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Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu

In this week's lesson, Daniela shows us how different colors behave differently according to gender and number. Some of the colors are easy to understand, and to find equivalent names for, but when it comes to blue, Italians make some important distinctions. The three basic shades of blue are bluazzurro, and celeste.

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Blu is the most basic and can have an adjective attached to it such as in blu notte (midnight blue, dark blue, or navy blue) or blu elettrico (electric blue) or blu petrolio (oil blue or teal blue)It's the darkest of the three and also the "bluest." Think of the American or French flag. That's blu.

Azzurro isn't just any blue. It's a blue that reminds us of the transparent waters of the Mediterranean Sea along a rocky coast, the sky when it's so incredibly clear, that it seems unreal, with the sun shining high in the sky. It's a blue that has a tiny bit of green in it, tending more towards turquoise than deep blue, or even royal blue. Azzurro is also the name given to the Italian national sports teams. They wear jerseys or shorts of this color. The color azure exists in English, but it's not commonly used to describe the color of everyday items. 

Celeste is a kind of sky blue (think: "celestial"), like the sky in the early evening or early morning on a summer day. There's not a whole lot of sun, and the sky is clear but not intense. That's celeste. Baby blue is quite close to celeste.

In describing Sicily, Adriano uses both blu and azzurro:

 

Ma quello che di più colpisce è il contrasto spettacolare tra il colore azzurro, blu del mare che si staglia sul verde della montagna di Monte Pellegrino.

But what is most stunning is the spectacular contrast between the blue color, the blue of the sea that's outlined on the green of the mountain of Monte Pellegrino.

Captions 42-44, Adriano - Monte Pellegrino

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Milena is showing us some items at the supermarket. There may be some discussion as to whether the cap on the milk container is azzurro or celeste, but it's clear that it's a blue that's on the light side, to indicate "light" milk. 

 

Questo è il latte parzialmente scremato. Di solito ha il tappo celeste.

This is partially skimmed milk. Usually it has a sky-blue cap.

Captions 23-24, Milena - al supermercato

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These two lines from Adriano Celentano's hit song, Azzurro, sung by Milena and friends, give you an idea of what azzurro is all about:

 

Cerco l'estate tutto l'anno e all'improvviso, eccola qua

I've been looking for summer all year long and all of a sudden, here it is

Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me

Blue, the afternoon is too blue and long for me

Captions 2-5, Amiche - È tempo di cantare

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Another famous Italian song known as Volare, by Domenico Modugno, uses blu, notazzurro, to describe the sky. It must be said that blu rhymes with a lot more words than azzurro!

Nel blu dipinto di blu 
In the blue painted blue
Felice di stare lassù
Happy to be up there

 

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Learning suggestion:

Take a look around at all the blue items you can see. Try to say which color they are in Italian, and, after following Daniela's lesson, use the colors as adjectives in both the singular and the plural. Bluazzurro, or celeste

 

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Slow down you're driving too loud

The instrument we know as the piano is called il pianoforte in Italian. What made it special when it was invented was that it could be played both piano (softly) and forte (loudly). Many of us are familiar with these musical terms, but actually, forte and piano are ordinary words (used as both adjectives and adverbs) and much of the time have nothing to do with music.

Francesca is learning to drive, and her instructor is telling her how to use the clutch:
 

Piano piano, lentamente.

Slow, slow, slowly.

Caption 36, Francesca - alla guida - Part 2

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If she had taken off too fast, her instructor might have said:
 
Rallenta, stai andando troppo forte!
Slow down, you are going too fast!
 
So just as piano can mean lentamente (slowly), forte is often used to mean veloce (fast). In fact, forte basically means “strong” or “loud.” It can be used to express a strong, positive emotion like, when Lele, upon seeing his new home for the first time, exclaims:
 

Forte! C'è il giardino con l'erba e tutto. -Ti piace?

Cool! There's a garden with a lawn and everything. -You like it?

Caption 13, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 3

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Piano can mean “delicately,” “quietly,” or “slowly,” and it’s not always clear which meaning is intended. On the beach at Maratea, three friends are singing a famous Italian song.
 

Lasciatemi cantare una canzone piano piano

Let me sing a song slowly, slowly [or: softly, softly]

Caption 12, Amiche - È tempo di cantare

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Only the songwriter knows for sure!
 
“Level” is a completely different meaning of piano. In piano refers to level ground. Un piano is something level, like the story of a building. Lele tattles on his neighbor before leaving his old apartment for good:
 

La moglie di Andrea si bacia in macchina con l'avvocato del quinto piano.

Andrea's wife kisses the lawyer from the fifth floor in the car.

Caption 21, Un medico in famiglia - s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 2

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Un piano is also a flat surface to work on. In the kitchen you will need a piano di lavoro (countertop) and a piano di cottura (stovetop). Then you will set the table with two kinds of plates that take their names from their shapes: piano (flat) and fondo (deep).
 

Cominciamo con i piatti: questo è un piatto piano. Poi, c'è il piatto fondo...

Let's begin with the plates, this is a flat plate [dinner plate]. Then, there's the soup plate...

Captions 7-8, Marika spiega - Le pentole e le posate

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Piani (levels) can have to do with depth, too. When we zoom in with a camera, we will be getting a primo piano (close-up). We can also use piano to discuss priorities, like when Lara is trying to get Commissario Manara to focus on the job at hand:
 

Le questioni personali vanno messe in secondo piano.

Personal matters should take second place [literally, put in the background].

Caption 60, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP1 - Un delitto perfetto

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And if that weren’t enough, un piano is also “a plan.”
 
Tranquilli, ho un piano.
Don't worry, I have a plan.
 

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So if you are playing the piano (pianoforte), talking too loud (troppo forte) or too soft (troppo piano), chopping vegetables on the counter (piano di lavoro), setting the table for dinner (piatti piani), filming a close-up (primo piano) of your cat, talking on a philosophical level (piano filosofico) with your friend, cycling on a flat road (in piano) and going too fast (troppo forte) or too slow (troppo piano) for your companion; if you have a plan (un piano), or even if you just live on the next floor up (al piano di sopra) in an apartment building, then these words are for you.
 
Learning tip: To get a more complete sense of the uses and nuances of piano and forte, go to an online dictionary like wordreference and check out the many examples. Whenever you can, reinforce your vocabulary skills by clicking on the green “Review Vocabulary” button below the video thumbnail.
Vocabulary

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