After Natale and Pasqua, Ferragosto is the third festivity Italians mostly appreciate overall. During this period of the year, Italian cities get empty, whereas beaches fill up welcoming people from all over the world. 

what is Ferragosto exactly?

Traditionally, Ferragosto is an Italian national holiday celebrated on 15th August. Its roots lie in ancient Rome under the emperor Augustus. As a matter of fact, Feriae Augusti – a set of feasts established by Augustus himself – had the purpose to provide Roman citizens a longer period of rest after the harvest. Later, after the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Catholicism, this festival was converted into a religious festivity commemorating the Assunzione, namely the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Nevertheless, how and where do Italians celebrate Ferragosto? What do they like to do the most?

If you are curious enough to find it out, you better scroll down and read until the end of the present article! And if you are planning to visit Italy here there are some useful books for you:

how and where do Italians celebrate Ferragosto?

Relaxing on the beach 

Ferragosto relaxing on the beach and with an Aperitivo during Summer in Italy

Spending Ferragosto vacations with family or friends on the beach is usually the very first choice. Indeed, most Italians literally “flee” from those cities that are dreadfully hot and sticky during the summertime – like Milan, Turin, Rome, Bologna, and so on-. On the contrary, people who live in coastal cities – such as Naples, Palermo, Bari, Rimini, etc. – can enjoy more pleasant and milder weather, as well as cooler temperatures. 

In any case, many events take place on the most famous Italian beaches, such as those of Adriatic Coast, Amalfi Coast, and Emerald Coast, during the day of Ferragosto: in the morning, they usually organize funny games for children, dancing and water aerobics sessions for young people and adults. Instead, in the afternoon, space is given to traditional Italian Aperitivo. On this occasion, you can have a tasty cocktail with your friends, listen to great music, and eat tons of appetizers and savory snacks. Finally, in the evening you have the chance to do lots of different things according to your tastes: going to a beach party, celebrating in an exclusive nightclub, going for a stroll downtown where you can be entertained with traditional music concerts, or eventually watching the fireworks around a bonfire. 

Fun fact: Are you wondering which is the representative song of the Italian summer? Of course Un’estate al mare by Italian singer Giuni Russo.            

Having a good time in the mountains 

Ferragosto Having a good time in the mountains during Summer in Italy

In case you aren’t into the sea like a lot of Italians, mountains are the perfect alternative where to spend your Ferragosto! The most popular destinations for hikers and fresh air lovers are Alpes and Appennines, the two main mountain ranges in Italy. Here people have the possibility to explore wild areas along with expert tour guides, hike into the woods seeking appetizing mushrooms and truffles, or reach small mountain villages with breathtaking views. 

Plus, in some Italian regions where a vast production of wines normally appears – as in Piedmont, Tuscany, Campania, Sicily -, it is also possible to visit local wineries that often belong to wealthy families. In these places they provide you information about the various techniques used for making wine, focusing on grape pressing, fermentation, and aging; after that, the procedures of bottling and storage are shown. When the visit comes to an end, you are allowed to taste local wines, basically accompanied by delicious platters of cold cuts and cheeses. 

Exploring Italian lakes 

Exploring Italian lakes during Ferragosto and Italian Summer - Lake Garda

Another typical activity that some Italians really prefer doing during the day of Ferragosto is going to the lake. Just think of the huge amount of lakes scattered throughout Italy – for example, Lakes of Garda and Como in Lombardy, Lake of Bracciano near Rome, and Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. In these wonderful locations, it’s quite common to take a cruise around the lake itself, taste seafood dishes in a restaurant nearby, or sunbathing on the lake shores. 

Remember that it is also possible to fish but you need to get information previously because in some parts of Italy fishing is forbidden in specific periods of the year.     

Spending time in the countryside

Spending time in the countryside during Italian Ferragosto and Summer - Tuscan Maremma

Not interested in spending your day of Ferragosto on the beach, in the mountains, or at the lake? Don’t worry about that, because an alternative to the proposals mentioned above exists: the countryside!

As you already know, Italy is full of countryside, hills, and plains. Hence, if you decide to head to the Tuscan Maremma or the Po Valley in summer, you could stop at a holiday farm to have a barbecue or at a trattoria – in English inn – where to enjoy wholesome food and later have a nap under the trees. For families with kids, they usually offer entertainment services and carousels. Alternatively, you might be hosted in farms or cottages where you can experience rural life. Here they give you the chance to hoe the ground, grow plants, and raise animals.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could feed hens or witness the birth of a calf? For nature enthusiasts, this would surely be something not to be missed! Additionally, you are able to drink homemade wine and eat healthy farm-to-table products. Lastly, you could choose to go for a ride in an open country. 

Fun fact: do you know there’s a very famous Italian film where the typical summer landscape of the Tuscan Maremma is displayed? Here is an excerpt from the movie Il Ciclone directed by Italian actor Leonardo Pieraccioni.   

Staying in town 

Staying in town in Ferragosto - Visiting Pompeii in Naples

What if you didn’t manage to leave your home city on Ferragosto? Well, you need to know that most shops, businesses and public offices are closed for the summer break; even public transport is not in service. In fact, you could bump into signs like chiuso per ferie – literally closed for vacation – popping up all over the place. However, plenty of museums and cultural sites still stay open. Consequently, locals and tourists have the opportunity to visit major Italian attractions such as the Colosseum, Pompei ruins, Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, and other cultural institutions across the rest of Italy.

At the same time, city parks remain open during Ferragosto; on this occasion, people often go there carrying their picnic baskets. After putting a towel on the grass, they relax and eat in good company. Rather, when the air becomes cooler in the evening, you can drink some cocktails, have dinner – make sure that the restaurant you would like to go to is open! – or take a walk in the center. Even though there are few people and it’s hot, I’m sure you won’t regret the moment when you walked around an Italian city in loneliness! 

Anyway, you shouldn’t feel alone because different events take place in the squares of the main Italian cities.        

What do Italians eat and drink on Ferragosto?

What do Italians eat and drink on summer?

Commonly, Italians are used to eating fresh and uncooked food such as mozzarella, tomato salad, ricotta, and cold meats in summer. Mostly, they eat a lot of fruit like watermelon, rockmelon, grapes, peaches, and so on. Regarding cold drinks, the most appreciated are iced tea, iced coffee, sodas, granita, and barley water. For some Italian foodies, eating fresh couldn’t be enough! For this reason, they opt for more flavourful dishes like eggplant parmesan, spaghetti omelet, rice salad, or pasta salad. Generally, they consume these foods on the beach or outdoors – this happens mainly in the south of Italy -. Wine must be present on the Italian table, too! In this regard, there’s a dessert that is very easy to make: peaches in red wine. Trust me, once you take a sip of this juicy drink, you won’t be able to get enough of it! 

Keep in mind that you can have all these meals I referred to until now during the entire summertime – more specifically from the end of May until the beginning of September -, not only on the day of Ferragosto.    

What Are Ferragosto Festivities and Traditions in Italy?

What Are Summer Festivities and Traditions in Italy?

As we already said previously, if you are unable to leave for vacation, or simply decide to stay in town, you won’t face problems spending your Ferragosto cheerfully because you’ll find dozens of celebrations all over Italy, including food, music, parades, and of course, fireworks. Here is a list of the 5 most popular Italian festivities taking place on 15th August.

Palio dell’Assunta in Siena 

First of all, we need to cite one of the most famous Italian manifestations occurring in Mid-August: Palio dell’Assunta in Siena. Celebrated on 16th August, it has its roots in the Middle Ages. During this day, the seven contrade – the plural form of contrada – challenge each other through horse races in Piazza del Campo, the main square in Siena. The winners of this tournament will gain the respect of the whole city and its inhabitants.

Gran Galà di Ferragosto at the Reggia of Venaria, Turin  

Secondly, we cannot fail to mention another important festivity related to this day: Gran Galà di Ferragosto at the Reggia of Venaria, near Turin. Tuxedo, refined people, Dj sets, and fireworks are the keywords to describe the stunning and sophisticated Royal Palace of Venaria where to celebrate Ferragosto with style and class.  

Festa dell’Assunta in Trappeto, Palermo  

In the third place, there’s another important feast attracting people from all over Italy on 15th August: Festa dell’Assunta in Trappeto, a small village near Palermo. During the religious procession at the sea, the statue of the Virgin Mary is put on a boat that is dragged through the entire coastline of the town whereas believers pray and follow it. Actually, in almost every coastal town this ritual occurs, especially in South Italy where a stronger religiousness exists.    

Rome’s Gran Ballo di Ferragosto 

Going on, it’s time now to introduce another significant Italian festival: Rome’s Gran Ballo di Ferragosto. If you think that a city like Rome will leave you alone on the day of Ferragosto, you are dead wrong because on 15th August the main Roman streets, districts, and squares – such as Via del Corso, Piazza del Popolo, Garbatella – fill up with live dance performances. While dancing, you can get something to eat and drink nearby, too.       

Fireworks Show in Rimini 

If you are looking for the most spectacular fireworks in Italy, you need to head to Rimini. Why so impressive? Because several beach clubs located on the Adriatic Coast are economically and practically involved in the organization of this unforgettable event. Surely, this fireworks show will keep you with your nose up the whole night!

A Midnight Swim 

Did you know many Italians are used to taking a swim on 15th August at midnight? Before doing that, some guys – principally youngsters – meet in groups and then go to the beach. When the clock strikes midnight, they take a dip together and have fun. 

Creepy fact: in South Italy, many people believe that you shouldn’t take a swim at midnight on Ferragosto because you might be cursed! In fact, in some coastal towns of southern Italy, a series of unexplained deaths among youngsters happened after midnight and the following day. Superstition? Who knows…     

Useful vocabulary for Ferragosto 

Ferragosto

Finally, you should check the following glossary including some useful words and expressions concerning Ferragosto.

Italian English 
Assunzione Assumption 
Processione Procession 
Vacanze estive Summer break 
Chiuso per ferie Closed for vacation 
Andare in spiaggia To go to the beach 
Festa in spiaggia Beach party 
Corsi di ballo / aquagym Dancing / water aerobics sessions 
Fuochi d’artificio Fireworks 
Falò Bonfire 
Bagno di mezzanotte Midnight swim
Cestino da picnic Picnic basket 
Fare una crociera sul lagoTo take a cruise around the lake 
Cantina Winery
Tagliere di salumi e formaggiPlatter of cold cuts and cheeses 
Trattoria Inn 
Agriturismo Holiday farm
Grigliata Barbecue 
Frittata di pastaSpaghetti omelet  
Insalata di riso / pasta Rice / pasta salad 
Orzata Barely water  
Anguria Watermelon  
Cantalupo Rockmelon 
Vino con le pesche Peaches in red wine 

Now that you have all the information you need about Ferragosto in Italy, what would you like to do on 15th August if you are in Italy? Going to the beach? Spending time in the mountains or the countryside? Staying in town? Each of them is a great option.

What matters is celebrating!    

By: Alfonso Di Somma

Born and raised in Italy, he is an Italian professional translator and a tireless traveler. His main passion? Foreign languages!

Are Italian podcasts a good way to improve your listening skills? Of course, they are!

Listening to Italian podcasts can be just as effective as watching movies or tv-shows. With Italian podcasts, learning Italian ​​becomes fun and easier. Just like when you are abroad, you can hear native speakers and get used to pronunciation, intonation and recognizing and learning new words. It is more stimulating because you can listen another person that tell you something about themselves, their country or their language. Moreover,  it can be also enjoyable because you can listen to them at any time, wherever you are: you can do it on the go, while driving, cooking or even taking a shower!

Therefore, let’s start by seeing together the list below containing different types of podcasts for all tastes and levels. Here I mentioned podcasts meant for Italians, so that you can get used to Italian normal speech and dive into Italian culture and way of thinking. 

As you will see, I included info on where to listen to Italian podcasts – websites, streaming platforms, and mobile applications.

1. I Provinciali 

Looking for Italian podcasts regarding Italy’s small towns? Then, I Provinciali is right for you! In this podcast, you are going to find out the provincial life of Italy beyond the big cities, such as Rome and Milan,  through stories of regional differences in accents, festivals, local traditions, food, and culture. Thus, “another” Italy is portrayed in a typically Italian conversational way.

You can search for this podcast on Spreaker, iTunes, and Rai Radio 2.       

2. Cashmere

To be mentioned is Cashmere – un podcast morbidissimo (a very soft podcast). The Italian stand up comedians Edoardo Ferrario and Luca Ravenna are the hosts of one of the best Italian podcasts of the moment.  They discuss different topics with some (sometimes) famous hosts, and talk about current social issues, always with irony. You may be intrigued by episodes about Italian food, regions, festivities, cinema, fashion, and so on. Also, a particularly interesting episode is the one with the American Italian comedian Frank Matano. 

You can either listen to it here on Spotify, or watch it here on YouTube.

3. Lingua 

Going on, I suggest Lingua, an appealing podcast providing a totally twisted concept of food. 6 stories, lots of guests, funny stories, and also gourmand recipes – usually at the end of each episode – will make you discover the world of food differently where the act of eating is also a way to explore your feelings and memories, too. At the same time, this Italian podcast reminds us that the dinner table is first a place of meeting and intimacy. 

Got a little hungry? Well, listen to this podcast on the streaming platform Storytel

You may need one of this items to listen to your podcasts:

4. 4 Verticale 

In the fourth place of our list for Italian podcasts, we have to point out 4 Verticale, a kind of variety show where the speakers get into stimulating and entertaining conversations about culture in Italy through humor, anecdotes, and even some old-fashioned Italian curse words. Besides Italian culture, you’ll also find a bit of comedy, games, interviews, and so on. Furthermore, according to the creators, the goal of this podcast is to give alternative and creative strategies for learning languages away from the monotony of school books and tons of exercises. 

Wish to try it? Go on iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.   

5. Scientificast 

Italian Podcasts - Improve your listening skills

Let’s move on to other intriguing Italian podcasts. Among them, we make reference to Scientificast, a fascinating science podcast whose topics range from physics to medicine. Thanks to a group of experts – including astrophysicists, biotechnologists, and physicists –  you can learn more about homosexuality in animals, neutron telescopes, or wonder why an octopus “enjoys” punching other fishes. Don’t panic if you don’t manage to understand everything because speakers generally talk slowly to be followed without any problem. In addition, the science explained here is easy to understand for non-scientists. 

This podcast is on the corresponding website, the streaming platform Spreaker, and Spotify.     

6. Motivazione e Crescita Personale 

Among the countless Italian podcasts at your disposal, one to mention is Motivazione e Crescita Personale. It is about a set of motivational audio recordings lasting 3-4 minutes each. During every episode, the speaker advises on how to face the daily routine with true determination and energy. I’m sure you are going to appreciate this podcast not only for its way of storytelling but mostly for its captivating voice that perfectly suits the soft background music. 

This podcast is available on Spotify, Podtail, and Google Podcasts.        

7. Ragazzacci 

On the contrary, if you intend to go on a thrilling journey through Italian pop culture, you need to give a chance to Ragazzacci. This creative podcast aims to talk about those “bad guys” who left a mark on the world after proving to be talented and excessively stubborn to assert their revolutionary ideas. The “bad guys” in question, who make their appearance during the various episodes, come from the world of television, music, cinema, sport, and art. But that’s not all! Apart from all this, the characters of some episodes are also cultural products that have revolutionized our lives. An example is an episode completely dedicated to Aperol Spritz, king of the Italian Aperitivo

If you are into this podcast, check it on Voisland, Listen Notes, and Podtail.  

8. Corriere Daily Podcast 

Going forward, I suggest the Corriere Daily Podcast if you want to be updated on Italian news in 20 minutes a day by the  journalists of  il Corriere della Sera, a well known Italian newspaper. In fact, I mentioned it in our list of news in Italian

You can listen to it here  or on YouTube.

9. Alle Otto della Sera 

To continue, we have to report Alle Otto della Sera. This long-running podcast, produced by Italy’s public broadcaster Radio Rai 2, covers several issues such as arts, sciences, and also history. Additionally, you are allowed to download the episodes you most like and listen to them again at any moment! Since there’s a wide range of options to choose from, the one I’d recommend above all is La Storia in Cucina which questions the innate tendency of mankind to transform food through cooking and traces the history of cooking from a typically Italian perspective, not to mention the invitation to return to local foods. 

Did I get you curious? If so, check this podcast directly on Rai Radio 2.   

10. Max Mondo 

Would you like to visit Italy from your home, gym, or wherever you are at this moment? With Max Mondo you can! What is special in this podcast is the variety of topics ranging from ecological issues, excavations of Italy’s historical treasures to Italian holiday celebrations and local food traditions. By doing that, listeners have the opportunity to know more about the Belpaese, while learning valuable Italian language skills. In case of difficulties in understanding, there are transcripts, a glossary of terms, and extra materials only available to subscribers. 

Have a look at this podcast on Apple Podcasts

11. Morgana 

What about a world where women are the main storytellers? Well, that is possible thanks to some amazing Italian podcasts like Morgana. Considered as one of the best Italian podcasts in recent times, Morgana offers its listeners an all-female perspective that tries to go beyond the gender gap. Each episode is devoted to a female character coming from the most different social areas: art, music, cinema, science, politics, and television, too. According to this, powerful and countercultural women like J.K. Rowling and Margaret Atwood can be told in an original manner with simple language.

Hence, what are you waiting for? Go check this podcast on Storie Libere, Spotify, and Radio Italiane.  

12. CinefiliSerialmente 

Italian Podcasts - learn Italian through Italian Podcasts

Are you keen on cinema? Do you want to know more about the last movie you watched? Here is CinefiliSerialmente, a podcast in pills where two tireless guys speak about everything concerning the world of cinema. They are so good at doing it that you can’t help listening to them. Plus, a strength of this podcast is due to the various insights from the two authors. These insights are never useless and out of topic; instead, they give you some context to help you analyze critically the movies you watch. As regards the language, the conversation flows clearly and pleasantly, while the words and expressions used are not redundant or complex, but always fresh and effective. Highly recommended! 

Where to listen to this podcast? On Spreaker, Podchaser, and Listen Notes.

13. 2024

Produced by Radio 24, 2024 is a weekly podcast providing the latest news on technology, more specifically its business trend in society, the latest updates related to its new products placed on the market, and the rise of emerging startups. Nevertheless, the focus is on what’s happening now in the Italian and international tech world, and what we expect to see in the future. Other major themes are computer translations, online payments, the development of financial software, video games, and so on. As is to be expected, a fast and quite complex Italian is used here. Don’t worry about that because you can easily slow down your podcast player a bit when necessary! 

This podcast appears on Radio 24, Audiocast, and Radio Italiane.    

14. Long Story Short

Best Italian Podcasts to listen

For music lovers, this Italian podcast could be interesting. Every week they talk about music artists, their stories and their evolutions. Long story short gives reviews to the artistic path of musicians and singers.

Listen to it here.

15. Pop Porno 

Moving forward, here comes one of the greatest Italian podcasts: Pop Porno. Its author tries to create a profound bond with the audience through authentic stories regarding Italian and international pop culture: from the annual Sanremo Music Festival and conspiracy theories about reptilians to the Free Britney movement. Why choose this podcast? Because of its freshness in telling human stories that are wisely and musically scripted.

You can refer to this podcast on Podtail, Listen Notes, and Spotify

16. Veleno 

Going deeper and deeper into the complexity of the Italian language, you could bump into Italian podcasts like the investigative report Veleno, a real-life crime story set in Italy. The story is about an inquiry concerning presumed criminal acts at the expense of a dozen children. 

After the investigations, the children involved were taken from their families and never saw their biological parents again. Seven episodes long, this podcast, created by the Italian journalist Pablo Trincia, aims to tell the true story focusing on the smallest detail without being too dreary. Being internationally well-known, both Italian and English transcripts of this podcast exist to let learners read them both.  

This podcast can be found on Spotify, the streaming platform of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and Audiocast

If you are interested, you can also watch the TV series based on the podcast itself and released on Amazon Prime

17. DL Podcast 

If you are into workouts, you may like to listen to Italian podcasts about crossfit, gym, self defense and these sorts of things. In this case, try out the Danny Lazzarin Podcast. He hosts athletes and professionals to chat about sports, weights, nutrition and lifestyle.

You can find it here on Youtube  and on Twitch.

18. Mitologia: le meravigliose storie del mondo antico 

For those who are interested in this subject, I suggest listening to Mythology: the wonderful stories of the ancient world. Through stories about the heroes and heroines of ancient Greece and Rome, the storyteller tries to discuss social and cultural conventions with his audience. In addition, he wonders about what we inherited from our ancestors’ world. 

If you want to dive into the past, go check this podcast on Spotify, Podtail, Audiocast, and Spreaker.  

Why listen to Italian podcasts? 

I could mention many reasons. Listening to Italian podcasts has several benefits on your listening skills for sure. If you pick a topic you like and material that you can understand it can be very engaging. You will get used to Italian sounds, different Italian voices and ways of speaking. Similarly, your total exposure to real spoken Italian made of slang, regional distinctions, idioms, everyday vocabulary and cultural references can help you have a smoother conversation with Italians. Not to mention that you will always have a topic to talk about in Italian!       

Where to find Italian podcasts?

For each podcast I listed, I also pointed out streaming platforms, websites, channels, or mobile applications where to listen to Italian podcasts. One of the most used is obviously Spotify, followed by Podtail and iTunes for last. Also Youtube that has occurred in a few cases. Others are exclusively Italian online platforms and websites. The last thing to remember is that all of these tools are for free. 

Start listening to your favorite Italian podcasts and don’t forget to ask your Italian friends what kind of podcasts they usually listen to. 

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

Whether you’ve been studying Italian for years now or you’re a beginner, Italian exclamations are an essential addition to your vocabulary.

Probably you won’t find them in books, but you’ll surely hear them all over the streets, among Italian people.

But, first of all, what are Italian exclamations?

Interjection or exclamation is a part of speech that expresses a particular emotional attitude of the speaker, in an extremely concise way. In written language, the interjection is generically followed by the exclamation point, which underlines its emphasis and immediacy. You can use Italian exclamations to express wonder, excitement, annoyance, anger and other sudden emotions with more emphasis. 

No doubt, using Italian exclamations in the right context make you sound more like a local.

So, let’s get started!

You can also see one of these books in order to improve your vocabulary:

1. Mamma Mia!

Italian Exclamations - Mamma mia!

Probably one of the most well-known and commonly used interjections in the Italian language, Mamma mia! can be translated as ‘My goodness!’. It covers a wide spectrum of strong emotions: from shock and horror, to wonder and surprise, or even dismay. Italians do say this for almost everything – and sometimes it could be considered as a perfect Italian stereotype

Perhaps you are familiar with the famous musical Mamma Mia! and the line ‘Mamma mia! Here I go again!’ where it can be intended as ‘Oh my!’ and surely expresses a little bit of exasperation. 

Thus, depending on different tones, it can take different meanings and describe various moods.

Examples: 

Mamma mia! Non ci credo!
Oh my! I can’t believe it!

Mamma mia! che paura mi hai fatto!
Oh God, you scared me!

Mamma mia, oggi è stata una giornataccia.
Oh man, today was rough.

2. Dai!

This Italian exclamation is pretty versatile and can be used to express some urgency or disappointment. The most common way to translate it is ‘Come on!’, to urge someone to hurry up or to give it a break.

However, in some other contexts Dai! or Ma dai! can also show some frustration in front of something stupid, meaning more like ‘Seriously?’.

Examples:

Non puoi venire con noi. – Dai! Voglio venire!
You can’t come with us. – Come on! I want to go!

È un idiota! – Dai! Smettila.
He’s an idiot. – Come on! Cut it out.

3. Magari!

Italian Exclamations - Magari!

Magari is a one of the Italian exclamations that could have different meanings depending on the context. 

On one hand it is aimed at expressing a desire that cannot be fulfilled. 

On the other hand, you can use it when wishing that something was true and your desire may be actually satisfied. 

You can definitely sound like a native when saying it. 

Examples:

Hai mai vinto alla lotteria? – Magari!
Have you ever won the lottery? – I wish!

L’esame di Italiano ti andrà alla grande. – Magari!
Your Italian exam will be just fine. – I wish!

4. Mannaggia!

This is a polite way to convey annoyance, frustration or dismay. It can be translated as damn or what a pity. You may use it in different situations: when you can’t find something, when a plan ends up canceled or when you get to your favorite pizza place forgetting it’s the day off – that is surely ‘too bad!’.

Mannaggia is a way to curse someone and wish him/her bad things. So, that’s why sometimes you can even hear Italians say mannaggia a te! (damn you, you will be damned) or mannaggia tutto (damn everything) – although it’s a bit ruder than the common use.

Otherwise, you can add some dash by combining mannaggia with another poetic Italian wail: mannaggia la miseria! means ‘dammit!’ and is another widely used Italian exclamation to swear in a fancier way. 

Examples:

Mannaggia, che casino!
Damn, what a mess!

Mannaggia, se solo potessi dirglielo!
Damn, if only I could tell him!

Italian expressions with che

You should know that a very common type of Italian exclamations is the one made using che combined with an adjective. This little word usually translates to ‘how’ in this context.

I suggest clicking here to see all the meanings of che.

5. Che buono!

Italian Exclamations che buono!

If your nana has just cooked plenty of delicious food for you at dinner, Che buono! – meaning ‘How tasty!’ – is the perfect way to show appreciation for it. 

Example:

Mm che buono questo polpettone!
Mm how tasty is this meatloaf!  

In addition, if you want to learn more about Italian phrases for food, you can read our article about phrases for food or even buy some useful book we suggest:

6. Che scemo!

If your friend tells you a joke you don’t really feel like laughing at, Che scemo! – meaning ‘How silly!’ – could be the right answer. And be sure that the list could go on and on.

Un uomo entra in un caffè: splash! – Che scemo!
A man enters a coffee(shop): splash! – How silly!

7. Che bello!

Italian Exclamations che bello!

Che bello! means literally ‘How beautiful!’ or ‘How nice!’ and suits a lot to show how much you find someone/something attractive or exciting. 

Examples:

Domani andiamo tutti al mare. – Che bello!
Tomorrow we’re going to the sea. – How nice!

Come sto con questa camicia? Che bello!
How do I look with this shirt? – How handsome!

8. Che schifo!

On the contrary, Che schifo! means ‘How gross!’ or ‘That sucks’. This expression might be involved when tasting, seeing, or touching something considered disgusting to experience. You can also use it when feeling upset about a general situation.

Example:

Che schifo questa pasta!
This pasta sucks!

9. Mi raccomando!

Even though it sounds a lot like recommend, in Italian, it means to beg, to implore. You use Mi raccomando! when you want to express a certain emphasis in asking for something. Doubtlessly sounding a bit dramatic when translated to English, it can mean ‘Please!’ , “let’s make this happen”, or even ‘Don’t forget!’.

Examples:

Teniamoci in contatto, mi raccomando!
Let’s keep in touch, please!

Mi raccomando, vai a prenderla da scuola!
Don’t forget to pick her up from school!

10. Figo! 


Italian Exclamations figo!

Mostly used by younger generations, this Italian exclamation is the equivalent of the English ‘cool’

In addition, figo – or figa when referring to a woman – can also be used to point out that someone is very attractive, fashionable, or even popular. In general, that’s what you would hear when Italian people want to show how surprised or excited they are about something in one single expression.

Examples:

Che figo quel tipo!
How cool/handsome is that guy!

11. Che figata!

A related one is Che figata! which can be translated with ‘How cool!’ or ‘That’s awesome!’ and it’s used to react to something you like very much – anything from a new item bought during your weekly shopping session to the tickets for your favorite band’s next concert your best friend has got for you two.

Example:

Il mese prossimo andremo a vedere i Gorillaz. – Che figata!
We’re gonna see Gorillaz live next month. – That’s awesome!

12. Salute!

Bless you! That’s what it means when you hear Italians saying it after a sneeze. In addition, you can use it to toast ‘Cheers!’.

You can also say it after someone did something impressive for themselves, like walking more than 8 miles in an hour. In this case, you’re congratulating and showing your sincere surprise.

Example:

Alla vostra salute!
Cheers to you, guys!

13. Ma va’!

Italian Exclamations ma va'!

Very informal, popular among younger people. It stands for ‘Really?’ or more specifically, for ‘You don’t say?’, and it qualifies as an Italian exclamation of surprise when hearing something hard to believe – but you use it also to underline a plain self-evidence.

Nevertheless, in different contexts Ma va’! means also ‘Surely not’, like I’m showing you in these sentences below.

Examples:

Mi sposo a giugno. – Ma va’!
I’m gonna get married in June. – Really?

Sono appena arrivato! – Ma va’!
I just arrived! – You don’t say?

Mi hanno detto che hai avuto una promozione! – Ma va’!
They told me you got a promotion! – Surely not.

14. Sei fuori!

This interjection is quite spread amongst Italian people, as it shows a mixture of exasperation and wonders when someone does something crazy, weird, or stupid. Italians won’t tell you that you’re crazy, but just that you are out – meaning you’re out of your head or mind. 

You can hear this expression sono fuori di testa (I am out of my mind)  in the song Zitti e Buoni. 

Examples:

Sei fuori! Fa così freddo e tu esci senza giacca.
Are you crazy? It’s super cold, you can’t go out without a coat.

Non dovevi farmi un regalo così costoso. Sei fuori!
You shouldn’t buy me that expensive present. Are you out of your mind?

15. Figurati!

Italian Exclamations figurati!

This Italian exclamation can take on different meanings according to the context. The most recurrent is when you must answer a thank you or excuse someone from his/her apologies in a nice way. Therefore, Figurati! is naturally translated into ‘You’re welcome!’ or ‘Don’t worry about it!’ and is widely spread in the Italian informal language.

Example:

Scusa, ti disturbo? – No, figurati!
Sorry, am I bothering you? – No, don’t worry about it!

16. Figuriamoci!

the plural form does not serve this purpose as it’s used to deny something emphatically, saying that you’re not surprised at all. When someone suggests something you think has no chance of coming to pass, you’re basically saying a big fat ‘No way!’.

But if you’re feeling sarcastic, Figuriamoci! shows that things happened in fact exactly in the way you’d expect. It means ‘What a surprise!’ – or even implying an obvious tone to the answer.

Examples:

Mi ha detto che non trova il tuo libro. – Figuriamoci!
He told me he can’t find your book. – What a surprise!

Ti ha telefonato? – Figuriamoci!
Did she call you? – Of course not!

17. Bravo!

This one probably doesn’t need any explanation, as it is also used in the English language to congratulate someone for having accomplished something well. It can be translated as ‘Great job!’.

Still, you should remember that you need to say brava in Italian if you’re referring to a girl.

Examples:

La tua tesi era molto interessante. Bravo!
Your dissertation was very interesting. Bravo!

18. Zitto!

Italian Exclamations zitto!

One of the most contentious Italian exclamations is ‘Zitto!’ or even ‘Sta’ zitto!’ which contains the imperative verb

It’s basically translated with ‘Shut up!’ or ‘Be quiet!’ in the English language. 

It is not very polite, but super common – especially between parents and children, or siblings. You can use it when you’re in a familiar relationship with the person you’re pointing to. 

Otherwise, it can turn out to be a bit harsh, surely rude. Just as with bravo, the form to use depends on the gender and number of referred people. 

Examples:

Zitto! Non fare rumore.
Shut up! Don’t be noisy.

19. Caspita!

This is one Italian exclamation that recurs in various other ways, such as Accidenti! or Urca! – the last is only used in the Northern regions of the country (mostly Milan really), while in Center/South it’s out of fashion. It can both have a positive or negative connotation, depending on the context. 

Usually, if you’re astonished in front of something cool, it means ‘Oh boy! Oh wow!’. Another possible meaning in English could be yikes, gosh

Anyway, when you have to convey sorrow or discontent about one thing or another – as if you’ve just missed the bus – you might let it out as ‘damn!’.

Examples:

Caspita! Non me l’aspettavo.
Wow, I didn’t see it coming.

Caspita! Il weekend è già finito.
Damn! The weekend’s over already.

20. Meno male!

Here’s what you would hear when you survive a massive disaster or when you remember it’s not your turn to do the cleaning at home. This is a great expression of relief. There’s not a literal translation to do, but in the English language, you usually say ‘Luckily!’ or ‘Thank goodness!’ to comment on things that went better than expected.

Examples:

Ho ritrovato il tuo portafogli! – Meno male!
Hey, I found your wallet! – Thank goodness!

21. Piantala! / Falla finita!

Does ‘Give it a break!’ sound familiar to you? That’s what these two Italian exclamations mean. They’re synonyms and basically used when you want someone to stop doing something bothering you, like talk, cry, complain, and so on. 

Examples:

Oh, falla finita!
Oh, give me a break boy!

Piantala di parlare a vanvera!
Stop talking no sense!

22. Che palle!

Italian Exclamations che palle!

Speaking of something a bit naughty, che palle! is literally translated as ‘What balls!’ but it’s just the short equivalent for ‘What a pain in the ass!’. In the Italian language this is not really a curse word – you will find a list of swearing words here if you’re curious, and I know you are. 

But you can use che palle! to show your frustration, boredom, or disappointment without any fear.

Example:

È già lunedì… Che palle!
It’s Monday already… How lame!

23. Chi se ne frega!

A slightly rude way of saying it, but actually ‘Who cares!’. That’s how friends in very informal situations or angry people react to something that really doesn’t matter. Be careful when using this one, as kindness is always the key. A softer version is chi se ne importa.

Examples:

Chi se ne frega di cosa dice!
Who cares what he says!

Bonus: non-verbal Italian exclamations

Non verbal Italian Exclamations

There are some Italian exclamations that are named non-verbal expressions, as they recall sounds we make which don’t form any words.

Italians also have these interjections, but they’re completely different from the English ones. 

24. Boh!

This expresses uncertainty. Basically, it means ‘I don’t know’ but in the shortest and most informal way, as if you’re saying ‘I dunno’.

Example:

-Dov’è Maria? – Boh
Where is Maria? – I don’t know.

25. Ahia!

The correspondent to ‘Ouch!’ expresses pain, especially when you hit your toe against the table leg. 

Example:

Ahia, che dolore!
Ouch, how painful!

26. Uffa!

There’s no such meaning in English for this interjection. It’s pretty much used to show boredom or annoyance.

Example:

Tu non vieni con noi – Uffa! Volevo venire!
You are not coming with us. – Uffa! I wanted to come!

27. Bleah!

Italian Exclamations bleah!

A sound you make with your mouth open,  ending in a grimace with your tongue sticking out. It helps you to express your deepest disgust about something. You can pair it with che schifo!

Example:

Pizza con l’ananas? Bleah, che schifo!
Pineapple pizza? Yuck, how gross!

28. Oh!

You would hear it a lot everywhere in Italy when you’re not paying attention and they call you out.

Examples:

Oh, ma mi stai ascoltando?!
Hey, are you actually listening to me?

Oh, sono qui!
Hey, I am here!

Why use Italian exclamations?

Italian exclamations are a huge part of the culture. You need to dare while speaking if you want to experience a real Italian conversation. And even if your Italian isn’t great, you can still learn Italian exclamations and use them as a lifeline when hitting the local bars over there. Be ready to get your seat at the table!

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

One of the best ways to learn a new language certainly is to read books, watch movies and tv-shows, and listen to music in the language you’re approaching. So, do you want to improve your reading skills in Italian? Then you can do it by enjoying these Italian books to help you not only entertain yourself, but also practice your grammar and vocabulary by seeing the words on the page.

Therefore, here’s a list of twelve best Italian books that are a “must-read” to help you take your Italian skills to the next level. Some of them are advanced and not that easy to read, but don’t worry: you can start from the beginners ones and slow it down, but the journey through Italian literature will be captivating anyways!

1. Le Avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (Beginner)

This is one of the most famous works of Italian children’s literature. Everyone’s perhaps well-acquainted with Disney’s movie version of the story, but the original is quite different from the one’s we’re used to.

Pinocchio is a wooden puppet who runs away from home. In order to get back to his father Geppetto, he embarks on a series of unpredictable adventures meeting a lot of strange people and creatures. In his journey, he will be aided by a generous fairy and by a talking cricket who gives him advice on what to choose between right and wrong.

Reading with side-by-side English and Italian text is a very helpful way to learn Italian at best: you will just need to look out at the next page to find the corresponding meaning of one word. That’s why this edition would be the most enjoyable way to read the tale.

You can get the book, the audiobook and the movie here:



2. Storie della buonanotte per bambine ribelli: 100 vite di donne straordinarie by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Beginner)

Although this book has already been translated into many different languages, the two authors are indeed Italian. This offers you the opportunity to learn, experience and be inspired by the lives of many women who had a great and world-changing impact. From Frida Kahlo to Rita Levi Montalcini, each page is a portrait of a strong female figure that made history.

Moreover, this work is intended for children: they are goodnight stories written in a plain, simple structure that could be very helpful in learning Italian.

You can find it here:



3. Adriano, il Cane di Pompei by Matthew Frederick (Beginner)

This is one of the best italian books to learn Italian. It is very simple: It’s written using plain grammar and basic sentences which will surely help you go through the story of Adriano, a lovable special dog that lives in the ancient city of Pompeii. Among famous ruins and friendly visitors, it follows the adventures of Hadrian that is often fed by the kindness of the tourists.

Even though intended for children, this work is perhaps the best I recommend to improve your language skills, as the Italian text is sided with the English translation on every page. This could be entertaining and a fun tool to also discover more about historical details of the famous classical city, giving you a sneak peek of the past.

In addition, the illustrations drawn by Leo Lätti literally bring Hadrian the Dog to life and guide you through the exciting travel of the ones who visit Pompeii together with the main character. Many are the subjects mentioned and explored: history, archeology and geography above all.

Buy it here:



4. Io Non Ho Paura by Niccolò Ammaniti (Beginner)

Meaning “I’m Not Scared”, this book talks about Michele, a 9-year-old child who accidentally discovers a horrible crime while paying penance after a game with his five friends. The story is set in 1978 during the “Years of Lead” – a time of political violence and terrorism in the country – in a fictional rural village in Southern Italy (probably in Basilicata). The plot is quite linear, the vocabulary is basic enough to understand and the narrative is also breathtaking and suspenseful. You will want to read it until the last line, especially if you are into unsettling thrillers.

Besides, when you’re finished you can always watch the movie adaptation released in 2003 by the director Gabriele Salvatores: fine photography and great cast.

Here is the book:



5. Il Barone Rampante by Italo Calvino (Beginner/Intermediate)

Calvino is one of the best Italian authors of all time. His novels should be all listed here, but if I must choose one, Il Barone Rampante is perhaps the most fascinating. Set in 18th-century Italy, the story follows Cosimo, a young noble boy who climbs into a tree and refuses to get down to rebel against his parents. He eventually decides to stick in there and lead his life up in the branches, far away from the bad influence of his family and society. The tale is full of humor and adventurous passages, giving a fantastical shade to the whole trilogy where this book is included.

So, I recommend reading also I Nostri Antenati, a series of three novels which explores the relationship between the self and the society in different historical time periods.

If you prefer to listen to “Il barone rampante”, you can buy the audiobook here:



6. Novecento by Alessandro Baricco (Intermediate)

Novecento means “Nine Hundred”, and is a one-act theatrical monologue. This is one of the best Italian books you can read as intermediate learner. Baricco is an Italian contemporary author who has written one of the best books spreadly read in the country. Novecento tells the story of a young boy abandoned on a cruise ship and later adopted by the sailors. He never leaves this microcosm of the ship and suddenly becomes a genius pianist. The writing is easy to follow, which makes it suitable for an intermediate learner.

Thus, the plot is linear and it’s not that difficult to relate to the characters. After having enjoyed the reading, you can also dive into cinema as a 1998 movie version of the story has been released – directed by the Italian film director Giuseppe Tornatore.

You can find it here:



7. La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi by Paolo Giordano (Intermediate)

Paolo Giordano was the youngest Italian author to get the Strega Prize for literature. That’s why his masterpiece has become a must-read, especially amongst teenagers and young adults. It tells the story of the relationship between Alice and Mattia, who met in the charming city of Turin in northern Italy during their high school times. Mattia is a very brilliant boy who has a twin sister suffering from intellectual disability, while Alice became lame after a skiing injury. Through the years, they eventually grow up experiencing continuous encounters and separations.

Contrary to what one might expect, this is not a simple love story between two people, but the novel explores their lives as two “prime numbers” that won’t ever get closer for real. The movie by Saverio Costanzo stars Luca Marinelli, one of the most talented Italian actors of these days. Worth a watch after finishing the book!

Here you can buy the book:



8. Il Nome della Rosa by Umberto Eco (Intermediate)

This Italian novel is by far one of the most popular all over the world. It has been translated into many languages and also adapted for stage, television and cinema – with the movie by Jean-Jacques Annaud starring Sean Connery. The mysterious atmosphere set in the gloomy medieval period within the walls of a monastery in northern Italy brings charm to the reader. The evocative flavor of the descriptions and the narrative of secrets surrounding a murder will surely keep you glued to the pages.

Indeed, Umberto Eco is still one of the most-read Italian authors today. His works are full of classic and ancient references. So if history is your favorite subject, you must give it a shot!

You can buy it here:



9. L’Amica Geniale by Elena Ferrante (Advanced)

Elena Ferrante is actually a pseudonym of this female author, who has given life and light to the Neapolitan outskirts in her coming-of-age novel called My Brilliant Friend. The book is the first of a series of four novels and follows the story of Lila and Lenù, two girls who were born and raised in the poorest boroughs of Naples, through misery and violence. They grow up together page by page from childhood to their 60s, sharing a complex relationship characterized by envy, competition but also a lot of love and support. The setting is really peculiar as the main characters live in a specific region of Italy.

This could be one of the best Italian book for you, because reading this novel could be a challenge in vocabulary – rich in idiomatic expression – to face when your Italian skills are practiced enough to be more advanced. And the two-seasons tv show has been created by Saverio Costanzo – the same director of La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi mentioned above.

You can buy the book “L’amica geniale”, or the four novels together here:



10. Gomorra by Roberto Saviano (Advanced)

This book is intended by Saviano to reveal the plots and the secrets hidden behind the Italian criminal organization that mainly operates in Campania, known as Camorra. The novel will throw you into the discovery of a dark, shady world.

For sure, that was not easy for the author, who has been living under constant security since the release of his work. That’s because he has probably become one target of the organization, whose illicit businesses were obviously exposed.

The work has become a major international bestseller amongst the best Italian books for its groundbreaking perspective and potentially dangerous purpose. They made a movie and a tv series out of it, which also involve a lot of challenging expressions to learn in Neapolitan dialect.



11. La forma dell’Acqua by Andrea Camilleri (Advanced)

It must not be confused with other novels with the same title, but here’s a giallo (thriller) that opened up the famous series of Inspector Montalbano in 1994. Created by Andrea Camilleri, the plot follows the steps of Montalbano as he investigates mysteries in the fictional town of Vigata set in Sicily. The detective born with Camilleri’s pen is an iconic figure, smart and sagacious. Amazing settings and suspense are the most powerful elements of this book, as well as of the other volumes of the saga.

Though written in standard Italian, there are also little sprinkles of Sicilian dialect and grammar that give a regional flavor to all the novels in the series. The tales of Montalbano are very popular in Italy and inspired multiple tv shows and movies.

You can buy “La forma dell’acqua” here:



12. In altre parole by Jhumpa Lahiri (All Levels)

This English-speaking author decided to abandon her native language focusing on narrative writing in Italian because of her boundless love for Italy and its culture. She visited Florence for the first time when she had just graduated from college, experiencing an immediate connection with the Italian language all of a sudden.

She eventually moved to Rome with all her family to start a new life full of enthusiasm and adventures, but also of troubles and estrangement. Jhumpa Lahiri’s work is the most direct witness of a tenacious path in learning Italian and being able to write a whole book with fluency gained throughout the pages.

Therefore, it’s a very precious tool to follow the lines and enter an unexplored territory such as a new language with a fascinating spirit. This is a must whether you’re an advanced Italian learner or not and one of the best Italian books in contemporary times.

You can buy “In altre parole” here:



How to read in Italian

Reading in Italian could be difficult, but here’s a very useful tip to remember: don’t forget to mix up extensive and intensive reading. The first is intended to gain the general meaning of what is going on, without stop reading to check out vocabulary. Instead, intensive reading is meant to focus on each word to understand every single element of the text. Both are a stimulating exercise for your brain.

Read the same book more than once

Furthermore, reading the same book more than once supports you getting into linguistic schemes. Entertain yourself with these titles and once you’re done with them, don’t put them away forever but go back to read them again for a second or even a third time. That’s how you will retain your vocabulary and fix grammar patterns.

So, these are some of the best Italian books to give you a hand in learning and improving your language skills, as well as to have fun while doing it.

Don’t underestimate reading at any level, as it helps you to naturally absorb things like the use of prepositions or the correct order of the sentences.

Buona lettura!

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

One of the most frequent problems English speakers have when studying Italian is choosing between Passato Prossimo vs Imperfetto.

Passato Prossimo and Imperfetto are Italian Past Tenses used to talk about something that happened in the past, but they have different uses and purposes. Passato prossimo is made by the verb avere or essere in the present tense plus the past participle and it is used to indicate past events that happened once, but still have effects on the present. Imperfetto is formed dropping the -re of the infinitive and adding -vo, -vi, -va, -vamo, -vate, -vano and it is used to talk about past habits or repetitive actions that are no longer happening.

As you can see it is not very difficult to understand. In this article, we will focus on the main differences existing between these two tenses and when to use them in the right context. In particular we will see:

  1. One time vs Habit
  2. Description of the conditions and states
  3. Duration of the past actions
  4. Parallel Actions
  5. Interrupted Actions
  6. Storytelling
  7. Time Expressions

But, first, let’s quickly refresh the forms of these two tenses:

Passato Prossimo

Passato prossimo is made by the verb avere or essere in the present tense plus the past participle. You obtain the  past participle by changing the final endings of the infinitive form, in this way:

-are → -ato,

-ere → -uto,

-ire → -ito.

Remember that when you use the auxiliary essere, you need to change the final endings according to the subject.

Examples:

Ho mangiato una torta buonissima.
I ate a very good cake.

Siamo andati in palestra.
We went to the gym.

Imperfetto

Imperfetto is easy in its formation. You drop -re of the infinitive and simply add -vo, -vi, -va, -vamo, -vate, -vano.

Examples:

Da piccola mangiavo tante caramelle.
When I was little, I used to eat a lot of candy.

Non dormiva mai quando la bambina piangeva.
She never slept when the baby cried.

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Common Uses

In order to understand the main differences between the Passato Prossimo and the Imperfetto, I’m going to show you some of the most common uses of the two tenses in everyday life, compared to each other and explained through various examples.

Before proceeding, I also suggest you some useful books you can use to repeat Italian Grammar and Italian Tenses:

1. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – One time vs habit

We use the Imperfetto to talk about past habits or repetitive actions that are no longer happening. On the contrary, the Passato Prossimo is required when you want to indicate past events that happened once, but still have effects on the present. Look at the following examples.

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
Da bambina andavo in piscina due volte a settimana.
When I was a child, I used to go to the swimming pool twice a week.
La scorsa settimana sono andata in piscina.
Last week I went to the swimming pool. 
Dopo ogni viaggio gli portava sempre un souvenir.
After each trip he always used to bring him a gift.
Antonio mi ha portato un souvenir dal Canada.
Antonio brought me a gift from Canada.
Mangiava tanto perché si annoiava.
He was eating a lot because he was getting bored.  
L’altro giorno ha mangiato tanto e si è sentito male.
The other day he ate a lot and he got sick.

As you can see, it’s not very complicated! Let’s see other examples:

Mio padre mi portava con sé in ufficio ogni volta che poteva.
My father used to take me with him to his office every time he could.  
Ieri mattina mio padre mi ha portato con sé in ufficio.
Yesterday morning my father took me with him to his office.  
Da piccolo io e i miei parenti ci riunivamo a Natale.
When I was young, my relatives and I used to meet on Christmas.  
Un anno fa io e i miei parenti ci siamo riuniti a Natale.
One year ago my relatives and I met on Christmas.  
A volte tornava dalla Sicilia con un vassoio di cannoli.
Sometimes, he used to come back from Sicily with a tray of cannoli.
Il mese scorso è tornato dalla Sicilia con un vassoio di cannoli.
Last month he came back from Sicily with a tray of cannoli.

2. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Description of conditions and states

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto - Italian Past Tenses

Also, we need to look at the typology of the description you provide when speaking about past conditions and states. Specifically, we employ the Imperfetto to describe the weather and physical or emotional states in the past. On the contrary, we apply the Passato Prossimo to point out physical and mental changes happened in a specific moment in the past, as events.

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
Era una giornata fredda e nuvolosa.
It was a cold and cloudy day.
Oggi ha piovuto e non sono potuto andare al parco.
Today it rained so I didn’t manage to go to the park.
Dopo la caduta sentiva dolore alla caviglia.
After falling down, he felt pain in his ankle.   
Ha sentito dolore quando si è fatto male alla caviglia.
He was in pain when he hurt his ankle. 
Mi innervosiva il suo atteggiamento sfacciato.
His brush attitude made me nervous.
Mi ha davvero innervosito il suo modo di fare.
His way of acting really made me nervous.

3. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Duration of past actions

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto - Italian Past Tenses

In the third place, we focus on the duration of past actions . According to this principle, we resort to the Imperfetto when we relate to past actions or events whose start and end are basically unclear. Otherwise, we need the Passato Prossimo in case of past facts that started and ended at a specific point in time.

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
Andava in Europa, più precisamente in Portogallo.
He was flying to Europe, more precisely to Portugal.
Sei anni fa sono andato in Europa, più precisamente in Portogallo.
Six years ago, I flew to Europe, more precisely to Portugal.  
Beveva con gli amici in un locale vicino la stazione.
He was drinking with his friends in a pub next to the station.
Ieri sera è andato a bere con gli amici.
Yesterday evening he went out for a drink with his friends.
Il fratello di Andrea veniva a trovarmi ogni volta che poteva.
Andrea’s brother used to come to visit me every time he could.
L’altro ieri mi è venuto a trovare il fratello di Andrea.
The day before yesterday, Andrea’s brother came to visit me.

4. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Parallel Actions 

Generally, we use the Imperfetto to mention concurrent events, meaning facts that happened in the same moment or period of time in the past.

Instead, we apply the Passato Prossimo in case of actions in succession whose duration or moment of occurance in the past are not so relevant.

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
Mentre pranzava, mio madre guardava “Un posto al sole”.
While having lunch, my mother was watching “Un posto al sole”.
Mia madre ha pranzato e poi ha guardato “Un posto al sole”.
My mother had lunch and then watched “Un posto al sole”.
All’università studiava e lavorava in un ristorante per pagarsi gli studi.
When she was at university, she used to study and work in a restaurant to pay her istruction.
Dopo l’università, si è laureata e in seguito ha trovato lavoro in uno studio medico.
After university, she graduated and later found a job in a doctor’s office.  
Lidia ascoltava “Resta in ascolto” di Laura Pausini, mentre pelava le patate.
Lidia was listening to “Resta in ascolto” by Laura Pausini, while peeling potatoes.   
Lidia ha pelato prima le patate e poi dopo ha ascoltato “Resta in ascolto” di Laura Pausini.
Firstly, Lidia peeled potatoes; after that she listened to “Resta in ascolto” by Laura Pausini.

5. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Interrupted actions

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto - Italian Past Tenses

There are some occasions where we require both the Imperfetto and the Passato Prossimo in a sentence built in the past. For this reason, we make reference to actions interrupted by others, namely reporting what we were doing when something occurred and interrupted what we were doing. In this specific case, you can find the presence of quando (when) and mentre (while).

Examples:

Facevamo i compiti quando improvvisamente sono ritornati i nostri genitori.
We were doing our homework when suddenly our parents came back home.

Mentre mi preparavo per la scuola, mi ha chiamato Paolo.
While I was getting ready for school, Paolo called me.

Quando Maria viveva in Spagna, ha visitato sia Barcellona sia Madrid.
When Maria lived in Spain, she visited both Barcelona and Madrid.   

6. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Storytelling

Finally, we find the last difference regarding the act of reporting something in a consequential way. Actually, you are asked to employ the Imperfetto to give information about the background, like the location or the context where the event takes place.  On the contrary, you make use of Passato Prossimo to let the story proceed onwards. 

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
I bambini facevano il bagno in piscina e i genitori prendevano il sole.
Kids were taking a swim in the pool, while their parents were sunbathing.
Stamattina in spiaggia i bambini hanno fatto il bagno in piscina e i genitori hanno preso il sole.
This morning kids have taken a swim in the pool, while their parents have sunbathed.
Continuamente mi diceva che gli avrebbe parlato di quella faccenda quanto prima.
He was continually telling me he would talk to him about that matter as soon as possible.  
Mi ha detto che gli avrebbe parlato di quella faccenda quanto prima.
He told me he would talk to him about that matter as soon as possible.
Nel bosco di solito si imbatteva in cerbiatti e conigli.
In the woods he usually used to bump into fawns and rabbits.
Andando nel bosco, si è imbattuto in cerbiatti e conigli.
Going into the woods, he bumped into fawns and rabbits.  

7. Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto – Time expressions

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto - Italian Past Tenses

Another way to distinguish cases where the Imperfetto is employed from situations where the Passato Prossimo is applied is by looking at time expressions. These ones are normally used to give more information about the type of action existing in the sentence in order to provide help when you are asked to choose between the two tenses.

Time expressions used with the Imperfetto

da piccolo / giovane (when I was a child / young )
sempre (always)
tutti i giorni / ogni giorno (every day)
mentre (while)
spesso (often)
continuamente (continually)
a volte (sometimes)
normalmente (normally)
solitamente (usually)
ogni volta che (every time that)
ogni tanto (once in a while)

Time expressions used with the Passato Prossimo

Passato Prossimo Vs Imperfetto - Italian Past Tenses
ieri (yesterday)
ieri mattina / ieri pomeriggio / ieri sera (yesterday morning) / (yesterday afternoon) / (last night)
l’altro ieri (the day before yesterday)
due giorni fa (two days ago)
una settimana fa (one week ago)
mercoledì scorso (last Wednesday)
un anno fa (one year ago)
Il mese scorso (last month)
l’anno scorso (last year)
un’ora fa / alcuni giorni fa (one hour ago) / (some days ago)

Examples:

Imperfetto Passato Prossimo
Da piccolo giocava a scacchi con gli amici della chiesa.
When he was a child, he used to play chess with his friends from the church.
L’anno scorso ha giocato a scacchi con gli amici della parrocchia.
Last year he played chess with his friends from the church.  
Normalmente usciva nel weekend, non in settimana.
He normally used to go out on the weekend, not during the week.
Mercoledì scorso è uscito nel weekend, non in settimana.
Last Wednesday he went out on the weekend, not during the week. 
Tutti i giorni le regalava un cioccolatino per dimostrarle il suo affetto.
Every day he used to give her a chocolate as a present to prove that he was fond of her.
Alcuni giorni fa le ha regalato un cioccolatino per dimostrarle il suo affetto.
Some days ago he gave her a chocolate as a present to prove that he was fond of her.

Wrapping Up

After reading this article until the end, you should be able to understand when to use the Imperfetto or the Passato Prossimo according to the cases and tricks mentioned above. What you are suggested to do first is to look for time expressions in the Italian sentence you are about to translate. These indicators make you understand which tense is required in that specific context or situation.

Second, you can analyse the type of event that occured in the past, mostly focusing on the certainty or uncertainty related to the time of action.

Now that you have this further information, start speaking about events in the past in Italian and do not forget to make the best choice!    

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.

            

Do you want to plan your next trip to Italy, but you don’t know when? Naturally, it’s always a good moment to visit the Bel Paese.

In Italy, each month has its appeal and holidays, both religious and public. For instance, Italian New Year’s celebrations or the 1st of May concert in Rome will ensure you unforgettable memories. However, if you love Italian culture and long for something unique I have what you need: an Italian festival.

What is an Italian festival?

An Italian festival usually honours the history, culture or the patron saint of an Italian city. Basically, these celebrations can last from one day to several days and involve a great deal of related events. In fact, by attending an Italian festival you will taste local food, listen to folk music and join traditional dances. Further, no matter when you decide to visit Italy, there will always be something going on somewhere. Basically, this is possible thanks to our ancient history and culture. Also, you could learn so much just by taking part in Italian festivals and folkloristic events, because they create a sense of community and provide roots to people’s identity.

So, let’s dig up what an Italian festival is about!

And I also suggest to you one of these Guides:

I selected for you 19 Italian festivals from North to South that will make you book the next flight to Italy.

So, let’s get started!

1. Historical Regatta, Venice

This Italian festival is perhaps the most important event of Venice, and includes rowing races and an historical parade.

Actually, the latter is the re-enactment of the welcoming given in 1489 to the wife of Cyprus’s King. In fact, she renounced her throne in favour of Venice.

Nowadays, the Historical Regatta (Regata Storica in Italian) takes place every first Sunday of September. Here, a colorful parade with 16th century-style boats and people in costumes crowd the Grand Canal, giving unforgettable sights.

2. Chess match, Marostica

Another fascinating Italian festival takes place on the second September weekend of the even years. Indeed, the town of Marostica, in the Veneto Region, is famous for its Chess Match (partita a scacchi in Italian).

Undoubtedly, it is something unique! In fact, people personificating chess pieces take the stage on the big  marble chess board of Piazza Castello.

Also, more than 600 people in medieval costumes with horses, weapons and flags flood the streets. Truly, everything on this occasion contributes to creating a picturesque image.

3. Saint Peter’s Palio, Genoa

On June 29th the city celebrates Saint Peter with a captivating event: the Palio di San Pietro. This Italian festival originates from the city’s main source of income: fishing. In fact, fishermen used to rush to the shore in order to sell their fish before anyone else.

Briefly, it is a rowing competition between representatives of the Genoa’s rioni (boroughs). Then, after the sea-race, one of the boys runs toward the borough’s “castle” to put his pennant on it. Obviously, the first to do so is the winner.

Similarly to Venice Regatta, here people in costumes crowd the streets, making this event even more fascinating.

4. Explosion of the Cart, Florence

The Tuscan city of Florence has its own way to celebrate Easter Sunday. On this day, a cart packed with fireworks reaches the main square of the city. But most importantly, we are referring to a 30-foot-tall and antique cart!

In the meanwhile, a parade of hundreds of people in 15th century costumes accompanies it.Eventually, a dove-shaped flare lights the fireworks and a 20 minute spectacle begins.

Now, imagine being in front of the Duomo watching the air changing colours. It is quite something, right?

5. Florentine Soccer, Florence

The Florentine Soccer, or Calcio fiorentino in Italian, is probably the most important traditional event of the city. In short, this 16th century game is a mixture of soccer, rugby and wrestling and occurs in June.

Specifically, 4 teams with 27 players (dressed up in costumes) compete in 50 minutes’ matches. Of course, everything happens under the supervision of a main referee, 6 linesmen and a field master.

Then, the final match and a parade in medieval costumes take place on June 24th.

6. Siena’s Palio, Siena

This Italian festival occurs twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th, in the city of Siena. In short, it consists of a horse race between the local contrade (districts) and parades in medieval costumes.

In this case, the prize is the palio, a rectangular hand-decorated piece of silk. However, it is important to notice that the winner is not the rider, but the horse.

And just one more thing: this traditional event is not simply a horse race. On the contrary, it is the culmination of secular rivalry between the contrade.

7. Battle of the Bridge, Pisa

This Italian festival takes place on the last Saturday of June in the Tuscan city of Pisa. Namely, the Gioco del Ponte (the Italian name of the event) is an historical re-enactment of an ancient game.

Before the game begins, 710 people in 14th century costumes parade in the streets. Then, the actual game starts: it consists in pushing a cart along a purposely installed track on Ponte di Mezzo.

8. The Saracen Joust, Arezzo

If you are fond of the Middle Age, then this Italian festival is what you’re looking for! Basically, la Giostra del Saraceno (Italian name of the event) is a re-enactment of the knights training.

Importantly, it takes place twice a year. First, on the last Saturday of June and then on the first Sunday of September. On these days, the 4 districts compete to win the 3 meters-long Golden Spear (actually made of wood).

Undoubtedly, it is a unique chance to dive into a medieval atmosphere, with local food, music and other spectacles.

9. Race of the candles, Gubbio

This Italian festival called Festa dei Ceri (literally, feast of the candles) celebrates Saint Ubaldo on the 15th of May. Definitely, it is among the most ancient traditional Italian events.

Here, the word Ceri (candles) refers to the wooden structure on which people put the Saints’ statue. Incredibly, the total weight is more than 300 kg (661.387 pounds)!

On this occasion, men run carrying the statues of Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Anthony up to the cathedral. Obviously, the race is grueling but taking part in it is a great honour for everyone.

10. Calendimaggio, Assisi

The name of this Italian festival is almost impossible to translate. However, it is strictly entangled with pagan rituals and consists in an evocative welcoming to the upcoming spring.

In detail, celebrations occur on the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday after the 1st of May. Also, on these days people organize historical re-enactments and games in costumes.

11. Quintana Joust, Foligno

This Italian festival is an historical re-enactment of medieval tournaments and happens twice a year. Indeed, it occurs on the 3rd Saturday of June while the rematch is on the third Sunday of September.

Obviously, the main attraction is the competition between the 10 districts of the city. However, what makes the Giostra della Quintana (Italian name) unique are the numerous events that revolve around it.

For instance, the typical parade in costumes or also the opening of the taverns that serve medieval food. Similarly, the ancient market represents an important phase of the celebrations as well as music and theater shows.

12. The Palio of the Archers, Gubbio and Sansepolcro

Likewise other events, the Palio degli Arcieri (Italian name) occurs twice a year. Precisely, on the first June’s Sunday in Gubbio and on the second September’s Sunday in Sansepolcro.

Historically, the competition roots back to the XV century and has never stopped since then. In short, it consists in hitting a target with a crossbow’s arrow from a distance of 36 meters.

Additionally, the game is played in an enchanting frame with people in medieval and Renaissance costumes

13. Genzano Flower festival, Genzano

If you are in Rome at the end of June make sure to pop in Genzano for its Infiorata. Typically, this Italian festival celebrates the Corpus Domini, a catholic feast. On this occasion, artists ”paint” the main street with a flower carpet, covering a surface of 1890 m².

Logically, due to the flowers’ perishability the carpet is realized on the same day. Basically, artists draw the subject the night before and then colour it with flowers in the morning.

Really, the smell and the colours are something impossible to describe!

14. San Gennaro, Naples

The celebration of Saint Gennaro occurs on the 19th September and is probably the most heartfelt feast of Naples. Indeed, Neapolitans dedicate a wide range of events to the Patron Saint.

Notably, the most awaited moment is the liquefaction of the Saint’s blood. Even if this miracle happens 4 times in a year, the most important date is the 19th September.

Actually, if the miracle doesn’t happen, people believe that hard times will come. And historically speaking, it has always been true!

15. Lilies festival, Nola

Don’t let the name trick you! Flowers have nothing to do with this Italian folkloristic event. Conversely, the Gigli (Lilies in English) are wood and papier mâché obelisks.

However, this event celebrates St. Paolino on the Sunday after the 22nd June. And even if  these gigantic Gigli are carried by hand in an exhausting procession, the excitement is palpable.

Then, add some Neapolitan music and magic happens. So, don’t be surprised If I tell you that in 2013 this Italian festival became Unesco Oral and Intangible Heritage.

16. Saint Efisio Festival, Cagliari

On the 1st of May Cagliari celebrates Saint Efisio organizing the most ancient and long Italian processions. Incredibly, it covers almost 65 km in only 4 days!

Additionally, almost 6 thousand people in traditional dresses take part in it. As they go, they sing folk songs and pray to the Saint. Now, imagine this colourful parade and the participants’ voices echoing in the Sardinian streets…goosebumps!

17. Sardinian Cavalcade, Sassari

The Calvalcata Sarda (Italian name) is an ancient folk festival that happens on the third Sunday of May. Basically, there are two major moments.

First, a parade of people in traditional dresses, literally gathering from all over the island. Second, the spectacle in the racecourse. Here, you will see acrobatic riding performances, dance shows and listen to traditional music.

18. The Sa Sartiglia, Oristano

This Italian festival relates to Carnival, as the word Sartiglia is its dialectical synonym. Basically, it is an ancient horse-riding event and one of the most spectacular Italian Carnivals.

Nowadays, it occurs at the end of February and includes a wide range of  shows. Among the most important there are Medieval reenactments, jousts and other games in traditional costumes.

Also, this event has a precise and fixed schedule, which must be strictly followed.

19. Mysteries Procession, Trapani

This Good Friday’s procession is the Sicilian longest one, as it runs for more than 24 hours.

Practically, the procession features 20 floats, canvas and glue statues representing the crucial moments of Christ’s Passion. Obviously, the overall result is a vibrant and full of emotions atmosphere.

Conclusion

So, we have explored some of the coolest Italian festivals. But obviously there are still so many to discover!

Indeed, the diversity of Italian culture and the millenial history have provided an infinite source for festivals’ organization.

Clearly, as we said, they are not just a form of entertainment. Instead, they fuel the self awareness of our identity and ensure the strengthening of a sense of community.

Therefore, experiencing as many Italian traditional events as you can could be the best way to plunge into Italian culture.

So, from which Italian festival will you start?

By: Maria Rosaria Savarese

Deeply in love with her hometown Vico Equense, near Sorrento, Maria Rosaria enjoys sharing her passion for her land and its culture.

In my experience, every Italian I know has tried to demonstrate that Italian stereotypes could be very tricky.

What is an Italian Stereotype?

A Stereotype is a simplified and persistent subjective characteristic applied to a place, an object, an event or to a recognizable group of people who share certain characteristics or qualities. It is derived from the greek word “stereos” (hard, solid, rigid) and “typos” (imprint, image, group), hence it means “rigid image”. A stereotype can have a negative meaning and, in this case, sometimes reflects the opinion of one social group about other groups. Clearly, stereotypes rise from some kind of truth: a cultural feature, an historical fact or a habit. Nevertheless, the “actual fact” is then distorted by people who often are just full of hot air. Eventually, they apply this idea to a large group of people. In addition, stereotypes don’t take into account the continuous evolution of things.

Who has not dealt with a stereotype at least once?

Personally, both as Neapolitan in the North of Italy and as Italian abroad it has always been the routine. Unfortunately, I have often found myself trying to reassure people I am not related to the Mafia. Orthat I don’t usually shout at people. Unless you try to bite my dessert, that’s another story!

As the Italian writer Silvia Zoncheddu once said, “the stereotype deceives the mind and distorts the spirit”. In fact, the stereotipo (Italian word for stereotype) is nothing but a wrong over-generalized idea.

With this in mind, I decided to shed some light on the 15 most common Italian stereotypes. Hopefully, it would be of some help. So, let’s start!

1. Italians are obsessed with food

Italian stereotypes

This is one of the Italian stereotypes that I cannot deny. Food is everything, our lives revolve around it. For instance, take my mom: her first question in the morning is “what do you want to eat today?”.

Probably, you’re thinking that it is a normal question. But, is it normal that during lunch she asks what do we want to eat for dinner? And also, is it normal that during dinner she asks what do we want to eat the next day? But, besides my family’s weirdnesses, food truly plays a crucial role in Italians’ lives. In fact, every celebration, birthday and kind of occasion ends up in “what should we prepare to eat?”.

However, could you blame us? In my opinion, preparing food is an act of love, for both yourselves and others. Nonetheless, not every Italian is a remarkable cook.

2. Italians eat pasta and pizza everyday

Let me destroy this myth: we don’t eat pizza everyday, even if I’d wish to. Similarly, we don’t eat only pasta. In general, it’s our favourite dish and it’s delicious (especially the fresh made). But we have a wide range of options at our disposal, so this is surely an Italian stereotypes.

By the way, if you want to learn more Italian words and expressions related to food, here there are useful books for you:

3. Italians communicate with hands

Totally and undeniably true! Probably, this is one of the few correct Italian stereotypes. Indeed, no matter how hard we try, we can’t help but use our hands while chatting. In fact, we are capable of communicating without using any words. In this case, all we need is hands and facial mimic.

But don’t you think it’s easy! After all, gestures could mean various things according to their speed, direction or facial expression.

4. Italians are lazy and always late

Italian stereotypes

Absolutely not! The fact that we live in a fairytale land doesn’t imply that we spend our days doing nothing. On the contrary, we work very hard and when it’s possible, we love enjoying the wonders that surround us.

Also, Italians are not always late! Of course, it depends especially on how you’ve been taught. For instance, my parents taught me that punctuality is a form of respect. Therefore, I hate when people are late, even if only 5 minutes. In the same way, I can’t stand when people are too early. Like my boyfriend when picks me up. If we arrange 8 PM, you can’t show up at 7:30 PM and complain that I am late. I am not late, you’re too early.

However, sorry for this personal outlet. Let’s proceed with the Italian stereotypes.

5. All Italians are mafiosi

Not at all! But unfortunately, one of the first things associated with Italians is the Mafia.

And let’s be honest, the media don’t help us. In fact, since TV series like “Gomorrah” have become worldwide phenomena, the parallel Italy-Mafia has become more rooted. Undoubtedly, it is crucial to talk about it in order to understand it and fight it back. Nevertheless, the downside is that the association “Italian-mafioso” (a person related to the Mafia) becomes too easy. And nothing could be more wrong.

Historically, we all know that the Mafia was born in the South of Italy as an alternative to the absence of the government.

But eventually, from that area it spread all over the world. Thus, nowadays there is no place on Earth that the Mafia didn’t reach. And no one is proud of it.

6. Italians can’t live without coffee

Italian stereotypes

Yes, yes and yes…a billion times yes! This is not one of Italian stereotypes, this is a sacred truth! Coffee is indispensablefor every Italian, except for a tiny niche of people. And, off the record, I think the intelligence service should investigate to find out what lies beneath this strange behavior.

Truly, coffee is pure magic: in the morning its scent in the house is the sweetest “good morning” of all. Really, coffee can change your day and the way of seeing things. Additionally, its preparation with the traditional moka is an important ritual. Here in Italy, knowing how to use it represents a fundamental step in everyone’s growth .

Another key point, coffee is the base of Italians’ social life. In fact, usually coffee is an excuse to chat for hours with friends or to ask someone out. Even, you can casually meet someone after a long time and have a coffee to update on your lives.

7. Italians are “mammoni

This Italian stereotype affects mainly male Italians and, for once, let me defend them. Naturally, we know that in Italy family bonds are very tight. And we also know that young people leave their home later than in other places.

However, this situation doesn’t make Italians mammoni, namelypeople that don’t want to leave their mother or family. Indeed, usually it is due to the lack of a job, which prevents them from living on their own.

As a young Italian, I can assure you that we want to have our independence as all young folks do.

8. All Italians are Soccer fanatics

Italian stereotypes

Unfortunately, I must admit that the majority of Italians are soccer fanatics. Also, there is a great percentage of women that love football too. 

To be clear, I have nothing against football, but I can’t stand the craziness of fanatics. In fact, every match seems to be an excuse to let prejudice and hate explode. Really, I can’t understand how what should be a joyful moment can bring out the worst of us.

Luckly, not everyone is such a fool!

9. All Italians are Latin lovers

Are all Italians latin lovers? If I should answer on the basis of my experience it would be a decisive no! Like in every Country, there are shy men and womanizers. Naturally, it depends on a person’s character. Here, men know a lot of ways to say “Ciao bella!” (Hello beautiful!). And it could be extremely annoying. Nonetheless, I have encountered very few Casanovas in my life.

Still, I think that the reasons for this Italian stereotype lie in the cinematographic industry. Indeed, lots of films in the past depicted Italians men as Don Giovanni (latin lovers).

10. All Italians have a Vespa

Italian stereotypes

This Italian stereotype could have been true in the past, but not today. Personally, I find very romantic the idea of associating Italians with images of the movie Roman Holidays. However, those times ended so long ago.

Nowadays, far less people have a Vespa Piaggio in their garage and the majority is in the South of Italy.

11. Italians are fashion-addicted

That’s another “yes and no” answer to this Italian stereotype. Of course, Italy is the land of so many worldwide known stylists. For example, Armani, Versace and Dolce and Gabbana. However, not everyone can afford their products. Plus, it is very rare to see someone in a Gucci jumpsuit buying cucumbers at the supermarket.

Nevertheless, I think that the majority of Italian people have an innate taste in choosing the outfit. In general, we like to be well dressed on every occasion.

12. Italians drive like crazy

I cannot but confirm this Italian stereotype. Indeed, in big cities trying to cross the road often requires skills like supersonic speed and sharp reflexes.

Seriously, Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible” is nothing compared to us. But don’t worry, we do have traffic lights to help you!

13. Italians are effusive people

Italian stereotypes

I am quite proud of this Italian Stereotype. Even if I have to confess that it suits Southern Italians more than the Northerns.

Nonetheless, a great part of Italians are friendly and effusive. Additionally, physical contact is important to us. In fact, when we meet someone we don’t just shake our hands, but we also kiss on both cheeks. Unfortunately, not always we understand that people from other cultural backgrounds may consider this habit inappropriate.

If you are one of them, sorry for that! But believe me, it was done with the best of intentions.

14. Italians can’t speak English

This is another Italian stereotype that was truer in the past. Of course, there are still lots of people who don’t have a proper command of English. Yet, lots of things have changed.

Nowadays, English is taught since primary school and is taken far more seriously. And it couldn’t be any different as tourism is vital for our economy and the world of work requires it. Honestly, you will hardly find someone who can discuss fluently in English about nuclear power. But now, the majority of Italians can help you out during your vacations.

Plus, this Italian stereotype could be an excuse to learn Italian. It’s such a beautiful language.

15. Italians are loud

Italian stereotypes

Yes and no. I don’t totally agree with this Italian stereotype. Personally, I hate when people are loud, as I love calm and peace. Still, I have to admit that not all my fellow citizens are quiet.

Of course, it depends on one’s education, character and context. As a matter of fact, extroverted people are loud as they share their thoughts and feelings lively. However, you won’t find people in a grocery shouting “I’ll take two kilos of potatoes!”. We’re able to talk in a normal way, just like you.

On the other hand, in the appropriate context Italians could be loud. For instance, Italians are likely to be the life of a party…especially after a couple of Aperol Spritz.

Conclusion

So, we saw how these Italian stereotypes (and stereotypes in general) could be very deceptive.

As shown above, stereotypes are social categorizations that simplify reality to the extreme, not considering its complexity. Particularly, they rise from the distrust of the “other” and the inability of perceiving the endless shades of our lives. However, we can make a change and fight stereotypes. For instance, we can do that by traveling and being opened to diversity.

So, what are you waiting for? Plan your travel to Italy and help me show the inaccuracy of the Italian stereotypes.

And if you want a guide in order to visit Italy, try out one of these books!

By: Maria Rosaria Savarese

Deeply in love with her hometown Vico Equense, near Sorrento, Maria Rosaria enjoys sharing her passion for her land and its culture.

Taking part in Italian Easter traditions and celebrations is a good start to deepen one’s Italian language and culture knowledge.

what is Italian Easter?

As a matter of fact, Easter in Italy is a very important feast and it is second only to Christmas. Besides, the various Italian Easter traditions have ancient roots and are deeply felt by all Italians. Actually, Easter Sunday is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the week before Easter is full of subsequent events. And generally,whether one’s religious or not, pretty much everyone takes part in them.

For this reason, I decided to share with you everything I know about Italian Easter traditions and vocabulary. Hopefully, if you pop around here in Italy during Easter time, you will find it of some help.

So, let’s get started!

How to celebrate the Italian Easter or Pasqua

As you probably already know, Easter is one of the movable feasts and its day depends on the lunisolar calendar.Undoubtedly, Easter always falls in Spring and the link between the two is very tight.  

Indeed, as Spring represents the rebirth of nature after Winter, Easter celebrates the victory of life over death. Thus, both are synonyms of joy and hope. Consequently, in Italy you will feel and see this glee in the houses. As a matter of fact, one of the Italian Easter traditions is to decorate them. Usually, people create the Easter Trees and buy numerous colourful ornaments.

Additionally, the kitchens are full of delicious food and chocolate eggs. Importantly, in Italy there is no Easter Bunny or Egg hunt, but we give children chocolate eggs as presents.

Just to be clear, there is not a proper age for a chocolate egg. Personally, I’ll always want my chocolate egg, even in my 90ies. Come ‘on, who doesn’t want chocolate?

Here there are some useful books for you:

Vocabulary related to Italian Easter traditions

Below, you will find the most common words that you can use to talk about Easter in Italy.

  • La Pasqua – Easter.

To wish “Happy Easter!” you say “Buona Pasqua!”.

  • La Resurrezione – The Resurrection.
  • L’Agnello – The Lamb.

Actually, this animal is the symbol of Jesus who sacrificed His life to save humans. Therefore, it is one of the main Easter foods. In fact, it is not just a second dish, but pastry shops also realize chocolate and sugar lambs.

  • La colomba – the dove, symbol of peace.
  • L’uovo – the egg, symbol of new life.

Italian traditional Easter decorations

Italian Easter traditions

Here you will find some of the things most likely to be in every Italian house during Easter time.

  • La Decorazione – The decoration, ornament.
  • L’Albero di Pasqua – The Easter Tree. Briefly, it is an olive branch decorated with hand-painted eggs, colorful bows and paper’s doves.
  • L’uovo di ceramica – the pottery egg. Actually, you will find pottery eggs of all sizes, colours and functions.
  • La Candela a forma di uovo – egg-shaped candle.
  • Il lavoretto di Pasqua – the Easter kids’ crafts made at school. Indeed, parents show with great pride their kid’s crafts.

Italian traditional Easter food and gift

  • L’Uovo di cioccolato – The chocolate egg. As we said above, eggs represent the new life. Therefore, pastry shops and food firms created the chocolate egg tradition. Also, a little surprise is ceiled in it.
  • La Gallina di cioccolato – Chocolate chicken. Similarly to the chocolate eggs, the chocolate chickens are a widespread Easter gift.
  • Il Coniglio di cioccolato – Chocolate bunny. Even if Italian children don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, its chocolate representation is an appreciated Easter gift.
  • La Colomba pasquale – Easter dove. Namely, a dove-shaped cake with candied fruits or other creamy fillings exchanged as an Easter gift. Particularly, the Colombe artigianali (artisanal doves) are very much appreciated.

Easter Monday or Pasquetta in Italian

Italian Easter traditions

A crucial Italian Easter tradition is Pasquetta (literally Little Easter) or Easter Monday in English. Actually, in Italy it is also called Lunedì dell’Angelo (Angel’s Monday). In fact, it commemorates the Angel who showed up to the pious women announcing Jesus’ resurrection. 

Typically, for this Italian Easter tradition people organize excursions, pic-nics, lunch at farmhouses or visits to museums. Actually, the organization is not easy peasy. In fact, a great number of people with different preferences are involved. Hence, you have to come to an agreement about where to go and what to buy. Briefly, it is exhausting, but it is more than worth it.

Nonetheless, there is always a little detail that ruins the Italian Pasquetta: the weather. Really, there is a sort of spell on this day as it always rains. However, we don’t give up! On the contrary, we usually postpone our plans to the next day.

Useful vocabulary to talk about Pasquetta

Here, I leave you the words we use the most on Pasquetta.

  • Il pic-nic – the pic-nic. Of course, we’re not talking about a frugal meal! On the contrary, in every region there is a wide range of traditional food.
  • La carne grigliata – grilled meat.
  • La salsiccia – the sausage.
  • La mozzarella – the Mozzarella cheese.
  • Il formaggio – the cheese.
  • Il pane – the bread.
  • Il vino – the wine.
  • L’acqua – the water.
Italian Easter traditions

Also, there are always the following objects:

  • Una palla  – a ball.
  • Le carte – the playing cards.
  • Una griglia – a barbecue or a broiler/grill pan.
  • La musica – music.
  • Una chitarra – a guitar.
  • I piatti/bicchieri e le posate riciclabili usa e getta – disposable recyclable plates/cups and cutlery.
  • I tovaglioli di carta– the paper napkins.
  • Un apribottiglie – a bottle opener.

Finally, on this day you can:

  • Fare una gita fuori porta – to take a day-trip out of town.
  • Prenotare un tavolo in un agriturismo  – to book a table in a farmhouse.
  • Fare visite culturali – to go on cultural visits.

Palm Day or Domenica delle palme in Italian

Another significant Italian Easter tradition is Palm Day, the Sunday that marks the beginning of the Holy Week.

Traditionally, it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. On this occasion, people welcomed Christ waving palm branches, symbolizing victory. For this reason, on Palm Day people in Italy reenact this event. In fact, they organize a procession where the priest personifies Jesus and the people welcome him with their palms.

Then, the priest blesses the palms and together with the crowd goes back to the church to celebrate mass. Eventually, people exchange palms as a good wish.

Useful vocabulary to talk about Palm Day

Italian Easter traditions

Here you will find the important features of the Italian Palm Day.

  • La Domenica delle Palme – Palm Day, but literally “Sunday of the Palms”.
  • La Palma di confetti -the Sugared-almonds’/comfits’ palm. To be clear, this is a tradition of the southern regions of Italy. Indeed, here grandmothers create stunning flower-shaped palms with colourful comfits and other decorations.
  • La Palma di ulivo – Olive branches palm.

Actually, it could be a small olive branch or olive’s leaves weaved. As a matter of fact, southern boys prefer this kind of palm.Usually, on Palm Day you will see kids walking with a huge olive branch full of salami and caciocavallo cheese. Weirdly enough, we put food on branches!

  • La Benedizione – The Blessing.
  • La Chiesa – the Church.
  • La Processione – the Procession.
  • La Messa – the Mass.
  • Il Prete – the Priest.
  • La Settimana Santa – the Holy week. It is the week preceding Easter.

Good Friday or Venerdì Santo in Italian

Among the Italian Easter traditions an important one is the celebration of Good Friday.  On this day, we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. Actually, in a great number of Italian cities there are displays recalling the last day of Christ on Earth.

For example, in the South of Italy the Via Crucis is the most important event of the Holy Week. Specifically, it is the reenacting of the sorrowful path of Christ up to Mount Calvary. For this procession, people wear Roman costumes and the streets’ lights are turned off. In fact, only a few candles and tapers light the path. Additionally, silence reigns and it is broken only by drums and choirs. Indeed, one of the most emotional ones is the so-called Miserere, a chorus with only men singing in Latin.

Usually, the Via Crucis takes place late at night, with some lasting till 3 A.M. Really, it is one of the most suggestive Italian Easter traditions and requires a long organization.

Vocabulary of Good Friday

Italian Easter traditions

Now, in case I made you curious let’s see how to talk about Good Friday.

  • Il Venerdì Santo Good Friday.
  • La Passione di Cristo The Passion of Christ. In this case, the word passione indicates the suffering of Jesus. However, it is commonly used as “love for something, enthusiasm, fondness”.
  • La CrocifissioneThe Crucifixion, from the word croce, cross.
  • La Campana The Bell.
  • La RappresentazioneThe representation, performance, display.
  • La Via crucis – The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross. Usually, it refers to the images of the subsequent steps of Christ’s crucifixion day. In this case, it refers to the procession organized on Good Friday.
  • Il Cammino – The path.
  • Il Costume – The theatrical costume, here. However, be careful with this word because in Italian it usually means swimsuit.
  • La Candela – the candle.
  • La Torcia (Le torce, pl.) – The taper.
  • Il Miserere – The Misere. The name of this choir comes from the Latin imperative miserēri which means “abbi pietà”, have mercy.
  • Il Coro – The choir.
  • Il Tamburo – The drum.

Maundy Thursday or Giovedì Santo in Italian

Maundy Thursday is another important Italian Easter tradition. On this day, in the churches reenactments of the Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper take place. This day marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Additionally, in southern regions on this day there is Italian Easter tradition called i Sepolcri (literally sepulchres, graves). Basically, faithfuls visit from 5 to 7 churches in which altars are adorned with flowers and sprouts of wheat.

Vocabulary related to Maundy Thursday.

Italian Easter traditions

Let’s see the relevant vocabulary of this celebration.

  • Il Giovedì Santo – Maundy Thursday, but literally Holy Thursday.
  • Il Triduo pasquale – Easter Triduum. Specifically, the word triduo comes from the number tre, three. In fact, it refers to the fact that the Triduo lasts three days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).
  • La Lavanda dei piedi – the Washing of the Feet. Here, the noun lavanda comes from the Italian verb lavare, to wash. However, remember that the Italian word lavanda could also mean “lavender”.
  • Il Sepolcro – the Sepulchre, grave.
  • L’Ultima Cena – the Last Supper.
  • Il Germoglio di grano – Wheats’ Sprout.

Lent, Quaresima in Italian

When talking about Italian Easter traditions, we couldn’t not mention Lent. As we also said in the Carnival’s article, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and finishes on Easter day. Notably, it is a 40-days period of prayer and atonement (recalling the days Christ spent in the desert). Indeed, the Italian term Quaresima comes from the Latin quadr(ag)esĭma, meaning “quarantesimo giorno” (fortieth day).

Now, let’s see some useful vocabulary to talk about Lent.

  • La Quaresima – The Lent.
  • L’Espiazione – The atonement.
  • La Preghiera – The prayer.
  • Il Peccato – The sin.
  • Il Digiuno – The fasting.

Common sayings linked to Italian Easter traditions

Italian Easter traditions

Obviously, the continuously evolving Italian language has created a lot of sayings focused on Italian Easter traditions. Clearly, they originate from the deep meaning these traditions have.

So, scroll down to learn useful sayings that will allow you to fluently speak with Italians.

Italian saying about Lent

To begin, let’s see a couple of sayings associated with Lent, Quaresima:

  • Lungo come una quaresima. – Literally, “long as a lent”. This expression describes either a person who talks too much or a long-lasting unpleasant situation.
  • Ha sciupato tutto e adesso fa Quaresima. – Literally, “He/she has wasted everything and now does the Lent”. Here, we are talking about a person who spent all money and is now poor.

Italian sayings linked to Good Friday

Now, the following sayings are based on the figurative meaning of the cross. Let’s see them!

  • Essere la croce di qualcuno.To be someone’s cross, that is being someone’ burden.
  • Mettere in croceto crucify.
  • Gettare la croce addosso a qualcuno. to put blame on someone. Literally, it is “To throw the cross on someone”.
  • La mia vita è un calvario. – Literally, my life is an ordeal. Clearly, we use this expression when we have a very tough life.
  • La croce che ci si fa da soli è la più pesante. – The translation is “the cross that you make yourself is the heaviest”. Often, we use this saying when we do things we regret and of which we have to face consequences.
  • Portare la propria croce. – Literally, “to carry one’s cross”. Indeed, we use this expression when we take our responsibilities.

Italian sayings linked to Easter

Italian Easter traditions

Finally, here’s a couple of sayings related to Easter:

  • Essere felice come una Pasqua. To be happy as can be. Literally, “To be as happy as Easter”.
  • Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi. – Literally, “Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever you want”. Indeed, this saying refers to the fact that usually people spend Christmas at home. On the contrary, during Holy Week some people prefer to go on vacation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have seen how Italian Easter traditions are deeply rooted and felt by Italians.

Indeed, from religious celebrations, to historical displays and food tradition, Easter permeates the Italian culture and language.

For this reason, every Italian language learner should think about coming to Italy to personally experience all the Italian Easter traditions. So what are you waiting for? Check when Easter is and book a flight!

We will wait for you. Ciao!

By: Maria Rosaria Savarese

Deeply in love with her hometown Vico Equense, near Sorrento, Maria Rosaria enjoys sharing her passion for her land and its culture.

Italy has always excelled in various art fields, and even some Movies in Italian can be considered pieces of art.

So, do you want to improve your Italian and, in particular, your listening skills? You can do that by getting comfortable and enjoying an Italian movie!

Not only will you have fun, but you will learn a lot, discover idioms, everyday language expressions and practice your listening skills!

Certainly, there are many famous Italian movies and it is impossible to list them all. So, I decided to focus on the latest years, making a list of recent movies in Italian which you cannot miss!

So, what are you waiting for?

Go through my List of The Top 10 Recent Italian Movies and start learning Italian in the nicest possible way: comfortably sitting on your couch, eating popcorn!

1. La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty)

First, “The Great Beauty” by Paolo Sorrentino. This is surely one of the movies in Italian which made him famous all over the world.

Set in Rome, in the contemporary age. Jep Gambardella is a journalist, writer and literary critic who hangs out with a group of radical chic friends. They spend their evenings in lounges, and at parties, while emptiness and absence of interesting incentives oppress their lives.

Suddenly, two people interrupt the monotony of his existence: his ex-wife’s husband and a stripper with a pure heart, Ramona. Their stories are intertwined in the perhaps vain search for what Jep calls “The Great Beauty”.

Surely, what you will love about this film is the representation of Rome. Baroque, magnificent, decadent, and corrupt, the capitol becomes a gallery of characters first monstrous, then celestial. The main character slowly gets rid of his masks, of people, to go with what is “Essential”.

2. Il giovane favoloso (Leopardi)

In second position we find “Leopardi”, a 2014 movie by Mario Martone.

With its 71st Venice International Film Festival nomination, this is surely a Movie in Italian worthy of being seen. If you are passionate about Italian culture and literature you will learn a lot about Giacomo Leopardi.

Il giovane favoloso (“The fabulous young man”) is not only a careful representation of the most famous Italian poet’s life, it makes us relive the drama of his existence.

Indeed, through a “journey” full of feelings, Martone gives us the opportunity to meditate on the human condition. You can feel his desire of knowledge, of entering high society and his inability to adapt to life. Moreover, all the evocative shots will make you empathize with Leopardi’s feelings with a rare sensitivity.

For sure, the vision of this movie will change you. It is not only a powerful journey into the mind of one of the greatest Italian poets,  but it is also an exploration of the individual and personal struggles affecting humanity.

After viewing this movie, you will be richer, emotionally and linguistically speaking!

3. Youth – La giovinezza (Youth)

Third place is another Sorrentino production: “Youth”, released in 2015. I had to list it as one of the Movies in Italian that you cannot miss!

The plot is simple. Fred and Mick are two old friends on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Here, they enjoy the company of Leda, Fred’s daughter. Every day, they spend time thinking about the future, observing with curiosity the lives of their children and the hotel guests.

4. L’arte della felicità (The Art of Happiness)

The Art of Happiness” is a 2013 Italian animated movie in Italian. The director is Alessandro Rak, a rising star of Italian animation.

Sergio is a Neapolitan taxi driver. Every day, with his taxi, he takes his customers through the city in the rain. At the same time, he tries to come to terms with a painful loss: the death of his brother Alfredo, who has never returned from a trip to Tibet that began ten years earlier.

One after the other, a singer, a radio speaker, an old uncle, and other characters take turns on the seats of his taxi. To make matters worse, each of them gives him a trace of his missing brother. 

Surely, it is not only an animated movie. It is a mix of colors, music, and feelings. You will walk through an unusual rainy Naples, ending with a sense of happiness and joy for life.

5. Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot (They Call Me Jeeg)

Another movie in Italian that superhero lovers cannot miss is definitely: “They Call me Jeeg”. It is a 2015 film of Gabriele Mainetti, and it had great success in Italy.

The title comes from “Jeeg robot of steel” by Gō Nagai. Indeed, one of the main characters believes that Hiroshi Shiba, the hero of the series, exists in the real world. In fact, she identifies him with the main character of the movie.

Once again, it takes place in Rome. The thief Enzo Ceccotti, in order to escape the police, throws himself into the waters of the Tiber. Here, some radioactive substances give him an extraordinary power. Starting from that moment his life will never be the same…

Contrary to what one might expect, the story focuses on a totally unimaginable reality: poor people with no perspective other than trying to stay alive, abused girls, criminals looking for a crazy redemption…

6. Dogman

The list of the Best Movies in Italian continues with “Dogman”, a 2018 movie by Matteo Garrone.

First, you need to know that the movie recalls the “Canaro” crime. It was the murder of the criminal and amateur boxer Giancarlo Ricci, which took place in 1988 in Rome. The murderer was Pietro De Negri, known as “er canaro” ( “someone who has a dog” in the Roman dialect).

Marcello is a small and meek man who owns a dog grooming room. To make more money, he sells cocaine: this leads him to establish a murky friendship with Simone, a local criminal. However, Simone terrifies the locals with petty crimes and acts of violence, and Marcello cannot rebel. Taking advantage of his mild character, Simone ends up stealing and sending his innocent “friend” to prison.

During the Cannes Film Festival 2018, “Dogman” received positive reviews… You will not regret watching this movie!

7. Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)

Possibly one of the best Movies in Italian is “Perfect Strangers”. It is a 2016 comedy by Paolo Genovese and once again set in Rome.

A group of friends meets for dinner and decide to share messages and incoming phone calls on everyone’s cell phones. During the evening, secrets and lies come to light that endanger the stability of their friendship.

Surprisingly, the direction and acting in this Movie are impeccable. Moreover, despite the delicate situations, there is no lack of irony and even relaxed moments that will make you laugh.

8. Gatta Cenerentola (Cinderella The Cat)

Once again, another of the best Animated Movies in Italian is directed by Alessandro Rak: “Cinderella The Cat”. The title of the Movie is of course inspired by the homonymous fairy tale by Giambattista Basile and Roberto De Simone’s play.

However, the plot is undoubtedly revisited. Mia, orphan of a famous shipowner, is a prisoner of her stepmother and must submit to the abuses of six half-brothers. But a brave young man, friend of her deceased father, tries to save her and bring the law back to the city.

In a setting that isn’t at all fairytale or childish, “Gatta Cenerentola” re-proposes the famous fairy tale in its most distinguishable characters (the shoe, the stepmother, the stepsisters), but sets it in a dark and surreal Naples. 

9. Allacciate le cinture (Fasten Your Seatbelts)

“Fasten Your Seat Belts” is a 2014 film directed by Ferzan Özpetek.

This time, the Movie is set in Lecce, where Elena works as a waitress in a bar and has a group of friends with whom she spends her days. One day, by chance, she meets Antonio, uneducated and apparently homophobic and racist. The two try to resist the attraction that pushes them towards each other.

Also, the music is noteworthy: the original music of the film is composed by Pasquale Catalano. In addition to the music of Catalano, the soundtrack includes the song A mano a mano” (hand by hand) by Riccardo Cocciante in the version sung by Rino Gaetano, that is in the trailer of this Movie.

10. Tutta colpa di Freud (All Freud’s Fault)

The last of the top 10 Best Movies in Italian is “All Freud’s Fault”, a 2014 film directed by Paolo Genovese.

Francesco Taramelli is a middle-aged analyst struggling with the problems of his three daughters. The oldest is a bookseller who falls in love with a thief, the middle one is a lesbian who decides to become straight, the youngest is an eighteen-year-old who goes nuts for a fifty-year-old.

In addition, you will be interested to know that a TV series was also made, starring the famous actor and comedian Claudio Bisio.

So, this could be another great series to watch and to add to your list of 30 Italian TV Shows You Can Watch In The US !

This was the list of 10 Most Recent Movies in Italian that had the greatest impact in recent years in Italy in terms of the public and critics’ favor.

Enjoy!

 

By: Federica Contento

Federica is an Italian linguist living in the beautiful city of Naples, Italy. She has a thousand talents and passions, including cinema, music, photography, drawing, programming and foreign languages!

What is Carnevale?

Carnival is one of the most entertaining festivities around the world and the Carnevale in Italy is no exception. It is the celebration of chaos, mockery of authorities and exaggerated social satire, and we all know that Italians are very good at it.

When is Carnevale celebrated in Italy?

Although the origins of Carnival trace back to pagan festivities of Greeks and Romans, it is linked to the Catholic world.

In fact, it is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the last day when it is allowed to feast before the rigors of Lent. Consequently, it doesn’t have a specific date but depends on which day Easter will be.

Etymology of the word Carnevale

The name Carnival (Carnevale in Italian) comes from Latin carnem levare, which literally means remove the meat. Specifically, Carnival was the last occasion for meat consumption, as people abstained from it during the following forty days of Lent.

How is Carnevale celebrated in Italy?

Carnevale in Italy

The Carnevale in Italy represents a way through which people can set aside their everyday life and simply have fun.

Usually, folk of all ages wear elaborate costumes and masks, throwing at each other confetti and streamers. Additionally, they take part in joyful parades, street parties and other entertainments.

Moreover, in almost every Italian city there is an important Carnival tradition: the creation of huge floats. In fact, it is a serious matter for Italians, as they compete for the best carro (float in English) every year. The price? The glory, but that’s enough.

But how does it work? Easy! First, groups of people gather to choose a theme for their float, usually at night after school or work. Then, they start creating the machines.

Specifically, some work with papier-mache, while others help design clothes. Eventually, they show their creations during the parades, which become an actual competition for the best carro.

Similarly, primary schools too organize colorful parades based on different themes. For instance, they dress up kids as animals, protagonists of fairy tales or cartoons.

Traditional food of Carnevale in Italy

Carnevale in Italy - Chiacchiere

Needless to say, food plays an important role in the Italian Carnevale.

Truly, the queen of the Carnival menu is undoubtedly the lasagna.

Nonetheless, on the table you will find any kind of delicious meat dishes and countless bottles of wine. Of course, do not forget to save some space for dessert.

Specifically, every region and city have a traditional dessert to serve at the end of the Carnival lunch.

Among the most common carnival desserts, the so-called Chiacchiere deserve first place (Angel wings for the English speakers). Basically, they are sweet crisp pastries shaped into thin twisted ribbons, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Similarly, the Castagnole (Castagnola for the singular) are a typical sweet of the Carnevale in Italy. The shape of this fried little ball recalls chestnuts, consequently its name comes from castagna, the Italian word for chestnut.

In addition, a traditional Carnival dessert of the Campania region is the so-called Migliaccio. This cake has the same ingredients of the Sfogliatelle’s filling: semolina, ricotta cheese, candied fruits, eggs, sugar and vanilla. A real treat!

However, there are plenty of Italian Carnival dishes, but it would be impossible to write about every of them here. Nonetheless, if you are fond of Italian culinary traditions, go check our latest article on the Italian desserts.

And now, let’s continue the discovery of the Italian Carnival celebrations!

Traditional Carnival masks in Italy

Carnevale in Italy - Masks

Together with the floats, another symbol of the Carnevale in Italy are the masks. In fact, throughout the years every Italian region has created its own characteristic mask.

They come from puppetry, Italian folklore and from an early form of professional theatre called Commedia dell’arte (meaning Comedy of profession).

As we said before, their aim was to mock authorities and social rules. As a matter of fact, they are a mix of fierce satire and funny parody. So, why don’t we have a look at some of them?

From the North…

Of course, one of the best-known way to celebrate Carnevale in Italy is with the Mask of Arlecchino (Harlequin in English) and his chequered colorful costume. He is an astute servant and with his agility and trickster qualities always tries to thwart his master’s plans.

Then, in the city of Milan we find another famous mask: Meneghino. This witty but honest servant is one of the few characters of the Commedia dell’arte, who doesn’t wear a mask.

Instead, in Venice we meet a completely different character: Pantalone. He is a greedy merchant with an exceptional ego. Therefore, over the years he has become the metaphorical representation of money.

Likewise, the Emilian mask Balanzone (known as the Doctor among English speakers) is a parody of the educated elite. He is a pompous inept, fond of drinks, chocolate and girls. Also, he always pretends to be an expert in subjects that he actually doesn’t know.

Another popular Italian mask is the Turinese Gianduja. When hearing this name, the first that comes to your mind is chocolate, I know. But even if the two things are related, we are talking about a totally different thing. In fact, Gianduja is an honest peasant of the Piedmontese country land, with an inclination for wine and beautiful girls.

…To the South!

Then, when we talk about Carnevale in Italy, how could we forget about the Neapolitan Pulcinella? He is an ignorant but astute servant, who is always on the side of the winner. With the white costume, black mask and huge nose has gradually become one of the symbols of Italian culture worldwide.

And finally, another iconic Neapolitan mask: Tartaglia. Usually, he is depicted as a clumsy lower working class’ member, short-sighted and with a minor stutter.

Of course, all these masks are not just awkward movements and hilarious tricks. Indeed, there is far more in them then we could imagine. They are the results of history events, revolutions and oppressions. They rise from stereotypes and represent some regional features and traditions.

Now, speaking of regional traditions, we just have to explore the most famed examples of Carnevale in Italy.

Venetian Carnival

Carnevale in Italy - Venetian Carnival

Of course, the first that comes to mind is the Carnival of Venice. It attracts a great number of tourists from all over the world. According to legend, its celebration began after an important military victory of the Venetian Republic in 1162. Then, it became official in the Renaissance.

However, in spite of its fame the Emperor Francis II outlawed the Venetian Carnival in the late XVIII century. And only later, in 1979, it officially returned.

Nowadays, the Carnevale in Venice is a long celebration and has three major events in it.

First, the so-called Festa delle Marie, in which twelve girls walk down the streets and receive prizes. This event celebrates the kidnapping and the release of twelve brides-to-be in the late XI century.

Second, the Volo di Sant’Angelo (literally “Saint Angel’s fly”), when an acrobat gets down from the bell tower of San Marco Church to reach the square.

And third, the Svolo del Leon (Venetian dialectal form for “The Lion’s fly”), which concludes the Carnival with a tribute to the Winged Lion, symbol of Venice.

Moreover, masks are an important feature of the Venetian Carnival. Originally, they were simple in design, decoration, and with a symbolic and practical function. Of course, many things have changed.

For instance, the materials. In fact, while once mask makers used leather, porcelain or glass, nowadays they prefer gypsum and gold leaf. Eventually, they hand-paint the masks and decorate them with natural feathers and gems. Literally outstanding piece of art!

The Carnival of Viareggio

Anotehr important Carnevale in Italy is the Carnival of Viareggio (Carnevale di Viareggio in Italian): a month-long Tuscan Carnival and one of Europe’s longest-established festivals.

Some wealthy middle-class men organized the first Viareggio carnival parade in 1873. However, on that occasion several citizens decided to put on masks as a sign of protest against the high taxes. Therefore, today people still use masks to remember that distant event.

However, what makes the Carnevale di Viareggio unique are its papier-mâché allegorical gigantic floats. Indeed, the largest one tower 70 feet over the crowds and weigh about 40 tons.

Due to their dimension, the floats are built in an apposite seat, called Cittadella del Carnevale (Carnival Citadel in English). In addition, Carnival celebrations are scheduled every weekend night in the city’s different quarters, which host all-night masked parties.

Later, on Carnival day the parade of floats and masks colors the streets of the city. Also, it includes competitions of traditional music bands for the most original masks.

The Carnival of Cento

Cento Carnival is one of the most ancient Carnevale in Italy and it is also twinned with the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro.

Similarly, to the Viareggio Carnival, the one in Cento is a month-long celebration. Here, the local Carnival societies compete for the most original float and show their creations in the parades.

Additionally, during the displays people from the floats throw at the crowd a great number of inflatables and plushes.

Then, on the last Sunday a jury awards the winning society and gives a prize also for the throwing of toys and gadgets. Finally, at the end of the last parade a firework show accompanies the burning of the traditional mask Tasi. This event concludes this incredible Carnival.

The Ivrea Carnival

This Carnival is world-known especially for the Battle of the Oranges and it is one of the best Carnevale in Italy!

According to the legend, in the XII century the tyran of the city tried to rape the young Violetta on the evening of her wedding. However, the girl fought back and decapitated him, generating a revolution.

Every year the citizens remember their liberation with the Battle of the Oranges, where the fruits represent the old weapons and stones. Indeed, teams of aranceri (orange handlers) on foot throw oranges against the aranceri riding in carts (representing the tyrant’s ranks).

Finally, the Carnival ends on Shrove Tuesday with a silent march, the solemn funeral of the tyran.

Acireale Carnival

This is the most beautiful Sicilian Carnival, but also one of the most ancient Carnevale in Italy. Likewise, the others, it has parades with huge papier-mache floats and both traditional and modern masks.

Furthermore, on the last week of celebrations another kind of floats parades along the streets. We are talking about the so-called Carri Infiorati (from fiore, flower in English).

These big floats are fully covered with lights and thousands of flowers, whose scent makes this Carnival a unique experience.

The Carnival of Fano

One of the sweetest Carnevale in Italy is undoubtedly the one in the city of Fano, in the Marche region. Among the most ancient, it takes place on the three Sundays before Lent.

Again, the protagonists are the huge allegorical papier-mache floats, which mock politicians, actors and other VIP.

They parade three times along the streets. During the first lap, participants show their float. Then in the second one, they throw chocolate and candies at the crowd. Finally, on the third lap, they turn the lights on, creating a memorable picturesque image for the audience.

Carnival vocabulary and expressions

In case I made you curious and you’re planning to test the Carnevale in Italy, I leave a list of useful words below!

Carnevale Carnival
maschera mask
costume costume
carro float
sfilata parade
coriandoli confetti
stelle filanti streamers
Martedì Grasso Shrove or Fat Tuesday (the day in which Carnival falls)
Mercoledì delle Ceneri Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday)
Quaresima Lent

Also, I would like to share with you some of the most used Italian Carnival expressions.

Italian motto English translation Meaning
A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale. Anything goes at Carnival time. On Carnival day you can do any prank you want.
A Carnevale il povero va a zappare At Carnival the poor man hoes. Once poor people couldn’t allow themself to celebrate Carnival instead of working.
Carnevale al sole, Pasqua al fuoco. Carnival under the sun, Easter on fire. Carnival fun leads to Easter contrition.
Carnevale guarisce ogni male Carnival heals every harm. The fun on Carnival makes you happy.
Chi si marita male non fa mai carnevale Who gets married badly doesn’t celebrate Carnival. Who chooses a bad husband/wife could never be happy.

Now, you are ready to talk with Italians about Carnival and not only about the weather!

Conclusion

Whether it is in the North or in the South, the Carnevale in Italy fills the streets with laughter, colors and joy.

If you love Italian culture and want an immersive experience in it, then Carnival celebration is what you need.

So, what are you waiting for? Check when the next Carnival is and book a flight to Italy.

An extraordinary fun experience is waiting for you!

By: Maria Rosaria Savarese

Deeply in love with her hometown Vico Equense, near Sorrento, Maria Rosaria enjoys sharing her passion for her land and its culture.