In this week's lesson, Daniela shows us how different colors behave differently according to gender and number. Some of the colors are easy to understand, and to find equivalent names for, but when it comes to blue, Italians make some important distinctions. The three basic shades of blue are blu, azzurro, and celeste.
Blu is the most basic and can have an adjective attached to it such as in blu notte (midnight blue, dark blue, or navy blue) or blu elettrico (electric blue) or blu petrolio (oil blue or teal blue). It's the darkest of the three and also the "bluest." Think of the American or French flag. That's blu.
Azzurro isn't just any blue. It's a blue that reminds us of the transparent waters of the Mediterranean Sea along a rocky coast, the sky when it's so incredibly clear, that it seems unreal, with the sun shining high in the sky. It's a blue that has a tiny bit of green in it, tending more towards turquoise than deep blue, or even royal blue. Azzurro is also the name given to the Italian national sports teams. They wear jerseys or shorts of this color. The color azure exists in English, but it's not commonly used to describe the color of everyday items.
Celeste is a kind of sky blue (think: "celestial"), like the sky in the early evening or early morning on a summer day. There's not a whole lot of sun, and the sky is clear but not intense. That's celeste. Baby blue is quite close to celeste.
In describing Sicily, Adriano uses both blu and azzurro:
Ma quello che di più colpisce è il contrasto spettacolare
But what is most stunning is the spectacular contrast
tra il colore azzurro, blu del mare
between the blue color, the blue of the sea
che si staglia sul verde della montagna di Monte Pellegrino.
that's outlined on the green of the mountain of Monte Pellegrino.
Captions 42-44, Adriano - Monte PellegrinoPlay Caption
Milena is showing us some items at the supermarket. There may be some discussion as to whether the cap on the milk container is azzurro or celeste, but it's clear that it's a blue that's on the light side, to indicate "light" milk.
Questo è il latte parzialmente scremato.
This is partially skimmed milk.
Di solito ha il tappo celeste.
Usually it has a sky-blue cap.
Captions 23-24, Milena - al supermercatoPlay Caption
These two lines from Adriano Celentano's hit song, Azzurro, sung by Milena and friends, give you an idea of what azzurro is all about:
Lei è partita per le spiagge e sono solo lassù in città...
She left for the beach and I'm all alone up in the city...
Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me
Blue, the afternoon is too blue and long for me
Captions 3-5, Amiche - È tempo di cantarePlay Caption
Another famous Italian song known as Volare, by Domenico Modugno, uses blu, not azzurro, to describe the sky. It must be said that blu rhymes with a lot more words than azzurro!
Nel blu dipinto di blu
In the blue painted blue
Felice di stare lassù
Happy to be up there
Take a look around at all the blue items you can see. Try to say which color they are in Italian, and, after following Daniela's lesson, use the colors as adjectives in both the singular and the plural. Blu, azzurro, or celeste?