Before I traveled to Italy, I wanted to learn some phrases that weren't the standard tourist expressions. This was to help in real life, day to day situations and to help us assimilate into Italian life. I've always held the belief that when traveling in a foreign country, one should make a decent attempt in learning some of the language. It's the polite thing... and you won't come off like an arrogant American tourist, but as a more seasoned World Voyager. One of the more helpful non-tourist expressions I learned was "Va Via!"--Hit the Road! This became invaluable when being hawked by aggressive street vendors, beggars, scammers or someone trying to rob us. I used it several times with great success. (Read THIS POST to see how I used it). They backed off and were given the impression that I was a local and not a sucker tourist. Sounding like a local is a real benefit and boosts your confidence when traveling.
I've listed some other expressions which are worthwhile learning for your next Voyage to Italy. Try to sound Italian when pronouncing the words. Years ago when learning French, I imagined a mix of Maurice Chevalier (of "Every leetle breeze seems to wheesper Louise" fame) and Charles Boyer (for a deeper, sexy voice) when I spoke. Hey, it must have worked, because although I admit to speaking very poor baby-talk French, and I'm not that great at one-on-one personal conversing, at least my accent is pretty good. A vendor in Paris, after asking where I was from said in surprise, "Ahh... but I took your for a Frenchman!" High praise indeed from a Parisian selling necklaces in a flea market.
Click on the link for each phrase below to hear the pronunciation it. When the Google Translate window pops up, click on speaker icon under the Italian phrase to hear the pronunciation. Try to think of your favorite, sexy Italian TV chef (Fabio? Luca?) when you pronounce these phrases. Do your best Italian accent and you'll do fine...
Allora - This is used a lot in casual conversation as a pause to allow the speaker time to think of his next thoughts. It is used like "then", "oh well...", "therefore", "Mmmm, let me see... ". Examples:
"Allora... tutto bene." (You see... Everything is fine); "Allora...prendo un risotto Milanese." (Let's see... I'll have risotto Milanese.); or after someone does something nice for you, you can stretch it out a bit and say "Allora, mille grazie!" (Well then, a thousand thanks!).
Avete le mani d'oro - "You have gold hands", meaning the person is gifted in using his hands, as when complimenting a local artisan.
Attaccalo al chiodo - Literally, "Stick it to the nail", meaning "forget about it" "leave it for later".
Leccapiedi - A toadie, a boot-licker, a brown-nose--An ass kisser. They have them in Italy, too.
Olio di gomito - Literally, "oil from the elbow. Referring to an exertion of physical labor, as we use "elbow grease".
La mia macchina è in panne - Literally, "my macchina (car) is creamed". This is used to describe something broken, as in "La mia macchina è in panne', allora prendo un taxi." (My car is broken, in that case I'll take a cab.)
Che ne so - Used as a sarcastic response to someone asking something that you don't (or couldn't possibly) know. A gesture typically accompanies this phrase... a shrug of the shoulder along with wavering hands turned toward the sky as you shake your head "no". Use it as we do when we say "How in heck should I know?" rather than the more precise and formal "Non lo so" (I do not know).
Non mi va - This means something like "It doesn't go with me" and is used when someone suggests something that you don't or won't agree to. Use it casually as you would say "I don’t feel like it", for instance if someone suggests a restaurant that you wouldn't like, or with a stronger voice if you are trying to get rid of a pushy vendor or hawker on the street trying to sell you something that you'd never buy... "Allora... Non mi va!". Kids will say it to get out of doing what their parents tell them to do.
In bocca al lupo - Literally, "in the wolf’s mouth". Used to wish someone good luck, meaning to aim into the wolf's mouth to kill it (the wolf represents the difficulty they are facing). When wishing someone will overcome something more serious, use "crepi il lupo", literally, "Croak the wolf!". Sort of like when we say to someone "You'll beat it" or "You'll kill it".
Neanche per sogno - Literally, "Not even in (your) dream". Used to slap back someone's offer or when you don't agree with a suggestion, such as "Not in your wildest dreams" or simply "No way!".
Sono stanco - Literally, "I'm weary (tired)". Use after a long day of walking around tourist sites, such as "Sono stanco. Troppo a piedi. Ho bisogno di gelato freddo!" (I'm tired. Too much walking. I need a cold gelato!")
Magari This is slang for "maybe" or perhaps "if it could only be true". You could use it expressing hope to win the Lotto or meeting the perfect mate, or "Voglio avere figli... magari" (I want to have children... I could only wish.)
Ogni morto di papa - Literally, "Every Death of a Pope", used the same as "Once in a blue moon". Make sure to accent "Papa" correctly... accent on the first syllable (PA-pa). If you say "pa-PA" you are taking about your Dad.
Salve, come va? - Literally "Hello, how’s it going?" The more formal way is to ask "Buongiorno, come stai?"(Good morning, how are you). It’s a less formal way of greeting someone, but use "come sta" in formal or business situations.
Galeotto fu il libro - "Jailbird was the book"... an odd expression referring to matchmaking two people. Perhaps referring to when a guy gives a girl a book (a present) they'll become imprisoned--in love. Some of the roots behind these expressions are really difficult to comprehend.
Promettere mari e monti - Literally, "Promise the seas and mountains". Used like "Promise Heaven and Earth". Examples: "Non mi prometti mari e monti" (I am not promising Heaven and Earth" or "Mi ha promesso mari e monti" (He promised me Heaven and Earth").
Non chiedo la luna - "I'm not asking for the moon". Used when frustrated with someone complaining about a simple request. One of the more useful expressions to make your request in a restaurant or hotel seem like it's coming from a more seasoned Voyager who can't be taken advantage of. (I wish I knew this one when picking up rental cars at Hertz!)
Andare a monte (ahn-DAR-eh a MOHN-teh) - Literally, "Go to the mountain", but it figuratively means that everything went downhill and failed. Examples: Un viaggio va a monte (The trip was called off); Il matrimonio è andato a monte (the marriage failed). Use to describe something that went awry or got fouled up.
Ho peli sul mio stomaco - Literally, "I have hairs on my stomach", meaning you're not taking something seriously or that it's not bothering you.
Ne ho fin sopra i capelli - Literaly, "I'm sick up to my hair". Use it the same as "I’ve had it up to here" or "I'm fed up to here" or "I'm sick and tired". You can use a hand gesturing to the top of your head with this.
Capitare su un osso duro - Literally, "Happen on a tough bone". A purgurative. Use it referring to dealing with a tough cookie. A person who is "un osso duro" (a tough bone) is a bit thick and stubborn. You can also use "capo tosto" meaning "thick (tough) head". A hand motion goes with this... knocking your knuckles or fist on a table as you say it.
Dare del filo da torcere - Literally, "giving a twisted thread". Think of a small, precocious child asking "Why... Why... Why" no matter how many times you give an answer. "Torcere" means to Twist. They’re never satisfied with your answers. To tell someone about your daughter's quizzical nature, you could say, "Mia figlia mi dà del filo da torcere" (My daughter gives me a hard time). In the positive, you might also use this to describe how smart and curious your kid is because he asks many questions.
Essere in alto mare - This is a common phrase used when someone has procrastinated and discover that they are behind on a project. It literally means that you are in deep water with a long way to go before getting finished.
Mi fa cagare! - Instead of the much more polite "È orribile" ("It's awful!"), Italians will say bluntly, "It makes me poop," . So, when taking about "That restaurant? Mi fa cagare!" "Her new dress?! Mi fa cagare!" "That new American singer? Mi fa cagare!"
Mi sento le mani prudono - Literally, "I'm feeling itchy hands" means you feel like hitting someone... you're pissed off. Be careful how you use this.
Figurati! - Literal, "Imagine (that)!", used as "Don't worry about it!" or "It's nothing!" You can use this in both positive or negative ways. "Thanks for a great meal... Figurati!" or when to act innocent and blameless when you've just dented someone's fender who just cut into your lane, "I'm so sorry I ran into you... Figurati!" It's like saying "mi scusi" (excuse me) without really meaning it.
Dai! - This simply means "Come on!" as in, "Please, you can't deny me." When someone refuses your suggestion to go have a drink, you say "Dai!" along with a motioning hand gesture toward yourself. You can also use it to try to stop someone from doing something negative. "Why are you pushing me? Dai! Wait your turn!"
Meno Male! - Literally, "less bad." Oh, HE got elected? Meno Male! As long as that other jerk didn't win!" "I passed the test? Meno male!"
Grazie a Dio! - "Thank God!" used the same way we use it to express great relief. Always include the "a" (meaning "to")... "Thanks to God" otherwise, you would be thanking God directly.
Ma, che sei grullo? - Used more in Florence, literally "But, how stupid are you?" It's used like "Are you kidding?" or "Are you crazy?" to friends. Say it to a stranger and you might get in trouble. Example: "I'll pay for dinner." Response, "Ma, che sei grullo?" or "You paid that much for those shoes? Ma, che sei grullo?"
Scappo! - Slang for "escape" or "I'm gone" or "I'm outta here!".
Ti scureggia il cervello - Use this only with friends, or when you really want to insult someone. It means, literally, "your brain is farting". A Roman expression.
Cazzata - Literally "Crap!" or perhaps a bit more blunt, as it's derived from "cazzo" (f*ck). Used when you get a whiff of someone's BS. Or to scold yourself when you said something crappy or stupid, "Dio, ho detto una cazzata," meaning, "God, I said something f*cked up."
Figo - Slang for "Cool", meaning something great or nice. Used to describe things or people. Use "figa" to describe a Cool (or "Hot)" female, but the word "figa" can also be used referring to a woman's vagina or derrière. A "figata" is something that is cool or great--used as the opposite of a "cazzata."
Mannaggia - Used as "Damn!" or combined as "Manageria miseria"--"Damned misery!" Used to express utter frustration with someone, something or a frustrating situation.
Zitto - Slang and abrupt was to get someone to keep quiet. "Zitto!" or "Stai zitto!" means "Shut up!" or "Shush!"
I hope you'll put some of these expressions to good use during your next Voyage to Italy. This was a long post, Sono Stanco! If only I had someone else to write these posts for me... magari!
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It's pronounced "un-DU-ya". But what is it?
‘Nduja of Spilinga is a spreadable, cured sausage meat spread... made with pork, salt, herbs and the ever-so-hot Calabrian chili pepper. This is a pretty spicy spread. Keep the water and milk handy!
'Nduja was first made by farmers looking for ways to use the lesser parts of a pig. The name ‘Nduja comes from the French word andouille that means sausage. 'Nduja originates from the town of Vibo Valentia in south eastern Calabria, but is now made throughout the region.
According to some historians it was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s and made using their traditional paprika, but as its name come from the French word “andouille”, it might be a descendant of a very similar French sausage that came to Italy during the time of Napoleon around 1806-1815.
Every May 8th, the town of Vibo Valentia hosts their oldest festival in honor of ‘Nduja, a fantastic, folky, gastronomic experience were the town celebrates this ingredient by preparing many different dishes with it. Voyagers will find food stalls offering traditional dishes and all sort of products that utilize ‘Nduja. There are many celebrations around the town and in the Piazza the heat comes to a head with the “U Camijuzzu i Focu” (camel of fire), a traditional dance. Just make sure you know where the water fountains are.
‘Nduja is commonly eaten as a bruschetta--spread over bread--or used in recipes. Because it's a spread, the flavors will melt into a sauce when added to a saute pan. You can use it to bring it up a notch (as a famous chef used to say) by adding to your Texas chili, as a pizza topping, to soups and stews, as a spread on top of a steak, to make a fiery Pasta Bolognese, a spicy Arrabbiata tomato sauce, in a Sunday Gravy and much more. It's best to test small amounts of 'Nduja before eating it as a spread or adding to your own recipes.
'Nduja is becoming more and more popular in the Foodie world every since a London pizzeria chain started using it on their pizzas. Nowadays, there are lots of top chefs using it in their recipes. There are many imitators but you can still find the real thing imported directly from Calabria or other parts of Southern Italy. The next time you’re in your favorite Italian deli, look for it... but ask if it's the real Calabrian ‘Nduja or just a cheaper version. And believe it or not, you can actually find it on Amazon...
From its altitude of 750 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea, Voyagers can enjoy the unforgettable vista Terracina far below, the Pontine plain, Mount Circeo and looking far out to sea, as far as the Pontine islands and Ischia.
Since the year 2000 the Temple is protected as a “Natural Monument” in the Lazio Region, and is host to the famous Anxur Lumina Sound and Light show. The temple is open all year long and offers a panoramic cafeteria located inside the archaeological area.
The God Jupiter
Jupiter (also called Jove) was the King of the Gods and the God of Sky and Thunder in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire.
Jupiter is usually thought to have originated as a sky god. His identifying implement is the thunderbolt, and his primary sacred animal is the eagle, which held precedence over other birds and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army. The two emblems were often combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt, frequently seen on Greek and Roman coins. As the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend. His sacred tree was the oak.
(Halfway between Rome and Naples, perfect for a weekend getaway)
Terracina is snug against the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Riviera of Ulysses; so-called because legend has it that Odysseus sailed through on his travels. Nothing says "Odysseus was here" like Mount Circeo, rising out of the sea like the jagged profile of a reclining witch. The sorceress Circe is said to have lived there, plotting to turn Greek sailors into beasts. This uniquely-shaped rock formation is visible from other towns along the Riviera of Ulysses but Terracina is at just the right distance to create the perfect panorama of sea, sky, and mountain. The Mount Circeo is visible from most points in the city, perhaps none as overwhelming as when you're standing in the sea, looking North. Each evening, the mountain goes up in flames: no two sunsets are ever alike.
Terracina's centro storico has ochre colored houses with green shutters on narrow cobblestone streets. There are the ruins of a mosaic-covered Capitolium and a massive rose colored square. The old quarter's nightspots attract live music fans, tourists, and locals alike.
Don't forget that Terracina is a beach town, so fresh seafood is great here. Restaurants run the gamut from family-run trattorias to seafood shacks and small osterias with young Foodie chefs. Voyagers can enjoy risotto alla pescatora, calamari fritti and spicy boar sausage, while deep-fried filled Zeppole (doughnuts) are eaten hot in the evenings. Terracina hosts a number of sagre (festivals) including a strawberry festival in late Spring, a chestnut festival in the fall, and a muscatel grape festival in late Summer. Terracina's muscatel wine was the wine of Ulysses and still claim to be sweetest in the region.
As for music, there is traditional folk music, Italian reggae, and Italian rap. The Anxur Festival draws the area's best musical acts.
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In Northern Italy, if you want to experience the rustic charm, fresh air and home grown richness of Italian food, you find an agriturismo to stay in. We stayed in two in Tuscany--one which was family owned and run and who grew and produced their own wine and olive oil. The other was a more bastadized, corporate owned affair, caharging extra for vineyard tours and tastings, with an over priced little restaurant on site and overpriced low quality "tourist wine". There are still others who are much more authentic--and where you can participate in taking care of animals, tending crops or making cheese, pasta and such. When traveling in Southern Italy the equivalent is staying in a masseria.
Most masserie are very old... built between the 1500-1600s when Spain ruled the South. A masseria is a rather large farm complex to house not only the landowners, but also the peasants who tended the crops and farm animals. The complex usually included several other specialty buildings to house animals, to store crops, to make wine or cheese, etc. Some masseria developed into essentially small villages surrounded and protected high walls with a central courtyard surrounded by all the other structures.
Many of the masserie today have been renovated and turned into vacation rentals and are mostly found in Puglia, in eastern Campania, on the plateau--or Murgia--of Basilicata, in Calabria, and in Sicily, Abruzzo and Molise. A masseria gives Voyagers a vacation that combines nature, local culture and home-grown (or Slow Food) cuisine with all the creature comforts of a world class vacation rental. You'll find modern plumbing, air conditioning (although often not as cool as we Americans would like it) and internet (slow or limited wireless connections due to thick walls), and satellite TV (often limited on station offerings). Some of the overly developed (in my opinion) masseria even offer spa treatments, golf courses and other offerings that have little to do with saturating yourself in local flavor or customs. I'd avoid these "resort" types and search for facilities that offer a more genuine Southern Italian experience. If you find a family run masseria you will find people go out of their way to make your stay a comfortable, memorable one. That was out experience when we stayed in a similar place, a small masseria of Trulli (pointed stone houses). Southern Italians are simply more hospitable than up in the North. There, I've said it.
When staying at a masseria, you will get the feel of a farm along with a definite level of comfort found on a country estate. I think this is a great way for Southern Italians (if they are the ones who developed and run the properties) to preserve and reuse these historic structures, along with preserving this period of history in Southern Italy. If you decide to book a stay in a masseria, you will most likely be welcomed like family members, sample their own olive oil and wine and even cheese made on these farms (beware of Ricotta Forte!). You will also learn about the local culture and history--of Puglia, Basilicata or Campania.
Owners will often join guests for home-cooked dinners using products from the farms... many types of pasta with vegetables, parmigiana di melanzana, seafood (the sea is all around in the South), pizza made in outdoor wood ovens, roasted vegetables, insalata caprese, polpette (meatballs) or beefsteak, home made breads (they use salt in Southern bread, unlike the Tuscan breads), thick jam-like honey, and to drink... good Southern varieties of red wine (Primativo is out favorite!). I strongly suggest looking for an organic masseria that uses no chemicals to grow their olive trees, vines, cherries, almonds, and vegetables. You will not believe how simply food can taste so damned wonderful. Imagine having a real Italian family meal—excellent, simple fare pared with a great local wine and great, hand-waving conversation. You will never have experiences like these staying in hotels.
Some masseria offer classes in cheese making, pasta making, cooking or show you how olive oil is made. Visit in the fall and help with the harvest or grapes, almonds or olives. Some of the largest and oldest olive trees grow in the South... I took a photo of Lucas standing with a 2000 year old specimen! There are many masserie throughout the region and accommodation ranges from simple apartments to luxury suites and even trulli (circular stone huts), and most are in peaceful settings in the countryside surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. You usually need a car (rent in Bari or Naples) to access them and some can be difficult to find but it’s worth it for such unique accommodation and the opportunity to experience the warm hospitality of Southern Italians.
If you want to stay in an organic masseria, use those words on Google... "organic masseria" and see what you come up with. The cost for a stay in a masseria stay might run from $60 to over $200 a night per person including breakfast.
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