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

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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

Learn Italian Words: la famiglia!

Family, in Italy, is a big deal: we all know that. This is why, for an Italian language student, wading through Italian kinship terms can be really challenging. But hey, that’s exactly the reason why we’re here!
Check out this brand new infographic about Italian kinship terms and learn how to properly address your nonna in Italian (getting some treat in return!). 🙂


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

Parola di Dio: 13 common Italian expressions taken from the Bible

Although Italy is officially a work-based secular state, Italian language and culture are scattered with open references to the Judaic and Christian traditions. The Bible itself, having been the one and only source of education for centuries, seems to be a neverending source of idioms and forms of speech. Even without embracing any particular confession, we thought it would be a good idea to collect 13 of the most common idioms taken from the Book of Books.

1. Fare da capro espiatorio (to be a scapegoat).

We tried to start with an easy one since this form of speech is also present in English and in many other Indo-European languages (Benjamin Malaussene, anyone?). The expression comes directly from the Jewish tradition, mentioned in Leviticus 9:15, of sacrificing a goat as a ritual of purification during the Yom Kippur. Passing from the original meaning to the modern one of being a person unfairly blamed for some misfortune doesn’t require too much effort.

2. Essere una manna dal cielo (to be a boon).

Manna (or Mana) was an edible substance that, according to the Bible (Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-9) and the Quran, God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert.
This image is so deeply rooted in the Italian language that one could actually use this expression to cheer up when something good (and yet unexpected) happens: è proprio una manna dal cielo!

3. Occhio per occhio, dente per dente (eye for an eye).

This very common expression is a direct reference to the law of retaliation (legge del taglione in Italian), the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree. In a wider sense, this expression is used whenever one is seeking some form of revenge.

4. Seminare zizzania (to drive a wedge, to sow discord).

Credit: Photo by Franco CaldararoThis one comes from the Gospel of Matthew, in which we can find the Parable of the Tares (Parabola della zizzania). Tares is actually darnel, a type of grass\weed that ruins crops, and it is used here as a metaphor for the struggle between the spiritual children of Christ (the good seeds) and the unbelievers (the tares).

5. Vendersi per un piatto di lenticchie (to sell yourself for a mess of pottage).

In the Book of Genesis 25:29-34 we find the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The latter, one day, offered his brother the sale of his birthright in exchange for a lentil soup. The expression is often used to describe the action of giving away something of profound value for goods of derisory nature.

6. Restare di sale (to be flabbergasted).

Again in the Book of Genesis 19:1-26 is told the dramatic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by God for being consumed by vice and idolatry. The expression makes reference to the fate of Lot’s wife, who was told not to look back while escaping from the cities. The woman disobeyed and was turned into a pillar of salt. The idiom is currently use to express disbelief or surprise (“alla notizia, sono rimasto di sale!”).

7. Gigante dai piedi d’argilla (giant with clay feet).

This expression comes from the Book of Daniel in which the prophet tells about the dream of King Nabucodonosor: a giant statue with golden head, silver chest, bronze legs and, as a matter of fact, clay feet. Today this form of speech is a metaphor for something huge (such as a corporation or a party) which does not have steady foundations.

8. Essere il beniamino (to be the favourite).

Beniamino (Benjamin) was Jacob’s last and favourite son. Therefore, in Italian, essere un beniamino means being someone’s pupil: a very good football player can be il beniamino dei tifosi, or a famous actor can be il beniamino del pubblico and so on.

9. Niente di nuovo sotto il Sole (nothing new under the Sun).

One of the most poetic and intense books of the Old Testament, the Book of Qoelet (1:9) is responsible for this sometimes abused quote (nihil sub sole novum in latin), which is used to indicate an unchanging (and unchangeable) situation.

10. Servire due padroni (to be a two-timer).

Although brought to fame by playwright Carlo Goldoni and his Arlecchino, this expression comes from the Gospel of Luke (16:13): “One cannot serve two masters, nor two mistresses”. The meaning is clear: the idiom is used as a reference to a double-crosser, a two-timer.

11. Gettare le perle ai porci (casting pearls before swine).

We find this expression in Matthew 7:6, meaning “to give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate it”.

12. Muoia Sansone con tutti i Filistei (let Samson die with the Philistines).

The Book of the Judges (16:18-21; 28-30) tells the story of Samson, an Israelite judge who performed feats of strength against the Philistines but was betrayed by Delilah, his mistress. Blinded by revenge, Samson decided to destroy Philistines temple with his bare hands, although he knew he would die too. The idiom is often used in reference to someone who doesn’t hesitate to harm him or herself if it helps hurting others.

13. Essere un Giuda (to be a Judas).

The figure of Judas is commonly used (not exclusively but very widely in the Italian language) to indicate a traitor. Along with his name, the expression per trenta denari (for 30 pieces of silver) indicating the amount of money earned by Judas to betray Jesus Christ, is often used.

So this was our list, but please feel free to integrate it and suggest new idioms in the comments!

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

Amen. 😀

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.

 

What I learned in Italy

To honor to my sixth month here in Rome (which sadly will be also my last) I would like to share with you today some VERY informal thoughts on what I learned in Italy. I will take you back to 11 August 2016, the day I arrived here in the beautiful Rome. The sun was shining and it was a summer day like all others in Italy so the streets of Rome were full of Romans (surprise! They don’t go on vacation that much: Rome is a really busy town), which brings us to the first thing you should learn in Italy:

  • it’s REALLY important to learn the language and make an effort to practice it on the streets and in stores with locals. Not everyone is able to speak English and, as you will figure out, a lot of things are only available in Italian, although, especially in the city center, you will find amusing examples of broken English. For that purpose, certain internet pages packed with Italian Language lessons and exercises are a blessing. Or you can always do it the old fashioned way and learn Italian by joining an Italian Language Course (as I did, and my Italian is so good that I am still writing articles in English! :P).

Being installed in my new home for this six months, I had to go out for grocery shopping, which I know is not the most fashionable shopping you can do but it has to be done. Anyway, this brings us to the second thing I learned:

  • when in Italy, you should get to know your local Italian cuisine – because no, there isn’t just ONE Italian cuisine. Not all of the food that you are familiar with in your home country will be available in the supermarkets, that’s why it is important to learn how to cook with the food that is available in Italy. The Italian cuisine is more than only pasta or pizza: make the best out of it and join an Italian Cooking Class where you will also be able to practice Italian and make new friends which share with you the disgrace of being totally incompetent in preparing a decent Italian dish.

Last but not last there is the thing that I enjoyed the most here:

  • learn how to appreciate Italian culture. It’s maybe quite different from yours and it the difference can be disorienting at first but, believe me, these people really know how to live. The culture of having an aperitivo after work with your friends, enjoying a good meal for (at least) a couple of hours, having a walk through the city center or just spending your afternoon while doing nothing and drinking espresso should be included in the world heritage list. The Italian culture is about the importance of family and friends in your life and that’s what will make your new Italian friends the unforgettable ones. Or, at least, this is what happened to me!

 

Arrivederci Roma, alla prossima avventura! xoxoxo

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