Italian, just like English and probably every other language in the world, is full of non-words. Little mannerisms and interjections. Things you won’t find in the dictionary and won’t learn in a class, but which will help you to understand the Italians and to fit in with them.
Here is a very brief list to get you started:
1. Boh – Pronounced like “bow” with an extra emphasis on the B. Emphasised by a shrug of the shoulders and raised eyebrows, it essentially means “I have absolutely no idea”.
- Ma secondo te chi vince alle elezioni?
- Who do you reckon will win at the elections?
- I have no idea.
2. Mah – pronounced like “ta” or “ma”, but said with more emphasis. A look of dismay or disgust is often employed and it expresses negative judgement, usually of someone’s behaviour. More often than not, it is used when talking about the things the government do.
- Aumentano di nuovo la TARSU. Mah!
-They are putting the rubbish tax up again. Ugh!
3. Uffi / Uffa – pronounced “oofy” or “oofah”, often with an elongated vowel. It expresses displeasure at a situation, exasperation with someone or something, “what a pain in the butt”
- Uffa, devo lavorare fino a tardi di nuovo venerdì sera.
- I have to work late again on Friday night. What a pain in the butt.
4. Suvvia – pronounced “sooveeya”. It means “come on” or “hurry up”
- Siamo in ritardo ancora una volta, suvvia, muoviamoci.
- Suvvia, mica ti aspetti che io credi una simile sciocchezza?
- We are late again, let’s get a move on
- C’mon, you don’t expect me to fall for that do you?
5. Tiè – pronounced “tee-eh” with a strong emphasis on the final syallable. It is usually used when someone gets their just deserts, and means something along the lines of “take that!”
- I tifosi della Juve si sono bullati tutta la settimana, ma la partita l’abbiamo vinta noi – tiè!
- The Juve* fans were so sure of themselves, but in the end we won the match – take that!
There are lots more, but these are a few of the more common – try them out and impress your Italian friends with your use of Italian expressions… or just have some fun
*I Always use Juve in these examples because for some reason the only thing that all of the other football team fans in Italy seem to be able to agree on is that they don’t like Juve. Why? Boh!
With love, from Italy
There are oodles of guides out there on life in Italy, on how to fit in and how to get by. Some of them offer excellent advice, some of them make it plain from their ignorance that they have never once set foot in the Bel Paese. I have an advantage, in that I am a foreigner and I have lived here for years, and in that I have lived in both the North and the South of the country. I have decided I am going to write a guide of sorts for all of those who want to move out here or even just to visit… and I am going to start with a few pointers of what NOT to do.
1. Get stressed out when things don’t go according to plan.
In Italy, NOTHING goes according to schedule. Public transport timetables are approximate at best, opening and closing times depend on the whim of the owners/workers, meetings always start with a minimum 15 minute delay (the quarto d’ora academico) and people always want to stop for a coffee or a chat. Don’t mistake this attitude for laziness though – the Italians are hard workers, they just also know how to live life to the fullest and break the day up into manageable chunks. They also know there is no point in getting your panties in a wad over things you can’t control, and they have a point. Freak out over the bus being late, and you mark yourself out as a foreigner instantly.
2. Drink cappuccino after 11am.
The Italians drink milky coffee with breakfast. Anything after that must be espresso, or at most caffé macchiato, which is an espresso with just a dash of hot milk. Order a cappuccino after your full lunch and the locals stomachs will turn ma come fanno a bere il cappuccio a stomaco pieno? How can they drink cappuccino on a full stomach? They will ask themselves. Mostly if you do this they will think you are English. Or American.
3. Assume everywhere takes credit card.
Plenty of shops and restaurants don’t take plastic in any way shape or form. there has been talk of resolving this by introducing a law requiring all commercial activities to have a POS (Point of Sale) device, but this hasn’t come into force so far, or if it has it isn’t being taken very seriously. Don’t get yourself into the embarrassing situation of having eaten your meal or drink your drink only to discover you don’t have a means to pay.
4. Trust your SatNav.
Yeah, that includes the one which claims “comprehensive maps of Europe”. Even if you bought it in Italy. SatNavs here seem to delight in taking you on the most unlikely of round trips through medieval villages through which a larger car may not even fit (this happened to me. I was in a Suzuki Swift and still had to close the wing mirrors to squeeze down the street. In a jeep, I would have been screwed). On top of that, you may find they lead you merrily through ZTL areas - Zone a Traffico Limitato - and that you come home to a nice fat fine for going through the area without the necessary resident’s permit.
5. Expect great pizza in Milan… and risotto in Naples
You’d be forgiven for not being aware that pesto is from Liguria and mozzarella is from Campania, but if you want to make the very best of your culinary experience in Italy (and lets face it, it is one of the reasons for visiting the country), here is a quick cheat sheet:
Genova – Trenette al pesto
Milano – Risotto, Ossobuco
Bergamo – Casoncei with butter and sage
Bologna – Pasta (NEVER SPAGHETTI) alla Bolognese
Parma – Parmesan and Parma ham. Duh.
Naples – Pizza
Rome – Carbonara, Amatriciana
Siena – Ragu
Sicily – Lemon granita, anything with ricotta
This is of course a guideline. But the best thing to do is to look up the dish you want to try and see where it comes from, and to make sure that the restaurant you are looking to eat in is full. Of locals that is, not other tourists.
6. Put parmesan cheese on seafood pasta
Just don’t. Please. You’re gonna have to trust me on this one.
7. Walk barefoot.
Anywhere. This includes at home, on the beach, by the pool, in your garden ANYWHERE. The Italians have a thing about it, they don’t like the idea of dirty feet. They are in general a people quite obsessed with cleanliness and walking around barefoot quite upsets them. Whenever my boyfriend sees someone in the park without their shoes on he says “Oh look, must be a tourist.” The fine ladies stick their noses up and look horrified. I wouldn’t worry too much about them though, everything horrifies them.
8. Plan on conducting your entire trip in English
In the most touristy areas most people do speak a smattering of English, but even then it is not always enough to get by, and if you want to go off the beaten track (I always recommend it) then you are going to need to break out the phrase book. You wont need to speak fluent Italian unless you plan on living here, and even that will come with time, but you do need to bring a phrase book and show you are making the effort – trust me, most of the Italians you meet will be so delighted at your attempts that they will bend over backwards to help you!
9. Women, do not get upset at leers and wolf whistles…
…and men do not get into fights over the above to protect your wife/girlfriend/mother/sister’s honour. Italian guys stare more than British or American guys. They are more obvious about flirting. They make compliments on a regular basis, for no specific reason. It’s harmless, they mean nothing by it, and there is no point in getting upset – just smile and keep walking. Of course, if they insist or try to do more than comment, raise the alarm – there are weirdos everywhere – but 99.9999999% of the time they will move on and forget about it.
10. Get drunk
This goes for men and for women. The Italians rarely overdo it, and if they do it is unlikely to be on purpose, and they will be mortified about it the following day. Most drunk people you see on the streets in Italy are either tourists or alcoholics. Harsh, but true. The Italians like to make a good impression, fare bella figura, and they are all too aware that you are unlikely to do this when falling flat on your face trying to tie up your shoelaces or vomiting into a bush on the roadside. They do drink, they get tipsy even, but they drink slowly, with a lot of food, and they know when to stop. This is good advice to follow anywhere, but even more so here where drunken behaviour is pretty much frowned upon.
I could go on forever. And I will, at some point. I think I may even write a book… what do you think?
With love, from Italy
Mousse di riccotta al cioccolato fondente e pere
I feel like utter crap. Sorry.
I have a serious headcold and a cough, and I had to go to a wedding today – beautiful wedding, and I had a lovely time, but now that I am home… Let’s just say I am writing this from my
Since I have been at a wedding, here we go with another Valentine’s meal post. This time I want to tell you about the dessert, which I also took to my MIL and which was a huge hit… but I also want to tell you about the dumbass mistake I made in making it.
You see, this pudding requires melted chocolate, and it requires good scotch whisky. The thing is, if you add alcohol directly to melted chocolate, it seizes into useless lumps. Anyone who regularly makes sweets probably knows that. Dumbass here didn’t
Lucky I bought extra chocolate.
You will need (makes 4 LARGE portions)
400g of fresh ricotta
200g of dark chocolate
2 shots of scotch whisky
2 ripe pears, peeled and cored
2 shortbread fingers
1. Chop the pears into small chunks and place them in a pan with 1 cup of water, 1 shot of whisky and 100g of sugar. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. You want a syrup to form around the pears.
2. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie above some hot water.
3. Whip the chocolate, ricotta and remaining sugar into a soft, fluffy mousse. THEN add the whisky – NOT BEFORE!
4. Crumble the biscuits. Place half the crumbs in the bottom of 4 glasses.
5. Spoon most of the pears into the glass on top of the biscuit base.
6. Spoon the ricotta mix into the glasses
7. Top with the remaining pears and biscuit, adding some chocolate shavings if you wish.
Easy peasy, and looks and sounds dinner party impressive. I also saw a version with white chocolate and amaretto, although rather than pears I would use apricots… any other combos strike your fancy, let me know – I may just give it a go!
Now I’m off to have a hot cupof tea and collapse in bed.
With love (and snot), from Italy
Linguine al profumo di limone e mandorle from Campania
Since my last post focused on Italy as the country of luuuuurve I thought it would be appropriate to share with you guys one of the courses I cooked for Valentine’s day this year. Valentine’s day has become incredibly commercial, kitsch and above all EXPENSIVE here too, so rather than try to get a booking in an overcrowded restaurant where we would no doubt end up paying over the odds for a less than wonderful meal we decided it would be preferable to stay in, so I put on a huge spread – this was part of it, and was very much appreciated!
I love this recipe because I feel it captures the essence of what I really adore about Southern Italian cuisine – fresh mediterranean ingredients simply combined to produce an explosion of flavour… The zest of the lemon combines beautifuly with the sweetness of the prawns and the creamy almonds, and there is also a delicious play of textures with this dish.
You will need (serves 2)
20 prawns (OK you don’t actually need 20, but it was a special occasion!).
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp EVO (Extra virgin olive oil)
Zest of two large ORGANIC lemons (organic because you’ll be using the zest), and the juice of one of these.
A handful of peeled almonds
A glass of dry white wine
A handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt to taste
This needs to be served freshly cooked or the prawns will go rubbery, so use the time you need for the water to boil and the linguine to cook for the preparation of the sauce.
1. Prepare the water for the linguine
2. Peel the prawns, leaving 4 with their shells on for decoration.
3. Crush the garlic and brown it in the oil. Once it starts to go golden you can choose to remove it or leave it in for a stronger flavour.
4. Throw in the prawns on a low heat and ensure they are well coated in the oil. Once they start to lose their transparency, throw in the almonds to toast.
5. Your water should be boiling. Salt and add the linguine.
6. The almonds will be takig on a golden colour. Now throw in the wine and lemon juice. Simmer for 2 minutes until it begins to reduce. You can help it to thicken by skimming some of the start off the top of the water the pasta is cooking in and adding it to the pan.
7. Just before you drain the pasta, remove the four prawns which still have their shells on and put to one side. Add the lemon zest and salt, stir and remove from the heat.
8. Drain the pasta. Stir the pasta into the prawn mixture. Serve the pasta with a sprinkling of parsley and place the intact prawns on the top of each bowl for decoration.
Voilà! A Mediterranean recipe fit for Valentine’s day in Italy… or any day you feel like a treat to be honest!
With love, from Italy
Wednesdays from now on will be dedicated to a word in the Italian language. Where possible I will stick to the alphabet, although X might be a bit of a bummer so I’ll probably end up skipping that one…
The first word with A is easy: Amore. Love.
It’s what Italy is all about. It’s the reason I moved here. It’s the reason for a great deal of joy and a great deal of sorrow. It is dramatic, emotional and all consuming. All very Italian.
The etymology of this word is simple, in that it derives from itself, and is unchanged from the original Latin. I personally prefer the false etymology that can be found across the net: that amore comes from the Latin a-mors – without death.
Italian is the language of love, of opera and of poety. It is the country where Shakespeare chose to set his great love story, Romeo and Juliette. It is a place where people are not afraid to say “I love you” (Ti amo) where you hear people calling each other “Amore” in the streets, were PDAs are de rigeur and nobody looks uncomfortable or tsks at seeing a couple kiss in public. It is a place where men and women stil corteggiare (court) one another and drunken hookups in clubs are the exception rather than the rule.
Italy is a country of hopeless romantics, especially here in the South and I hope it remains that way.
With amore, from Italy
It has been a long time.
I even considered completely abandoning this blog and setting up a new one, because I was embarrassed to come back to it after so long. I have decided that isn’t necessary though, and that it seems a tremendous shame to let everything here wither and waste away.
I had a horrible 2013. 2014 will be much better because I have learned important lessons, the most significant of which is that I am the only person responsible for my happiness and that I cannot take on the burden of other people’s problems. I am freer now than I have been in years, and have stopped worrying about things I cannot control and started caring more about me and my life. I won’t sacrifice my happiness for anyone ever again.
So here is what has changed:
1. I have a new job as a Marketing manager
2. I am studying to get my CIM Post Graduate diploma
3. I am running more often and intend on doing the Roma Ostia marathon next year
4. I am spending more time with my pooch
5. R and I have moved in together
6. I have started Art lessons
7.I am spending more time with friends
8. I have written a bucket list full of all the things I want to do with my life
9. I will now start blogging again – promise!
10. I AM FINALLY HAPPY
I know this is a bit of a ramble… but I’m just so stoked to feel that me, as I am, is as important and worthy of attention and development as anyone else. I don’t need to change, just to develop, and anyone who doesn’t want me as I am is not someone I need in my life.
I can’t wait to get started, and have a new plan for posts – I am going to keep posting recipes but I am also going to be posting more about other aspects of my life in Italy – my running, my dog, the culture, the things we do, the people I meet. It needs to be wider… I hope this doesn’t put anyone off, if it does I apologise!
Stay tuned for a proper post – I promise you it is coming!
With love, from Italy
I have been missing in action for a few months and am aware of this, but I was having an extremely difficult time for personal reasons and simply finding the energy to get up in the morning was a chore. On top of this, I was thinking of nothing but my problems which are a. Too personal to be venting about In so public health forum as this blog and b. Of very little interest to anyone who does not know me personally. That said, I would like to ask for forgiveness for the neglect and to note that I will begin writing again in earnest shortly. Please just have a little more patience while I pull myself together.
With love, from Italy