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Sleeping Arrangements

In this week’s video, Marika shows us around her bedroom. The most important piece of furniture is il letto matrimoniale (“marriage” bed, double bed).


Two children sharing a room might have twin beds, or bunk beds. Marika talks about these here. But traditionally, the parents sleep together in one big bed. Italians take this quite seriously, and call a double bed (more like a queen-size bed) un letto matrimoniale (a bed for a married couple). The bedroom containing such a bed will likewise be called una camera matrimoniale. The actual size of the bed is open to question, but it’s clearly meant for two people who sleep in close quarters.


In many Italian hotels, and in some homes as well, two identical single beds are placed next to each other with a mattress cover that covers both of them, and it’s made up like a double bed or letto matrimoniale. The resulting bed will be rather large, like a queen-size. This is handy if the two sleepers have different needs, and it’s also handy for turning the mattresses for airing, or for changing from the winter side (stuffed with wool) to the summer side (stuffed with cotton). Some people feel two single mattresses are more versatile. Others prefer the comfort of one big mattress.


In a hotel, una camera singola might have a smaller single bed than you might expect. It’s not like in American motels where all the beds are queen-size!


When buying sheets, mattresses, or bed frames, the term matrimoniale may be used, but since there are different-sized “double” beds, we also find the term piazza, which is the space designed for one occupant. A bed is single when it is una piazza (one place). There’s also the intermediate size una piazza e mezza or una piazza e mezzo (room for one and a half occupants), also called alla francese (French-style). You might have this kind of bed if you don’t have space for a bigger one, or if you like something a bit bigger than a single bed. It can be likened to an old-fashioned double bed in America. It can also be a typical size for a divano letto (a sofa bed). Due piazze is about as big as you’ll find in a bed.


Sofas are also measured with piazze. They’re usually three or two: Tre piazze or due piazze. Yes, this is the same word as for the piazza in the center of a town or city.


Many homes have an extra guest bed, which may also fold up, to be placed out of sight. This is typically called una brandina (a folding bed, cot). The term, along with its unaltered version branda, is used to indicate a camp bed, or the kind of rudimentary bed used in the army or for camping.


A casual way to say you’re going to bed is:

Vado in branda.
I’m sacking out/I’m hitting the hay.

More properly, we say andare a letto or andare a dormire:


Adesso tu te ne vai a letto, ci fai sopra una bella dormita.

Now you go off to bed. Have a good sleep on it.

Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

 Play Caption


Italian also uses andare a dormire to say “to go to bed”:



Go on.

Ehi, giovano',

Hey, young man,

dai, basta con 'sta televisione.

come on, that's enough with this TV.

Vai a dormire che è tardi, ia'!

Go to bed, because it's late, right?

Captions 14-16, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 3

 Play Caption


Andare a dormire can also mean “to go to sleep” in general, whether in a bed, an armchair, a sofa, or anywhere.


Alle quattro e mezza io andavo a dormire un'ora.

At four thirty I'd go to sleep for an hour.

Caption 20, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del Mondo

 Play Caption


But usually, “going to sleep” as in “falling asleep” is expressed with the verb addormentarsi (to go to sleep, to fall asleep). A is one prefix used to cause an action to take place, as in:

addensare (to cause to be dense, to thicken)
addolcire (to sweeten)

Without the reflexive, addormentare is transitive, and may be used, for example, if you’re trying to get a baby to go to sleep, or if someone is put to sleep with an anaesthetic.



Just for fun:

Quando ho sonno, vado in branda. Però, riesco a dormire solo in un letto grande, in unletto matrimoniale. Un letto ad una piazza mi è proprio troppo stretto. Anche un letto ad una piazza e mezza è troppo stretto. Non riesco proprio ad addormentarmi. Se vado a dormire troppo presto, mi sveglio all’una di notte, e allora sì, che non miriaddormento più. Quando mi capita così, il giorno dopo, devo andare a dormire una mezz’ora per recuperare un po’ di sonno. In quel caso uso una brandina che tengo nell’armadio per queste esigenze.

When I’m sleepy, I go to bed. However, I can sleep only in a big bed, in a queen-size bedA single bed is really too narrow for me. Even a double bed is too narrow. I just can’t get to sleep. If I go to bed too early, I wake up at one in the morning, and then, for sure I don’t fall back to sleep. When that happens to me, the following day I have to go sleep for a half an hour to catch up on my sleep. In that case, I use a folding cot I store in the closet, for when I need it.


Further Practice:

Can you describe the beds and bedrooms in your house? Can you talk about your sleeping habits, and those of your family?



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