A recent segment of Provaci ancora Prof! brings up a grammatical mistake many Italians and non-Italians make, often aware they’re making it, but which they make anyway to add color and emphasis.
When we talk about liking something, we use the verb piacere. See this lesson about mi piace (I like it).
When we say mi piace, mi is actually short for a me (to me), as Daniela tells us in her lesson.
Mi significa "a me",
"Mi" means "to me,"
piace è la terza persona singolare del verbo "piacere".
"piace" is the third person singular of the verb "piacere" (to please).
Captions 2-4, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Mi piace Play Caption
Instead of mi piace we may say a me piace. It means the same thing, and might be used when we want to emphasize that someone else might not like something, but the person speaking does. It puts the accent on the person speaking, not on the fact of liking it, or on what it is that’s being liked.
Almeno, a me piace questa, proprio questa radicalità del territorio.
At least, I like this, precisely this rootedness in the territory.
Caption 15, L'arte della cucina - Terre d'Acqua Play Caption
However, it is not correct at all to use both figures at the same time. It’s an unacceptable redundancy. A me mi piace is wrong.
In this week's episode of Provaci ancora, Prof, Camilla's young daughter uses another expression incorrectly in the same way:
A me mi [sic] sa che la mamma ha detto una bugia.
To me, I have a feeling that Mom told a lie.
Caption 11, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale Play Caption
She should have said:
Mi sa che la mamma ha detto una bugia (I have a feeling that Mom told a lie).
Parents find themselves correcting this very frequent error all the time with their kids.
"A me mi" non si dice.
"To me I" isn't said.
Caption 12, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E1 - Il regalo di Babbo Natale Play Caption
Mi sa (it smells/seems to me) is a very common and useful way to say “I have a feeling” or “I think,” and what’s more, you don’t have to worry, in this particular case, about using the subjunctive after che (that).
See this lesson about mi sa.
Now, let’s take this error one step further.
Romans have the tendency to pronounce indirect pronouns ending in i, with a final e instead. This results in me piace. It has to do with local pronunciation, not (necessarily) ignorance, and is a regional characteristic.
For other aspects of the Roman dialect, or Romanesco, see this article.
One of Italy’s most beloved (Roman) actors, Gigi Proietti, made the aforementioned error famous in a series of TV commercials for Kimbo coffee. You can see one of them here on YouTube. He also makes other errors his travelling companion tries to correct him on.
But what interests us right now is that he says, “A me me piace (to me, I like it).” He uses the incorrect, above-mentioned redundant form, plus which he uses me instead of mi, which many would consider an error. So, it’s totally wrong, but it became extremely popular all overItaly in those years, because he would say it at the end of every commercial, while holding up his little cup of espresso.
Previous to Gigi Proietti’s arrival on the scene, Caffè Kimbo had already produced a series of comical commercials taking place on a cruise ship. The captain was played by Massimo Dapporto, another popular Italian actor. Then a new “season” started up with Gigi Proietti playing a man lost at sea on a little raft. He gets rescued by the cruise ship, but has lost his memory. In the first installment of this new series, there is a wonderful play on the double meaning of sentire (to hear, to smell). View it here.
Gigi Proietti’s character takes great pleasure in making his mistakes, almost as much pleasure as he apparently takes in drinking his Caffè Kimbo. As foreigners trying to speak Italian as well as possible, we should probably stay away from trying to imitate him. People might think we don’t know any better.