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Cecina and cecina

There is a city in southern Tuscany, in the narrow province of Livorno, called Cecina. It's near the sea and has a beach area called Marina di Cecina. The name Cecina likely comes from il fiume Cecina (the Cecina river) that flows through it to the sea. The name of the river likely comes from an Etruscan family from nearby Volterra, "Ceicna" (in Latin, "Caecina") mentioned in the first century AD. The family constructed the first villages in the Val di Cecina (the Cecina River Valley).



In fact, Cecina is one of the cities on la Costa degli Etruschi (the coast of the Etruscans), in Tuscany. An Etruscan civilization inhabited the area from the start of the 9th century BC and there are plenty of archeological sites to visit. 


We mention Cecina (with the stress on the first syllable) because it's a good place to have on your radar if you visit Italy, but also because it is spelled the same way as la cecina, which is something else entirely! The kind of cecina you eat has its stress on the second syllable, not the first. It's just something you have to learn by hanging out in Pisa. 

Tra sei mesi e una notte sarò a casa dei miei gonfio di cecina [toscano: pieno di torta di ceci] e vi sognerò tutti da lontano che mi salutate con la mano.

In six months and one night, I will be at home, at my parents, bulging from cecina [chickpea flatbread], and I will dream of all of you far away who wave to me with your hands.

Captions 20-22, Fino a qui tutto bene Film - Part 5

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This flatbread made from chickpeas is a specialty of Pisa and surrounding areas and is commonly eaten inside a piece of focaccia, also called schiacciata (in Tuscany).  It's typically served with ground black pepper on top. It's fast food you can usually get wherever you get pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice).

La pizza [sic] abbiamo una Margherita con mozzarella e pomodoro, una Capricciosa con uovo, prosciutto, tonno, funghi e mozzarella, e una focaccia con bresaola, rucola e parmigiano,

For pizza we have a Margherita with mozzarella and tomato sauce, a Capricciosa with egg, ham, tuna fish, mushrooms and mozzarella, and a white pizza with dried beef, arugula and Parmesan cheese,

Captions 7-9, Una gita al lago - Part 4

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If you travel up the coast from Pisa to Carrara and points north, in other words, towards Liguria, the name cecina changes to la farinata. It's made of farina di ceci (chickpea flour), hence the name.

E... anche il chinotto, che è un particolare tipo di agrume che cresce soltanto, o quasi, in queste zone e anche la farinata.-Farinata di ceci? -Farinata è il nome di una specie di sfoglia la cui lavorazione è conosciuta fino in fondo solamente qui.

And... the myrtle-leaved orange too, which is a special type of citrus that grows solely, or nearly so, in this area, as well as “farinata.” Chickpea flour “farinata”? “Farinata” is the name of a kind of flatbread, and its preparation is known thoroughly only here.

Captions 56-61, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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Originating in Turkey, the chickpea plant grows low to the ground and goes rather unnoticed, but it seems to be cultivated quite profusely in Tuscany, where it is a favorite legume. Of course, anyone who likes Middle Eastern food knows how popular chickpeas are in those cuisines.

Fanno parte dei legumi i ceci, i piselli, i fagioli e le lenticchie.

In the legume group are chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils.

Captions 18-21, Marika spiega La frutta e la verdura - Part 2

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Whether you want to visit Cecina, or have a quick lunch of cecina, you now know a bit more than you did before! 


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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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Being in tune (or not) with intonato and stonato

Both words we want to talk about in this lesson have to do with the root word tono (tone). It means pretty much the same thing in both languages.

Ora delle due è una: o mi sta raccontando una balla adesso o mi ha preso in giro sin dall'inizio. Questo tono con me! Si rende conto che questa è insubordinazione?

Now it's one of the two: Either you're bullshitting me now, or you've been giving me the runaround from the beginning. This tone with me! Do you realize that this is insubordination?

Captions 13-16, Il Commissario Manara S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 12

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We use the words  tono and "tone" a lot in music, too. Un tono is a whole tone or whole step of a scale. In Western music, for example, we have a series of whole tones and semi tones — toni e semitoni — that make up a particular musical scale. 

Remaining in the realm of music, the verb intonare can mean "to start singing." 


When someone sings the right notes, with accurate relationships between the notes, we can say this person is intonato  or  intonata (in tune). He or she has good intonazione (intonation). 


When the opposite happens, when someone is not singing in tune, he is stonato, she is stonata. So once again, we have the S prefix that transforms a word into one with an opposite meaning. If this use of S at the beginning of a word is unfamiliar to you, check out this lesson


In the example below, Martino, the guitarist, hears a woman singing onstage. He complains:

Ma quella è stonata.

But she's out of tune.

Caption 4, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 2

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In Italian, we often use the verbs intonare and stonare or their past participles, intonato and stonato in a figurative way, or in referring to colors and designs, anything, really. In the example below, it's used with a reflexive si.


La sua maglietta non si intona col mio rossetto e quindi Le metto sette.

Your t-shirt doesn't harmonize with my lipstick, and so I'm giving you a seven.

Caption 92, L'Italia a tavola Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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In this next example, an acquaintance of the famous film directors, the Taviani brothers, is describing how they were and how they worked together. 

Erano sempre, ehm, eleganti, se si può dire la parola usata in maniera e... appunto non manierata, ma in maniera intonata no, sempre intonati, ecco.

They were always, uh, elegant, if one can use the word used in a manner and... just that, not mannered, but in a manner — harmonious, right? Always harmonious, that's it.

Captions 45-49, Fratelli Taviani La passione e l'utopia - Part 8

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In a recent episode of Meraviglie, Alberto Angela uses the verb stonare figuratively, imagining what kind of play could be performed in the piazza of Lecce, a piazza that is reminiscent of a theatrical stage. 

Tutto sembra disposto e ornato per un lieve gioco teatrale. Una commedia di Goldoni non vi stonerebbe.

Everything seems set up and decorated for a lighthearted play. A Goldoni play would not be out of place here.

Captions 9-10, Meraviglie S2 EP3 - Part 7

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So we can use stonare to mean "to clash," "to go together poorly." 




Another noun, stemming from tono, is sintonia, which is used quite a bit in Italian when talking about people who are on the same wavelength, who seem to be in sync. For example, when two people are thinking the same thing at the same time.

Loro due sono in sintonia (Those two are attuned to each other, they're on the same wavelength).




7 Ways to Share Information in Italian

We've talked about noticing things or not in various ways.

And we mentioned a couple of standalone phrases or expressions regarding noticing things, such as:

Ti rendi conto (do you realize)?

C'hai fatto caso (did you notice)?

Non c'ho fatto caso (I didn't notice).


There are other ways to call someone's attention to something, give them information, or a warning about something. Here are seven. We note that these verbs are almost always followed by the conjunction che (that). Since we are not talking about hypotheses, but rather statements of fact, we don't use the subjunctive in this case, as we often do after che


New feature: At the end of each example, there's a little grammar question, giving you the chance to expand on the example itself. You'll find the answers at the bottom of the page. Don't worry if they give you trouble, as they are aimed at more advanced learners. It may be an opportunity to find out what you don't know and to ask us questions! We'll be glad to oblige.

1) Far notare

We looked at notare in another lesson. Instead of using notare (to notice) by itself, in the imperative, for example, we can say far notare (to "make someone notice," to point out). There is often a particle representing the object pronoun and the preposition in the mix. In following example, Daniela is pointing out something to her class so she uses the second person plural vi (to you). Note that it comes before the verb!


Infine, vi faccio notare che

To finish up, I will point out to you that

"in effetti", come espressione a sé stante,

"in effetti," as a standalone expression,

come espressione singola,

as an expression on its own,

senza aggiungere altre parole dopo,

without adding other words after it,

si usa per affermare che si è convinti di qualcosa.

is used to affirm that we are convinced of something.

Captions 47-51, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Infatti - In effetti

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Q1) If Daniela were giving a private lesson, and thus were speaking to just one person, what do you think she would say? 

2) Far presente

Similar to far notare is fare presente. I'm calling your attention to some fact or situation. I'm presenting you with some information. I'm making you aware of it.


Ottimo lavoro, Arianna.

Great work, Arianna.

Ti ringrazio per avermi fatto presente la situazione.

Thank you for letting me know about the situation.

Captions 45-46, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti

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Q2) If I were speaking on behalf of my company, how could I change this sentence?

3) Segnalare


Ma anche la città di Genova, con i suoi vicoli, è molto affascinante

But also the city of Genoa, with its alleys, is very appealing

e da segnalare anche l'Acquario di Genova,

and one should also mention the Genoa Aquarium,

che è molto famoso.

which is very famous.

Captions 79-80, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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In the previous example, we could have translated it with "to point out" or "to call attention to."


Q3) If you were telling one other person about about the Genoa acquarium, what could you say? This is harder than the previous example, and there is not only one possibility.

4) Avvertire


Signor Pitagora, La volevo avvertire

Mister Pitagora, I wanted to let you know

che per trovare i soldi per la sua operazione,

that to get the money for your operation,

mio fratello ha rinunciato a tutti i diritti sull'azienda.

my brother gave up all his rights to the company.

Captions 95-97, Questione di Karma - Rai Cinema

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There are other nuances of avvertire, but for now we will stick with the one that means "to warn," "to let someone know."  You are turning someone's attention to something. Avvertire can be used with a menacing tone, as a warning.


Q4) The example uses the (singular) polite form (which is actually the third person singular), but what if you were telling a colleague or friend the same thing? What might you say?

5) Comunicare


I fratelli Troisgros,

The Troisgros brothers,

quando comunicai loro che volevo tornare a Milano,

when I communicated to them that I wanted to return to Milan,

ci rimasero male.

were disappointed.

Captions 45-46, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del Mondo

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This is a cognate that is easy to understand, but in addition to its meaning "to communicate" in general, Italians often use it to let you know something, sort of like avvertire. It might have been more authentic to translate it as "when I let them know that I wanted to return to Milan..." or "when I informed them..."

This is an interesting example because it contains the verb comunicare (to communicate) in the passato remoto (remote past tense), first person singular. And in addition, the object personal pronoun is the third person plural. We don't see this very often in everyday conversation.


Q5) It would be perhaps more common these days to hear this kind of sentence expressed in the passato prossimo, which, we recall, is used, not as the present perfect in English, but as the simple past tense: something over and done with. Try conveying this same message using the passato prossimo.

6) Avvisare


Be', ma allora dobbiamo subito avvisare qualcuno, eh.

Well, so then we should alert someone right away, huh.

Caption 35, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita

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Q6) In the previous example, we don't know who to alert. But we do have to alert someone. What if we do know who to alert? Let's say we have already been talking about that person, say, someone's father— Masculine, singular. How could we construct this sentence? There's more than one correct solution.

7) Informare

Another cognate is of course, informare. So if nothing else comes to mind, informare works as a great verb for letting someone know something.


Be', ho dovuto informare tutti i nostri attuali inserzionisti

Well, I've had to inform all our current advertisers

che tutti i contratti futuri

that all future contracts

subiranno un aumento del prezzo del trenta per cento.

will undergo a thirty percent increase in cost.

Captions 21-22, Italiano commerciale - Difficoltà con colleghi e contratti

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Eh... -Va bene, va bene, va bene, tenetemi informato.

Uh... -OK. OK. OK. Keep me informed.

Caption 33, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP4 - Le Lettere Di Leopardi

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In the previous example, we have a new element: the verb tenere (to hold, to keep). It's pretty close to how we do it in English, which is great news, vero?


Q7) What if you are telling just one person to keep you informed? How would you say that?


As you can see, each verb has a slightly different meaning, but all are used to call attention to something and to share information. 



A1) Ti faccio notare che...


A2) Ti ringrazio per averci fatto presente la situazione.


A3) e ti segnalo anche l'acquario...

e ti posso anche segnalare l'acquario...


A4) Susanna, ti volevo avvertire che...


A5) I fratelli Troisgros, quando ho comunicato loro che volevo tornare a Milano, ci sono rimasti male.​


A6) Be', ma allora lo dobbiamo  avvisare subito, eh.

Be', ma allora dobbiamo  avvisarlo subito, eh.


A7) Tienimi informato (or if you are a female: tienimi informata).


What are some expressions you use everyday that you wish you knew how to say in Italian? Let us know and we'll try to provide some answers. 

How to Address Your Teacher in Italian

In a foreign country, knowing how to address people can be a challenge. In English, we have to know whether to be on a first name basis or not, but Italians works a bit differently.


Formal or Informal?

First of all, you need to know whether to be formal or informal. Italians may refer to this as dare del lei (to give the formal "you") or dare del tu (to give the informal "you"). Check out this lesson about the ins and outs of this. 



Some History: Fascism and Italian language

During the period of Italian Fascism, there were strict rules about how to address other people. It's a fascinating story and Yabla has featured a documentary about Fascism and Italian language. Check out the relative lesson: What's the Story on Voi in the Singular?


Signora and Signore

It's interesting that Italians very often use the equivalent of "ma'am" and "sir" instead of using someone's name: signora and signore.


Sì, signora, dica.

Yes, ma'am, what is it?

E mio marito non è rientrato stanotte e non ha nemmeno avvertito...

My husband didn't come home last night and he didn't even let me know...

e... non è mai successo.

and... it's never happened before.

Sono molto preoccupata.

I'm very worried.

Venga nel mio ufficio, signora.

Come into my office, ma'am.

Captions 15-19, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Keep in mind that often, signora and signor are commonly used before a first name. It's midway between formal and informal.


Signora Caterina, non si preoccupi per Brigadiere,

Miss Caterina, don't worry about Brigadiere,

perché l'ho portato alla pensione Abbaio Giocoso e starà benissimo.

because I took him to the kennel "Playful Barking" and he'll be just fine.

Captions 39-40, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP6 - Sotto tiro

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He's no doctor!

We've also talked about the fact that Italians use the term dottore (doctor) when wishing to treat someone with respect, regardless of whether the person is an actual doctor, or whether he has a PhD. The Dottore is In.


And, like dottore, they will use a title without the name of the person. For instance, in the story of Adriano Olivetti, he was an engineer, so people — especially people who worked with him — would just call him Ingegnere (engineer), without his name.


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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At school

Lastly, at school, the actual name of the teacher seems to be of relatively minor importance when addressing him or her directly. You simply call your teacher Prof, short for professore (professor, teacher) if you are allowed to by the teacher. When speaking more formally, students will use professore or professoressa, once they leave primary school. If they are still in primary or elementary school, they will use maestra (schoolmistress) to refer to a female teacher. On the subject of the schoolroom, Yabla offers an original content series about the regions of Italy. It's set in a classroom with Anna as the student and Marika playing the (often mean) teacher. How does Anna handle this? It might depend on the mood of the professoressa.  Check out the videos here.


Guardi, Lei ha studiato, perché Lei ha studiato,

Look, you've studied, because [and I see] you've studied,

ma mi sta antipatica oggi e quindi Le metto sette.

but I find you disagreeable today and so I'll put down a seven.

Ma prof, ma sono venuta volontaria. -E ho capito,

But teacher, I volunteered. -Uh, I get it,

però mi gira così.

but that's how it's hitting me today.

Captions 88-91, L'Italia a tavola - Interrogazione sulla Liguria

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Yabla offers the TV series, Provaci ancora Prof as part of its growing library. The title is a takeoff on Woody Allen's Play it Again, Sam.


A student is speaking to his teacher:


Prof, si unisca a noi.

Teach, join us.

Caption 57, Provaci Ancora Prof! - S1E2 - Un amore pericoloso

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Of course in American English, we would use Mr., Mrs., Ms, or Miss and the last name of the teacher. The translation we have given is very informal, and calling a teacher "teach" would likely be frowned upon in most schools. But in Italy, it's the norm in many school situations. Good to know!


More about meeting and greeting formally and informally here: I say hello; you say goodbye