Italian Lessons


Lessons for topic Italian Culture

What's accoglienza?

If you live in a place and hear a certain word enough times, you just know what it means. But that doesn't mean that you can translate the word... The word that has perplexed us translators several times is l'accoglienzaThat's because in recent times, it conjures up the image of boat people and migrants needing shelter and help as they come into the country. It is so much more than "welcoming" or "reception."




Pochi anni fa, nel corso del problema dei profughi che arrivavano a Lampedusa dall'Africa, la Caritas spezzina, ci hanno [sic: ci ha] chiesto di fare accoglienza.

A few years ago, during the problem with the refugees, who arrived in Lampedusa from Africa, the Caritas of La Spezia asked us to receive some of them.

Captions 1-3, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 6

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Accoglienza is a word Italians associate with everything people and organizations do to help refugees once they reach the shores of Italy. When refugees land on the island of Lampedusa, for example, in Sicily, it's necessary to find accommodations, temporary housing, job possibilities, health care, food, and more. All of this is accoglienza. We've seen accoglienza used this way before in Yabla videos. 

In Sposami, a young Polish man wants to get married in an immigrant shelter.

Dentro il centro di accoglienza c'è una piccola cappella.

Inside the immigrant shelter, there is a small chapel.

Caption 34, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

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So it can mean "shelter," either for the homeless, migrants, or refugees, and can also be a rehabilitation center for addicts, or where people have AA meetings. It's for anyone who needs shelter or help and is often called un centro di accoglienza (sheltering center). In the same episode of Sposami, it's called a "community center" in English. In fact, we can't know for sure what kind of shelter it is. 

Ma... come mai avete scelto di sposarvi in un centro di accoglienza?

But... why did you choose to get married in a community center?

Caption 42, Sposami EP 4 - Part 18

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You will find various translations for centro di accoglienza and accoglienza itself, but we hope you have gotten the idea by now. 

e infatti riuscì a scappare dal centro di accoglienza prima di essere rimpatriata.

and, in fact, she managed to escape from the refugee center before she could be repatriated.

Caption 23, Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore S1EP1 L'estate del dito - Part 12

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The noun accoglienza comes from the verb accogliere

Signorina, non è certo questo il modo di accogliere delle potenziali clienti, no?

Miss, this certainly isn't any way to welcome potential clients is it?

Caption 55, La Ladra EP. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti - Part 3

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Sometimes accogliere can mean "to receive."

Perché hanno proprio... sembrano quasi dei letti pronti per accogliere la salma...

Because they have actual... they almost look like beds ready to receive the corpses...

Captions 13-14, Meraviglie EP. 6 - Part 4

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And, although the English word  "la reception" is used in places like hotels, accoglienza can mean "the hospitality." 


In a future lesson, we will look at related verbs, such as cogliere and raccogliere

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Le Cinque Terre

One place tourists from all over the world want to visit, especially if they like to hike, is a place called Le Cinque Terre. This means "the five villages" and if you look at a map, you can see they are positioned in a similar way: overlooking the sea.




In fact, there is a footpath leading from one to the other. The villages are more difficult to reach by car, as they are surrounded by mountains. One of the most convenient ways to visit these villages is by train. Each town has a train station at a walkable distance from the center of town.



train station Vernazza


If you do have a car, you can leave it in La Spezia and take the local train. The road through the mountains is winding and narrow. When you take the train there are lots and lots of gallerie (tunnels), but when you come out of the tunnel, you have a lovely, quick view of the sea.


In Marika's series about the regions of Italy, Anna describes Liguria, the region where le Cinque Terre are located. Anna's "prof" is asking what there is to see in Liguria.


Tantissime cose, in particolare le Cinque Terre sono un angolo di paradiso a picco sul mare, eh, che attira visitatori e turisti da tutto il mondo.

A great many things, especially the Cinque Terre are a corner of paradise, high up above the sea, uh, which lure visitors and tourists from the world over.

Captions 77-78, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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This shot was taken on the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza in the month of February.


Each town has hotels or rooms to rent, and plenty of restaurants. 


When talking about this area, in English, we often skip the article, and talk about "Cinque Terre," as if it were one place, a spot to visit. But now that you know some Italian, you know that it's Le Cinque Terre, because the number cinque (five) calls for the plural. 


Why the name?

The name “Cinque Terre” appeared for the first time in the 15th century when this area was under the control of the Maritime Republic of Genoa. A clerk united the five villages under a single place name because they had many characteristics in common. The name “Cinque Terre”  stuck. The name can be misleading, as terra means various things, but in this case, terra stands for “little medieval village.” The villages, in order from south to north are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. 


One important characteristic of Le Cinque Terre, and the Ligurian coast in general, is the terracing. This was conceived in order to create spaces for cultivation, primarily for vineyards.



Retaining walls were built with the stone available, primarily sandstone. The soil was very sandy and scarce, but it was sifted to make a material to put between the stones for the wall. No mortar was used, which is why this kind of wall is called un muro a secco (a dry-stone wall). 

E facendo questi famosi muri a secco per trovare uno spazio per piantare la vite.

And making these famous dry-stone walls in order to find space for planting the grapevines.

Captions 10-11, L'Italia che piace Territori - Part 5

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Here you can see a narrow sentiero (footpath) and muro a secco (dry-stone wall).

We decided on a lesson about Le Cinque Terre because there is a new documentary on Yabla about places to see in Italy and this week's segment focuses on, yes you guessed it, Le Cinque Terre!


All photos by Sigrid Lee except for the map, which is courtesy of Google Maps.


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Addressing people in Italian

As we have seen and heard in Yabla videos, addressing people in Italian isn't always easy to figure out. Let's try to make some sense out of it.


In I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, for example, Lojacono always introduces himself as ispettore (detective) Lojacono, not commissario (inspector), but some people call him commissario, just in case. The following exchange highlights the tendency of many people (often of an older generation) to address someone with a higher rank than the person actually has. That way, they feel they can avoid offending the person.  

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, commissario bello. -No, ispettore, sempre ispettore sono.

Rosa Cannavacciolo in Marino, kind Inspector. -No. Detective. I am still a detective.

Captions 41-42, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP 3 Vicini - Part 3

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This often means addressing someone as dottore (doctor) or dottoressa (female doctor). The idea is that you can't go wrong that way.


While ispettore or commissario are often used by themselves, we find that questore (commissioner) will likely have signor before it. That's just the way it works. 

Buonasera, signor questore.

Good evening, Commissioner, sir.

Caption 10, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 28

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As Marika tells us in her video about different professions:

Ciao. Il termine "dottore" viene da "dotto", che vuole dire sapiente. Puoi diventare dottore se hai studiato tanto e hai ottenuto una laurea.

Hi. The term "doctor" comes from "dotto," which means "learned." You can become a doctor if you have studied a great deal and you have attained a degree.

Captions 3-6, Marika spiega Medico o dottore?

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In a workplace where people are formal, the boss is often addressed as dottore or dottoressa, whether or not he or she has a degree. It's a sign of respect. In the following example, the speaker is a secretary or an assistant and she is speaking to her boss, who is a notary. 

Ci dica, dottore.

What is it, sir?

Caption 36, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 19

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Again, in I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone, we have a female DA. People address her as dottoressa, because they assume that she has a degree and because she has a position that warrants respect. In Italy, once you have your university degree, called un dottorato, you can be called dottore or dottoressa

Cosa prende, dottoressa? -Un caffè.

What will you have, Ma'am? -A coffee.

Caption 6, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 8

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It's always tricky to translate these forms of address because they are so different from English usage. In the previous example, we opted for "Ma'am." But we could imagine Lojacono saying, "What will you have, DA Piras?" 


If you are dealing with a professional, it is customary (in many cases) to use their professional title in addressing them. Daniela talks about this in her video lessons about writing formal letters and emails. The same can hold true when addressing someone in person. 


Allora, se il destinatario possiede un titolo riconosciuto, e quindi è importante scriverlo, possiamo sostituire "signor" e "signora" con il titolo.

So, if the recipient has a recognized qualification, and therefore it is important to write it, we can replace "Mister" and "Missus" with the title.

Captions 1-4, Corso di italiano con Daniela Lettera formale - Part 3

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If the person is an architect, for example, you can say architetto instead of signore

Architetto, Lei abita qua?

Architect, do you live here?

Caption 12, I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone EP1 I Bastardi - Part 13

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Of course, if you don't know he is an architetto, then signore will do fine, or signor and his last name. 


But this also exhibits the Italian tendency to avoid using names when addressing someone. Sometimes you don't know someone's name, so you use signore, signora, or signorina according to gender and presumed age group. 


When the person being addressed is a young man, we can use giovanotto in a semi-formal way. It's perhaps used more by older folks. Younger folks might just say, ragazzo or ragazzino.

Giovanotto, ma che stiamo facendo? Il cinema?

Young man, what are we doing? Making a movie?

Caption 28, Il Commissario Manara S2EP9 - L'amica ritrovata - Part 3

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For a young woman or girl, signorina is the way to go. When in doubt, signorina is more flattering than signora.

Lei, signorina, ha un grande talento.

You, Miss, have great talent.

Caption 11, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 16

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Let's remember that language is in constant evolution. It also changes according to the region. If you are traveling in Italy, you need to keep your eyes and ears open to see how people handle addressing you and others.


If you have watched La linea verticale, you will have noticed that patients and their family members often call the surgeon, the specialist, or any lead doctor, professore,  while in English, we address all doctors as "Doctor."  Professore is higher up in the hierarchy than dottore. And to get into the nitty-gritty, there are occasions when we will capitalize someone's title, to give them even more importance. In Italian, this is called maiuscola di rispetto o reverenziale  (capitalization out of respect or reverence). So sometimes professore will merit a capital letter and become Professore

Buongiorno, Professore. -Come stai? -Bene, Professore, però non sento le gambe.

Hello, Doctor. -How are you? -Fine, Doctor, but I don't feel my legs.

Captions 42-44, La linea verticale EP4 - Part 5

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In certain situations, there is a mix of familiar and formal. In a business, you might call your boss dottore, but pair it with his first name. Dottor Nino, for example, or dottoressa Cecilia. The same goes for signor and signora. Lots of times, you don't know someone's last name, so you can still address them formally, by using their first name: signor Giorgio, signora Letizia, or signorina Giulia.

We have addressed the question of forms of address in past lessons, so check out these lessons:


How to address your teacher in Italian

Getting someone's attention in Italian: ascoltare and sentire 

The dottore is in


In a future lesson, we'll get into specifics about addressing people with certain jobs. 


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Fare complimenti (being polite)

The noun il complimento sometimes means the same thing as in English: the compliment. It's used a bit differently, and is often synonymous with "congratulations." 


When you want to say, "Nice job!" you might say, Complimenti!

Complimenti, mamma, ma qual'è il tuo segreto?

Very nice, Mom, but what's your secret?

Caption 33, Adriano La granita al limone

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But there is another way complimenti  is used, and it's important, especially if someone invites you to their home and you are not sure how to act. In order to put you at ease, they might say, non fare complimenti. It means, "Relax, you don't have to be formal." This is especially true at the dinner table. The host or hostess might say, Serviti, non fare complimenti. So you can go ahead and take seconds...

Sì, però, è che non vorrei... -E non fare complimenti, scusa.

Yes, but it's that I wouldn't want... -And don't say no out of politeness, sorry.

Caption 56, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 S3EP3 - Il tarlo del sospetto - Part 11

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Grazie, eh. -No, prego, non fare complimenti, ah.

Thanks, huh. -No, you're welcome, don't stand on ceremony, huh.

Caption 36, Il Commissario Manara S2EP2 - L'addio di Lara - Part 13

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Movie Talk in Italian

Many of us like to watch movies. Let's have a quick look at some of the terms that Italians use when they talk about the movies.


A movie is usually called un film. That's an easy one, because in English we can say "film," as well. 

Il Cinema

But when we talk about "the movies" in general, it's il cinema. That's another word we understand, but we have to think of using. Forget about the word "movie!"



And then, when we want to go to the movies, andiamo al cinema (we go to the movies/let's go to the movies).


Ciao. Sei annoiato o annoiata

Hi. Are you bored (m) or bored (f)

e ti vuoi divertire e rilassare?

and you want to have a good time and relax?

Bene, puoi andare al cinema.

Good. You can go to the movies.

Captions 3-5, Marika spiega - Il cinema

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Siamo andati al cinema e abbiamo visto un bel film.

We went to the movies and we saw a great movie.

Adoro il cinema! 

I love the movies!


Actors and acting

When we talk about the star of the movie, if it's a guy, it's il protagonista and if it is a female, it's la protagonista. It always ends in a and is basically a feminine noun! It's also used to mean "the main character."


Perché Marcello, il protagonista di questo film, è uno come noi.

Because Marcello, the main character of this film, is someone like us.

Caption 21, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto Ritrovato

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Just like in English, we have l'attore e l'attrice (the actor and the actress).

When they are acting, however, we use the verb recitare. They recite their lines.


È come recitare una parte in fondo, no?

It's like acting a part, deep down, right?

Caption 16, Sposami - EP 2

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E... come attore insisti,

And... and you have to keep at it as an actor.

hai recitato benissimo. -Grazie.

You acted very well. -Thank you.

Captions 5-6, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno - Ep. 1

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When we talk about movie stars, Italians often use the English word, la star (the star).  Otherwise, it's la stella (the star).


Grazie. -Alla nuova stella del musical.

Thanks. -To the new star of musicals.

Caption 22, La Ladra - Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda

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Il teatro or il cinema?

Nowadays, there are often various screening rooms in a multi-plex movie theater. Each of these is called una sala. We can also call a movie theater una sala cinematografica, when we are referring to a room within a building, or a building devoted to screening moviesSo when you buy your ticket they will tell you sala 4 or sala 8. Sala is akin to "hall" or "large room." Il teatro (the theater) refers to theaters (for plays) and opera houses. It also refers to the activity or study of acting or drama. Un corso di teatro is a drama course. If you have studied acting, you can say:

Ho studiato teatro 

Ho studiato recitazione teatrale


Yabla Italian has various movies you can watch in Italian with or without subtitles (try only Italian, only English, none, or both!). Taking advantage of moments when going to the movies might not be a great option. It might just be the right time to broaden your horizons with a nice movie in Italian. Here are some suggestions:

Il Tempesta This movie takes place in il Veneto, the region Venice is in. But the story takes place in the nearby city of Treviso. It involves a photographer, an adopted Belarus orphan, and a girl who works at the Tognana porcelain factory.  

Sei mai stata sulla Luna? (Ever Been to the Moon?)  The film is the story of Guia, a 30-year-old woman who works for a prestigious international fashion magazine, who travels around by private jet and lives between Milan and Paris. She has everything, or at least she thinks she does until she finds herself in a remote village in Puglia where she inherited a large family farm.

L'oro di Scampia (The Gold of Scampia) is based on a true story, adapted from Gianni Maddaloni's book, La mia vita sportiva (My Life in Sports). Scampia is a suburb made up of massive public housing blocks north of Naples. Camorra criminals rule the area and make life very difficult for Enzo Capuano, a hospital worker, who runs a Judo school in his spare time. 

Keep in mind that each segment of a movie comes with a vocabulary review, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises, and the patented dictation exercise, Scribe, so you can learn while enjoying the movie. But you can also just soak it in, and watch the entire movie, which is useful in itself. Getting used to hearing how real people (and good actors) speak — paying attention to the rhythm, flow, and lilt of the language gives you what learning individual words and constructed sentences cannot. Sometimes it's all about how Italians connect the words to each other fluidly.




Of course, there are also plenty of movies on the various streaming platforms available for the watching. They are often available in lingua originale con sottotitoli. Maybe you can watch a movie in Italian that you have already seen dubbed into English or some other language. Fun!

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La luce: not only light!

Let's talk about the noun la luce (the light). Basically the noun is used much as it is in English (and feel free to do a search of luce in Yabla videos), but there is a special meaning of this noun, especially in colloquial speech, that you need to know about. Simply put, it means "electricity." It's used especially in reference to the electric bill or electrical current in general.  


Perhaps the first use of electricity in Italian households was for lightbulbs. Likely, households were still heating with la cucina economica (a wood stove used both for heating and cooking), but the advent of the lightbulb must have been a huge change. So "light" is what "electricity" might have meant for Italian households at the beginning. In any case, the term luce stuck and is still in common usage.


Ci stanno le bollette da pagare, luce, gas!

There are the utility bills to pay: electricity, gas!

Io non teng 'na lira.

I don't have a dime.


I'm sorry.

Captions 10-12, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 6

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Ci tagliano la luce?

They cut off our electricity?

E noi ci alleniamo a lume di candela.

So we'll train by candlelight.

Captions 27-28, L'oro di Scampia - film - Part 7

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La corrente

One other way Italians often refer to electricity is with the noun la corrente (the electrical current).


Oh, a proposito di luce, vedi che qua corrente [elettrica] non ce ne sta, eh.

Oh, speaking of light, you see that here there's no electricity, huh.

Caption 25, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 9

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"Powerstrip" in Italian?

Of course, in English, we often use the word "power" to mean "electricity."  In fact, we have an object called a powerstrip. We can plug in multiple plugs, and the powerstrip gets plugged into the outlet. So how do we say that in Italian?

You'll never guess. It's called una ciabatta. Una ciabatta is a house slipper!  It's also the name of a kind of bread! From Wikipedia:

Ciabatta is an Italian white bread made from wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil, created in 1982 by a baker in Adria, province of Rovigo, Veneto, Italy, in response to the popularity of French baguettes.


If you can't think of the word ciabatta when buying a powerstrip, you can also use the compound noun una presa multipla (a multiple socket).

So if we want to talk about the male and female parts of an electrical connection, we have la spina (the plug —the male part) and la presa (the socket — the feminine part).

There's always more to learn. It's kind of fun to learn about the (sometimes colorful) words Italians use to talk about mundane things like electricity and plugs.

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Italians and TV

Italians love TV. Most houses have one in a central spot, and many families have it on during family meals. They get very good at listening to the conversation and the news at the same time. This can be frustrating for foreign guests trying to learn Italian!



As you can see from the following example, the abbreviation TV is often used. But let's talk about that. If you write it out, it's tivù, which is how you would pronounce the two letters, T and V. Although rarer and rarer, you might find it spelled out: tivù. But it's usually just spelled with the classic abbreviation, TV. You just have to remember to pronounce the V as Italians do.


What gender is it? Well, the noun visione (vision) is feminine, and so is televisione (television). So is TV. La TV. But if you see something on TV, then the article goes away and you use the preposition in, pretty much like English, except it's "in" not "on": in television, in TV.


Ti abbiamo visto in TV [tivù].

We saw you on TV.

Caption 9, Chi m'ha visto - film

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1) How about if the speaker is talking about himself, not his company?

2) What if he is talking to a musical group?


There's another word to talk about a TV. Here is Luca Manara after his first day on job, and he is staying at a bed and breakfast. Ada is showing him his room.


La stanza numero tre. La più bella.

Room number three. The nicest one.

Un suo agente Le ha già portato i bagagli. -Perfetto.

One of your agents has already brought you your luggage. -Perfect

-Ah! -Sì? -Il televisore c'è in camera?

Ah! -Yes? -Is there a TV in the room?

Eh, certo che c'è. È anche bono [sic: buono], sa?

Yeah, of course there is. It's even a good one [heavy Tuscan accent], you know?

Soltanto l'antenna non funziona.

It's just that the antenna doesn't work.

Vabbé, tanto la televisione non la guardo.

All right, I don't watch television anyway.

Captions 28-33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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3) What if Ada was showing Manara the biggest room, rather than the nicest one?

4) What if more than one agent had brought Manara's luggage?


So what's the difference between televisione and televisore? Well, visore means "viewer" or "screen," so with televisore, we are talking about the TV set, the actual appliance. In this case, visore is masculine and so is televisore: il televisore.


In the previous example, we can see clearly that Luca wants to know if there is a TV so he uses il televisore. But when it comes to watching it, he uses la televisione.


Just as in English, TV is used as an adjective, but we have to remember to put the adjective after the noun, as in serie TV (TV series). And as with "series" in English, serie doesn't change between singular and plural.


Capri è stata una serie televisiva in onda su Rai Uno,

“Capri” was a television series broadcast on RAI One.

di grande successo.

A big success.

Captions 54-55, L'Eredità -Quiz - TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 2

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The speaker could have said, a bit more informally:

Capri è stata una serie TV in onda su Rai Uno, di grande successo.



Another thing to note is that when una serie TV (a TV series) is a (usually fictional) story with episodes, as opposed to a talk show, game show, or the like, then it's usually called un telefilm, in other words, a film for TV, often a puntata (in episodes), but not necessarily. Sometimes a telefilm is distinguished from a documentary or other kind of series by being called una fiction. In fact, RAI Fiction produces and broadcasts movies, made-for-TV movies, and series.


Eccomi qua a commentare alcune espressioni

Here I am to comment on some expressions

che troviamo nel telefilm "Il Commissario Manara"!

that we find in the TV series "Commissioner Manara."

Captions 3-4, Marika commenta - L'ispettore Manara Parole ripetute

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When we're talking about romantic stories or soap operas, usually daytime TV fare, then we can use the term telenovela. The example is taken from a little sketch where Marika and Anna play two office workers gossiping while pretending to work.


Mi sembra proprio una telenovela.

It looks to me just like a soap opera.

Caption 27, Marika spiega - Pettegolezzi in ufficio con Anna

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Fun (and not so fun) facts

When did Italians start having TVs?

Television in Italy was introduced in 1939, when the first experimental broadcasts began. However, this lasted for a very short time: When fascist Italy entered World War II in 1940, all transmissions were interrupted, and were resumed in earnest only nine years after the end of the conflict, on January 3rd, 1954.


One interesting feature of Italian television (RAI) from 1957 to 1977 was a series of short comedy sketches, many of which used live action but featured animation and puppetry as well. The name of the series was Carosello (carousel). You can view la sigla (theme song, title song, titles) for the years 1962-1974 on YouTubeCarosello was commercial in scope and each puntata (episode) lasted ten minutes, so they were actual stories (unthinkable today). They advertised pressure cookers, coffee, coffee pots, vacuum cleaners, brandy, and much more. The product would be revealed toward the end of the episode. The episodes often featured well-known actors and were beloved by viewers all over Italy (about 20 million viewers).

We have learned from the documentary about the Taviani brothers, who made some very famous films, that they discovered Lucio Dalla while filming an episode of Carosello he was acting in. Realizing how talented he was, they put him in one of their movies, I sovversivi (The Subversives). See trailer.


Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema

Lucio [Dalla], uh, was not a movie actor at that time

e non, non era nemmeno un cantante,

and he wasn't, he wasn't a singer either.

lo diventò immediatamente dopo, si mise a cantare e col successo

He became one right afterwards. He started singing, and with the success

che tutti quanti noi sappiamo.

that we are all familiar with.

Noi lo incontrammo perché girammo un carosello,

We met him because we were filming a Carosello [TV commercial skit],

un carosello, una pubblicità.

a Carosello, a commercial.

Captions 21-26, Fratelli Taviani - La passione e l'utopia

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5) Can you replace the verbs in the passato remoto with verbs in the passato prossimo, trapassato prossimo or, where applicable, l'imperfetto?


Answers to the "extra credit" questions:

1) Ti ho visto in TV [tivù].​

2a) Vi ho visto in TV [tivù].

2b) Vi ho visti in TV [tivù].

3) La più grande.

3b) La più spaziosa.

4) I suoi agenti Le hanno già portato i bagagli.

5a) Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema e non, non era nemmeno un cantante, lo è diventato immediatamente dopo, si è messo a cantare e col successo che tutti quanti noi sappiamo. Noi l'abbiamo incontrato perché giravamo un carosello, un carosello, una pubblicità.​

5b) Lucio, eh, a quell'epoca non era un attore di cinema e non, non era nemmeno un cantante, lo era diventato immediatamente dopo, si era messo a cantare e col successo che tutti quanti noi sappiamo. Noi l'avevamo incontrato perché stavamo girando un carosello, un carosello, una pubblicità.​ 



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What Does Salutare Actually Mean?

In a previous lesson, we talked about how to say hello and goodbye in Italian:  There are formal and informal ways of doing so. And the very first lesson Daniela teaches in her popular series of classroom lessons is about how to greet people: salutare.


Oggi impariamo le forme di saluto.

Today we're going to learn ways to greet people.

Caption 5, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Salutare

 Play Caption


Before looking at the everyday meanings of salutare, we should acknowledge that it does also mean "to salute," as one would salute in the military, or salute the flag. But that is a very small part of the picture!




In addition to knowing how to greet people — a very important thing in Italian — we also use the verb salutare itself, quite often, to talk about greetings and greeting someone, as well as within the greeting or leave-taking itself, but what exactly does it mean?  In fact, it's a little tricky. Just as ciao can mean "hi" or "bye," salutare can mean "to say hello" or "to say goodbye." Let's look at the verb salutare in context to get a better idea of how it's used.


Saying goodbye can be tough.


È arrivato il momento di salutarci, mi pare, no?

The time has come to say goodbye (to each other), I think, right?

-Eh. -Sì.

-Yeah. -Yes.

Caption 1, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

 Play Caption


The previous example is just one instance of the verb within the segment of the Commissario Manara episode, an episode in which Luca Manara is about to leave his present job and go back to Milan.


Here's another little scene from the same episode and segment about saying goodbye. One thing to notice is that while in the previous example, salutarci means "to say goodbye to each other" (reciprocal reflexive), in the example below, salutarci means "to say goodbye to us." That pesky ci again!


Brigadiere, ma che sei venuto a salutarmi?

Brigadiere, what, did you come to say goodbye to me?

Caterina. -Povero cagnozzo, gli mancherai, eh.

Caterina. -Poor doggy, he'll miss you, yeah.

Io non posso credere che te ne saresti andato senza salutarci.

I can't believe that you would leave without even saying goodbye to us.

-No, veramente...

-No, actually...

sono passato davanti a casa Sua, -Eh. -ma Lei non c'era.

I came by your house, -Huh. -and you weren't there.

Comunque, io sono veramente contento che Lei sia venuta a salutarmi,

Anyway, I'm very happy that you came to say goodbye to me,

perché voglio dirLe grazie.

because I want to say thank you to you.

Captions 42-47, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP12 - Le verità nascoste

 Play Caption


When we want to take our leave, or end a phone call, we can say:

Ti devo salutare (I have to say goodbye, I have to hang up, I have to go).

Ti saluto, vado a casa. (I'll be going. I'm going home).



So salutare often means "to say goodbye." But it also means "to say hello," "to greet."  In the following example, a grandpa is telling his grandchildren to say hello to their grandmother.


Quanto mi siete mancati. -Salutate la nonna.

How I've missed you! -Say hello to Grandma.

Caption 9, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 3 - S3EP1: Ciao famiglia

 Play Caption


In the following example, Olivetti is greeting an old, estranged friend (he says ciao) who pretends not to see him.




Ciao, Mauro.

Hello, Mauro.

Cos'è? Non mi saluti?

What's the matter? You're not saying hello to me?

Captions 12-14, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep.2

 Play Caption


But in the next example, the people conversing are being formal with each other. The speaker calls the lady signora. And thus, he uses the formal, second-person imperative.


Arrivederci, signora.

Goodbye, ma'am.

E mi saluti suo marito, eh.

And greet your husband, huh?

Ci tengo tanto, ah. Me lo saluti tanto, eh?

It means a lot to me. Greet him warmly, huh?

Captions 74-77, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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As we said, Manara is speaking formally. He says me lo saluti (greet him for me) using the imperative. He could also be saying "Give my regards to your husband." But if he were talking to a friend, he could put this all in one single word including two pronouns stuck to the verb. Saluta (greet) + me (for me) lo (him) / la (her).






The noun form il saluto


In some contexts, (and as we saw in the very first video example), we use the noun form il saluto or un saluto (a greeting, a salutation) instead of the verb salutare.


Parliamo ora dei saluti informali.

Let's now talk about informal greetings.

Caption 24, Marika spiega - Saluti verbali e a gesti

 Play Caption


In the following example, we see a typical way of saying, "I won't ever talk to you again." But Italians give it a different twist. They say they are going to "take away" "saying hello," as in, "I'm not even going to greet you!" The verb is togliere (to remove).


La chiamo e gli [sic: le] dico che non ci vado.

I'll call her and tell her I'm not going.

Ch'aggia fa' [napoletano: che devo fare]?

What can I do?

-Fallo e ti tolgo il saluto.

-You do that and I won't talk to you anymore.

Captions 36-38, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP11 - Uno strano incidente di caccia

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Un saluto or saluti is what you might write on a postcard while you're on vacation somewhere. It's often in the plural:


Ciao vecchio. Saluti da Rio, Max.

Hi, old timer. Greetings from Rio, Max.

Caption 40, La Ladra - Ep. 10 - Un ignobile ricatto

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Salutare can also be interpreted to mean "to give one's regards to" so we often see saluti at the end of a short business email.


It can appear by itself or be embellished as follows:

Distinti saluti ([best] regards)

Cordiali saluti (kind regards)


That's it for this lesson, and we'll see you soon. A presto.

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L'estate (Summertime)

There are a lot of things to do in the summer, but Italians talk about them a bit differently than English speakers do. The word we will hear all the time in Italy, at least if we're within a two hour drive from the coast, is il mare.

Il mare — the beach

As you can see from the following example, we talk about the beach, because for the most part, we have sandy beaches. But Italy, being a peninsula (penisola in Italian) is surrounded on three coasts by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, so it's a vital part of the country itself. The sea has different names depending on what part of Italy it touches on.


Infatti, io e Giorgia siamo andate insieme al mare.

In fact, Giorgia and I went to the beach together.

Caption 21, Francesca e Marika - Il verbo andare coniugazione

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For more vocabulary about the beach, check out these videos: 

This one is about a beach very close to Pisa, something to keep in mind if you visit Pisa in the summer.

In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorni - Part 3


Finalmente siamo arrivati al mare. [Marina di Pisa]

We've finally arrived at the seaside. [Marina di Pisa]

Caption 1, In giro per l'Italia - Pisa e dintorni

 Play Caption


Here's a wonderful series about the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. They are breathtakingly beautiful and well worth a visit. If you can't visit, watch the videos!


La località isolata e selvaggia di grande bellezza naturale,

The wild and isolated village, with its great natural beauty,

si può raggiungere solo via mare.

is only reachable by sea.

Caption 11, Linea Blu - Le Eolie

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But let's say you like to swim, but in a pool rather than in the sea. 

Fare nuoto — to swim 

When you go to a pool regularly, to swim laps, then you can say faccio nuoto (I'm a swimmer, I swim): In the following example, Annamaria Mazzetti trains for Olympic triathlons.


Facciamo nuoto, bici, corsa tutti i giorni.

We swim, cycle, and run every day.

Caption 14, Le Olimpiadi 2012 - Annamaria Mazzetti

 Play Caption


But let's say you want to go kayaking (andare in canoa), the instructor will ask you:


Sai nuotare?

Do you know how to swim?

Caption 68, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso

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If not, they will give you a life jacket or life preserver (un salvagente).

Fare il bagno — to go swimming (or splashing in the waves)

But let's say you're at the beach and you just want to go in the water and play in the waves. It sounds strange to us, because many of us have learned that bagno means bathroom...


Noi amici, trascorriamo il tempo giocando,

We friends pass the time playing,

oppure nelle giornate estive facciamo il bagno

or else, on summer days we go swimming

e... invece, in quelle invernali veniamo qui per chiacchierare.

and... and on winter ones we come here to talk.

Captions 16-18, Amiche - sulla spiaggia

 Play Caption


So if someone asks you: "Facciamo il bagno?" you will know they want you to go in the water at the beach or at the pool (in piscina).

Il Caldo  – the Heat

Finally, one thing Italians say all the time during the summer is:


Ah, che caldo!

Oh, it's so hot!

Caption 1, Andromeda - in - Storia del gelato

 Play Caption


Caldo is an adjective meaning "hot", but also a noun meaning "heat": il caldo.


Enjoy your summer, or looking forward to summer, depending on where you are.



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How to Offer Condolences in Italian

One of our Yabla learners has asked about what to say when someone has died, or what to write in a condolence note. There have been so many deaths from the coronvirus that expressing condolences is an important thing to be able to do. 


The most important word is condoglianze, from con (with) and doglianza (lament). In other words, you are mourning with the person to whom you express your condolences. You feel their sorrow. The English cognate is a true one, which makes it easy to remember.


In Person or on the Phone

In the following example, the condolences are expressed as part of a conversation, and the person talking is not a close friend -- he's a sort of lawyer (and note that in Italian, a person's professional title is often used by itself to address him or her), so the condolences are very basic and quick, but perfectly acceptable and polite. The adjective to know is sentito. This comes from the verb sentire (to feel, to hear, to sense). Sentito can mean "sincere," "heartfelt," or "deep."


Buongiorno notaio, piacere.

Hello, Notary, pleased to meet you.

-Condoglianze sentitissime.

-My deepest condolences.

-Grazie tante, tante grazie.

-Thanks very much, many thanks.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? - film

 Play Caption


Le mie condoglianze, dottor Del Serio. -Grazie.

My condolences, Doctor Del Serio. -Thank you.

Caption 26, La Tempesta - film

 Play Caption


So really, just two words were used, and it could have been just one: condoglianze. It's enough, especially when you don't really know the person who passed away.


If we're talking to a friend who has just lost a family member, for example, we can use the informal verb fare (to make, to do). You might not know the person who died, but you know that your friend is grieving: 

Ti faccio le condoglianze per la perdita di tuo padre/nonno/tua madre/nonna.

I'm sorry for the loss of your father/grandfather/mother/grandmother.


You can also keep this short and just say:

Ti faccio le condoglianze.

I'm sorry for your loss.


More Formally and in Writing

But if we want to say more, here's a common way to do it. It employs the verb porgere, to extend, to offer.

This first example is if you are speaking or writing formally to one person you aren't on a first-name basis with.

Le porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I extend my deepest condolences to you.


If you are talking or writing to more than one person, say, parents, or a couple, or an entire family, then it's:

Vi porgo le mie più sentite condoglianze.

I offer you my deepest condolences. 


You can also leave out mentioning the person:

In questa triste circostanza porgiamo sentite condoglianze.

On this sad occasion, we offer heartfelt condolences.


Alternative Terms

Another word people use when sending a condolence note is cordoglio (grief, sorrow, mourning, condolences).

Esprimiamo con grande dolore il nostro cordoglio.

We would like to express, with great sorrow, our condolences.


Another important word to know is il lutto (the mourning, the bereavement, the grief). This example describes an ancient Roman sarcophagus of a child.


E i due genitori sono affranti, di lato c'è la mamma

And the two parents are overcome. At the side there's the mother

che sembra ormai avvolta in un dolore profondo, irrecuperabile.

who by now seems to be shrouded in deep, hopeless sorrow.

E poi c'è il padre.

And then there is the father.

Entrambi hanno il capo coperto con un velo in segno di lutto,

Both have their heads covered with a veil as a sign of mourning.

non guardano più neanche il bambino.

They no longer even look at the child.

Captions 37-40, Meraviglie - EP. 2 - Part 6

 Play Caption


You can use lutto in a condolence note:

Partecipiamo commossi al vostro lutto.

We take part, emotionally moved, in your grief [we feel/join in your grief].


A shop or restaurant, where a family member or employee has died, might have a sign that says:

Chiuso per lutto

Closed for bereavement


One more word you might see, for example, on the signs we see around in Italian towns, announcing the death of a citizen, is addolorato (aggrieved, distressed). It comes from the verb addolorare (to sadden) or addolorarsi (to be saddened).


Sei confusa, addolorata, ma lo sai che lui ti merita.

You're confused, aggrieved, but you know that he deserves you.

Captions 85-86, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

 Play Caption


You can use addolorato in a condolence note:

Sono addolorato per la tua perdita.

I am saddened by your loss.



We hope you won't need these words, but if you do, they're here. Feel free to send us questions or requests for further information. 

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Getting Undressed in Italian

In many places in the world, it's winter. There are no leaves on the trees. They're barren. Seeing the bare branches has brought to mind some thoughts about one Italian adjective for this: spoglio

Di inverno le foglie appassiscono e gli alberi sono spogli.

In the winter, the leaves dry up and the trees are bare.

One word leads to another! It even leads to getting undressed.


Latin provides some insight.

Italian words that end in "io" often come from Latin, where the word might end in ium. In fact there is a Latin noun "spolium": the skin or hide of an animal stripped off; Over time, this came to refer to the arms or armor stripped from a defeated enemy:

booty, prey, spoil.


We can make a connection with a tree that has been stripped of its leaves.


We can also see a connection between "the spoils" in English and "spolium" or the derivative "spoglia" in Latin. 


Another related Latin word is "spoliarium" referring to the basement of the Roman Colosseum where the fallen and dying gladiators were dumped and stripped of their worldly possessions. 



Nowadays, the feminine plural le spoglie is used to indicate the remains of animals or humans when they have died.


Ma che senso ha mettere le spoglie

But what sense is there in putting the remains

di due persone nella stessa bara?

of two people in the same coffin?

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

 Play Caption


An important noun to know: spogliatoio

Although talking about dead bodies is pretty gruesome, it gives us insight into some very common words you will hear if you go to the doctor, to the gym, or anywhere where you might take off your clothes. Some places have an appropriate room where you can change and take a shower, which in English, we might call the locker room or shower room. Lo spogliatoio (and often indicated as such on the door) will typically be in a gym, at a pool, a hospital or doctor's office, or, as in the example below, a workplace.


Chi ha aggiustato la porta dello spogliatoio?

Who fixed the changing room door?

Caption 30, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo

 Play Caption


Now that you are in the spogliatoio, you can get undressed.

When you change clothes, first you have to get undressed. In Italian, the verb is reflexive: spogliarsi. We've come a long way from the Roman Colosseum.


Andiamo a casa tua.

Let's go to your house.

A casa?

My house?

Non ti vorrai spogliare in mezzo alla strada?

You don't want to undress in the middle of the road, do you?

Captions 52-54, La Ladra - Ep. 4 - Una magica bionda

 Play Caption


⇒Flash quiz on the reflexive.

Can you come up with another way to say the same thing? [answer at the bottom of the page]


In the following example, there is no spogliatoio at this doctor's office. The couple is not an actual couple and they are pretty embarrassed. La Tempesta is a wonderful movie on Yabla, by the way, set in a ceramics factory in Treviso in the Veneto region of Italy.



Of course.

Adesso, siccome siamo un po' in ritardo, vi inviterei a spogliarvi.

Now, since we're a bit late, I invite you to get undressed.

Vi visito insieme, d'accordo?

I'll examine you together, all right?

Ci sono problemi?

Are there any problems?

No, no, no. -No.

No, no, no. -No.

Captions 7-10, La Tempesta - film

 Play Caption


⇒Flash quiz on the reflexive

The doctor is being very polite, but if he ordered them to get undressed, what would he say? [answer at bottom of page]


Now here's a little scene in a refrigerator truck.


A questa temperatura, con i vestiti inzuppati,

At this temperature, with sopping wet clothes,

in nove minuti il sangue diventa ghiaccio.

in nine minutes blood turns to ice.

Ah, adesso che lo so mi sento meglio!

Ah, now that I know it, I feel better!

Senti, spogliati.

Listen, strip down.

Eh? -Spogliati!

Huh? -Strip down!

Ah, bel modo di morire, sì... -Piantala!

Ah, nice way to die, yes... -Quit it!

L'unico modo per combattere l'ipotermia

The only way to fight hypothermia

è togliersi i vestiti e sommare il calore corporeo di entrambi.

is to take off our clothes and sum up the body heat of both of us.

Captions 48-55, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption


You can also undress another person. In this case, it's not reflexive.


Dai Carlo vai, vai, spogliala, vasala [sic], spogliala!

Come on Carlo, go on, go on, undress her, kiss her [sic], undress her!

Caption 11, Trailer - Paparazzi

 Play Caption


And speaking of stripping...


La gente della notte fa lavori strani

The people of the night do weird jobs

Certi nascono oggi e finiscono domani

Some start up today and end tomorrow

Baristi, spacciatori, puttane e giornalai

Baristas, drug dealers, hookers, and newsdealers

Poliziotti, travestiti, gente in cerca di guai

Cops, transvestites, people looking for trouble

Padroni di locali, spogliarelliste, camionisti

Bar owners, strippers, truckers,

Metronotte, ladri e giornalisti

Night watchmen, thieves, and journalists

Captions 23-28, Radio Deejay - Lorenzo Jovanotti - Gente della notte

 Play Caption




Andiamo a casa tua. A casa? Non vorrai  spogliarti in mezzo alla strada?

Certo. -Adesso, siccome siamo un po' in ritardo, spogliatevi. Vi visito insieme, d'accordo? Ci sono problemi? No, no, no. -No.



To get more information about a topic talked about in a lesson, for example, the reflexive touche on here, go to the lessons tab and do a search, such as: reflexive. The lessons where the reflexive is mentioned will be there, one after the other.

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Come fare la panzanella (how to make panzanella)

In a recent series of videos, Arianna makes panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad. Rather than giving you a list of ingredients and their precise quantities, she improvised, especially because it's a very simple recipe, and quantities aren't of utmost importance. Still, some viewers might want more detailed quantities and a more codified list of ingredients, so here, we are providing a recipe in Italian, with quantities. It will be good practice for trying out other recipes that are in Italian. It can be a lot of fun, and is truly a great way to get acquainted, in a different way, with the Italian language, not to mention with the food you will be preparing.



Su questo tavolo potete vedere tanti e coloratissimi ingredienti

On this table, you can see lots of very colorful ingredients

e voi vi chiederete "per fare cosa?"

and you must be asking yourself, "to do what?"

Per, ehm, preparare una buonissima ricetta della tradizione toscana.

To, uh, make a really good recipe from the Tuscan tradition.

Captions 2-4, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanella

 Play Caption


Ingredienti per 4 persone:

500 g di pane toscano raffermo (1 lb dried Tuscan bread)
2 pomodori grandi maturi (2 ripe tomatoes)
1 cetriolo (1 cucumber, peeled)
1 cipolla rossa (1 red onion)
qualche foglia di basilico per profumare (some fresh basil leaves for flavor)
sale qb (salt to taste)
olio extravergine di oliva qb (good olive oil to taste)
aceto di vino bianco qb (wine vinegar to taste- not too much, not too little)

Procedimento (procedure)

Mettere il pane in ammollo per circa mezz’ora; deve risultare bagnato anche all’interno ma non troppo molle (soak the bread in water — and the juice from the tomatoes if they are juicy — The bread should be soft, but not pasty).
Strizzare e sbriciolare grossolanamente il pane in una ciotola capiente (wring it out with your hands and crumble it in a large bowl).
Aggiungere tutte le verdure precedentemente tagliate (Add all the vegetables, which have been previously chopped into small chunks or cubes).
Condire con sale, olio e aceto (season with salt, olive oil and vinegar).
Mescolare bene e aggiungere, in ultimo, il basilico per profumare (mix well and add the basil at the end).




Many people prepare the panzanella in advance so that the flavors can blend, and they find it tastes even better cooled off in the fridge for about a half an hour.

It's best to wait until you have good, seasonal vegetables and fresh basil to make this dish. Perfect for hot summer evenings or noontime meals. It can also be served as an appetizer.

Wondering what qb means? It stands for quanto basta (as much as you need).

Buon appetito!



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Legno or Legna ?

It's coming on winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, where Italy is located.

In many places in Italy, people heat their houses using wood. Or, In the country and in small villages, lots of people have fireplaces in their kitchens. 



Wood is Wood, right?

Right and wrong. In English, we think of wood as wood, whatever its use. But in Italian, there are two similar but different words, depending on what we do with the wood.



To construct something we use legno (wood), a masculine noun. This has its root in the Latin noun "lignum." 


Interestingly, Italians use two basic prepositions with legno to correspond to "wooden": in and di which can both mean "of."


Questo meraviglioso piano in legno

This marvelous wooden surface

si chiama spianatoia

is called a pastry board

e serve proprio per impastare la nostra pasta fresca.

and it's used exactly for making our fresh pasta dough.

Captions 90-92, L'Italia a tavola - Culurgiones D'Ogliastra

 Play Caption


Veniva impastato in casa,

The dough was worked at home,

proprio su quella superficie di legno

right on that wooden surface

e poi messa [sic: messo], questo impasto,

and then this dough was put

su quella specie di tavola, veniva portato al forno,

on that type of wooden board and brought to the oven,

perché in casa non c'erano dei forni.

because there were no ovens in houses.

Captions 64-68, Meraviglie - EP. 1 Part 12

 Play Caption



To build a fire for heating or cooking, we use the feminine noun la legna. This comes, again from the Latin, from the plural of "lignum": "ligna." In fact, la legna, just like the collective noun "firewood," usually refers to a collection of pieces of wood to be used for burning. 


If we ask what kind of wood is used, then we can use legno. In the following example, someone is asking the pizzaiolo what kind of wood he uses in his forno a legna.


Quello è il forno a legna. Che legno usate?

That's the wood oven. What kind of wood do you use?

Captions 39-40, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

 Play Caption


To be even more specific, we can expand on legna: legna da ardere (wood for burning/firewood). The following example is from a fascinating video on Yabla about olive trees and making olive oil.


Quando avveniva questo distacco delle due parti dell'ulivo,

When this detachment took place of the two parts of the olive tree,

una della due parti veniva sacrificata come legna da ardere.

one of the two parts was sacrificed as firewood.

Captions 47-48, Olio Extra Vergine Pugliese - Introduzione e cenni storici

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What are some contexts for legna?

The fireplace is often called il camino (note the single M) and more often than not, the diminutive is used:  il caminetto. The chimney is the canna fumaria (the smokestack). 


In place of la  caldaia (furnace, hot water heater), some people have una stufa a legna (wood stove).


And let's not forget that the best pizza is said to be made in a forno a legna (wood-burning oven). In these cases the preposition a is used, referring to the function. What makes it run?


Peppe ha infornato la pizza nel forno a legna, che è un forno tradizionale.

Peppe has put the pizza in the wood oven, which is a traditional oven.

Caption 48, Antonio - presenta la Pizzeria Escopocodisera

 Play Caption


This goes for bread, too.


Antico a lievitazione naturale, cotto a legna, ci sono altri tipi...

Traditional sourdough, baked in a wood oven, there are other kinds...

Caption 64, Anna e Marika - Il pane

 Play Caption


Now you know the difference between legno and legna. They are both right; you just need to know the context. 

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How to Catch a Cold in Italian

Italians have a reputation for being concerned with drafts, chills, sudden changes of temperature, etc. This translates to parents often being very protective of their kids when it comes to wearing the appropriate clothing for a given situation.

There's a little song featured on Yabla all about this struggle between parents and their children on this subject.


Che senza canottiera

That with no undershirt

Poi mi prendo il raffreddore

I will catch a cold later

Captions 17-18, Zecchino d'Oro - Metti la canottiera

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Note the verb used to catch or get a cold is prendere (to take). It's often used reflexively, prendersi Another verb that is often used for getting sick, is beccare as in the following example. 


Ah, buongiorno. Scusate se starnutisco,

Ah, good morning. Sorry if I'm sneezing,

ma, purtroppo, mi sono beccata l'influenza.

but, unfortunately, I've caught the flu.

L'influenza è un bruttissimo raffreddore,

The flu is a really awful cold,

anzi, un po' più di un raffreddore perché ti prende tutto il corpo

rather, a bit more than a cold because it affects your whole body,

e senti i brividi e ti senti debole, ti senti stanca.

and you feel shivers, and you feel weak, you feel tired.

Captions 1-5, Marika spiega - Il raffreddore

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Marika could have said: Mi sono presa un brutto raffreddore (I caught a bad cold).

When a cold is really bad (as described above by Marika) and you have to stay home from work or school, it's often called l'influenza, even though it might or might not technically be the flu as we understand it. 


Note also that l'influenza also means "the influence" and has a verb form influenzare (to influence).


Non credo che la Francia abbia influenzato in modo determinante la mia cucina.

I don't believe that France influenced my cooking in a decisive way.

Caption 13, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del Mondo

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We use the verb beccare to talk about insect bites, too. In this case it isn't reflexive. The mosquito is doing the biting.

M'ha beccato una zanzara.

A mosquito bit me.


When we don't have a full-blown cold, but suspect we're about to because we got a chill, we might say:

Ho preso freddo.

(I got a chill).


The verb is still prendere (to take, to get).


Prendere freddo is often the reason given for catching a cold. Things Italians watch out for to avoid this are uno spiffero or corrente (a draft), climatizzatori (air conditioners), ventilatori (fans), and especially not covering up or taking a shower after working up a sweat. 


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A Curious but Iconic Italian Vehicle


When we see the word “ape,” it makes us think of a rather large, ferocious animal. But in Italian, its meaning is almost the opposite. Ape is the word for "bee." The Ape, as we shall see, was built for people who work, for someone who is as busy as a bee.


At the end of World War II, many, if not most Italians were having money problems, and certainly only a privileged few had the financial means to buy a car, much less pay for its fuel and maintenance. 


The Ape came to the rescue. In 1947, the inventor of the Vespa, (a popular motor scooter whose name means “wasp”) came up with the idea of a light, three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's economical reconstruction. Piaggio, who had built the Vespa became interested and took on the project. The very first Ape models were glorified Vespas with two wheels in the rear, and a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle— a sort of tricycle with a motor.


Little by little, the model developed to include a cab to protect the driver. Designed as a one-seater, a passenger is often seen squeezed in, as well, but it's definitely a tight fit. There are now doors on either side to facilitate parking right up next to a wall. Although no longer made principally in Italy, the Ape is still in production today!


Because of its small scooter-sized engine, the Ape doesn’t go fast (maximum around 60 kilometres an hour), and as a result, you don’t need to have an automobile driver’s license to drive one. The motor is strong enough to carry a sizeable load, and to get up the steep hills found in many parts of the country.


We see in the movie Chi m’ha visto, that Peppino’s vehicle is indeed an Ape. Given the size of the streets in so many Italian towns, cities, and country roads as well, the Ape is just right for negotiating them. Peppino races around like a maniac anyway, honking at pedestrians to get out of his way.


Vir a cus' [pugliese: guarda a questo]...

Look at this one...

Au [Ehi]! Levateve [pugliese: toglietevi] da là!

Hey! Get away from there!

Ma statte citt' [pugliese: stai zitto].

Shut up.

Captions 31-33, Chi m'ha visto - film - Part 4

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If you have ever been traveling in Italy, you might have heard an Ape before seeing one. The noise is terrifying especially as it climbs steep, narrow, cobblestone streets in the middle of an old town, where the close stone walls amplify the sound even more. Getting caught behind one on a narrow road can add hours and frustration to your trip. Fortunately, the Ape is so narrow, the driver can hug the side of the road so that cars can pass. Menomale!


Still a familiar sight all over Italy, the Ape is amazingly useful for the handyman, gardener, farm worker, delivery man, etc.


In an episode of Commissario Manara, Manara himself actually drives an Ape to figure out how a crime had been committed. He's putting himself in the killer's place.


Al piazzale davanti allo studio ci potrei andare a piedi,

To the courtyard in front of the studio I could go by foot,

invece ci vado con l' Ape. Perché?

but instead I go with the "Ape." Why?

Perché devo trasportare qualcosa, qualcosa di pesante.

Because I have to transport something, something heavy.

E che cos'è?

And what is it?

Captions 44-47, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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Even though the Ape is pretty small already, many Italians use a diminutive suffix and call it l'Apino. It also distinguishes it from ape the insect, and it renders the idea of "small."

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The Dottore Is In

You might have noticed, from watching TV shows and movies on Yabla, or elsewhere, that in Italy, the term dottore (doctor) is used loosely, or rather, differently than in other countries. In fact, addressing someone with a particular role often means using their title (or guessing at it). Sometimes signor (Mr.) and signora (Mrs.) just don't seem respectful enough.


One example of this usanza (use, custom) occurs in a recent episode about Adriano Olivetti.


Io e la mia famiglia dobbiamo tutto al Dottor Dalmasso.

My family and I owe everything to Doctor Dalmasso.

Caption 61, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Dalmasso is just an executive in a company, not necessarily a doctor (even in terms we go on to describe below), but he is one of the most important people there. People treat him with respect by using dottore instead of his name or they shorten it to dottor when it's followed directly by the person's name: Dottor Dalmasso, in this case.


In some cases dottor is used, but with a person's first name. Many people follow the reasoning that it's better to be too respectful than not respectful enough. In the following example, Giacomo could be a physician or someone's boss. We would need context to determine this.


Dottore! -Gina! -Dottore! Dottor Giacomo.

Doctor! -Gina! - DoctorDoctor Giacomo.

Che succede? -Signora, Giacomo non risponde. -Giacomo!

What's going on? -Ma'am, Giacomo isn't responding. -Giacomo!

Captions 3-4, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP11 - Beato tra le donne

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If the person is a woman, then it's dottoressa by itself, or followed by the name (first name or last name depending on the relationship). In the following example, the dottoressa in question works at city hall. Her position of importance gives her the title, more than any degree she might (or might not) have.


Dottoressa, scusate, ma perché ci volete fare questo regalo?

Doctor, excuse me, but why do you want to give us this gift?

Caption 24, L'oro di Scampia - film

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Lawyers also fall into the "important person" category and are often addressed by their professional status. We might liken this to the use of "Esquire," or "Esq." for short, used primarily in written correspondence with attorneys. 


Sì, avvocato De Santis.

Yes, Attorney De Santis.

Caption 50, La Ladra - Ep. 5 - Chi la fa l'aspetti

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The other way dottore is used is for someone with a college or university degree. Graduates earning the title dottore have often completed a Laurea triennale (three-year bachelor's degree equivalent) plus a Laurea Magistrale (two-year master's degree equivalent). It has nothing to do with being a medical doctor. Learn more here about higher learning in Italy.


As well as being an industrialist, Adriano Olivetti designed machinery, so it makes sense for him to have the title of ingegnere (engineer.) And so in the film about Olivetti, that's how many people address him. It so happens that he did, indeed, have a degree in engineering.


Ingegnere, Lei mi sta facendo una proposta incredibile.

Sir, you are making me an incredible offer.

Caption 46, Adriano Olivetti - La forza di un sogno Ep. 1

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Other titles commonly used in Italian before a name, or in place of a name, are Architetto (architect), Commissario, (commissioner, chief) Notaio (notary). 


We hope this little article has shed some light on this curious usanza (custom). Finding a suitable translation for these titles can be tough. Sometimes there's no good alternative, so we use a word we feel can fill the bill, even if it isn't a word-for-word translation. 

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When Giallo Is Not Only a Color

This brings us to another word used in this week's segment of L'Eredità, the quiz show: giallo (yellow).


Ritenne che la maggior parte dei pendolari aveva una grande passione per i racconti gialli.

She found that the majority of commuters had a great passion for yellow [detective] stories.

Captions 36-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV - La sfida dei sei. Puntata 2

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Here, although the color yellow does play an important role, un giallo is something specific: a crime, mystery or detective story. Note: The moderator of the quiz show uses giallo as an adjective: i racconti gialli (the detective stories) and it is common to say un romanzo giallo (a detective novel), to specify the format, but giallo as a noun encompasses any format and is widely used and understood by Italians. 


But what's this "yellow" business?


Here's the story. (click here for the extended Italian version).


In 1929, Mondadori, a major Italian publishing house, came out with a series of detective novels. They were tascabili (in paperback, literally "pocket-sized") and had a distinguishing yellow cover. They were called libri gialli della Mondadori (Mondadori's Yellow Books). In 1946, the name of these books changed to gialli Mondadori. The name giallo caught on, and has been used ever since to indicate a detective, crime, or police mystery, and can be applied to books, comic books (as in Diabolik mentioned on the quiz show), movies, or even news events. Giallo with this meaning has become a word everyone should know, especially if you like to read. And it can't be guessed at if you don't know the story. But now you know the story, too.


You may have heard of an American television series from the eighties and nineties called Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. This series, dubbed into Italian, became extremely popular (and stilll is) as La Signora in Giallo (The Lady in Yellow). This play on words should make sense to you now!


Read this article (in Italian) for more information about the Italian version of the show, and, why not? Find it for streaming in Italian, just for fun.

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Little Easter: Forming Diminutives

Pasqua (Easter) is a spring holiday. Although things are changing, traditionally, Italy is still a Roman Catholic country, so Pasqua is a big deal in all parts of the country. Local priests travel around the town and countryside to bless homes in the weeks preceding Easter. On la domenica delle palme (Palm Sunday), churches are filled, and olive branches are distributed. There are plenty of palm trees in Italy, but olive branches have become the tradition.



Some towns and cities stage elaborate processions on venerdì santo (Good Friday). There are famous ones in cities such as Gubbio and Assisi in Umbria, as well as in the Colosseum in Rome.


Let’s have a reminder of what Marika shared with us when talking about Christmas:


Ma prima voglio dirti che [sic] "Natale con i tuoi,

But first I want to tell you that [sic] "Christmas with your family,

Pasqua con chi vuoi".

Easter with whomever you want".

Caption 4, Marika spiega - La vera storia di Babbo Natale

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This is a very famous rhymed saying in Italy. Christmas is dedicated to family, and you are really expected to spend it with your family, but Easter is less strict. In addition, just as December 26th is a holiday in Italy (Santo Stefano), to invite the relatives you didn’t invite for la vigilia (Christmas Eve) or Natale (Christmas Day), Easter Monday or Pasquetta (little Easter), also called Lunedì dell’ angelo (Monday of the angel), is still a holiday, and still a part of Pasqua. It gives everyone a second opportunity to get together with the people they didn’t see on Easter Sunday. It’s been a national holiday since after World War II, intended to give people more time off from work and school. Many Italians use this day to spend in the country, with a picnic or walk. 


We alter Pasqua to become Pasquetta by adding a suffix. The suffix changes the quality but not the basic substance of the noun it's attached to. So, let's talk about this -etta suffix. We see that it indicates “small,” or “less important.” What are some other words that can have the diminutive suffix added?


Ora (hour) - un'oretta (a short hour, about an hour, a little under an hour, an hour or so).


Se avete tempo, potete farli [farle] lievitare da soli [sole]

If you have time, you can have each one rise on its own

un'altra oretta, altrimenti procedete.

for another hour or so, otherwise go ahead.

Captions 13-14, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi

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La cena (the dinner) - una cenetta (a light supper, an intimate dinner)


E per farmi perdonare,

And to get you to forgive me,

che ne dici stasera di una cenetta solo per noi due?

what do you say to a little dinner for just the two of us?

Caption 41, Acqua in bocca - Tra moglie e marito...

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So far, we have used feminine nouns as examples. Masculine words work the same way, but we use -etto.


Un divano (a couch, a sofa) - un divanetto (a loveseat)


Seguitemi, questo è un tipico divanetto siciliano.

Follow me, this is a typical Sicilian little loveseat.

Caption 23, Adriano - Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Only a few words with -etta and -etto as suffixes have been mentioned here. There are many more. And note that -etto and -etta are not the only suffixes used as diminutives. There are -ino and -ina, too, but we’ll talk about these another time.


Learn more about suffixes that alter words.

Enjoy your Pasquetta, whether you are a casa (at home), al lavoro (at work), scuola (at school), in viaggio (traveling), con amici (with friends) or in vacanza (on vacation).


To learn what countries do consider Easter Monday a holiday, and in what way, see this Wikipedia article.


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