#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!

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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

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.

La casa in italiano: an infographic

Have you ever been inside an Italian home? Well, it is probably pretty much like yours, except everything is in Italian!
As usual, we’re here to help: check out our new infographic about Italian words for rooms, forniture and all the thing you can find inside a proper house!

Learn Italian words: la casa in italiano

What happens when you type “Italian” in the YouTube search box

Trying to learn something about a specific culture via YouTube can be tricky and dangerous: one might end up in a Dedalus of stereotypes and misconceptions that will lead to a faulty understanding of such a complex and beautiful expression of humanity. When it comes to Italy and Italians you actually know what’s coming: thousands of videos about recipes and hand gestures and some very bad joke about how Italians do things.

As usual, we’re here to help: this is why our team of social media engineers has performed a deep research on your behalf, trying to spot the most interesting/genuine/disturbing videos about Italians and Italy on YouTube.

Let’s start with a milestone: Peter Griffin turning into an Italian. He actually already did it in the past, and with poor but yet hilarious results. This time McFarlane & friends seem to try setting the record straight, at least linguistically: the Italian-spoken part sounds very genuine, although the whole concept of the video is based on the usual stereotypes concerning more Italian-Americans than Italian-Italians.

Italian Food

In the past 12 months, Buzzfeed has almost literally bombed the audience with videos of people reacting to things or people asking other people silly questions. There is though one video that we can define accurate, and it shows a bunch of young Italians trying US “snacks”. Now, we know we are kinda bitchy about our food, and that might be a flaw sometimes but… how can you call those things? I mean, seriously: pink chips?

On the same page, here’s a very entertaining video showing Italian nonne tasting the (in)famous Olive Garden menu. Just two observations: there are, obviously, two intruders in the video and, dear grandma, merda means literally “shit”, but we know you’re too polite to say that.

Want some real Italian food? Fear not, the YouTube is packed with recipes, some of which are actually genuine.

Italian Music

For the person who’s writing, this subject is kinda sensitive, and I must admit that YouTube results for “Italian music” didn’t fail to confirm my prejudice: the idea that the whole world has of music coming from Italy is stereotyped, outdated and somehow offensive. This, needless to say, is also (or mainly) our fault, as we like to export bright examples of musical putrescence turning them into semi-global events.
Anyway, let’s take a look to these top YouTube results regarding Italian songs and music: just don’t hope for the best.

Music for an Italian Dinner: seriously? Some songs in this cheesy bunch of trite hits are not even Italian. Swing and crooning are definitely NOT part of Italian musical culture.

Best Italian Songs of the decade: “best” according to who? I understand some of these are quite big names in the Italian scene, but honestly Italian rock has much more to offer other than this depressing list copy-paste songs.

Fergie – Be Italian (from “Nine”): I would have gladly ignored this video if it wasn’t for the stereotype of Italian kids confronting prosperous sexuality ad a very young age. Welcome to Italy, where everything is like in a Dolce&Gabbana commercial!

Italian YouTubers

It turned out that Italy has actually produced some pretty famous YouTube stars and influencers. I honestly did vaguely know two of them, and as an Italian I have mixed feelings about how they export, let’s say, Italian lifestyle.

Let’s start with Marzia, showing up with this video in the first page of my YouTube search. She’s the girlfriend of one of the most famous Youtubers in the world, Pewdiepie, and probably one the most famous italian Youtubers too. She seems like a very pretty girl and a pleasant person. I mean, I wouldn’t dislike the world to think that “Italians” are this way. Btw the video is kinda fun at the beginning and then becomes boringly dumb.

Greta Menchi popped out of the YouTube world because of a controversy: she has been nominated as a member of the jury at the last Sanremo Festival, arousing the indignation of some web bullies who thought she was not skilled enough for the job (as if one needed to be skilled to take part to Sanremo…).

The great Gianluca Vacchi is an Italian mystery: self-proclaimed viveur, he is actually CEO of a big firm and apparently spends his life on a boat wearing a pareo and dancing like a tourist resort entertainer. I kinda like the guy, although his videos carry an idea of “Italianity” that doesn’t exist in real life.

Italian Language

And here we are in my area of expertise! Fear not, I won’t bore you with Italian language tips or grammar. As a proof of my good intentions, here’s a small introduction:

Simply the best scene EVER about foreigners coping with Italian language.

And here it comes the weird stuff: picking up speaking Italian. Apart from the fact that the guy doesn’t even speak Italian properly, this technique seems to work fine, although sometimes he seems to slip into sexual harassment.

20 Italian words you are saying wrong: about time, finally our American and British friends will understand how to pronounce grazie correctly! 😀

I wouldn’t even dare to comment this: it’s Monty Python, therefore it’s amazing by definition.

Italian Hand Gestures

Interesting topic, isn’t it? Although non-verbal communication is a part of every language, Italians seem to rely on that massively: this is why an Italian language students will definitely need some guidance! YouTube is actually packed with videos illustrating Italian gestures, so help yourselves. And yes, the first video is from Dolce&Gabbana, and it’s superb.

Want some more? Check out our infographic about Italian gestures!

Italian Culture

Sailing the sea of misconceptions about Italian culture I encountered two videos which seem to be encouragingly accurate, the first from an Italian Youtuber, the second from Tia, an half-Jamaican, half-Nigerian, American born girl with a lovely accent and a very fun attitude.

WTF area

Yes, there are strange videos too. Like this first one, that shows Italian cops (presumably) trying out a bulletproof vest.

This is weird and I don’t even know why it has so many views, especially considering that in Italy we tend not be that much into guns.

If you follow us, you already know the guy: Italian Spiderman, not really Italian and yet simply MAJESTIC.

Indeed, Kobe Bryant is amazingly fluent in Italian. Didn’t you know that? He was born and partially raised in the Belpaese while his father, Joe Bryant, was playing for Italian teams.

 

And with this last firework ends our short playlist of YouTube videos about Italians and Italian Culture. If you liked it, please share and comment with your own suggestions!

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

 

Not just Venezia: where to celebrate “Carnevale” in Italy

The history of Carnevale is long and interesting, and in fact it has its roots in the ancient times, when, during, feasts like the Saturnalia in the Roman age or the Dionysia for the ancient Greeks, common people had the occasion, for just one day, to switch their social roles with the dominant class. As for the term, it directly descends from the late latin CARNE LEVAMEN, indicating the last night during which meat could be consumed before Lent.

As you can see, the whole concept of Carnevale is deeply rooted in the Italian territory and Italian Language and Culture, hence the presence of a flourishing and multi-colored tradition all along the Belpaese (and its main island).

Carnevale di Acireale (Sicilia)

carnevale di acireale barocco

Not only music and parades but also delicious traditional food! All this in the stunning scenario of one of the gems of the Sicilian Barocco.
Traditional mask: Abbatazzu.

Carnevale di Cento (Ferrara) - Carro allegoricoCarnevale di Cento (Emilia Romagna)

Huge floats (up to 20 meters!), spectacular parades and the tradition of the gettito (basically a public giveaway of gifts and gadgets thrown from the carnival floats) are the main features of this carnival, which is also twinned with the Rio de Janeiro celebration.
Traditional mask: Tasi, which is burned on the last day of celebrations.

Landzette carnevale coumba freidaCarnevale di Coumba Freida (Valle d’Aosta)

Held in a francophone territory, the “carnival of the cold valley” commemorates the passage of Napoleonic soldiers represented in traditional dressings and wooden masks.
Traditional mask: Landzette.

musica arabita fano carnevaleCarnevale di Fano (Marche)

The most ancient carnival in Italy (and one of the most ancient in Europe), the first edition of this feast dates back to 1347. Just as in Cento, the getto is the main event here, together with a very unusual concert of Musica Arabita, played (just like Einsturzende Neubauten would have done!) with cutlery and tin cans.
Traditional mask: Vulon

carnevale di ivrea battaglia delle aranceCarnevale di Ivrea (Piemonte)

This carnival is actually the commemoration of a very particular rebellion against the tyranny of the ius primae noctis, which is allegorically set about with oranges thrown by the crowd.
Traditional masks: il Tiranno and Violetta la Mugnaia.

madonna di campiglio carnevale asburgicoCarnevale di Madonna di Campiglio (Trentino Alto-Adige)

The wonderful scenario of the Dolomiti is the set of this princely celebration which derives directly from the Asburgic Carnival (still celebrated in Austria).
Traditional masks: Princess Sissi and Francesco Giuseppe.

carnevale di mamoiada mamuthones e issohadoresCarnevale di Mamoiada (Sardegna)

One of the most characteristic carnivals of the country, this celebration focuses on the folkloristic characters of Mamuthones and Issohadores, in an allegoric representation of the life of shepherds. Dressing up Mamuthones is an event by itself, since they have to carry on their backs up to 30kg of cowbells!
Traditional masks: Mamuthones and Issohadores.

meneghino-la-maschera-simbolo-del-carnevale-ambrosiano1Carnevale di Milano (Lombardia)

Celebrated right after all the other carnivals have ended, this feast actually starts on the Mardi Gras and goes on for a whole week, commemorating S. Ambrogio and his pilgrimage.
Traditional mask: Meneghino.

carnevale_putignano carro allegoricoCarnivale di Putignano (Puglia)

From far north to far south, this carnival, besides being of the Europe’s first, is also a fierce contest between renown masters of papier-mache. Starting from January, 17th (feast of S. Antonio Abate), every Thursday is focused on a satirical representation of one particular social class, sparing literally no-one, not even the cornuti (husbands who have been cheated).
Traditional mask: Farinella.

venezia-maschere-carnevaleCarnevale di Venezia (Veneto)

And here we are: this is probably the most famous carnival in Italy, a succession of parades and events in the majestic scenario of a city lost in time. No further comment needed!
Traditional mask: Baùta.

danza_del_dragoCarnevale di Viareggio (Toscana)

Arguably second only to Venezia in terms of fame, this carnival is characterized by huge allegoric floats of papier-mache. The position of Viareggio, easily reachable and very close to landmarks such as Firenze and Pisa, brings thousands of tourists every year to the parades.
Traditional mask: Burlamacco.

And what about Rome?

The Eternal City doesn’t host a historical carnival, but you can find several events scattered all over the city, especially during the night of Mardi Gras and Jeudi Gras. Check out this year’s event here and don’t miss our Carnival party tonight!

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