From Atlas Obscura, by Dan Nosowitz
“Don’t eat gabagool, Grandma,” says Meadow Soprano on an early episode of The Sopranos, perhaps the most famous depiction of Jersey Italian culture in the past few decades. “It’s nothing but fat and nitrates.” The pronunciation of “gabagool,” a mutation of the word "capicola," might surprise a casual viewer, although it and words like it should be familiar to viewers of other New Jersey-based shows like the now-defunct Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, where food often drives conversation. The casts are heavily Italian-American, but few of them can actually speak, in any real way, the Italian language. Regardless, when they talk about food, even food that’s widely known by the non-Italian population, they often use a specific accent.
And it’s a weird one. “Mozzarella” becomes something like “mutzadell.” “Ricotta” becomes “ree-goat.” “Prosciutto” becomes “pruh-zhoot.” There is a mangling of the language in an instantly identifiable way: final syllables are deleted, certain consonants are swapped with others, certain vowels are mutated in certain places.
Most immigrant groups in the U.S. retain certain words and phrases from the old language even if the modern population can’t speak it. But for people outside those groups, and even, often, inside them, it’s next to impossible to pick out a specific regional accent in the way a Jewish American says “challah” or a Korean-American says “jjigae.” How can someone who doesn’t speak the language possibly have an regional accent?
Yet Italian-Americans do. It’s even been parodied; on an episode of Kroll Show, comedian Nick Kroll’s character Bobby Bottleservice, a Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino-type, describes his lunch in this thick accent, eliminating the final syllable of each item. “Cap-uh-coal,” he says, pointing at capicola. “Mort-ah-dell,” he says, as the camera pans over a thin, pale arrangement of mortadella. “Coca-coal,” he finishes, as the camera moves over to a glass of Coke. “Capicola,” made famous in its mutation by The Sopranos, gets even more mutated for comedic effect on The Office, where it becomes “gabagool.”
I spoke to a few linguists and experts on Italian-American culture to figure out why a kid from Paterson, New Jersey, who doesn’t speak Italian, would earnestly ask for a taste of “mutzadell.” The answer takes us way back through history and deep into the completely chaotic world of Italian linguistics.
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If you've been to Italy before, you will always want to go back for more. If you've never been--yet--you might want to see things first before you plan your trip. Well, here's a great way for Voyagers to take a peek at Italy for a refresher or simply to check things out before you head of to la Bella Italia...
The Skyline Webcams site has the largest collection of webcams in Italy. Check out the progress of the renovations to the Trevi Fountain or simply look at that glorious view of the Amalfi Coast that you remember so well--all live!
So, sit back, click on a few locations, and enjoy your armchair Voyage...
Click HERE to visit the live webcams!
In Italy, the eucalyptus only arrived at the turn of the 19th century when large scale plantations were planted at the beginning of the 20th century, mostly in the South. They can be low bushes or huge trees. Since eucalyptus roots suck up tremendous amounts of groundwater, they were planted to dry up swampy ground to defeat malaria. Their fast growth in the Italian climate and excellent function as windbreaks, has made them a common sight in the South and in Sardinia and Sicily. They are also valued for the characteristic smelling and tasting honey that is produced from them.
They are also used in aromatherapy for joint pain. One use you can try has multiple benefits: Hang a bunch in your shower to release the fragrant oils as you wash. The oils can loosen your joints and the scent will clear your sinuses.
Yes, even in Italy, there are folletti (goblins), mostri (monsters) and fantasmi (ghosts) this time of year. The more traditional time of year for people dressing up as all sorts of strange creatures in Italy is the two weeks before Lent, for Carnevale, but in the last several years, Halloween is catching on. The Vatican doesn't like the trend, however, because they fear it might change the meaning All Saints and All Souls Day (November 1 - 2) from a day to cherish memories of those who have gone before to just another day to get dressed up and act crazy.
The Vatican has little to fear however... Most Italians are still celebrating the religious holiday of All Saints Day in addition to just plain having fun for Halloween. In the nineties, young Romans started dressing up for Halloween and shops began selling costumes, candles and other Halloween related items. There are Halloween parties and even dress-up and candy sharing in schools for the little ones.
Obviously, younger Italians are driving the trend toward celebrating Halloween through exposure to American TV and Movies and the Internet. Watching episodes of Cake Boss on Italian TV creating Zombie cakes also helps. Films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and ET (remember the Trick or Treat scenes?) all played a part. Just don't expect there to be Trick or Treating in the average village... at least not yet.
Spooky Things to Do in Italy
For one, visit the catacombs at the Museum and Crypt of Capuchins, a church in Rome where you can visit the underground catacombs where thousands of humans skeletons and bones have been arranged in artistic displays. Artistic, but way creepy when you realize that you are gazing upon actual human remains. Be respectful.
Corinaldo, a ghostly looking medieval town in Le Marche, has a festival that lasts for days, with nationally famous actors and comedians, lots of food stands, and even a "Miss Witch" contest. For Halloween, the whole town is lit with candles and torches, spiderwebs in the narrow streets and alleys, a tunnel of fear, music, food, dancing, and fireworks. On a foggy Autumn night, there couldn't be a more appropriate town to hold a spooky festival in. This is one of the more popular Halloween festivals in all of Italy.
The village of Ostra, Ancona hosts a unique and very scary festival during several days in late October celebrating La Notte degli Sprevengoli--spirits who bother people while they’re sleeping by jumping on their stomach, causing night terrors.
The Hard Rock Cafe in Rome hosts a full blown, American style Halloween costume party, with fun for the kids... carving jack-o-lanterns and more.
In the town of Ravenna there is a theme park that goes all out for Halloween each October--for the entire month. The park is called Mirabilandia, and is a recreation of a medieval castle and village that they deck out with ghosts, ghouls and Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween.
In the town of Castrocaro Terme, about ten kilometers from Forli, the Middle Ages comes to life each October. The townsfolk dress as ghosts and witches and head to the Castle for spooky goings on, food, drink and mayhem. Visitors can dine in the wine cellar of the castle, transformed for the night into a Tavern of Mysteries.
In the fortress of Bardi, Parma, after tracking a ghost who lives in the castle, Ghostbusters refresh themselves with the "Cold buffet Death", including bloody salami and pasta creations that would be favored by Hannibal Lector, and then they will be poisoned by the best wines from the region.
At the Fiesta dalis Muars (dialect: Festival of Pumpkins), in Ampezzo, the courtyards of the historical center are lit only by torches, fireworks and fabulous light shows with clowns and fire eaters. The festival is held on the night of October 31 and is a reenactment of what Italians call "Celtic Halloween". The muars (pumpkins) are carved, then lit and displayed throughout the streets of the town, where you will also find food, fairies, elves, goblins, fire-eaters, jugglers and magical creatures.
Night of Thrills in Comacchio - A cursed treasure hunt, a haunted house, demons and ghosts come to life on October 31 centerered around the bridges and canals of the historic center. Comacchio for Halloween night turns into a real horror fantasy city, to accommodate adults and children from 2pm until midnight. Festivities start with with the treasure hunt, themed workshops, tales of terror, Funhouse, the Halloween Parade.
Speleo Halloween at Castellana Grotte - On October 30 -31 the Speleological Museum Franco Anelli of Castellana Grotte (Bari), is designed for children. Through readings, games and activities, young participants will play the role of explorers and will discover the underground caves with its inhabitants and its "natural treasures."
Murder Mystery Dinner at Grumello Castle- On the night of October 31, diners pilgrims of Castle will have to try to solve a mystery and figure out who is guilty of such a heinous murder that happened between the walls of the manor. Culinary pleasures are also featured with themed dishes made with the same recipes that were used in past centuries.
Gropparello Castle - For thrill seekers here's a magical night of bewitched knights between dream and reality, the horror-fantasy path Halloween Castle of Gropparello (Piacenza), October 31, 2019. The ancient castle isolated in the hills of Piacenza is the ideal place to spend Halloween. Experience the fear and pleasures of a buffet dinner with theme setting for families with children or a medieval banquet in costume with entertainment for adults.
Night of the Leolandia Witches- Celebrate Halloween dedicated to families with children in Leolandia, within the province of Bergamo. On October 31st is an event with much spooky atmosphere and prolonged fun until late in the evening. There will be many attractions and special guests, a baby dance, a fireworks display on Minitalia, and Mia Leo Witch and Warlock.
Italian Pumpkin Festival
If you are in Italy around Halloween time you might want to check out the October Festa della Zucca (Pumpkin Festival) in Venzone, a medieval walled town in northeastern Italy. This festival will really give you that autumn, pumpkin fix that you crave. Although you might not find many Jack-O-Lanterns there, you will find pumpkins and squash of all colors, shapes and sizes--giants ones, too. There is food, art, music, and dancing and prizes are awarded for the largest, heaviest, most beautiful, and most unusual pumpkins. Children participate in a pumpkin-carving contest, while chefs demonstrate their skill in carving intricate floral designs.
So, it looks like there are lots of ways to celebrate Halloween in Italy... take your pick. And while most village children won't be knocking on doors yelling "Dolcetto o scherzetto" (Trick or Treat), there is still a lot of good, scary fun for your entire family.
If you enjoyed this post, please sneak up on your closest friends, and yell BOO! Ciao!
Before Italy used the Euro, there was the Lira. Many didn't like the Lira because it was nearly worthless anyway. In fact,by the time the Lira was replaced, a 2000 Lire bill was only worth about one U.S. Dollar-- 20 Lira about one penny. Buying a nice dinner could cost tens of thousands... a car would be millions!
But still, in 2014 Claudia Moretti thought she struck it rich. She discovered 100 million Lire in a safe hidden at her late Uncle's home on the Adriatic coast after having inherited it. With her father, she went to the house to start cleaning before starting renovations. After opening an old a cabinet which contained among other things an old gramophone, they came across a locked metal box. After breaking it open she found the surprise... one hundred million lire in cash.
The bigger surprise came when she went to the bank and they told her it was worthless. Italy has been using the Euro for more than a decade and there was a 10 year limit on changing Lira to Euros... the limit had run out. She hired lawyers to fight the decision but lost her battle and lost her Uncles fortune. The lawyers surely won, however.
Even if she could have cashed in on the stash of Lira, it would have only been worth around $65,000, hardly a fortune. But, she still had her Uncle's house. But wait, in Italy, usually property is shared by many family members... sisters, uncles, cousins... and there might be various rights on the deed that limit the use of the property. She might have an uncle that owns the rights to harvest the olive trees. There might be a cousin with the rights to the almonds... and another who has the right to spend summers in the house. "Owning" a property in Italy is not that simple... especially one that is inherited.
Too bad she couldn't cash in all that Lire... Now, how does she stop Cousin Alfredo from digging up all "her" truffles? And Uncle Luigi expects to refurbish the grape vines--his "right" as per the deed.
Oh well, at least she took home that old gramophone...
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I knew there were local and regional dialects in Italy. I knew that my Mom spoke a dialect from Naples area and my Dad spoke a different dialect--from Molfetta. Mom said when Dad was speaking, it was like listening to a foreign language.
Before I Voyaged to Italy I read a book called Pan' e Pomodor that talked about life in Puglia where my Dad was from. It was interesting to learn how local some dialects really were... words and expressions totally changed often from one village to another or from one hilltop to another. But when I stumbled across this map of the dialects in Italy I was dumbfounded.
Some even say there are literally thousands of local dialects, not merely hundreds. There are several reasons for this phenomena: Italy didn't become one country until the late 1800s; there was nothing in the original Italian Constitution that specified one national language; many areas of Italy are extremely rural in rough terrain which causes a village to evolve separately from others; Italy has been conquered by many different peoples throughout history--Germans, Turks, French and more; many of the dialects are based on "Vulgar Latin", evolving over many centuries into their own dialect lineages; there are even areas of Italy that speak Griko, a form of the Greek language and villages that speak mixed dialects of Albanian and Croatian. As an example, the small island region of Sardinia has no less than six dialects in use today.
Dialects are used by a majority of Italians and spoken as a primary language by 15% of the population. The strange fact is that many Italians speak their local or regional dialect at home, but speak the Italiano language when outside their home area. For instance, I read in Pan' e Pomodor that parents teach their children never to speak dialect outside of their village, especially when trying to find work in Rome or Milan, because they will be looked down upon. It's a shame because the various dialects and regional differences is exactly what makes Italy such an interesting, rich country. I remember when taking the train from Bari to Rome the conductor made announcements in three languages: English, Italian and Dialetto.
So if you're Voyaging in a remote part of Italy and find it difficult to get the locals to understand you--even when speaking your best Italiano, be patient and remember they might only speak their dialect. Enjoy their uniqueness and speak a more universal language... a smile.
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The setting: a small and friendly supermarket in a old sleepy town in Italy
The characters: Serena and the staff at supermarket
Il giovane cassiere, all’entrata del supermercato: “Buongiorno!”
The young cashier, at the supermarket entrance: “Good morning!”
Serena: “Buongiorno!” Poi, parlando tra sé e sé: “Allora, vediamo la lista della spesa: pere, uva, funghi…”
Serena: “Good morning!” Then, talking to herself: “Right, let’s have a look at the shopping list: pears, grapes, mushrooms…”.....
Click for More...
Let's get this straight from the outset. I'm an American. Sure, I'm technically Italian-American--full blooded, both sides of my family. My Dad was born in Molfetta, Puglia. My Mom was born here but is second general Napoletano. But I learned to be happy and proud about being an American after living in France for a while. Other countries don't hold a candle to our freedom and the possibilities our American way of life offers.
But... There is a lot to be learned from other cultures, as I did after living and traveling throughout France when I was a younger man. As complex as France was, I found Italy to be much more simple in many ways. The food is more simple--much easier to grasp the simple cooking methods than in French cuisine. The wine is both simple and good, whereas French wines, varieties and classifications are mind-boggling. The architecture is also simple in a timeless way... some villages have barely changed since the time of the Romans.
But mostly I want to explore the lifestyle. What are the elementary things that make the Italian way of life so loved and prized throughout the world --no less by the proud people of Italy itself? If you want to live the Italian life you need to go on a Voyage to both Italy and inside yourself. You need to ground yourself in the basic things that make Italians both complex and simple... that allow them to appreciate the mundane things around them, their families and the natural world around them--especially in the sense of where their food comes from.
So, here are some things you might try to live The Italian Life...
So, try these suggestions and live the Italian way... be a Buongustaio (person of good taste). Learn to live la dolce vita (the sweet life).
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Before becoming a Voyager in Italy we heard all sorts of horror stories about pickpockets and didn't want to become victims. To be honest, it wasn't all that bad, however, there are still things you should do and watch out for when traveling in Italy.
I hope this helps protect you while you are on your own Grand Voyage. Rome is no worse than Manhattan, Florence is just plain packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, Naples is… well, Naples. Just be careful and have a great time!
For more... read:
Keeping Things Safe against Pickpockets & Thieves
Travel Tip: Before Losing a Wallet in Italy...
Keeping Safe in Italy: Gypsies, Scams, beggars and Italian Toll Booths?
Rome Taxiphobia: Much Ado About Nothing
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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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First things first... what do you call people engaged in amore? A boyfriend is a Fidanzato. The girlfriend is a Fidanzata. When both get engaged they are Fidanzarsi. Two lovers together are called La coppia--the couple. The lovers are called gli amante (the lovers) or simply amante.
Ok, so you meet someone interesting and want to go on a date... You might say "Ti va di uscire qualche volta?" (Do you want to go out sometime?) The date itself is called un appuntamento. When things start to go more romantic, you go on un appuntamento romantico. If someone stands you up for your appuntamento, they call it dare buca--giving one the hole or leaving someone in a hole.
Here are some other phrases to learn in the event that you are looking for Love--or if Love finds you--in Bella Italia...
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A Tabacchi (ta-BOCK-ee) in Italy is a tobacco shop. You will see the signs everywhere, in every town, large or small... a large white “T” on either a black or blue background.
All tabacchi shops sell tobacco products--cigarettes, cigars, pipes, lighters, etc. They will also have an after hours machine, but unless you carry an Italian I.D. card you won't be able to buy cigarettes from a machine.
But they are so much more, and can be especially useful to the voyager. You can purchase local bus, tram and Metro tickets and museum and tourist site passes, phone cards (international, too), and francobolli (postage stamps). Buying postage stamps in an actual Post Office can be a lesson in tolerance. For a few stamps, get them in the tabacchi. They can even add time/credit to SIM cellphones or even pay their household bills.
You can buy your bus tickets at the tabacchi shops that display the "ATAF" symbol in their window for €1.20 for a 90 minute pass. If you have a cellphone, you can also buy a one time ticket via SMS, just text “ATAF” to the number 4880105 and in a few seconds you will receive an SMS with your valid e-ticket. This is valid for 90 minutes and the only extra cost is for the SMS itself.
You might also find shipping supplies (labels, envelopes, tape), other stationary supplies (some with very nice pens) and even lottery tickets. Candy is common, as are some salty snacks, like chips. Others might have a vending machine for drinks. Greeting cards and post cards can also be found, but the greeting cards are not the best. Newspapers and the odd magazine might be offered by some, but there are other specialty shops for this called either Edicola or Negozio.
In the end, you might see the "T" sign affixed to a much large shop that specializes in other things, like coffee and breakfast pastries, make-up, jewelry or perfumes.
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From Italy Magazine...
Even if you're just on vacation in Italy, you may need to go grocery shopping at the supermarket - andare a fare la spesa. So here's a helpful vocabulary guide of terms you may see once inside the supermarket - supermercato.
Food products can be found along the corsie (aisles), on the scaffali (shelves). You will put them inside the carrello (shopping cart), or, if you're not buying a lot, the cestino (shopping basket).
Food products are divided according to type:
Prodotti per la casa - household items
Prodotti da forno (merendine, biscotti, pane, crackers, ecc.) - baked goods (snacks, cookies, bread, crackers, etc.)
Pasta e riso – Pasta and rice
Prodotti in scatola (fagioli, passata di pomodoro, tonno, ecc.) - canned goods (beans, tomato sauce, tuna, etc.)
Condimenti (olio di oliva, aceto, origano, peperoncino, ecc.) – dressings and spices (olive oil, vinegar, oregano, red pepper, etc.)
Latte e latticini (yogurt, formaggi) – Milk and dairy products
Prodotti surgelati – frozen foods
Frutta e verdura – fruit and vegetables
Carne – meat
Pesce - seafood
Salumi e formaggi freschi – deli counter
Bevande (vino, birra, bibite gassate) – beverages (wine, beer, sodas)
Acqua – water
Once you’re done with la spesa, you proceed to la cassa (checkout counter), where la cassiera or il cassiere (cashier) will scan your items and ask you, vuole una sportina/le sportine (do you want a bag/bags)? Remember that in Italy bags are not free to encourage reusable shopping bags.
Then you pay, either in contanti, cash, or con la carta (by credit card), the cashier will give you your scontrino (receipt) and you say goodbye.
Especially in the peak tourist months, the Amalfi Coast is bumper to bumper tour buses and its towns are chock full of tourists stepping on one another's toes. I wouldn't dream of driving the Amalfi Coast in summer--it was crazy enough in October when we were there! And I wouldn't want to rely on the sporadic local buses where you'd have to wait for an hour just to get on, and when you do you'd be standing for an hour or more just to get to your destination... a blood-curdling drive going around cliff hanging curves at the blazing traffic jam speeds of 6 miles an hour. Well, I have a suggestion... Instead of going to Amalfi, go where the tour buses aren't dumping off thousands of tourists--Cinque Terre in the northern region of Liguria!
Cinque Terre literally translated means Five Lands, a reference to it's five towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and even it isn't technically part of the Five Lands, I would include the wonderful port town of Portovenere just to the east with its naturalized island of Palmeria just opposite the town. The rugged coastline rivals the Amalfi Coast in beauty and its five villages along with the surrounding cliffs are part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The advantage of visiting Cinque Terre is that cars--as well as tour buses--can't reach the villages. They are only accessible by local trains, by foot paths (old donkey paths) running between them or by boat-taxis and ferrys. While the Amalfi Coast gets bus tours from cruise ships and has more tourists because of its proximity to Naples, Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii, the Cinque Terre villages stand on their own. But, if you are staying in Cinque Terre, there are very doable day trips to Genova, Portofino, Pisa and even Florence if you have the extra time to take a train or rent a car.
Tourism in the villages is more laid back than Amalfi. Here you will find more low modest hotels and rental apartments and more B&Bs than in Amalfi where chic Luxury hotels abound. And although Amalfi has some great hiking with its Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) high above the towns and villages of the Coast Road, the Cinque Terre has its paths connecting each village... and they are wonderful walks with gorgeous views. Keep in mind however, that these walking paths--although well paved and often wide promenades--have lots of people walking them in the high season. They are also rugged in terms of changes in altitudes--lots of ups and downs, so you'd better be in good shape. I wouldn't recommend Cinque Terre for seniors or people with heart or breathing difficulties. In Amalfi, the Path of the Gods is for more serious hikers with some easier parts paths mixed in all throughout the peninsula, but most of the tourists are going to the chic towns of Positano and Amalfi Town--the place is very touristy.
When visiting Italy in early spring or fall, you might have better weather in the south, but by American standards, the weather is still warm enough to enjoy a slightly off-season trip to Cinque Terre. In later October the rains and some winds start to come, so plan your trip later in the month. If you want to swim in the sea, plan your trip at the shoulder of the high season. If you don't mind more crowds, humidity and heat, plan your trip in summer. Personally, I would also squeeze in some time in Portovenere and perhaps have a water taxi drop me off on the Isola Palmeria--a national park with wonderful naturalized beaches that look back at the the town. There are hiking tails on the Island with amazing views and lots of nature to enjoy.
Of course, you might not want to hike between all of the towns... You will want to take the trains also.
The Cinque Terre trains connect six stops: La Spezia (just down the coast to the east of Cinque Terre, it's where you would make connections to other major Italian cities) the official "Five Lands" of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, and the town of Levanto. If you're coming from elsewhere in Italy, you would have to connect to either Florence, Milan, or Venice and then move on to La Spezia to connect with the Cinque Terre train system.From La Spezia to Riomaggiore is about 10 minutes, and then roughly 5 minutes between each town thereafter. The trains run an irregular, perhaps some would say unreliable schedule, but you can usually catch a train every hour or so. You can also travel between towns by water taxi which leave every hour or so.
The simplest walks between towns are between 3/4 of a mile and 2 miles so you might plan on walking through all Five Lands... The Monterosso to Vernazza path is the most demanding and can easily take about two hours, while the By comparison, the Via dell'Amore which clings to the cliff above the sea, is all paved and relatively flat and can be walked in as little as 30 minutes.
Bottom line... Cinque Terre is a bit less touristy than the Amalfi Coast, has less of that chic element and more of the backpacker feel, and is more suited to serious hikers and walkers looking for a more intimate getaway.
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Ok, so I've dropped the ball a bit here. I admit it. After all, I've been an advertising photographer for over 45 years and I haven't even talked shop about cameras on Grand Voyage Italy. Well, things are going to change... here's my first camera review, but look for more posts on other cameras and photo techniques and tips for travel photography in the near future...
When I planned our Italy voyage I knew I didn't want to be loaded down as a pro photographer with my larger camera kit and multiple lenses. This was a different kind of trip for us--to discover our roots. I didn't want to feel like I was working, but yet I wanted to bring enough photo-power to capture the best images of this trip of a lifetime. We decided on two cameras, the Nikon P530 (42X zoom) and the P600 (60X zoom). These were affordable (one more so than the other) and considering the lenses were integrated into the camera body (not removable), I wanted two similar cameras so we always had a backup. As it turned out, the choice was perfect for us. The bodies on these cameras is smaller--much smaller--than my hefty D7000 (a half pound difference!) Lisa could tuck hers into her "mule bag" and I fit mine comfortably into my messenger bag. After all, I didn't want to advertise my presence as "photographer". The cameras were easy to use, lightweight (especially with my wrist strap) and the fact that the lenses on these cameras are in the "Super Zoom" category meant we didn't have to miss shots or carry a traditional DSLR with a variety of lenses. So, now there is a new model that I'd like to talk about...
The Nikon Coolpix P610
The features of the P610 can't be beat... 16 megapixel (full resolution), 60x optical zoom lens, GPS, built-in Wi-Fi, "Near Field Communication" compatibility (NFC), and Full HD video. Combine this with one of my favorite features... the flip out Vari-angle display. This is handy for taking shots looking up from ground level or holding the camera at arm's length over your head, as when taking shots over a crowd. The lens is still a Super Zoom at 60x, just like our P600. That's equivalent to having a range from 24 – 1440mm in a traditional 35mm format camera! There's even vibration reduction for when you're zoomed way in (though, again, shut this feature off to prevent unnecessary battery drain when you don't need it.) If you do a lot of zooming-in at distant objects, I'd recommend packing a tripod, or save space while traveling and get a sturdy mini tripod like the Cullman Magnesit Copter. I brought one along and got amazing steadiness out of it.
The other amazing and useful feature of the P610 is the wide range of ISO... 100 - 12,800! This is fast enough to take decent photos in a dark room or a dark street. Of course, you should only use these higher ISOs when you absolutely need them (all high ISO settings on all cameras trade off capturing a well exposed picture with lessened quality), but it's great to know they are there (like when you want to capture the details of a fresco inside a cave in Puglia without flash). Most shots outdoors would do best with an ISO 100 setting for the best quality image, but to prevent hand hold camera shake (if you've just come from a point and shoot camera) perhaps a setting of 200-400 is a good compromise.
The communication features are great also. Our P600 had Wi-Fi and we used it several times while in Italy to transfer shots to our phone so we could then Email them to friends. Basically, you connect your phone (or in our case, our Kindle) to the camera's Wi-Fi hotspot--very easy to do. We also used this feature to dump shots to our phone or Kindle and then back them up to Dropbox. Very handy to have. The Near Field Communication feature is useful if you have a NFC enabled smart phone... tap your phone to the camera and it instantly makes the Wi-Fi connection. Another very techy feature is that the LCD display automatically switches to the internal electronic viewfinder when you hold the camera up to your eye--and vice versa. On the P600 I have to press a button when I want to switch finders.
I personally see little use for the GPS feature. This has to be turned on from the menu and will tag photos with lat/long coordinates. Useful for posting photos on Panoramia and Google Earth, I suppose. It also has a feature which lists points of interest near your current location. Sorry, but I don't really need it to tell me that the Eiffel Tower is nearby. I'd recommend keeping the GPS turned off if only because it's a real battery drain.
The camera has a multitude of shooting modes for all levels of photographic expertise. If you want full manual control, you've got it. If you want full-auto, it's there too (and does an excellent job). If you prefer selecting Scene modes, here they are:
Backlighting, Bird Watching, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Easy Panorama, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Moon, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Snow, Sports, Sunset and Scene Auto Selector which analyzes the scene and selects the most appropriate one automatically. Enough for you? This is a one very powerful camera that amateurs should not be intimidated by.
The P610 improves on the P600 by delivering 360 shots-per-charge, where the P600 could only manage 330. If you use video a lot (which is excellent in HD, btw) plan on bringing along extra batteries. Video and flash eat batteries alive on these digital cameras. I brought 3 batteries for each camera and could have used an extra one or two each. A super charger like the LEPOWER 40 Watt, 5-port charger saves bringing along lots of power blocks but also charges batteries very fast when plugged into it's two high power USB ports. Combine the batteries with one or two 16 or 32 Gigabyte SDHD cards, and you'll have enough storage to capture thousands of photos on your voyage.
So, if you want a great near-pro quality, Super Zoom camera system, this might be the perfect choice. Happy shooting!
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Average Daily Cost (per person) € 115.25
Accommodation € 65.61
Food € 30.78
Water € 3.13
Local Transportation1 € 10.78
Entertainment1 € 14.72
Communication € 5.66
Tips and Handouts € 6.90
Intercity Transportation € 27.16
Souvenirs € 17.95
Scams, Robberies, and Mishaps € 50.63
Alcohol € 10.99
Because Italy is such a popular destination, travel costs can be high. It's possible to find cheaper meal options and if you're on a particularly tight budget. Most restaurants charge a sitting fee if you dine inside... this is even true when you stop at a bar and just want to have a couple of cool drinks and sit in their cafe outside. They'll charge you several Euro for the table. Instead, get your drinks and find a bench or a sitting wall under the shade of some trees.
Hotels are usually high quality but the rooms are smaller than when traveling in the United States. Choose a hotel based on location, not size, and you won't be disappointed. Consider renting an apartment if you're staying in one location longer than 2 nights. This will save money, give you a place to have a rest during the middle of the day (just like the Italians do with their Riposa) and give a place to try cooking in once in a while.
Traveling in the off season or shoulder season can also save you lots of money (although the "shoulder" season is getting narrower and narrower). This will also help you avoid the crowds which can be overwhelming during the summer months. If you can visit the area during the later fall (mid-October or later) or early spring (early April or earlier), then this is ideal, as the weather is pleasant, the crowds are less, and prices remain low. Winter can be cold (but never as cold as most northern Americans are used to), but is also a fun time to visit. Traveling to Italy during the winter months helps you see a whole different side to this normally touristy country.
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Some people tip everything that moves, even lousy waiters and bathroom attendants in sloppy rest rooms in fancy restaurants. My wife wants to leave everyone a 20% tip even when the service is bad, or even when there is no table service at all! In Italy, things are very different... there is no need to tip.
Tipping is not obligatory--or common--in Italy.
Be aware that some tourist-savvy service people in Italy know that Americans are pre-programmed to tip everything from waiters to taxi drivers to tour guides and just about anyone who works in a hotel. I've even seen blank lines on the check that says "tip" in English in some Rome restaurants... just waiting for the American sucker to write in a tip... The waiters with the biggest cojones (pardon, in Italian it's palle) will stand there holding their hands out. Reach out, shake it and say "grazie" like a polite Italian would and leave them nothing more than a smile. After all, they are the ones that are living la bella vita, not you. They are the ones with the three hour lunchtime, not you. They are the ones that get a guaranteed full month off in August, not you. You worked hard to earn your trip to Italy, didn't you? Do YOU think you are the "rich American"? Unless they gave you the best service you've ever had in your life, forget the tip.
Fact: In Italy, all waiters earn a decent living wage and don't rely on tips, unlike in the U.S. where waiters and waitresses earn a low hourly rate and earn most of their income from tips.
Consider this: The average daily cost for a traveler in Italy is about $60. If you tipped 20% of that cost, that would be $12 each day--just for tips. For a 2 week vacation, that comes to spending $168 extra! That could be one night in a hotel, or enough to splurge on a one of a kind souvenir that can't be bought anywhere back home, or enough to cover the airline's charge for that extra legroom seat.
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I hope you have all read my recent post about Bocce Ball. I'll be honest, I've heard all sorts of explanations about the rules of the game and I've come to the conclusion that there are a lot of variations in the way people play. But then I came across this video, which is one of the best tutorials of how to play the game, scoring and various techniques used in the game. Enjoy...