#SingIt: 10 songs about Rome (and Romans) you’ve probably never heard of

If you’re searching for the right soundtrack for your holiday in Rome or just looking for some themed-song to learn Italian language and culture faster but you’ve definitely had enough with wonder hits like Arrivederci Roma or with Louis Prima babbling some broken Italian words over the swing of a big band, we have something for you! Here’s a list of International and Italian songs that, each one in its own peculiar way, catch the spirit of the Eternal City and will be able to guide you through its discovery.

International songs about Rome

To get you into the mood, let’s start with international songs. Many artists and bands have indeed composed songs about Rome or taken Rome as a symbol, sometimes of decadence, other times of magnificence; at times of corruption and, certainly, of beauty.

Jerry Garcia – When I paint my masterpiece

The lysergic king Jerry Garcia, leader of the Grateful Dead and prominent carachter of the late 60s-ealy 70s counter-culture, have been using to cover this wonderful Bob Dylan composition from at least 1972. The song’s topic is not specifically focused on Rome rather than on an artist’s quest for inspiration, but even if sometimes the description of the city fails to escape usual stereotypes, the first three lines are one of the most powerful and accurate depiction of Rome’s decadence:

Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs

Peggy Lee – Autumn in Rome

This one is definitely a classic, but it differs from other famous hits of the 50s focused on Rome for its delicate, jazzy musical approach and for its songwriting which brings to life nostalgic pictures of golden skies and gentle Mediterranean breezes in opposition to the cold and grey advance of winter in a northern city.

Tom Waits – In the Colosseum

No one better than Tom Waits could have represented the horrible and beautiful display of humanity that used to liven up a night at the Colosseum. Of course, in this case the Anfiteatro Flavio is a mere symbol that Waits uses to revive a theme which he holds very dear: the pointless, chaotic entropy of life.

This Heat – SPQR

Rather than considering the Roman Empire for its magnificence or its cultural influence, post-punk british band This Heat turns it into a dark omen of a dystopian, totalitarian society (for the ones who don’t know it, the acronym S.P.Q.R. stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus). Band leader Charles Hayward describes the lyrics as “a cultural view of history and logic and expedience and how we are inside that, too.”

Phoenix – Rome

With their unique mixture of Easy Listening and Electronic, the french band Phoenix were able to give birth to this danceable hit while still catching one of the party-unfriendly features of Rome: its decadence, opposed to its status of Eternal City.

“While the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall.” [Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) quoting a prophecy of Anglo-Saxon pilgrims]

Italian songs about Rome

Letting alone folk ballads and traditional songs, Italian hits genuinely focused Rome are less than you might think. At least this can be said for the very few songs that are worthy to be remembered and manage to distance themselves from the usual depiction of the city – although Italian stereotypes about Rome differ significantly from foreign ones. Here’s a selection of five Italian songs about Rome that you can also use to learn some Italian.

Colle Der Fomento – Il cielo su Roma

Let’s start our journey with a song that we have already played in the last episode of Aperitalia, our webradio dedicated to Italian language students, for the roman Hip-Hop band Colle Der Formento. The sky above Rome quoted in the title is a big starry entity that observes the dramatic moltitude of lives and experiences that makes Rome a modern Babylon. The song lyrics are focused on the life in the suburbs and in the most popular neighborhoods of the city, mixing a genuine street attitude with an emphatic and somehow nostalgic songwriting.

È nella testa
Tutto qua tutto qua
Comunque resta
Tutto qua tutto qua
È nella testa
Tutto qua
Restano le mejo stelle solo le mejo che dà

Virginiana Miller – L’eternità di Roma

Again, a band which emphasizes the status of “Eternal City”, where eternity stands also for eternal decadence: post rock sextet Virginiana Miller builds up a delicate but yet merciless depiction of this crucible of vices and virtues which is Rome.

Vittime e carnefici
Demoni e pontefici
Polvere su polvere
Di polvere di secoli

Gabriella Ferri – Chitarra Romana

We promised we would have left out traditional and folk songs, but we have to make an exception for the queen of Italian modern folk, Gabriella Ferri. Many of her songs could have been included in this list as she has undoubtedly brought forward the true spirit of Rome. May this beautiful Chitarra romana serve as an example of her outstanding talent.

Claudio Baglioni – Porta Portese

If you don’t know what Porta Portese is, you might want to revisit your schedule for your next Roman holiday to visit this characteristic open air market which is one of the few traditional flea markets that resisted the assault of big shopping mall and standardized shopping. Roman songwriter Claudio Baglioni has dedicated a lovely ballad to this tradition which every Sunday brings back in time a whole area of the city.

Corrado Guzzanti – Grande Raccordo Anulare

Speaking of tradition, we couldn’t leave out the one place which all Romans have in common: the Grande Raccordo Anulare (GRA), the huge circular highway that embraces the whole city and is doomed by an eternal flow of traffic. Comedian Corrado Guzzanti, imitating the famous songwriter Antonello Venditti, offers a picturesque and funny depiction of this sort of urban limbo. Enjoy! 😀

Originally posted on www.kappalanguageschool.com!

Advertisements

Let’s go shopping! An infographic

If you are planning to survive in Italy, you definitely need to know where to go to buy everyday stuff, namely you need to learn Italian words related to shop and small business names. As always, Kappa Language School is here to help you learning the hard stuff in a colorful way: here’s a brand new (horizontal!) infographic you might want to check before going out on your shopping spree in the Belpaese!

“Che lavoro fai?” – an infographic!

One of the first steps when it comes to self introduction in a new language is being able to describe your job, even if just summarily. In fact, no beginner Italian language student is actually aware of the fact that this particular area of Italian vocabulary has been subject to major controversies during the past 50 years. As you might already know (or imagine) Italian language is arguably a slightly sexist language, and this inclination towards the predominance of masculine figures (and forms) is particularly evident in the semantic area of work and jobs.

In the infographic shown below, as well as in our Italian language courses, we tried to be as politically correct as possible, but the point is that many names that designate positions of responsibility simply don’t have the feminine (or do have it, but it is not often used). Few examples: medico (doctor) instead of which Italians tend to use the more generic dottoressa, or sindaco (mayor) and ministro (minister) whose feminine forms, sindaca and ministra, have been recently put into use with quite a struggle, encountering countless resistance from average speakers. Let alone words such architetta, which are grammatically correct but carry a disturbing (for some) assonance with female body parts…

mestieri

Originally published on www.kappalanguageschool.com

Learn Italian words: il menù in italiano!

I bet that one of the main reasons most of you guys are in love with Italy (and studying Italian language) is your attraction for Italian food, and you are damn right about that! With such an amazing variety of ingredients and dishes, Italian cuisine is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet and part of the world cultural heritage!

Despite being worldly renown, though, a traditional Italian meal has a structure that many of our Italian language students (especially the ones coming from the far east) find puzzling. For many of those who approach Italian cuisine and are used to meals based on a single dish, the distinction between primo and secondo might seem useless and confusing, and the fact that an Italian lunch (or dinner) is often divided in 3 or more dishes can give the impression of an unnecessary generous meal.

Now, we do not expect to turn you into a three-stars chef or teach you everything our nonna told us about Italian food, but we really hope this brand new infographic, Il menù in italiano, will help you sorting out some useful information you can use during you next pranzo!

menuTavola disegno 1800px

Learn Italian words (and grammar): la colazione in Italia!

As every grandma uses to say, “breakfast is the most important meal of all”. And that is indeed true, especially if you consider that generally it helps your body recovering from a night of fasting! So what’s the deal with Italian breakfast?

From a country whose diet is renowned worldwide, with an outstanding variety of ingredients and a cookbook stuffed with delicious recipes, you would expect excellence even when it comes to the first meal of the day. Yet, breakfast in Italy is very different from what many expats and Italian language students would expect, as it is usually a very fast and light meal, the mainstay being a cappuccino or an espresso accompanied by some pastries (cornetti) and, occasionally, corn flakes and cereals (fiocchi d’avena e cereali). In a regular Italian breakfast there is no room for cheese, eggs, beans or bacon, and actually most Italians tend to consider the idea of having a “salty breakfast” (or eating anything salted before midday) quite disgusting.

Even in Italy, of course, you will be able to find bars, pubs and hotels which regularly serve English or American breakfast, but if you really want to get the full Italian experience, you should really try to melt in and have a quick and light Italian breakfast in a local bar, peeking at a quotidiano and catching the occasion to have a chat with Italian natives on the latest news

For all of you who want to be prepared when having your first breakfast in Italy, here’s a new infographic… with a quick grammar overview about si passivante included!

 

Learn Italian words and grammar: breakfast in Italy, Infographic

Learn Italian words: il corpo umano

The vocabulary related to human body is always one of the toughest challenges for an Italian language student, since usually this particular semantic area is full of false friends and very specific words which seem to have no relation with their Gemanic equivalents.
As usual, Kappa Language School is here to help: we have prepared a brand new infographic whic will guide you through the discover of a new bit of Italian language!

Keep on learning Italian words and grammar with us and follow our blog and our website!

6 tips for discovering Rome without acting like a tourist

You might be in Rome for tourism but, as a general rule, being seen by locals as a tourist is something best avoided.

Now, let’s take a minute to define the word “tourist”: according to the Merriam-Webster, a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture”. Although a slight interest for local culture should be implicit in touring, the sheer meaning of the word “tourist” implies a confining sense of transience. And for a person who’s really interested in getting to know Italian Language and Culture, this is something to avoid or, at least, to limit.

Our aim is to help you find your way while discovering the best of Italian Culture, at the same time experiencing Italy as a local: that is why we’ve prepared a short vademecum of things you DON’T want to do when touring, living or studying in Italy, unless you want to be considered one of the many tourists that every day pass through the Bel Paese.

Touring

Let’s get down to basics: Rome (as well as Italy) is a treasure chest so full of hidden gems not even locals are able to discover them all in a lifetime. Of course, the Colosseum, S. Pietro and the Trevi Fountain (which btw is not a bathtub) are sights which are too important to miss, but why not spice up your stay in Rome a little by venturing to the almost forgotten but unimaginably important small churches, or Rome’s fascinating borgate with their outstanding variety of street art masterpieces? There’s a tour for everyone, if you search hard enough.

On the road & in the streets

The streets of Rome, brilliantly sang by artists such as Bob Dylan, are certainly a place of breathtaking beauty: you can find a glimpse of the glorious past of the city on every street corner, and yet the whole city is immersed in a mellow, decadent atmosphere. But once on the road, you have to learn how to watch your step, as traffic can be really wild and it’s not unusual to spot packs of tourists lined up on the sidewalk, waiting for the right moment to cross the street.

Now, I’ll try to put this simply: crossing the streets in Rome requires some skills. We call it “the pigeon technique” (la tattica del piccione): if you have to cross, just do it, provided there’s a reasonable distance between the upcoming cars and your body. Drivers will eventually stop, especially if you are bold enough to fearlessly look into their eyes as you would do with an attacking animal. And there you go: you will be on the other side without even noticing, and actually feel more self-confident than ever. It’s the law of the jungle, folks!

The same cannot be said for bikers (and bike tours): you really have to be reckless to ride a bike in the city center without the supervision of a local. Rome is simply not equipped for cycling, except for certain areas. If you really want to experience Rome on two wheels, make friends with a local and let himor her help you.

Eating & drinking

Yes, I know you came to Italy mainly for the food. Who doesn’t? Even Italians travel all along the country to taste local delicacies. But remember: food in Italy is a serious matter, and Italians tend to get really bitchy about their meals (and the way you might want to experience them). Obvious advice and common sense aside (avoid tourist traps, eat local and with locals), if you really want to prevent astonished looks from the locals you should follow these simple rules:

Cappuccino CAN NOT be the happy ending of your meal. It is something we consume strictly before 12pm, specifically for breakfast. Ordering a cappuccino at a restaurant is like buying a computer from a furniture store. The restaurateur might give you what you want, but you will break his\her heart. Do you really want that?

Pizza in Rome is thin and provides just a limited variety of toppings. Beware of odd variants unless you are in a pizzeria which is famous among locals for its creativity.

– Never pay more than 8€ for your pizza margherita. In Italy good food can be extremely cheap: you can get a decent Italian wine for 10€ and fill yourself up with 15€ in a pizzeria (supplì included). Although you shouldn’t drink wine with pizza: for that we have Peroni.

– Remember that spaghetti bolognese IS NOT A THING IN ITALY. They can literally kick you out of the restaurant, if the owner is in a bad mood.

Dresscode

This is a bit of a sore subject. Italians are widely known for their loose approach to PDOA, their open display of emotions and their genuineness and yet, if you really want to blend in, you should remember that Rome is not Miami nor LA, and that Romans tend to consider people going around the city in Bermudas and flip-flops as quirky but a little disturbing. Plus, as Louis CK used to say, every big city is basically a huge pile of dirt, and Rome is no exception: knowing this, do you still want to go around wearing flip-flops?

Everyone has his or her own style, but looking around you to see what locals do is always a good strategy and a matter of common sense when in a foreign country. This applies especially to Rome, the privileged destination of millions of tourists every year.

Nightlife

Binge drinking, in Italy, can be a thing when it comes to depressed medium-sized suburban towns, but drinking only to get pissed is really something Italians don’t do – although the average age for the first sip of alcohol in Italy is approximately 6. So forget about your night out at a club downing one shot after another: if you do this in Rome, you’ve been caught in a tourist trap. For further information, take a look at this very instructive video. Knowledge is power. 🙂

Italian language

And here we are, in our area of expertise. As Italian language teachers, we wouldn’t dare to criticise the happy ones who try to learn and speak Italian: every effort is indeed appreciated, even if it is just an impromptu. Italian people, on the other hand, tend to be annoyed by very few and specific things, such as the mispronounciation of grazie (which is often spelled “grazy” by anglo-american speakers) or the ridicolous outcomes of expressions such as buongiorno (see picture for lulz). That said, if you really want to fit in, learning some basic expressions (and practice your pronunciation) in Italian language is definitely a good move, although in Italy you will always find someone who will be able to help you using alternative forms of communication, such as Italian hand gestures. 🙂

Originally poste on www.kappalanguageschool.com.