex Aniciae Julianae di Dioscoride Pedanio: «Affaticasi agramente il Brasavola in volere esporre donde sia tratto il vocabolo degli aranci, e come che molte derivazioni vi raccolga, per quanto a me pure poco quadranti, non seppe però ritrovare che aranci non vuol dire altro che aurantia poma, che non significa altro che pomi di colore d’oro».

Della stessa importanza è il lemma limone dall’ar. l ī m ū n, di origine indiana: troviamo una primalimonare attestazione del lemma addirittura in Leonardo da Vinci, quindi anteriore alla data ufficiale di ingresso nella nostra lingua (1544). Sarebbe interessante aprire una parentesi sul verbo limonare, derivato naturalmente dal nostro lemma: regionalismo che in epoca moderna si è esteso a tutta la nostra penisola, inteso come “abbandonarsi ad effusioni e giochi amorosi, senza giungere al coito”. Comunemente avvertito come innovazione degli ultimi decenni del 1900, ci è però testimoniato dal lessicografo dei primi anni dello stesso secolo Alfredo Panzini che scrive: «Limonare. Verbo lombardo ora largamente diffuso “far lo svenevole, il cascamorto, far l’asino (toscano)”. I milanesi da “limonare”, parafrasando il verbo dei venditori, dicono “Cinq ghei due, i limonitt”, cinque centesimi due limoni, quando vedono una coppia di innamorati».

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.