Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes ) – Four Salads for Summer Days

Mixed green lettuce salad with chive flowers and radishes set out on a plant with brie cheese in the center.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! It’s been almost one month since my last gardening blog, and over these last weeks I’ve been thinning out my lettuce patch and enjoying delicious, fresh salads almost every day of the week.

Some of you may have already seen the Instagram posts of my “Insalata del giorno” / “Salade du jour,” or “Salad of the day.” Today I’m going to collect all of the salad ideas I’ve been sharing on Instagram, and a couple more, to share with you in this blog.

As I have mentioned in my previous Your Italian-American Gardening Tips blog, from May 26, this year I have been focusing on my raised gardens.  In this blog we’ll check in on the lettuce patch I planted in early spring and see how it has been doing after the few episodic heat waves we’ve had here in Chicagoland.

My hope is that you will enjoy the tips I’ve learned about gardening through many years of experience and be encouraged to start an Italian garden yourself — be it large or small, in a yard or on your porch, or even indoors in pots near a sunny window — after reading the blogs in this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.”  

Check out my Instagram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing lettuce, along with some salad recipe ideas.  Please leave a comment if you want and let me know what your favorite salad combination is!

And remember the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you want an easy, step-by-step way to learn the Italian of today. Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Planting a Lettuce Patch…

and Harvesting – Part 2!

When I last wrote, on May 26, 2020, I already had small radishes to harvest and also a variety of baby lettuces growing closely together in rows. I started the lettuce this past spring by seeding rows directly outdoors, and chose my raised garden that is in shade for part of the day so the lettuce would have some relief from the afternoon soon as the days got hotter. Lettuce loves the cool weather and did well this year with the temperature and amount of rain (lots) here in my part of Illinois.

I’ve continued to thin out the lettuce rows by harvesting a few early lettuce greens each day,  and the space left has quickly filled in as the remaining lettuces have grown. The bonus I get from this method of direct seeding and gradual thinning is fresh baby lettuce for my salads at lunchtime!

All varieties of lettuce have continued to do well.  Romaine lettuce is one of the most heat tolerant types, and  a few of my larger heads of romaine lettuce have been maturing nicely and are now forming the “core” or “heart” in the center.

Below are photos of the lettuce patch in late May and in mid-June.

Different types of young lettuce greens growing in a row with their identifying packet in the background
Mixed lettuce greens May 2020

 

Two rows of mixed lettuce greens that have grown since May 2020,
Mixed lettuce greens June                                                                            2020

 

Mixed lettuce greens and Romaine lettuce
Rows background to foreground: radishes, Romaine lettuce, mixed lettuce greens

My radishes have already started to go to seed, though.  In the background of the last photo you can see that long stalks have formed on my radish greens and there are far fewer leaves growing off the plant than usual. When I started to notice this happen, I quickly harvested my other two rows of radishes (not shown here), and was able to save the leafy greens. They are bitter but very good sauteed in garlic and olive oil, as I mentioned in my last blog. I’ve stored the radishes with their greens intact in my refrigerator for now, where they should keep for several weeks.. I plan to keep this last row in the photograph in the ground for now.

In the place of my radish rows, I’ve planted shallots and a few red onions, which are handy to have for cooking and can be kept in the ground through the heat of summer into the late fall.

Unfortunately, my rows of arugula also quickly went to seed when we had a short heat wave. Arugula (also called roquette) is technically an herb of the mustard family, with leaves that resemble lettuce. As I’ve mentioned before, I love to toss these pungent, peppery leaves into my salad. But this year, it was not meant to be for very long! Check out the long stalks with white flowers in the photo below. I will let it seed the garden this year, as I’ve had a second growth of arugula in the past with this method when the cooler weather takes over again.

Arugula plants growing in a row with long stalks tipped with white flowers after it has gone to seed
Arugula gone to seed, with long stalks and white flowers

 

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Four Salads for Summer Days

It’s salad time with chive flowers!

In last month’s gardening blog, I shared a photo of my salad of baby mixed greens, chive flowers and radishes.  Below is the Instagram link that I later published, which lists all the ingredients and basic method for making a salad.

View this post on Instagram

Salade du jour. Insalata mista. Salad of the day is a “mixed salad.” @theitaliangardenproject @niafitalianamerican first salad from my lettuce garden, with mixed greens, chive flowers and baby radishes. Learn more about how to set up a garden in the Midwest with my blog: https://conversationalitalian.wordpress.com/. Enjoy with brie cheese or the cheese of your choice! #mixedgreens #mixedgreensalad #salad #saladsofinstagram #salads #saladdujour #saladgardener #kitchengarden #kitchengardening #kitchengardens #growingradishesfromseed #growingradishes #growingradishesathome #chives #chiveflowers #frenchchicago #frenchiesofinstagram #foodblogger #foodbloggers #foodbloggersofinstagram #insalata #insalatamista #insalatamista🍃🌿 #frenchsalad #frenchsalads #briecheese #briesalade #briesalade #makemorefrenchfood #saladedujour

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

For this salad of early greens, I used what I had at the time in my garden: mixed greens, chives flowers for an onion flavor, and radishes.  By the way, all parts of the chive plant are edible, including the flower, which makes a colorful addition to salads. I always discard the stalk the flower is growing on, though, as it is too hard to eat.

Adding a bit of cheese to salad is something I learned long ago on a trip to France, and I couldn’t resist adding some fresh brie I had on hand on top of the salad greens. Off camera, both were delicious with a bit of crusty bread!

Since my first salad of the year, I’ve enjoyed creating many more salads. It has been fun for me to make a sort of  salade composée  (a salad in which the ingredients are arranged on an individual plate rather than being tossed in one big bowl) for Instagram photos, like the one above. But, of course. the flavor of the salad is what really counts.

 

So, how does one go about creating a flavorful salad?  I like to follow a few rules.  

Some of these rules may seem obvious, but I always like to start from the beginning when approaching any topic.

 

  • For me, the first rule, which should be evident from my past two blogs, is to always start with fresh greens.

Having my own small lettuce patch has made such a big difference in the quality of my salads. The freshest greens are just beyond my kitchen door, growing steadily until the instant I pluck them for my salad, instead of slowly wilting in my refrigerator “crisper” drawer. Also, I make salads more often as it is now much easier since  the major ingredient is readily available.

To prepare salad greens: rinse salad greens thoroughly in cold water, as dirt tends to stick in between the leaves.  Then spin all the water particles off with a salad spinner. This will allow the salad oil to cling to the leaves, rather than run off into a pool of water at the bottom of the plate or bowl. If not using the salad right away, refrigerate to keep the leaves crisp and cool and compose the salad just before serving.

 

  • The second rule I follow is to always choose a good quality oil, and this is most often extra-virgin olive oil.  (As a corollary to this, I never eat twice at a restaurant that will serve me a salad made with flavorless cooking oil.) I also keep walnut oil on hand for when I make a salad with walnuts, but this is a very delicate oil that is expensive and will loose flavor quickly once open, so it is not nearly as useful as extra-virgin olive oil.  

Extra-virgin olive oils come from many different regions of Italy, and have many different flavors and intensities. That said, of course, always choose your favorite olive oil when making a salad, since the flavor of the oil will definitely come through in a salad with fresh greens.

A word of caution when choosing extra-virgin olive oil: always read the ingredients on the label, as not all extra-virgin olive oils are first press or cold press (which bring out the most flavor) and many companies will combine Italian olive oil with olive oils from one or even several other countries.  True extra-virgin olive oil is not a blended oil.

Also, try to avoid buying older olive oils that are “on sale” because  this usually means that they have been on the shelf for longer then they should be —  maybe 6 months… or even 1 year or more! Unlike wine, olive oil looses flavor with exposure to air and so the freshest olive oil is the best tasting olive oil. It is likely that much of the original flavor of the olive oil put on “special sale” will have been lost at the time of  this special promotion, especially if the oil is in a bottle that does not have a covering or dark glass to protect it from the light.

 

  • The third key ingredient is the vinegar, and I choose my vinegar based on the style of salad I am making.

For Italian salads, a simple drizzle of red wine vinegar along with the extra virgin olive oil  and a quick mix to coat the leaves will usually suffice. Balsamic vinegar has become very popular in America, but is less common in green salads than red wine vinegar in Italy, and is usually reserved for the appetizer “prosciutto e melone” or a special dessert.

American “Italian dressing” in the bottle with a strong garlic flavor and an assortment of pungent herbs is not found in Italy. And only fresh salad greens are served in Italy (at least at the restaurants I’ve eaten at), so the lettuce leaves are not drowned in a lot of dressing, would hide their delicate flavor and make the lettuce leaf limp.

I love a good French vinaigrette, which is simply a more formal ratio of vinegar to olive oil with the addition of salt, pepper, and if desired fresh herbs and a touch of mustard.  My favorite ratio of vinegar to oil is 1 Tb. vinegar for each 6 Tb/ olive oil.  If you like less vinegar, use 1/2 Tb. (1 1/2 tsps).  If you like more, use 2 Tb. vinegar.

What about that orange “French Dressing” sold in supermarkets? I have yet to find a French cook who promotes this type of dressing as French!

 

  • Finally, I like to add interest to my  fresh green salad with ingredients that add flavor, texture and a bit of crunchiness.

Over the years, I learned the value of adding a bit of cheese to a salad to add flavor, and I especially like the Gorgonzola or goat cheese-baby spinach combination. Any cheese eaten with or along side a fresh green salad with a bit of bread, is wonderful in my opinion!

Nuts are commonly added to salads now-a-days, such as walnuts or almonds, for crunch and flavor. I love homemade croutons as well (see below for a 2 step “how to make garlic croutons” below).

It is fun to add spring fruit such as strawberries, and later raspberries, to salad as well; after a long winter without either fruit or fresh salad greens, it just seems right to put them together in one dish! Also, I love a cool watermelon and feta salad in the late summer, but that is for another blog…

Many brightly colored raw vegetables add both flavor and interest as well as a bit of crunch to a salad.  I love carrots, peppers, radishes and celery. Red onions, or a more mild onion flavor such as that found in chives and chive flowers or scallions (green onions) add an expected salad flavor,  and onions also add color and texture.

And, of course, tomatoes are an important component in salads when they are in season and vine-ripened. Cherry tomatoes in particular are the perfect size for a mixed salad. The salads mentioned below do not include tomatoes, as they were not in season at the time of this writing.

See my blogs from last year for salad recipes that feature tomatoes, such as Caprese salad and Panzanella Salad.

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Insalata Mista

Almost every restaurant in Italy that serves dinner will have an “insalata mista” listed on the menu. The name literally means “mixed salad,” and it signifies that the chef will include the fresh ingredients of the day, “mixed” gently and served simply.

For my “insalata mista” pictured below, I choose baby romaine lettuce from my garden, with a few of my mixed lettuce greens for color, along with carrots, red peppers and radishes.  Red onions would also have been a good addition.

I couldn’t resist making some large garlic croutons  for the side by cutting up crusty Italian bread into large rectangles and drizzling on a mixture of  extra-virgin olive oil and crushed garlic. I cooked them at 350° until lightly brown, but not too long, or the tiny garlic pieces will burn. Remember to turn them once while they are in the oven so each side can brown. In Italy, slices of bread are often brushed with olive oil and rubbed with a fresh clove of  garlic to be served as is or as the base of a bruschetta (pronounced broo-sket-ta).

plate of salad with mixed greens and small pieces of carrots, radishes and red peppers in the center, and large garlic croutons in the periphery
Insalata mista with garlic croutons

 

 

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Mixed Green Salad

with Gorgonzola Cheese

and Raspberries

 

Pictured below are mixed greens with gorgonzola cheese sprinkled throughout, crushed bits of walnut, and raspberries. Salad greens are tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar is drizzled on raspberries. A salad with Italian ingredients and a bit of a French flair since the walnuts and raspberries are included.  Here is a chance to use your walnut oil before it becomes stale!

Mixed salad greens with gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and raspberries
Mixed salad greens with gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and raspberries

 

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Spinach Salad with

Goat Cheese

and Strawberries

 

There are many versions of spinach salad, some of which use strawberries, probably because both ingredients are available at about the same time late spring, as I mentioned above. And they taste delicious together. I love this combination.

The pungent flavor of goat cheese is (in my mind) also connected with springtime, and I enjoy the combination of spinach and goat cheese.

I added red onion for contrasting flavor and for a bit of crunch I added almonds to the spinach salad below.

Instead of a sugary, strawberry-flavored dressing often found with this type of salad, I used extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of aged balsamic vinegar, which goes well with fruit and holds up nicely with the fairly strong flavor of spinach.  The Instagram post is below:

View this post on Instagram

Salade du jour = salad of the day. Insalata mista #Make a fresh baby spinach salad with strawberries and herbed goat cheese, red onions and almonds but leave out the sugary, artificially flavored dressing! Instead add extra virgin olive oil and mix salad greens, strawberries and onions. Put strawberries on top of leaves. Top with remainder of ingredients and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar for a springtime treat! #springsalad #springsalads #springsaladseason #goatcheese #goatcheesesalad #goatcheeselover #goatcheeselovers #spinachsalad #babyspinach #babyspinachsalad #frenchfoodathome #frenchiesofinstagram #frenchies #healthylifestyle #healthyfood #healthyfoodie #strawberrysalad #strawberrysalad🍓 #strawberrysalads #berrysalad #berrysalad🍓#frenchsalad #frenchsalads #frenchsaladlovers #makemirefrenchfood #saladedujour #salade #insalatamista

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

 

For more (many more!) salad ideas this spring and summer, visit my Instagram at Conversationalitalian.french

 

 

Buon appetito!

Italian Genealogy Podcast: Occhipinti Interview “How to Learn Italian for Travel”

Learn Conversational Italian books 2017
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Sorrentino on his podcast for Italiangenealogy.com, and I’ve included the link to our 30 minute conversation, entitled “How to Learn Italian for Travel” at the end of this blog.

If you listen, you’ll hear about my effort to find my Occhipinti relatives in Sicily and also about Bob’s fascinating family tree.  Bob was kind enough to ask me the story behind why I wrote my Conversational Italian for Travelers books, and  of course I couldn’t resist including some of my tips for learning Italian near the end of the podcast!

As many of you probably know, I have been building the Occhipinti family tree with my cousin, Jennifer Petrino of Sicilianfamilytree.com  for over 4 years now.  Actually, I should say that Jennifer has been building my Occhipinti family tree, as she has done all the research, with me serving only to outline the information I want her to find! This effort finally culminated in a long-anticipated trip last September to the Occhipinti home town of Ragusa, Sicily, which I wrote about in the blog Your Italian Travel Tips – Visit Ragusa, Sicily and Experience Centuries of Culture.

Jennifer introduced me to Bob Sorrentino’s website, Italiangenealogy.com, and I was immediately impressed. Bob has compiled a treasure trove of information about Italian Genealogy that covers many details of the field and he makes this information free to his readers. On his website one finds information on Italian family lines, Italian history, and Italian law and politics, with articles such as, “How Professional Genealogists Determine Ancestral Nobility in Italy” and “Medieval Genealogical Research.” I was also fascinated by the research he did to find his relatives back to the 900s AD and what he uncovered about his relatives along the way. I even found a video map of the peoples who have inhabited Sicily over the ages, which I was so enthralled with that I’ve copied it to this blob at the end of this section.

Here is what Bob has to say about his work, in his own words:

I was always a history buff and enjoyed going though the family photo albums. One item in the album was my great grandfather’s “calling card” that my maternal grandmother brought from Italy. The story was that he was a Count or at least Italian Nobility.

About 12 years ago I began the research into both my parents Italian families… I thought it would be fun to not only share my findings, but potentially help others find their roots. Not being a professional genealogist, I figured the best way to do this would be to create a website and a blog http://www.italiangenealogy.blog.
The blog is fun, but it is only a one way medium, so in early 2020 I create my podcast to interview not only professionals, that can help people with research and getting Italian citizenship, but just regular people that want to tell their story.

 

 

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And now, through the magic of the internet, I’m happy to be able to share my  experiences searching for my Italian heritage and my tips to learn Italian! 

Here is the link to the Podcast on Italiangenealogy.com
Buon divertimento!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s Talk About… The Weather Italian

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? 

If I am making small talk with someone I’ve just met, or conversing with a friend or family member, I find that knowing a little bit about how to describe the weather in Italian is very useful.  And, now that the warm weather is upon us in Chicagoland, I’m betting that we will all spend more time than usual talking about the weather.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when we talk about the weather in Italian we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 32nd in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

are used to talk about
the weather.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Let’s Talk About…

The Weather in Italian

 

For a general assessment of the weather, Italians use the ever-popular verb fare in the third person singular, which you will remember is fa. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb fare, you will find this in our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”  reference book.)

In English, the verb to be is used to directly refer to “it,” meaning “the weather,” and how “it” actually “is” outside Instead, Italians speak of the weather “it” is making with the verb fa. So, it is very important to think in Italian if we want to talk about the weather in Italian!

Remember that the reference to “it” in the Italian sentence will be left out, as usual.

Below are some examples of how this works, with the correct English translation in black and the literal Italian translation in gray, so we can understand the Italian language approach to this topic.

If you want to ask someone how the weather is, rather than telling them, you can use many of the same phrases, but just raise your voice at the end of the sentence. There is no need to invert the subject and the verb, as we do in English.

Notice that in Italian the same word means both time and weather — il tempo.

Che tempo fa?
What is the weather?  (lit. What weather does it make?)

Fa caldo.
Fa molto caldo!
Fa caldo?
It is warm/hot.
It is very hot!
Is it warm/hot?
(lit. It makes heat.)
Fa fresco.
Fa fresco?
It is cool.
Is it cool?
(lit. It makes cool.)
Fa freddo.
Fa freddissimo!
Fa freddo?
It is cold.
It is very cold!
Is it cold?
(lit. It makes cold.)
Fa bel tempo.
Fa bel tempo?
It is nice weather.
Is it nice weather?
(lit. It makes nice weather.)
Fa bello.

Fa bellissimo.

It is nice/very nice out. (lit. It makes nice/very nice weather.)
Fa brutto tempo.
Fa brutto tempo?
It is bad weather.
Is it bad weather?
(lit. It makes bad weather.)
Fa brutto. It is bad outside. (lit. It makes bad weather.)

 

 


Of course, we may want to know how the weather was during a certain event or at a certain time.  Chatting about the weather is a common pastime in any country. Why not chat about how the weather was in Italian?

To talk about the weather in the immediate past tense, we must return to the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.  We have been learning about these two forms of the past tense recently, in our last two blogs in this series.  For a more in-depth explanation of how to use the imperfetto and passato prossimo forms of the Italian past tense, click on the link for the verb tense you want to learn about.  Or, take a look at our reference book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”.

The imperfetto third person singular form of fare, which is  faceva, is the most commonly used form with our general expressions.

Of course, if we want to refer to a specific time frame, the passato prossimo third person singular form of fare, which is ha fatto, should be used.

Below are general questions about the weather, this time in the past tense: 

Che tempo faceva? What was the weather? (lit. What weather did it make?)
Come era il tempo? How was the weather?  

 

 And our answers, depending on the situation…

Faceva caldo. It was hot. (lit. It made heat.)
Ha fatto caldo tutto il giorno. It was hot all day.  
     
Faceva fresco. It was cool. (lit. It made cool.)
Ha fatto fresco ieri. It was cool yesterday.  
     
Faceva freddo. It was cold. (lit. It made cold.)
Ha fatto freddo quest’inverno. It was cold all winter.  

 

Faceva bel tempo. It was nice weather. (lit. It made nice weather.)
Faceva bello. It was nice outside. (lit. It made nice weather.)
     
Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad weather. (lit. It made bad weather.)
Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad outside. (lit. It made bad weather.)

 


Now, let’s try to be more specific and descriptive when we talk about the weather in Italian; let’s talk about common weather conditions, such as the rain, snow and wind, and how the weather changes throughout the seasons.

Below are a few conversational sentences.  Since I am living in the Chicago area, I couldn’t resist a few lines about the show we’ve had to shovel this past winter (although this does seem a long time ago by now).  How many more can you think of?

È primavera.* It is springtime.
Ci sono nuvole scure. There are dark clouds.
Viene a piovere. It is going to rain.
(lit. Here comes the rain.)
C’e la pioggia? Is it raining?
Piove. It’s raining.
Tira vento. It’s windy.
I fiori sono in fiore. The flowers are blooming.
Ho un mazzo di rose rosse che ho colto dal giardino. I have a bunch of red roses that I picked from the garden.

 

È estate.* It is summer.
C’è sole. It’s sunny. (lit. There is sun.)
È umido.
Andiamo alla spiaggia!
Andiamo in montagne!
It’s humid.
Let’s go to the beach!
Let’s go to the mountains!

 

È autunno.* It is autumn.
Fa fresco. It’s cool. (lit. It makes coolness).
Le foglie cadano dagli alberi. The leaves fall from the trees.

 

È inverno.* It is winter.
È gelido. It’s freezing.
La gelata è dappertutto. The frost is everywhere.

 

C’è la neve? Is it snowing?
Nevica. It’s snowing.
C’è la bufera di neve. It’s a snowstorm.
I fiocchi di neve sono tanti. There are so many snowflakes.
I bambini fanno un pupazzo di neve. The children are making a snowman.
Mi piace sciare. Ho gli sci belli. I like skiing. I have wonderful skis.

 

Devo spalare la neve ora! I have to shovel the snow now!
Voglio una pala per la neve. I want a snow shovel.
Uso sempre uno spazzaneve. I always use a snowblower.

*In a simple statement about what season it is, the Italian definite article (il, la, l’ = the) is not used after È.  However, in a longer sentence such as, “È l‘inverno che porta la neve,” the definite article (in this case l’) is used. (Translation: It is the winter that brings the snow./Winter brings the snow.)


Finally, there are a few rules to follow if we want to talk about specific weather conditions in the Italian past tense.

If we want to talk about a particular instance in time when we experienced a certain weather condition, we must use the passato prossimo form of the past tense.

When using the passato prossimo, the verbs piovere, nevicare, and tirare can be conjugated using either avere or essere, as in:

Ieri ha piovuto per due ore.         Yesterday, it rained for two hours.

            or

Ieri è piovuto per due ore.          Yesterday, it rained for two hours.

 

General phrases in the past tense about the sun, clouds, fog or humidity are talked about using the imperfetto. Or, if we want to mention the weather as the “setting” during a certain activity that happened once in the past, we would again use the imperfetto (usually as the first phrase) along with the passato prossimo (usually as the second phrase).

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The expressions we have already encountered in the second part of this blog are given below again, this time with the imperfetto in the first column and with the passato prossimo in the second column.

Notice the different meanings for each type of past tense. And how the word “it,” as usual, is left out of the Italian phrase, but is necessary for the English translation.

The words gia (already) and appena (just) are commonly used with the passato prossimo to give additional information.

 

Pioveva.
It was raining.
Ha già piovuto.
It already rained.
Nevicava.
It was snowing.
Ha appena nevicato.
It has just snowed.
Tirava vento.
It was windy.
Ha tirato vento tutto il giorno.
It was windy all day.
C’era sole. It was sunny.
C’era nebbia. It was foggy.
Era nuvoloso. It was cloudy.         
Era sereno. It was clear.
Era umido. It was humid.
L’umidità è stata molto alta oggi. The humidity was very high today.
L’umidità è stata bassa oggi. The humidity was very low today.

 

Remember how to talk about the weather in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips: Zucchini,Tomatoes, Strawberries and more!

Curved pathway is lined with pots growing herbs with markers in each pot. This leads to the background of a raised garden growing lettuce in one plot and peas in the other. Further in the background are zucchini mounds marked with the type of zucchini being grown.

 

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! It’s been another month since my last gardening blog and over these last weeks I’ve been thinning out my lettuce patch and enjoying delicious, fresh salads almost every day of the week.  Some of you may have already seen my Instagram posts of my “Salads du jour” “Salads of the day”

As I have mentioned in my previous Your Italian-American Gardening Tips blog, from March 29, this year I plan to focus on tending to my new raised gardens.  In this blog we’ll check in on the lettuce seeds I planted in early spring, and then set up our zucchini, tomato, and strawberry beds.

And also… we will check out how our perennial herbs I planted last year made it through the winter.

My hope is that you will enjoy the tips I’ve learned about gardening through many years of experience and be encouraged to start an Italian garden yourself — be it large or small, in a yard or on your porch, or even indoors in pots near a sunny window — after reading the blogs in this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.”  

Check out my Instagram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries and herbs.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about gardening!  

And remember the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you want an easy, step-by-step way to learn the Italian of today. Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Planting a Lettuce Patch…

and Harvesting!

When I last wrote, in March 2020, I demonstrated how a little plot of tilled soil can be used to spread lettuce seeds in rows.  Since that time, I’ve been watching the seeds as they have sprouted and started to mature.  It was a very rainy spring here in Chicagoland, so I did not have to water, except for the first few days after planting, to encourage the seeds to germinate.

As of this post, I have small radishes to harvest and also a variety of immature lettuces growing closely together.

Radish plants with small radishes growing in a row in a garden, with their identifying seed packet as a marker.
Radish seeds planted two months ago yield small, fully developed radishes.

2 months lettuce 2020-3

Radishes are one of the quickest vegetables to mature, and are not as harsh tasting if the weather remains cool.  They are also good to harvest young and small before they develop a more tough, woody texture.  I harvest radishes as I need them, pulling the entire plant out and choosing the largest to thin out the row and leave space for other plants to grow.

I scatter the radish bulbs in salads.  The radish greens are edible, but even young greens have a coarse texture that is not appealing in fresh salads.  Radish greens can be cooked on the stove-top in the same manner as other edible greens (olive oil and garlic if you are Italian) and I’ve even seen internet recipes for pesto, although I have not tried these.

Now that the lettuces have started to grow, I have been making my own “baby lettuce” salads, which I enjoy, while at the same time thinning out the rows so the lettuces can mature.  I especially like to eat these lettuces young, as in my area of the Midwest the weather tends to go from cold to very hot quickly.  Unfortunately, the heat will make lettuce “bolt,” which means a long flower stem will quickly grow and mature.  After this, the plant dies back.

Mixed green lettuce salad with chive flowers and radishes set out on a plant with brie cheese in the center.
Mixed green lettuce salad with chive flowers, radishes and brie cheese

For more (many more!) salad ideas this spring and summer, visit my Instagram at Conversationalitalian.french

This year I grew arugula ( also called roquette, or garden rocket), romaine lettuce and mixed lettuce greens.  I have yet to get romaine lettuce to fully mature (see reason above), but the young leaf makes a nice salad. Like most Italians, I like the bitter taste of arugula in salads, which technically is a mustard green. It is best eaten young,  because the hotter it gets outside and the larger the leaf, the more pungent and peppery the flavor. Spinach can also be grown easily from seed and is wonderful in salads, of course, and many years I also have young spinach leaves at this point as well.

Three rows of new greens in the garden, romaine lettuce, arugula and radishes.
Lettuce and arugula alongside radishes
Different types of young lettuce greens growing in a row with their identifying packet in the background
Mixed lettuce greens

 

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And how did the herbs overwinter? 

Overwintering herbs is always a challenge for me mainly because the heat and sunlight that herbs love are difficult to provide indoors. Rosemary, in particular is picky.  Rosemary likes a lot of sunlight and cool breezes; it needs heat, but does not like our heated homes. It grows wonderfully in the California bay area, where I’ve seen entire hedges of rosemary.  At home, this year I managed to find a corner close to, but not too close to a heat source, which was also by a large window, and this seemed to work fairly well. The plant survived, but looked a lot less happy then when it was growing outdoors this summer.

Also, as the winter progresses, I pinch off rosemary and bay leaves for cooking stews, leaving much less of a plant then when they started! Since there were only small herb plants this year at the nursery, and not much variety, I am glad my rosemary and bay plants survived indoors.

My potted herbs lead the pathway to my raised garden out back again this year.  I love having herbs right out my kitchen door, fresh and ready to use from spring to the first frost in the fall.  It takes only a morning of planting the annuals (and a little watering during dry spells) for a month’s long reward!

The rue, oregano and mint I planted outdoors last summer are perennials and loved our mild, rainy winter and have reappeared. Rue and oregano are already many times their original size! And the chives I planted about 10 years ago in a pot and have left outdoors in all types of weather, have predictably come up once again this year and are showing their lovely, spikes of purple flowers.

Small plant of rue with its identifying marker planted in 2019. Leaves have an unusual feathery appearance.
Original rue plant 2019
Large rue plant after one year of growth outdoors
Rue, May 2020
Close up of the leaves of a small oregano plant from 2019 with marker
Original oregano 2019
Large oregano plant one year later, May 2020
Oregano, May 202
Chives growing outdoors in a pot with spikes of purple flowers in May 2020
Chives flowering May 2020

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Planning Your Vegetable Garden

Before I plant my vegetable garden each year, I always draw a diagram that allows me to determine how much space I have for what I want to grow. Most times, I have more ambition than space! The drawing allows me to realize this.  I also (usually) check the seed packets and a gardening book to make sure the area I choose will give the plants the sunlight they require. I love the book Growing Fruit and Vegetables,by Richard Bird, but have also found lots of helpful advice on the Internet.

My raised garden with the lettuce patch is in a shady area of the yard, and in the more sunny raised garden next to it contains sugar snap peas for my spring greens.  I planted  zucchini along the side of the raised garden that gets the most sunlight.  Even here, I will probably not have enough space and will end up with vines growing on the lawn, but which looks a bit messy in a suburb, but it is the best I can do for now! I am going to try to train the vines to grow into a small area between the sunny part of the garden and the raised bed. We shall see…

Below is my “idea” of how my garden should look.  You will notice that I’ve made notes and “inter-planted” leeks and shallots between the rows of lettuce in the lettuce garden and seeds for an Italian turnip that is eaten like a broccholi rabe (cima di rapa) between the pea bushes.  The pots along the perimeter of the raised bed will start herbs from seed that I could not find in the nursery this year (more on these in later blogs).

Drawing of where lettuce, peas, zucchini, swiss chard and herb pots are to be planted
Lettuce and zucchini garden 2020

Oh, and I almost forgot the Swiss chard in the perimeter of the zucchini mounds. I’ve had good success in the past growing Swiss chard and cavolo nero (the so-called black Tuscan kale that has lately become so popular) from seed, with both plants producing stalks with large, colorful leaves that last through even in the hottest Illinois summers into the fall. These large, leafy greens have the added benefit of providing a natural “fence” that shelters the garden a bit from onlookers.  My plans for sorrel, cardoon and turnips had to be scratched for next year as I realized later that I will need a place to train my zucchini vines.

Because I like a large number and large variety of tomatoes and peppers, I built another raised garden in the sunniest part of the yard.  It is also a bit sheltered, just beside a fence, which will help protect the tomato plants from the fierce wind and thunderstorms we get in the Illinois summers. I also love strawberries and these fruits come up nicely each year in Illinois (although they are best when covered with sheets during episodes of frost), so I planted these in the middle of this raised garden.

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Planting Zucchini 

Zucchini grow wonderfully from seeds in the hot, humid summers of the Midwest. A few stray seeds have even been known to germinate in my compost heap!  I started growing zucchini in my home garden mainly for the zucchini flowers because zucchini flowers were not available at our local farmer’s market 10 years ago. They’ve become more popular now, but are often wilted in the heat of the market, and have to been cooked right away. So instead of purchasing them,  I’ve been growing zucchini for their flowers every year since I found out how easy it is to do.

There are only a few things to know about zucchini to ensure a large crop of zucchini to pick throughout the summer.

First, plant zucchini after the threat of frost is over in your region and the soil has warmed up.

Second,  zucchini love rich soil.  I always weed and then loosen the top soil and mix in cow manure. I know, not a fun job but put on your gardening jeans and long gardening gloves and use a shovel with a long handle!  Every time I do this I think of my Grandfather Occhipinti dragging my father along on the subway from Manhattan to their garden plot in Brooklyn, along with  bags of manure for their summer vegetable garden.  That must have been a sight (and a smell), no doubt!

Third, and maybe most important: there are both male and female zucchini plants. Bees must fertilize the female flower from the male flower for the female to mature into a zucchini.  (See blog from last year about zucchini).  For this reason, it is best to mound up the soil and plant the seeds around the mound, rather in a row.  The male and female vines will be close to each other for easy fertilization.

This year I found a company called Seeds from Italy that imports Franchi brand seeds from Italy and will mail the seed packets directly to your door. Below are the zucchini types I will try to grow.

Three seed packets with pictures of different types of zucchini.

Zucchini seeds from Italy

I am particularly excited about the zucchini variety that yields large flowers for making stuffed zucchini flowers called “le bizzare. ” This will be my first year attempting to grow cucuzza, the popular very long, southern Italian gourd that grows in the summer and is eaten like a squash.  More about this particular squash can be found in my blog from last year, Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes): Oregano (Origano) and Zucchini (Zucchina)

Unfortunately, I did not discover the flyer that came in the package with the cucuzza seeds until after I planted!  The flyer advised, ” Because the seeds are so hard, germination can take as long as four to six weeks. To speed germination, scarify the seeds before planting: the easiest way to scarify is to rub the seeds on coarse sand paper, just enough to weaken the seed coat without damaging the interior part of the seed. Then soak the seeds for 24 hours to further soften the seed coat… Germination of scarified seeds occurs in about 10-14 days.”  So, I will follow this process and replant at another sunny location in my yard, as advised, along a support by my fence for these vines that can grow 25 feet or longer. Even the best plans may need to be modified!

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 Planting Tomatoes

This past Memorial Day weekend,  I got lucky and coincidentally planted my nursery-bought tomatoes the day after a furious spring thunderstorm with hail.  It is possible to plant tomatoes earlier in Chicagoland, and many gardeners set Mother’s Day weekend as their target day for planting. This year was a bit cooler than most years in May. Also, because one year previously  my entire tomato crop was ruined by a hailstorm, and had to replanted just 3 days later, I always plant very late in May.

In general, tomatoes need to be planted after the last threat of frost is over.  They need a manured, fertile bed, lots of sun and lots of water. And with these three things the results will be so far superior than any store-bought tomato you will ever come across! I think it is the amazing flavor of a home-grown tomato that has kept Italian-American gardeners at it all these years more than any other vegetable.

Things I do:

I save my egg shells all winter, and then put them in a paper bad and crush them while inside the bag with a meat mallet. The calcium in the crushed egg shells is said to prevent bottom rot, and I’ve never had a case of this so it may be true. It may also create a sharp environment that slugs do not like to slide over, and I have not had a problem with slugs in the past either.  It is best to work the egg shells into the soil at the same time as the manure about a month before planting.  Calcium should leak out of the shells as they disintegrate over time, providing a steady source of this nutrient throughout the summer.

Marigolds are said to attract beneficial insects that prey on garden pests, so I plant marigolds in along the borders of my tomato patch. I’ve also read that if you sow marigolds as a cover crop and then plow them under before planting, they will repel harmful nematodes, such as roundworms, that like to feed on the greenery of growing vegetable plants.

Raised garden bed with tomatoes and their steaks. marigolds in the perimeter to keep away pests..
Just planted tomatoes and marigolds May 2020

Before planting a nursery-bought tomato plant, I pinch off any tomato flowers or tomatoes that may have started to form, to give the plant a chance to grow a bit before producing.

I plant the tomatoes as deeply as the first true leafy branch to encourage root growth. I set a tomato cage around the cherry tomatoes.  The rest have a steak set next to them so I can tie the stem loosely to give the plant support as it grows. There are other methods to support tomato plants, of course.

Watering  to get tomato plants through dry spells is essential.  It is best to water in the morning so the plants have water available during the hottest hours of the day.  Watering at night may also lead to mold formation.

Always check they information each particular tomato variety comes with. The “cordon variety” of tomato (not cherry tomatoes) will produce a side shoot (sucker) between the main stem and the fruit bearing stem.  If these are not trimmed off, the plant will  grow bushy and not produce much fruit. The best way to tell if you need to pinch off a side shoot is to watch the tomato plant as it grows.

So what happened to our San Marzano tomatoes that were planted from seed?

The good news is that almost all of the tomato seeds germinated nicely.  Their stems are spindly, so next year I will buy a grow light to help them to grow straight.

I transplanted the San Marzano seedlings into containers I had left over from last year.  When I first brought the transplanted seedlings outside, I left them in the shade as directed.  But, I think I brought them into the sunlight too quickly afterward, as the leaves started turning white around the edges, equivalent to a “plant sunburn,” according to my reading.  So the seedlings are back indoors to harden off for a bit.   There is a third raised garden with marigolds planted in the perimeter waiting for them.

transplanted San Marzano tomato seedlings in their small containers
San Marzano tomato transplants

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Planting Strawberries

There is really not much to know about planting strawberries, except that it is essential choose a variety that will grow nicely in your region and to use a berry fertilizer.  I like having a strawberry patch since my family loves strawberries and it seems like the ones in the grocery have become larger and larger and have less and less flavor as each year goes by.  Home-grown strawberries will be smaller, but taste more like the highly prized “fragole di bosco” or wild “strawberries of the woods” hand harvested in Italy.

There are many different varieties of strawberries that fruit at different times, some more continuously than others. It is best to go to a local nursery that you can trust with someone you can talk to before choosing your strawberries since, if properly planted they will come up again for many years.

There is a professional seed store I used to go to in Peoria, Kelly Seed and Hardware,  that sells just the root and shoot of a berry plant. The strawberries I bought from them over 10 years ago are still producing.  Soak the root in water for 24 hours and then plant the root underground, leaving the shoot above ground.

Or, just go to your local nursery and buy a strawberry plant that has already been started in a small container. Remove from container and plant at ground level, as you would any other container plant. The plants I bought for my new strawberry patch were the last flat of berries  at the nursery near me, so really no choice this year.  They are “ever bearing” type and the label says these berries produce fruit in June and then in the early fall.

Plant strawberries in a sunny location. My strawberries in Peoria like a bit of shade in the afternoon from companion-planting with asparagus. I will put a bit of straw under them when they start to produce berries to keep the fruit cleaner, although this is not absolutely necessary.  Water as you would any new transplant. The instructions on the strawberries I planted advised pinching off any strawberry flowers that develop for the first month. So, I will likely not have many (or any) berries this June, as I planted too late in the season.

Runners will develop after fruiting to create new plants. They can be removed once you have enough plants established and planted in another part of the garden if you wish.

After strawberries have fruited, my gardening book recommends cutting off the leaves and disposing of leaves and straw to prevent the spread of mold and diseases; although, I have to say I have not often (ever!) done this.

In the spring, when the plants start to come alive again, fertilize and cover with an old sheet to protect from frost when necessary. Below is my strawberry patch.  Since I planted late this year, I’m hoping for some berries this fall!

Raised garden bed with strawberries planted in the perimenter
Strawberries just planted May 2020

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Relaxing after a morning of gardening! Planted 3 types of authentic Italian zucchini and also Swiss chard in my garden next to the raised beds. Also some herbs I can’t find at the nursery are now starting from seeds in pots – borage, chervil, camomile, and sorrel. Borage is a uniqueherb loved by Romans. It makes both pink and blue fowers on the same plant. Can’t wait to float them in my wine the way the Romans did! Maybe I can make some Roman food with the leaves. I love the French Sorrel in my salads – tastes a bit like celery. If I can get it to grow in it’s pot I can transplant and it will come up easily every year in Illinois. Fresh Chervil is a must have for French cooking. And who doesn’t love the beautiful daisy flowers of camomile for their beauty and tea? Visit www.conversationalitalian.wordpress.com to follow my garden this year. More info and gardening tips on the blog! @theitaliangardenproject @niafitalianamerican @sons_of_italy #italiangarden #italiangardens #italiangardenstyle #frenchherbs #plantingherbs #plantingherbs☘️ #plantingherbseeds #frenchgarden #frenchgardenstyle #frenchgardenhousestyle #camomile #camomila #sorrel #borage #borageflowers #borageflowergarnish #borageflowertea #chervil #romancooking #romanscookingcorner #foodblogger @burpeehg @burpeegardening #italianzucchini #zucchiniflowers #zucchiniflowers🌼🌼🌼

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I hope you enjoyed reading about my gardening adventures so far this year.

Do you have a garden?  

Do you have a gardening story to share or any gardening tips? 

Please leave a comment!  I’d love to hear!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Available on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – “The Many Uses for “Passare”

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? 

Many Italian verbs are similar to those in English, which sometimes makes it easy to transition between English and Italian during conversation. However, many times the use of an Italian verb will vary  from the way a verb with a similar meaning is used in English.  Passare, the  Italian verb that means “to pass by” is one of those verbs that is important to “get to know” if one wants to use it correctly.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when use the Italian verb passare, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 33rd in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in conversation

use the Italian verb
passare.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Let’s Talk About…

The Many Uses for the  Italian Verb Passare

The Italian verb passare means “to pass,” as in “to pass through,” “pass by,” “pass time,” or “spend time.” This verb is used in many ways in Italian! We use the verb “to pass” or “passed” less often in informal English, often defaulting to more general English verbs like, “get/gone,” put” or “spend/spent” when we really mean “pass or passed.” But in Italian, it is important to be more specific and use the verb passare if you want to sound like a native when describing situations that have come to pass!

 

1. Use passare when you will “pick up” or “spend time with” someone

  • Use the Italian verb passare when you want to “pass by” and “pick someone up.” Passare is used in the important everyday expression “passare a prendere,” which means “to pick (someone) up (by car).”  
  • In the same way, use the verb passare to describe “dropping in to see” someone or “dropping in to visit” someone with the phrases, “passare a far visita” and “passare a trovare.” The latter phrase is similar to, but not identical in meaning to “andare a trovare,” which you may recall means “to go to visit” someone.
  • If you are inviting someone to visit you informally, but in an business setting, simply use passare with “in ufficio.” This phrase may be useful if you do not have a specific time you need to see someone on a particular day.
  • Another common informal phrase is “passare un attimo da casa,” which means, “to drop by the house for a bit.” Use this phrase to invite a friend over for an informal get-together or quick meeting at your house. If you use the verb passare in conversation, this will signal both your familiarity with both the person you are visiting, and with the Italian language!
Passerò/Passo a prenderti alle otto.”
I will (pass by and) pick you up at 8 AM.” 

Side note: if you want to ask someone to “pick you up” from a particular place, venire is used with prendere:

“Può venire alla stazione a prendermi?”
“Can you (polite) come to the station and get me?”

And a few more examples:

Domani, passo a far visita a mia zia Anna.
Tomorrow, I will drop in to see my Aunt Ann.
Domenica, passo a trovare la mia amica del cuore Maria.
On Sunday, I will drop in to visit my dear friend Maria.
Per favore, passi in ufficio domani mattina,
alle otto o dopo.
Please drop in to my office tomorrow morning,
at 8 AM or later. (polite)
La settimana prossima, passeremo un attimo da casa mia.
Next week, let’s drop by my house for a bit.

 

2. Use passare to mention somebody “passing by.”

  • If a person has recently “passed by,” someone else or “passed by”/ “gone through” a place, whether walking or driving, we must use essere as our past tense helping verb. Notice that this differs from English, and the English translation uses the verb “to have” instead.
“Ma quando Giovanni è passato davanti a me, l’ho riconosciuto.”
“But when John passed by in front of me, I recognized him.”
Michele non in piazza ancora. È passato!
Michael is not in the piazza anymore. He has passed by!

 

3. Use passare when making references about time

  • Use the verb passare to talk about time “passing by” in Italian, just as we do in English.  Time “passes by” all by itself, and is the subject of the sentence, so we must use essere (to be) as our past tense helping verb.
“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Maria quando lei ha incontrato una vecchia amica* per strada.
“How much time has gone by!” Mary said when she met an old friend on the street. 

*una vecchia amica = an old (longtime) friend; una amica vecchia= a friend that is old in years

  • If we want to talk about how we were doing something “to pass the time,” in the recent past, or if we have “spent time at” a certain location, we must use the verb passare with avere as our helping verb for the past tense.
  • To mention that you have “passed the night together with someone,” and imply a close relationship with that person, use the phrase, “passare una serata insieme.” 
  • To express the wish that someone “passes time well” over the holidays, use the verb passare with avere for the helping verb. (Notice the use of the subjunctive tense for avere with the verb sperare (to wish) in the example sentence.)
Ieri, ho passato tutto il pomeriggio a casa di Giulia.
Yesterday, I stayed at Julia’s house all afternoon.
Ieri sera, io e Michele abbiamo passato la serata insieme.
Last night, Michael and I spent the night together.
“Passa un buon Natale a Chicago!”
“Have (spend) a nice Christmas in Chicago!”
“Spero che la famiglia abbia passato un buon Natale!”
“I hope that the family had a nice Christmas!”
Lascia passare  i mesi dell’inverno e d’estate pensiamo alle vacanze.
Let the winter months pass and in the summer we will think about vacation.

4. Use passare when talking on the telephone

  • Use the verb passare to ask someone to “put through” another person talking on the telephone to you. This situation is encountered most often at work, of course, when trying to reach an individual important enough to have a secretary to screen calls. The first example given below is therefore in the polite tense. Now-a-days many individuals have cell phones, so it is less common, but still possible, to call a land-line at home and have a family member answer, so the same question may also be useful in the familiar tense.
  • When describing the act of passing the phone to someone in the past tense, use the helping verb avere (to have).
  • Notice the use of definite and definite pronouns to replace subject pronouns and names in the last examples.  If you need a refresher course on how to use these pronouns, check out Chapter   in Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar.
Mi può passare il signor Rossi? Can you put me through to Mr. Rossi?
Passami Michele! Put me through to Michael!
Ho passato Michele a te.  I’ve put Michael through to you. (Italian “a te” not frequently used.)
Ti ho passato Michele! I’ve put Michael through to you!
Te l’ho passato! I’ve put him through to you!

 

5. Use the reflexive passarsi to exchange things with someone

  • Finally, the reflexive verb, passarsi, has a slightly different meaning from the non-reflexive form that we have been discussing above.  The reflexive verb passarsi means “to exchange” something and is used in the same way as the verb scambiarsi. Both verbs take essere in the past tense, of course, because they are reflexive!
“Allora, ci siamo passati i numeri di telefono per tenerci in contatto d’ora in poi.”
“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will stay in contact from now on.”

 

Remember how to use the Italian verb passare in conversation and I guarantee
you will use this verb every day!

"Just the Verbs" from Conversational Italian for Travelers books
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Our Italy — Jo Mackay’s A to Z guide to the Towns and Villages of Lake Maggiore

Mountains surround a lake. In the center of the lake is an island called Isola Bella, or the beautiful island, with a large Italian villa on one end and an even larger terraced garden on the other end.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For 2020, I have changed the name of my series, “Your Italian Travel Tips,” to “Our Italy.” In this series, I share bloggers’ experiences of Italy, a country whose culture has captivated the world for thousands of years. I think now is the time to share these memories, knowing that one day we will all be able to return, inspired anew by the Italian people and their country.

Today I am happy to share a guest blog written by my friend Jo Mackay from  Bookings for You.com. Jo Mackay’s company, Bookings for You, offers a range of holiday villas and apartments in Italy and France for rental, and Jo herself has owned a holiday home on the beautiful Lake Maggiore since 2006.

When I read Jo’s Blog about Lago Maggiore I really felt like I had found a kindred spirit.  Lago Maggiore was the very first place I had visited as well when I returned to Italy as an adult in… 2001! Prior to this, I had only spent one week in the cities of  Rome and Florence as a college student. I  immediately fell in love with the beauty of this large, oval lake carved out from the surrounding pre-Alps just north of Milan. Due to its temperate stunning location, temperate climate, and many lush gardens filled with exotic plants, Lago Maggiore has been a favorite vacation spot for the well-to-do in Italy and Europe for centuries.

I enjoyed my stay on Lago Maggiore so much, in fact, that I made the town of Stresa on Lago Maggiore the focus of my Conversational Italian for Travelers story that is the framework for my books to teach Italian.

The story dialogues about Caterina, from my Conversational Italian for Travelers books, are free to listen to on my website, Learntravelitalian.com, either on your computer or phone (no APP required). Click on the Chapter 1 link on my website to start the story in simple, beginning Italian, when Caterina boards a plane from Chicago to Italy. If you’d like to hear more advanced Italian, click on the Chapter 13 link,when Caterina and her Italian family begin their Ferragosto vacation in Stresa on Lago Maggiore, 

And, of course,  be sure to read Jo Mackay’s wonderful photographic summary of Stresa, the small towns that dot Lago Maggiore, and the exotic islands within it by clicking the link below:

Our A to Z Guide of the Towns and Villages of Lake Maggiore/

 

If you’d like,  leave a comment about your first trip to Italy.
Where did you visit? How did the experience make you feel? I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Past Tense Imperfetto

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Let’s continue to learn about the Italian past tense to work toward this resolution!

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  in the past tense into our conversations, we will be able to talk about our daily lives just as we do in our native language! For instance, if we want to make general statements about what has happened in the past in Italian, we will need to master the imperfetto past tense. The conjugation of the imperfetto past tense is fairly straightforward.  The tricky part is knowing how to use this verb form.

This post is the 31st in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

use the past tense

imperfetto

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

Imperfetto Italian Past Tense

If we want to make general statements about what has happened in the past in Italian, we will need to master the imperfetto past tense. The conjugation of the imperfetto past tense is fairly straightforward.  The tricky part is knowing how to use this verb form.

The Italian imperfetto past tense refers to the recent past, and is useful when describing events that happened frequently in the past without a specific time frame.  The imperfetto in Italian translates into the simple past tense in English and also into “used to” or “was/were…ing.”  Let’s learn how to form this tense, which is actually quite easy, as the same endings are added to the stems for the –are, -ere, and ire verbs.

To change any infinitive verb into the imperfetto past tense, first drop the -re from the   -are, -ere, or -ire endingThis will give stems that will have the last letters as: a, e, and i.  Then, just add the following endings to the stems for all three conjugations: vo, vi, va, vamo, vate, vano. 

Let’s see how this works by conjugating some familiar verbs in the table below.  The stressed syllables have been underlined for easy pronunciation. Notice how the stress falls on the syllable just prior to the ending we add for the io, tu, Lei/lei/lui and loro forms.  For the noi and voi forms, the stress instead falls on the first syllable of the ending that is added.

Imperfetto Conjugation

  Abitare

(lived)
(used to live)
(was/were living)

Vedere

(saw)
(used to see)
(was/were seeing)

Dormire

(slept)
(used to sleep)
(was/were sleeping)

io abitavo vedevo dormivo
tu abitavi vedevi dormivi
Lei/lei/lui abitava vedeva dormiva
       
noi abitavamo vedevamo dormivamo
voi abitavate vedevate dormivate
loro abitavano vedevano dormivano

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Below is an excerpt from a conversation between two women, Francesca and Caterina. Caterina is an Italian-American girl who is visiting Francesca and her family in Italy during the Italian holiday of Ferragosto in August.  Francesca meets Caterina on the beach and Francesca mentions that she saw Caterina talking to someone before her arrival. To describe this activity in the recent past, Francesca uses the imperfetto form of the Italian  past tense.

If you would like to listen to the entire dialogue, recorded with an Italian-American and a native Italian speaker, just click on the link from the website Learntravelitalian.com: On the Beach at Last.

Francesca:

Caterina:

Francesca:

Caterina:

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You may have noticed from the previous dialogue that the imperfetto past tense was used in certain situations, sometimes in combination with the passato prossimo past tense.  If you need a refresher on when to use the passato prossimo past tense, please see our previous blog: Past Tense Passato Prossimo: “Avere” vs. “Essere”? 

So, when to use the imperfetto past tense?  Italians mainly use this tense to express an action that was done habitually in the past but is no longer being done.  Can you think of some things that might take place every day, for instance? For instance, reading the paper, going to school, going to work, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner?  If you want to talk about how you’ve done these things in the past, use the imperfetto! Sentences that use the imperfetto in this way are translated into the simple present tense and often include an adverb of frequency. Several of these adverbs are listed in the following table:

Italian Adverbs of Frequency

di solito often times
spesso very often
quasi sempre almost always
sempre always

 

Di solito, io finivo la lezione all’una il lunedì.
Often times, I used to finish the class at one o’clock on Mondays.

Quando ero piccolo, andavo a casa di mia nonna molto spesso.
When I was small, I went to my grandmother’s house very often.

 Quasi sempre mi sentivo male quando viaggiavo in barca.
I almost always felt sick when I traveled by boat.

 

**************************************

The other translation of the imprefetto past tense uses was/were -ing, and refers to an action performed in the past without mention of a particular starting or ending time.  This is especially important if two things have happened in the past, in which case the imperfetto is used for the first action in order to describe the setting at the time of both actions.  In this case, the completed action is given in the passato prossimo.  From our dialogue:

Caterina:

**************************************

It is also necessary to use the imperfetto past tense with the Italian verbs of thinking, believing, knowing and feeling  pensare, credere, sapere and sentirein order to refer to situations in the past.

Other phrases that refer to a personal state of being in the past, such as  being hungry or simply existing, use the imperfetto form of the verbs avere and essere.

The imperfetto conjugation of avere is regular:
io avevo,  tu avevi, Lei/lei/lui aveva,  noi avevamo, voi avevate, loro avevano.

The imperfetto conjugation of essere is irregular:
io ero, tu eri, Lei/lei/lui era, noi eravamo, voi eravate, loro erano.

To summarize… More uses for the imperfetto Italian past tense are listed below:

Pensavo che… I thought that…
Credevo che… I believed that…
Non sapevo che… I didn’t know that…
Mi sentivo male. I was feeling badly.
Io avevo fame. I used to be hungry.
Caterina era felice. Kathy was happy.

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the imperfetto: use the imperfetto when making generalizations about the past.

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For a final exercise using the imperfetto past tense, imagine you are a child and visited your Italian grandparents on their farm one summer. Tell a story in Italian about your daily routine.  Use adverbs of frequency and the imperfetto past tense to describe typical daily activities and how you felt living in the countryside. My attempt at this exercise is below.

Buon divertimento!  Have fun!

 

Un giorno in fattoria:                                    A day on the farm:

Avevo dieci anni l’estate scorso. I was 10 years old last summer.
Abitavo con mia nonna Maria e mio nonno Giuseppe durante l’estate a e mi piaceva molto la compagna! I was living with my grandmother Maria and my grandfather Joseph during the summer and I loved the country very much!
Di solito, io e nonna Maria preparavamo la prima colazione per la famiglia. Usually, io e nonna Maria made breakfast for the family.
Quasi ogni giorno, andavo di fuori per guardare gli animali della fattoria. Almost every day, I went outside to watch the animals on the farm.
Stavo molto bene in compagna. I felt really good in the country.
L’aria era fresca e il cielo era sempre blu.  The air was fresh and the sky was always blue.
Durante i pomeriggi, io e nonno Giuseppe camminavamo con il nostro gregge di pecore in montagne. During the afternoons,  Grandpa Joseph and I walked with our  herd of sheep in the mountains.
Nelle stasere, avevo molto fame! In the evenings, I was very hungry!
Ma non avevo fame per molto tempo perché a casa, nonna Maria cucinava una cena meravigliosa! But I was not hungry for very long, because back at home Grandmother Maria was cooking a wonderful dinner!

Of course, there are many, many more routine activities that can happen in a single day than what we have listed here. You may want to keep a short diary to practice using the imperfetto past tense forms in Italian. Every night before going to bed, write one or two sentences to describe in general how you felt during the day, or a habitual action that you performed. Soon it will be second nature to know when and how to use the Italian  imperfetto past tense!

Remember how to talk about the past using the Italian imperfetto and I guarantee
you will use this Italian past tense every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips: Planting a lettuce patch and starting tomato and basil from seeds

Raised garden now has tomatose and peppers growing. Marigolds in the corners.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! After the (hopefully) last snow, spring has arrived in Chicagoland! Despite all the turmoil in the world right now, in the last week, tulips and daffodils have popped up again around my neighborhood. To me, the reappearance of these pastel-colored, flowering bulbs has a special significance. It means that it is time for me to clear out my garden beds and plant my lettuce patch!

As I have mentioned in previous blogs in “Your Italian Gardening Tips,” last year I had to start a new garden from scratch after I moved from Peoria to a new house in the Chicago suburbs. For me this is a large job, so at first I focused on growing herbs in pots and shared Italian summer recipes that use fresh basil, parsley, and oregano.

This year I plan to focus on tending to my new raised garden. I’ll share photos taken while I plant lettuce and then Italian summer vegetables later in the season. In this blog, I’ll describe how is easy it is to plant a lettuce patch in the springtime and I will start San Marzano tomatoes and Genovese basil from seed.

My hope is that you will enjoy the tips I’ve learned about gardening through the years and be encouraged to start an Italian garden yourself — be it large or small, in a yard or on your porch, or even indoors in pots near a sunny window — after reading the blogs in this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.”  

Check out my Instagram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing lettuce, tomatoes and basil from seed.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about gardening!  

And remember the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you want an easy, step-by-step way to learn the Italian of today. Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Planting a Lettuce Patch

Luckily,  planting a lettuce patch provides some outdoor activity while we are all home bound this spring. All lettuce seeds require to grow is a rectangular bed of soil, some sunshine and a rainy springtime. Even a rectangular tub with low sides can be filled with soil, placed near a sunny, cool spot, and watered regularly for a small “indoor garden.”

But first, I’d like to share some photos from when I built my raised garden beds last year. When I lived in Peoria, I had lots of help from friends who knew how to do carpentry work and as a result I had a large, raised garden along the entire perimeter of my backyard.  But, after I moved, a friend told me about an easy-to-assemble kit that can be bought at Home Depot. Slats are carved into the posts that come in the kit. The planks fit snugly into the slats to create the walls of the garden bed and no nails are required. Being not very handy with a hammer and nails, I was thrilled to hear this!

There are many  raised garden bed kits to choose from on the Home Depot website, of all shapes and sizes. The kit I choose is a Greenes Fence Unfinished Cedar Raised Garden Bed.  I bought two 4 ft. x 8 ft. x 10.5 ft. sets, which I assembled one at a time.  I also bought Vigoro WeedBlock Weed Barrier Landscape Fabric to line the bed with prior to filling it with soil, as I’ve found this black fabric helps tremendously to keep the weeds at bay.  The WeedBlock fabric keeps sunlight out, so weeds cannot grow,  but allows water to drain through to the roots of the plants.

Below are the photos I took as I was assembling my garden last year (with a little help from my son and a friend). In the last photo, taken about a month later,  topsoil has been added and the raised garden completed with “tops” set on the corner posts. Tomatoes and peppers are starting to grow.

One rectangular raised garden bed, showing the slats in the posts and the planks that comprise the sides.
The slats in the posts fit the planks that form the sides of the bed in this raised garden.
A second rectangular raised garden bed has been added to the first and filled with soil, doubling the space available for planting.
Second raised garden bed added to the first

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raised garden now has tomatose and peppers growing. Marigolds in the corners.
Tomato and pepper garden, with marigolds in the corners

 

 

I like to put marigolds along the borders of my vegetable garden.  This year I put groups of them in the corners. Marigolds are said to attract beneficial insects that prey on garden pests. I’ve also read that if you sow marigolds as a cover crop and then plow them under before planting, they will repel harmful nematodes, such as roundworms, that like to feed on the greenery of growing vegetable plants.

So, where is the lettuce patch, you ask? Well, after last year’s harvest, I have to admit I left the garden a bit messy.  But the posts and walls held up well over the winter. Today’s job was to finish clearing out the gardens and to plant the lettuce seeds. We will have to wait to see the lettuce grow! I plan to post the garden’s progress on my Instagram account,  Conversationalitalian.french.

Raised garden with one side cleared of leaves and the other side still to be cleared
Cleaning up a raised garden after winter
Raised garden cleared. Lettuce and sugar snap peas have been planted, but cannot be seen. Brussels sprouts plants along the center of the garden wall.
Lettuce and sugar snap peas planted

By the way, did you notice the Brussels sprout plants along the middle wall between the two gardens? I was shocked to see the stems from the Brussels sprouts that I had planted last year partially alive. They had tiny Brussels sprouts growing near the base of the stem and at the very top. So for now, I left these volunteer plants in place.

 

 

My daughter once called my method of gardening, “Survival of the Fittest” gardening. Sometimes, I think this is true. I don’t like to harm things that are already growing, and am hoping to see a few volunteer tomato and pepper plants from seeds left last year later in the season as well! But, to be honest, I am often distracted by different projects, leaving the poor garden vegetables to compete with the weeds or fen for themselves in the August heat.  I’ll try to do better this year so I have a few respectable photos to show.

Anyway, planting lettuce seeds is very easy.  Just make a shallow row with your spade and sprinkle the tiny seeds along the row.  Yes, there are instructions on the back of each seed packet about how to do this — the depth (important not too deep) and how far the seeds should be planted from each other (less important).  Lettuce seeds are so small, it is almost impossible to space them as described on the package. When the seeds sprout, any sprouts planted too closely can be pulled for your salad, and this will even up the spacing. So I simply sprinkle the seeds in a shallow groove, cover the seeds loosely with soil, water gently, and let them grow, as I know they will!

In the first bed I made 8 rows and planted radishes and different types of lettuces. In the second bed I planted 8 rows of sugar snap peas.  Peas love the cool weather and my family loves peas  so I am hoping these do well this season.

Below are  pictures of the lettuce seeds I planted today, with the row numbers labeled on each. I also planted radishes because they grow quickly and are great in salads and even as a snack. When I was in Paris a couple of years back, I saw a French couple eating them at a very nice restaurant as an appetizer. They spread a whole fresh radish with a bit of  butter and then gently bit into it. But, I have to say, I have not tried this myself. Maybe this year…

Packets of seeds include pictures of radishes, arugula, mixed greens, and romaine
Lettuce and radish seed packets, with rows numbered.

 

 

*******************************

 Growing San Marzano Tomatoes
and
Genovese Basil from Seed

 

At my latest visit to the local Home Depo this year, I was excited to find seeds for Genovese basil and San Marzano tomatoes. I also found a small kit called a “Jiffy Professional Greenhouse” that will allow me to start these seeds indoors with just a grow lamp. I have not tried growing either tomatoes or basil from seed before, but for me it is worth the extra work to have these special Italian varieties available for my Italian cooking this summer.

The kits are small, square plastic containers with rows of starter peat moss.

Jiffy Professional Greenhouse, small plastic square box with San Marzano tomato seeds on top
Jiffy Professional Greenhouse with San Marzano tomato seeds
San Marzano tomato seeds have been planted into expanded soil packets
San Marzano tomato seeds planted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply fill with water to expand the peat moss, place 2-3 seeds in each, and cover. Place the beds on a small table with a grow lamp over-head.

When the seeds sprout, there are more instructions on the package about how to transfer them outdoors.  I can’t wait to see how mine do.  I could have as much as 36 plants of tomatoes and 36 more of basil.  Guess I will have to get started building another raised garden…

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Available on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Our Italy — “La Traviata by Verdi: A Spectacular Evening in Verona”

Amphitheater in Verona, Italy, arial view taken during an evening performance, with the spot light on the stage and a large crowd in attendance.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For March 2020 and for the rest of the year, I have decided to change the name of my series, “Your Italian Travel Tips,” to “Our Italy.” In this series, I will share bloggers’ experiences of Italy, a country whose culture has captivated the world for thousands of years. I think now is the time to share these memories, knowing that one day we will all be able to return, inspired anew by the Italian people and their country.

Today I am happy to share a guest blog written by my friends Ilene and Gary from Our Italian Journey.

Ilene and Gary are a retired couple from the United States who, after a “journey” that started in 2015, became dual American-Italian citizens in 2019. They have been traveling to and blogging about their experiences in Italy since 2010. Read on for their post La Traviata by Verdi — A Spectacular Evening,  from their visit to Verona in 2019.

Ilene and Gary experienced their first Opera, La Traviata,  in Verona’s outdoor amphitheater. Reading the account of the special evening Ilene and Gary shared together brought back fond memories for me, as La Traviata is also the first opera I ever attended. I was only in the 4th grade, and the entire 4th grade of my public school, about 80 children, was bused into New York City to the Metropolitan Opera House and treated to a weekday matinee.

The Metropolitan Opera House was the most stunning building I had ever entered, with red velvet on the floors, gold leaf on the walls, and a large, starburst-shaped crystal chandelier hanging down to greet us as we passed into the grand foyer. There were thousands of children there from neighboring schools. The excitement in the air was palpable. The singing,  and the period sets and costumes were unforgettable. Even though we were young, and most of us did not understand Italian, we sat still and our eyes were fixed on what was happening on the stage. I have been an fan of Italian opera ever since and will never forget this first experience.

Reading  about Ilene and Gary’s spectacular evening during their first viewing of La Traviata made me realize that I need to put this type of opera experience on my bucket list for when I can return to Italy.  And I hope that those of you who are not opera buffs — as Ilene and Gary were not when they experienced La Traviata in Verona —  will think of Opera as something you might enjoy as well.

Below is just one of the fantastic images Ilene and Gary share on Our Italian Journey from this evening. Also included in the blog is short recording of the most famous aria of this opera, “Brindisi” (The Drinking Song).

 

Outdoor stage of the Arena di Verona with spotlights on the performance of "La Traviata". Set and singers are illuminated and a portion of the orchestra pit and surrounding audience in the area can be seen through the darkness.
Cast of La Traviata performing onstage at the Arena in Verona, Italy. Photo courtesy of “Our Italian Journey” 2019.

Please leave a comment about your first or your most memorable opera.
Where were you? How did the experience make you feel? I’d love to hear from you!

 

                                       ********************************************

And… Ilene and Gary have graciously included a copy of my pocket travel book, “Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases”  on their website, under the section “My favorite Travel Tools.”   Now you can order my book directly from their site! 

Grazie mille, Ilene and Gary for including me on your blog and for your kind words about my book: “Author Kathryn Occhipinti has become a friend through social media. She sent us this book to get our thoughts about it. We love it. It is a great little book – packed with just the right information. A must as a traveling companion in Italy.” 

 

Here is the link to Ilene and Gary’s blog from “Our Italian Journey.”
Buon divertimento!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Past Tense Passato Prossimo – “Avere” or “Essere”?

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Let’s continue to work on this resolution!

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  in the past tense into our conversations, we will be able to talk about our daily lives just as we do in our native language! For instance, if we want to tell our family and friends what has happened during our day,  we will need to master the Italian passato prossimo past tense. The conjugation of the passato prossimo is fairly straightforward.  The tricky part is how to choose between the helping verbs avere or essere.

This post is the 30th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

use the past tense

passato prossimo 

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Past Tense:

Passato Prossimo

Every Italian student starts by speaking only in the present tense — that is, about what is happening in the “here and now.”  But what if we want to refer back to an event that has happened in the recent past, such as this morning, yesterday, or last year?  Well, then, will have to learn how to form the passato prossimo past tense!

The passato prossimo translates into English as the present perfect tense and the simple past tense; in effect, when we learn this one type of past tense in Italian, we can substitute it for two types of past tenses in English! To avoid confusion, we will always use the Italian name, the passato prossimo, for this tense.

To get started speaking in the passato prossimo past tense, we must first learn how to form a past participle. Regular past participles in Italian can be recognized by their endings, and will have either ato, -uto, or -ito endings for infinitive verbs with the endings  -are, -ere, and -ire endings respectively. Many common Italian past participles are irregular, though, and will need to be memorized.

Once we have our past participle, we have to decide if we should use the helping verb avere (to have) or essere (to be). English is not much help in this regard, because English always uses the past tense verb “have” as the helping verb with a past participle. For instance, in English we say: ” I bought/I have bought” or “I went/I have gone.” For Italian, avere can be considered the “default” helping verb, although essere is essential as well.

Essere is needed for verbs that describe directional movement, such as coming and going from a particular place, as we touched upon briefly in our last blog, “Going and Returning.”  Essere is also used with verbs that describe the “passage through time” that occurs with living: birth, growing up, and death, or any other change in life.  Reflexive verbs and the verb that means “to like,” piacere, always take essere as the helping verb.

Let’s summarize:

When to use Essere + Past Participle for the Passato Prossimo Past Tense
1. Verbs of directional motion
2. Birth and growing up
3. Verbs that describe change
4. Reflexive verbs
5. Piacere (to like)
When to use Avere + Past Participle for the Passato Prossimo Past Tense
All verb types except those listed under the list for essere

Passato Prossimo with avere…

Below is an excerpt from a conversation between two women, Anna and Francesca, who meet for coffee at a cafe and are talking about what has happened earlier that morning. Francesca went shopping that morning with another friend, Caterina. To describe this activity in the recent past, Francesca uses the helping verb avere (to have) and the past participle comprato (bought) to form the passato prossimo form of the past tense.

You will notice from this dialogue that it takes two Italian words to express what we usually say with one word in English! We could express the same idea in English with two verbs, but usually default to the one-word, simple past tense.

In our dialogue, avere is conjugated to reflect the speaker; the ending for the past participle comprato remains the same, no matter who is the speaker. The two Italian past tense verbs have been underlined so they are easier to recognize. The Italian pronouns have been left out of the Italian sentences as usual, so these are put into parentheses in English. In most cases, there can be two translations in English. Since the less commonly used English translation usually more closely matches the Italian way of thinking, this secondary English translation is given in gray letters within parentheses.

If you would like to listen to the entire dialogue, recorded with two native Italian speakers, just click on the link from the website www.learntravelitalian: At the Coffee Shop.

Anna:

Francesca:

Anna:

Francesca:

Anna:

Francesca:


Passato Prossimo with essere…

Before we start to use the passato prossimo with the helping verb essere, we must first remember that in this situation the ending of the past participle must change to match the gender and number of the speaker. This follows our usual “matching subject, verb and predicate” rule for the verb essere.  

As a review of this rule with essere and the passato prossimo, below are some simple examples using the verb andare (to go). The masculine names and endings are given in brown, and the feminine names and endings in red.

  1. For masculine and feminine singular, to talk about who has gone somewhere:
Pietro è andato. Peter has gone.
Caterina è andata. Kathy has gone
  1. For a group of men or a group of men and women, the masculine plural i ending applies
Pietro e Michele sono andati. Peter and Michael have gone.
Pietro e Caterina sono andati. Peter and Kathy have gone.
  1. If the group contains only women, the feminine plural e ending is used.
Caterina e Francesca sono andate. Kathy and Frances have gone.

Also, remember that the past participle for essere is irregular, and is stato.

The past participle for avere is regular, and is avuto.

****************************************

Below is an example dialogue using both avere and essere as the helping verbs. Caterina and Elena are two travelers who are staying at the same hotel for the Italian holiday Ferragosto. They have just met each other on the beach.

The Italian passato prossimo past tense verbs have been underlined in our dialogue, so they are easier to recognize in the sentence examples below. The pronouns have been left out of the Italian sentences as usual, so these are put into parenthesis in English, and the less commonly used English translation is given in gray lettering with parentheses.

One of the lines in our dialogue uses the imperfetto past tense, which will be the topic of the next blog in this series. The imperfetto verb has not been underlined. Can you find it in the dialogue?

If you would like to listen to the entire dialogue, recorded with two native Italian speakers, just click on the link from the website www.learntravelitalian: On the Beach at Last.

Elena:

Caterina:

Elena:

Caterina:


Passato Prossimo with avere vs. essere…

There are some Italian verbs of motion that intuitively would seem to take essere as the helping verb in the passato prossimo past tense.  And yet… these verbs of motion instead take avere as their helping verb! 

Camminare and ballare are two verbs of movement that take the helping verb avere, rather than essere.

This may seem a bit curious, although one could say that dancing is movement without any set direction; spinning and turning are common, of course, and there is no set beginning or end to a dance, except in a performance.

Why does camminare take avere, and not essere? Maybe because it is sometimes used with the meaning of “to stroll,” which implies a leisurely walk without any set direction? Or maybe that is just the way it is, and there is no real explanation!

Take home lesson: to use essere as the helping verb, the main verb must be a verb that takes us from one place to another; in short, a verb of directional motion! Otherwise, we must use avere.

Below is a list of non-directional verbs of motion that take avere:

camminare to walk /to proceed /to function
ballare to dance
passeggiare to stroll /to walk
nuotare to swim
sciare to ski
pattinare (sul ghiaccio) to ice skate
pattinare (a rotelle) to roller skate
fare windsurf to windsurf

And, what about correre, you ask, the verb that means “to run” in Italian? Predictably, correre will take essere if one has run toward a destination.  Also, in order to say “to quickly go” in a figurative way in Italian, use essere + correre + appena. The past participle for correre is corso(a).

Lui è corso a casa sua. He ran to his house.
“Sono corsa appena mi hai chiamato.” “I came as soon as you called me.”

If one has simply “run around” without a destination, correre will take avere. Also, use the helping verb avere to describe that you have actually run during a sport activity. 

Lui ha corso. He ran.
Ho corso 20 km oggi. I ran 20 km today.

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For a final exercise in the passato prossimo past tense, let’s imagine some activities that may take place during a typical day, and describe them in the past tense.

There are four situations in which we will need to use the passato prossimo past tense:

Activities that occurred once, or a specific number of times in the past will use the passato prossimo past tense in Italian.
Activities that were performed within a specific time period, such as an hour, a morning, a day, or a year, will also use the passato prossimo. 
A state of being that occurred in a specific time frame will use the passato prossimo.
A state of having something during a specific period of time will use the passato prossimo.

You will notice a common thread in the reasoning behind when to use the passato prossimo: use the passato prossimo for a specific, time-limited activity.

Below are the example sentences from daily life.  As an exercise, match each sentence below with one of the explanations given above for why the passato prossimo should be used.

Also, notice when essere is chosen as the helping verb and how the ending of the past participle changes with essere to match the gender and number of the subject. All past tense verbs have been underlined. Buona fortuna!  Good luck!

Un giorno nella vita di Roberto:                        A day in the life of Robert:

Stamattina, mi sono svelgiato presto. This morning, I woke up early. (masculine)
Ho preparato la prima colazione per mia sorella minore. I made breakfast for my little sister.
Mia sorella è andata a scuola. My sister went to school.
Ho letto il giornale. I read the paper.
Alle nove di mattina, sono andato a lavorare. At 9:00 in the morning, I went to work.
Sono dovuto andare a lavorare per ogni giorno questa settimana. I had to go work every day this week.
Mi sono sentito molto stanco tutto il giorno oggi. I felt very tired  all day today.
Dopo le feste, ho avuto molto lavoro da fare. After the holidays, I had a lot of work to do.
Mi sono piaciuti molto gli spaghetti per cena stasera!  I really liked the spaghetti for dinner tonight!

Of course, there are many, many more activities that can happen in a single day than what we have listed here. You may want to keep a short diary to practice using the passato prossimo; every night before going to bed, write one or two sentences to describe important events that have happened during the day. Soon it will be second nature know when and how to use the two verbs in the passato prossimo past tense!

Remember how to talk about the past using the passato prossimo and I guarantee


you will use this Italian past tense every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips — A Taste of Umbria by Martine Bertin-Peterson

Photograph taken from a mountain top, looking down on the hills of Umbria, dotted with villas and trees
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For my February edition of “Your Italian Travel Tips,” I am happy to share a guest blog written by my friend Martine Bertin-Peterson from  Goût et Voyage Taste and Travel.

I recently discovered, and fell in love with Martine’s website and the culinary tours she offers in France and Italy. Read on to learn a bit about Martine and her tour company  Goût et Voyage Taste and Travel. Then, read Martine’s guest blog with the beautiful photos she has provided and take a short virtual tour of the towns in Umbria through her eyes. I’m sure after reading her blog you’ll want to visit to Umbria yourself and see all the wonders this unique Italian region has to offer!

And… Martine has graciously included a copy of my pocket travel book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” as a part of the package for the guests on her next culinary tour of Umbria. I’m so happy to have provided a small contribution to her tour group!

Here is how Martine describes her passion for France and Italy:
Goût et Voyage was founded by Martine Bertin-Peterson to bring together her lifetime passions of travel, cooking and culture.
Creating unforgettable memories, Martine serves as the escort for all Goût et Voyage culinary travel adventures. The signature program, “Taste of Provence” is also offered in Italy, Taste of Umbria & Tuscany.” 
Martine’s background and experience are as wide-ranging as her interests. She has decades of culinary experience gained through formal and informal cooking courses in the United States, France and Italy. Born in France and fluent in 5 languages, Martine has traveled to more than 50 countries across 5 continents.  She has escorted travel groups throughout Europe and Latin America over the past 30+ years.

 

 


 

A Taste of Umbria

by Martine Bertin-Peterson

Umbria, the “green heart” of Italy, is Tuscany’s quieter, less touristy neighbor. Avoid the traffic and hustle and bustle of Tuscany and spend time in Umbria’s charming medieval hill towns, visit its cultural sites and its taste its regional specialties.

Round table is set for lunch on an outdoor patio in Umbria with a view of the olive groves and surrounding mountains.
Charming table set for lunch “al fresco” in Umbria

Assisi, the home of St. Francis and a UNESCO World Heritage site is perhaps Umbria’s most famous- and busy- town. The Upper Church of the magnificent Basilica tells the story of St. Francis’ life through 28 frescoes by the renowned 13th century artist, Giotto. The equally impressive transept was painted by Giotto’s master, Cimabue.  I am not usually a fan of recorded “guides” but it is worth a few euros to grab the ear sets at the front of the church and listen to the history and description of these well preserved works of art and devotion. 

Not far from Assisi is Perugia, the capital of Umbria. Skip the lower town with its urban sprawl and head to the historic center where you’ll find a variety of museums and architectural sites. Perugia is a bustling university town with lovely shops and cafes, and of course, the Perugina chocolate factory, just outside of town (open for tours daily). I prefer to visit Perugia at the end of the day, when the centuries old ritual of the “passegiata” takes place. Snag a seat at an outdoor cafe, order a Aperol spritz and watch as all of Perugia takes its pre-dinner stroll.

Visit Spoleto, home of the annual music festival, Festival of 2 Worlds in June and July to catch world-class opera, dance and orchestral artists. Gubbio, Umbria’s oldest village is also worth a visit. Its Roman theater, mausoleum and palaces and towers offer glimpses into daily life of the distant past.

 

Courtyard with beige brick building and steps to doorway lined with red flowers in pots and iron terrace lined with purple flowers all bathed in sunlight
Courtyard in the town of Spello, Umbria

Take a break from these better known towns and head to Spello, home of the Infiorata Flower Carpet Festival, (https://www.infiorataspello.it/) If you are lucky to visit Spello during the festival (June 13-14, 2020) you’ll witness stunning floral “carpets” throughout the town in celebration of the feast of Corpus Domini. Even if you can’t make the Infiorata, the homes and shops in Spello are decorated with colorful flowers all Spring and Summer.

 

Colorful plates that look like flowers standing on tiles with a similar floral pattern.
Ceramics from Umbria

Deruta, the ceramic capital of Italy, is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Italian  crafts. Many of the ceramic shops invite visitors to watch as their artisans create dishes, platters and wall hangings in traditional patterns and shapes. These pieces make thoughtful gifts for friends and family. Custom pieces, like my lemon wall hangings, were designed by Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio,  upon request and were safely shipped to my home. 

Wooden serving board with cured meats found in Umbria, such as salami, prosicutto, and hard cheeses. Center of soft Mozzarella cheese in a bowl.
Cheese and meats typical of Umbria

To take advantage of all this sightseeing, you’ll need to fortify yourself with the region’s specialty foods. Pork and pork products – ham, sausage and all manner of “salume” reign supreme. Pair these with the local sheep’s milk cheese (pecorino) and a hunk of the oven-baked, unsalted bread, typical of Umbria. You’ll want to accompany your meal with an Umbrian wine, Sagrantino di Montefalco or a Grechetto from Assisi.

 

Many of the local wineries are small and family-owned. For a modest fee, you can have a tour of the vineyards and cellars, followed by a guided tasting of several wines accompanied by nibbles of  salami, bruschetta, cheese and olive oil. A listing of these wineries may be found here: http://www.stradadelsagrantino.it/en/wineries/montefalco.php

-Gout et Voyage© 2020

 

 

 

 

Valentine Phrases in Italian for Your Special Someone

Bouquet of white roses along the bottom and heart shaped pattern of red roses along the top of the bouquet.
www.learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for http://www.learntravelitalian.com  It’s easy… if you know the right Italian phrases!

It’s easy to say, “I love you!” in a romantic way in Italian.  When you are with your special someone this Valentines Day, just remember two little Italian words: “Ti amo!” But, of course, there is so much more to love and romance than just saying a few special words!

That’s why I’ve included a special section in my pocket travel book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases,” entitled “Making Friends.”

For Valentine’s Day this year, I’ve reprinted some of the phrases from my “Making Friends” section this blog. In the Conversational Italian for Travelers book, I’ve included some typical Italian phrases to use if you’ve decided to stay awhile in Italy and want to approach someone to get to know them better. Or maybe you know an Italian or Italian-American here in the states, and both of you realize how romantic the Italian language can be! In this slim Italian phrase book are some tongue-in-cheek, humorous phrases, some phrases one might say in return if they are interested… and other phrases one might say in return if they are not! We will stick to the positive phrases for this blog for Valentines Day.

Also, I am including in this blog a few new phrases I have just learned from the You Tube Italian personality Anna on the channel Your Italian Circle.  Her video, “How to talk about LOVE in Italian – AMORE in ITALIANO” mentions how to use the verb of romantic love, amore, and the other important phrase for one’s love of family and friends, “Ti voglio bene.”  I’ve covered these topics last year in my blog: “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day — How to say, ‘I love you!’ in Italian.”  Click on the link to my if you like, and then listen to Anna’s clear Italian to practice saying these phrases yourself at the end of this blog.

After reading this blog, please reply and mention your favorite romantic Italian phrase. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

“Making Friends” in Italian*

So, now you are in Italy, and have decided to stay for awhile.  You may meet someone you want to get to know better.  What to say to them to “break the ice”?  Or, maybe you are just trying to enjoy a coffee, and someone introduces themselves.  What to say if you are interested?  Here are some well-known pick-up lines translated into Italian (some just for fun and others more serious), and some replies – if you are interested – or not!

Let’s get to know one another:

Scusa… Excuse me… (familiar)
Credo che ci siamo già visiti prima? Haven’t we seen (already met) each other before?
…da qualche parte? …around here?
Penso di conoscerti già. I think that I’ve met you before.
Hai degli occhi molto belli! You have beautiful eyes.
Tu hai il viso della Madonna. You have a beautiful face.
(lit. the face of Mother Mary)
Che cosa fai… What are you doing…
…per il resto della tua vita? …for the rest of your life?

 

Or, a little less flowery:

È libero questo posto? Is this seat free?
Ti dispiace se mi siedo qui? Would you mind if I sit here?
Posso sedermi con te? May I sit with you?
Ti piace questo posto? Do you like this place?
Ti stai divertendo? Are you enjoying yourself?
Con chi sei? Who are you with?
Sono da sola(o). I am alone. (female/male)
Sono con un’amica/un amico. I am with a friend. (female friend/male friend)
Sto aspettando qualcuno. I am waiting for someone.
Sei sposata(o)? Are you married? (to female/male)
Sei single?** Are you single?
Sei divorziata(o)? Are you divorced? (to female/male)
Cosa prendi? What are you having?
Posso offrirti qualcosa da bere? May I offer (to) you something to drink?
Vuoi qualcosa da bere? Do you want something to drink?
Vuoi qualcosa da mangiare? Do you want something to eat?
Vuoi fare una passeggiata? Do you want to go for a walk?

**Although the English word single is commonly used in Italian conversation, the Italian words for single are nubile for a woman and celibe for a man, and these words are used on official Italian forms.

 


 

Let’s get together…  (This is a good time to memorize those Italian prepositions!)

Perché non ci vediamo?     Let’s get together.
                                                   (lit. Why don’t we get together/see each other?)
Posso avere il tuo…                          May I have your….
            numero di telefono?                           telephone number?
            indirizzo email?***                             email address?
Hai tempo domani?                          Do you have time tomorrow?
Posso rivederti domani?                 May I see you again tomorrow?
Sei libera(o) domani,          Are you free (to female/male) tomorrow,
            domani sera,                                        tomorrow night,
            la settimana prossima?                    next week?
Vuoi andare al ristorante Do you want to go to a restaurant?
            al bar?                                                   a (coffee) bar?
            al caffé?                                                a cafe?
            in pizzeria?                                         a pizzeria?
Posso invitarla/ti a cena?     May I invite you (pol.)/(fam.) to dinner?
Ti piacerebbe/Vuoi…              Would you like to/Do you want to…
           andare in piazza?                                 go to the piazza?
           andare al cinema?                                go to the movies?
           andare al concerto?                             go to the concert?
           andare allo spettacolo  ?                    go to the show (performance)?
           andare a ballare?                                  go dancing?

***To  learn say your email address in Italian, visit our blog Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day — Let’s talk about email in Italian. 


 

According to Anna from the You Tube Channel Your Italian Circle, a familiar way an Italian might ask someone out is with the phrase “Ti va.”  The use of this expression probably derives from the familiar slang phrase, “Come va?” “How’s it going?” and the answer, “Va bene,” for “It’s going well.” The extension of these simple Italian phrases of  greeting into other facets of  life is a good example of how language is always changing and evolving into something new!

So, to ask someone you know if you can get them something, just use:

Ti va + noun (thing) = Do you want…

Expanding on one of our examples above:

Ti va qualcosa da bere? Do you want something to drink?
Ti va un appertivo? Do you want a cocktail?
Ti va un caffè? Do you want a coffee?

 

To ask someone if they want to do something, just use:

Ti va + di + verb (action) = Do you want to…

Expanding on one of our examples above:

Vuoi andare al ristorante? Do you want to go to a restaurant?
Ti va di andare al ristorante? Do you want to go to the restaurant?
Ti va di andare al cinema? Do you want to go to the movies?

 


 

And if the answer to any of the questions above is… yes! 

Penso di si. I think so.
Si, sono libera(o)…. Yes, I am free (female/male).
È stato molto gentile a invitarmi. It was very nice (of you polite) to invite me.
È molto gentile. That is very nice (of you polite).
Che bell’idea! What a wonderful idea!
Che bello! How nice!
Mi piacerebbe molto. I would like (it) very much.
Volentieri! I’d love to! (lit. certainly, gladly)

If you want to hear many of these phrases in action, just click on Anna’s video “How to talk about LOVE in Italian – AMORE in ITALIANO” from Your Italian Circle.

Buon divertimento e Buon San Valentino! 

 


 

*Some of this material has been reprinted from our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases pocket travel book. Learn more phrases by purchasing your own handy book of phrases today!

 Available on amazon.com or Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

 Purchase at amazon.com or Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Where we are going… in Italian

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Now is the time to get started working on this resolution!

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  about where we are going in Italian, we will be able to talk about our daily lives just as we do in our native language! We will need to master how to use the  Italian verb andare and the Italian verb venire for when we return home, but there are other important verbs of “going” and “coming  home” that are commonly used in Italy as well.

This post is the 29th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

are used to talk about “going” and “coming home”

with the verbs
andare, venire, arrivare, tornare, rientrare

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

Where we are going… in Italian

Andare, Venire, Arrivare, Tornare, Rientrare

 

On any given day, the most commonly talked about activity is where one is going. We make plans, we go, we return, we talk about our activities along the way, and then we talk about where we went once again at the end of the day!

To talk about where one has to go on a certain day seems easy at first. We learn about the Italian verb “to go,” which is andare, in every beginning course in Italian.  The Italian verb andare is a bit tricky to use, though, so let’s go through a few pointers.

The first thing to know about the verb andare is that it has an irregular conjugation in the present tense for every speaker except noi and voi. So each form of this verb needs to be memorized.  I’ve reprinted the conjugation of andare below.  Try to say each verb conjugation aloud and listen to how it sounds. The syllables that should be emphasized are underlined in order to help with pronunciation.

 

********* AndareTo Go Present Tense*********

io vado I go
tu vai you (familiar) go
Lei

lei/lui

va you (polite) go

she/he goes

     
noi andiamo we go
voi andate you all go
loro vanno they go

After we learn how to conjugate the verb andare in the present tense, some attention should be paid to the meaning of the conjugated forms of this verb.  Io vado, for instance, can be translated into English as: “I go,” “I do go,” and for the near future, “I am going,” or “I am going to go.” Remember, though, that the subject pronoun “io” will be left out of the sentence in usual Italian conversation. In effect, the simple, one word sentence, “Vado,” when spoken will let someone know the speakers intent to leave, and encompass all the translations given above!

There is a way to say, “I am going,” in Italian if you want to emphasize that you are leaving right at the very moment in which you are speaking: “Sto andando.” But, unlike English speakers, who always seem to use the -ing form of the verb — going, coming, arriving, returning, etc… — in Italian the -ing form of any verb (technically the present progressive tense with the gerund) is less commonly used than the simple present tense. Again, a simple, “Vado,” will usually suffice to let someone know you are going somewhere right now.

Another way to say, “I am going!”  that will emphasize your intention to go somewhere is to put the Italian subject pronoun io after the verb vado.  “Vado io,” means something like: “I will go,” with the emphasis on the “I.”  This sentence structure implies that everyone else nearby can sit back and relax, as the person speaking will go to take care of whatever needs to be done. Maybe the doorbell has just rung and the family is gathered in the living room to watch a movie.  The person who decides to get up and answer the door may say, “Vado io,” to signal their intent to take care of things.  This verb/subject pronoun inversion works with other Italian verbs as well to signal intent, and in particular is used with “Prendo io,” for “I will take it,” when offering to carry a bag or suitcase for someone.  There is also the common expression, “Ci penso io,” which has the meaning, “I’ll take care of it,”* and implies, “You can count on me.”

Finally, if you are going away from a place where you are with other people, and want to signify your intent to leave, use the Italian verb andarsene, and say, “Me ne vado.”  This line can be translated simply as, “I’m leaving (this place),” or more strongly as, “I am getting out of here!” You will impress your friends with this phrase even without knowing all the details of this complex verb!

Let’s also take a look at the third person plural form of andare, which is andiamo.  Without going through the conjugations for the Italian command verb forms, it should be noted that “Andiamo!” when said with emphasis or written with an exclamation point means, “Let’s go!” 

Let’s summarize the important forms of the verb andare in a table:

andare  to go
Vado. I go, I do go, I am going. (near future)
Me ne vado.


Sto andando.

I am leaving (this place).
I am getting out of here!

I am going (right now).
Vado io. I am going (to take care of it).
Ci penso io.* I’ll take care of it.
Andiamo! Let’s go!

*Of course, “Io penso” means “I think.”

******************************

Once we have learned to conjugate the Italian verb andare, and how to signal intent or encourage others to join us using this verb, are we ready to talk about where we are going to?  Not quite yet…

Because the Italian verb andare must be linked to the place with are going or to another verb with the word “a,” which in this case can be translated as “to.”  There is a fairly long list of verbs that follow this rule.  In this blog, we will also discuss one additional  Italian verb that follows this rule, the verb venire, which means “to come.”  Venire is another irregular verb in the present tense, except for the noi and voi forms, and the conjugation for venire is given in the table below. Try to say each verb conjugation aloud and listen to how it sounds. The stressed syllables have been underlined to help with pronunciation.

********* VenireTo Come Present Tense *********

io vengo I come
tu vieni you (familiar) come
Lei

lei/lui

viene you (polite)come

she/he comes

     
noi veniamo we come
voi venite you all come
loro vengono they come

Two important phrases to remember that use the “rule of the linking a” are “andare a trovare” (“to go to visit”) and “venire a trovare” (“to come to visit”). These phrases  are used when visiting a person. The verb visitare (to visit) can be used when you want to speak about a place you are visiting.

Try to listen for the “linking a when these phrases come up in conversation, and soon it will become natural for you, also, to say these phrases correctly.

Let’s see how our two verbs, andare and venire, can be used in a typical conversation at the breakfast table between a mother and her daughter or son.

Mothers commonly ask their family during breakfast:

Dove vai oggi? Where will you go today?

Some answers family members may give:

Vado a scuola alle otto. I am going to school at 8 AM.
Vado al lavoro. I am going to work.
Vado a lavorare. I am going to work.
Vado a trovare nonna a casa sua. I am going to visit Grandma at her house.
Vado a trovarla. I am going to visit her.

Or, a mother may want to remind her family that today Grandma or other relatives of the family are coming to visit them by saying:

Oggi, nonna vieni a trovarci. Today, nonna comes to visit us.
Oggi, i cugini vengono a trovarci. Today, the cousins come to visit us.

You will notice in the examples above that the direct object pronouns la and ci are given in red, as they are attached to the end of the infinitive verb trovare. If you need to review indirect object pronouns, see Chapter 16 of Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar Book. There are many more instances of relatives and friends that we may want to go to visit or who may come to visit us at  home.  How many more can you think of?

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Of course, once we have left the house to “go somewhere” we will want to express that we will return.  Others may also greet us on our return.  Several other Italian verbs that can be used in this situation are: arrivare, tornare, and rientrare. 

Arrivare means “to arrive” and sounds  very formal to the English speaker’s ears.  We almost never say, “I have arrived.”  But arrivare and its first person conjugation arrivo, which means “I arrive” are commonly used in conversational Italian today when one wants to describe that he/she will soon “get to” somewhere. And, as also mentioned in our last blog, “Let’s email in Italian,”  arrivare  and arrivo are used to talk about whether an email message has “arrived” into one’s inbox.

To come back home is to “rientrare a casa.”  To wish someone, “Welcome back!” simply use the past participle of the verb tornare, which means “to return,” and a shortened from of bene, for “Ben tornato!”

Some examples of how arrivo, arrivare, tornare, and rientrare  can be used are given in the table below:

 

Sono in arrivo! I am coming!
Arrivo! I am coming!
Controlla la mail in arrivo! Check the email in your inbox.
Lo/La arriva! He/She/It is coming!
Loro arrivano. They are here. / They have arrived.
Allora, arrivano!
Ecco che arrivano!
Here they come now!
Here they come now!
Quando io rientro a casa, lo chiamo. When I get home, I will call him.
Ben tornato! Ben tornata!
Ben tornati! Ben tornate!
Welcome back! (masc. / fem. singular)
Welcome back! (masc./ fem. plural)

 

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At the end of the day, after we have left our home and then returned, we will likely want to update our family on our activities. Now we will need to use the verbs andare and venire in the past tense!

For a one time event that has happened during the day, the Italian passato prossimo form of the past tense will be the tense to choose. And for the verbs of direction andare and venire, we will need to use essere in the present tense as the helping verb with the  past participles andato(a,i,e) and venuto(a,i,e).

Remember that with the passato prossimo form of the past tense, the past participles have endings that change to match the gender and number of the speaker, as notated above in parentheses after the masculine “o” endings used for andato and venuto. If you need a refresher on the passato prossimo, this information is clearly explained in simple language in Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs,” Chapters 11 and 12.

Let’s try  out how to use andare and venire in the past tense with two very common sentences we almost always say at the end of the day:  I/we went… and I/we came…   See the table below for these examples.  

Io sono andato(a) alla scuola. I went to school. (masc. / fem. singular)
Noi siamo andati(e) a lavorare. We went to work. (masc. / fem. plural)
Io sono venuto(a) a casa
alle sei di sera.
I came home at 6 PM.
(masc. / fem. singular)
Noi siamo venuti(e) a casa
alle sei di sera.
We came home at 6 PM.
(masc. / fem. plural)

There are many, many more, examples of where we all go each day,  and how and when we come home, of course!  How many more can you think of? To become more familiar with the past tense, try keeping a journal. Take a few moments each day to write a sentence or two about where you went and what you did. 

Remember how to talk about where you are going in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!

 

"Just the Verbs" from Conversational Italian for Travelers books
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

“Conversational Italian and French for Travelers” Occhipinti author interview: The Independent Author Network

Learn Conversational Italian books 2017
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

As an independently published author, I am pleased to announce that I have become a member of  “The Independent Author Network of writers” for 2020.

IAN is a partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and has been helping to promote independent authors since 2010 by providing support through their website and social media accounts.

This is why, as you may have noticed, there is now a link to my “Independent Author Network” IAN page you can find by scrolling down on the right sidebar of my blog. 

Visit my IAN author page for all the links to my websites and social media, nicely set out on one page for easy access!

Also,  my IAN author page features a cover photo for each of my books. Just click on the image and “look inside” each of my books to see the table of contents and read the first chapter of each.  If you like what you see, there are also links to purchase the books on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

I should mention that readers of my IAN author page site may be surprised to see that last year I published a second pocket travel book, Conversational French for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases.”   The concept and style of this book is identical to my popular lightweight and compact Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases.”  I owe a huge “merci beaucoup” to Nada Sneige Fuleihan for providing the French translation and collaborating with me to adapt my original Italian book into French. After a “trial run” by myself when I visited France in 2018, I am happy with the results and I believe this book will be just as useful to French travelers as my Italian book has been for Italian travelers.

Of course, the restaurant section in my Conversational French for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book had to be changed from the original Italia version, and many wonderful French dishes are now listed in place of the Italian. For this, I have to give my utmost thanks to the well-known chef and restaurateur in Chicago, Chef Dominique Tougne, the current owner of the French restaurant Bistro Chez Moi in Chicago, where I have had the pleasure to enjoy many authentic and delicious French meals.

I have also set up a new website for this French book, under my publishing company’s name, Stella Lucente.  Check out my Stella Lucente.com website for more information on all things French! I enjoy posting French language tips and information about  French culture and current events from a wide variety of sources on my Stella Lucente French Facebook page.

This year I have started “almost a phrase a day” tweets from Monday to Friday from my new book on @travelfrench1, with the same phrase tweeted simultaneously in Italian on my Twitter @travelitalian1.  I follow many other interesting bloggers, magazines, and news media outlets that post about France and Italy on Twitter and retweet their articles on my sites. Check out my Twitter feeds when you check in to Twitter for up-to-date news and information about your favorite places to visit!

If you are planning a trip to France this year, I hope you will check out my social media sites and consider my new French pocket travel book as a guide.

Front and back covers of Conversational French for Travelers

Conversational French for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” pocket travel book is now available! YOUR traveling companion in France! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to France are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Finally, if anyone is curious about how I came to write my books and what I have planned for the future, you can visit my IAN Author review on the IAN Occhipinti review.   Grazie mille! Mille mercis!

Your Italian Travel Tips – Discovering Winter’s Beauty in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Scenic view of northern Italy with the Dolomite Alps in the background and forested hills below with small towns dotting the grass in the valley.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For January I would like to share a blog from Popsicle Society written by Ribana, a native of Romania who shares with us her love of travel in Italy through her writing.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

Ribana recently traveled to a lesser-known, but strikingly scenic region in the northeastern-most tip of Italy, Trentino-Alto-Adige.  Tentino-Alto-Adige is made up of many small towns nestled in valleys that are carpeted in lush greenery, at the base of  tall hills lined with forests of deep green, perfectly proportioned, stately fir trees, which create a picture-perfect Christmas setting year-round. The Italian Dolomite Alps rise even higher in the background, their jagged peaks tipped with snow.  When snowfall blankets both hills and valleys, thousands of tourists visit every winter season to enjoy winter sports.

From reading Ribana’s blog, Discovering Our World: Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, one can tell that she is truly enchanted by this region.  Ribana’s panoramic photographs of each major city in the region are accompanied by a description the city’s historical importance and cultural highlights. At the end of the blog are mouthwatering images of the regions’ cuisine. Ribana’s blog has inspired me to put this charming region on my bucket list of “must see” places in Italy during the winter months. Read on and see what winter-time fun awaits you in this  along this northernmost border of the boot of Italy.

 

Ribana writes:

“There is a region, in Italy, located precisely on the border with Austria and Switzerland, among the best known for the beauty of its mountains, but not only. Trentino Alto Adige is also nature, summer and winter sports, hiking and trekking, art and culture, the mountain massifs, with their glaciers that seem to sparkle in the sun, dominate this region.

Trentino is a real paradise for those who practice winter sports! Most of the Trentino landscape is dominated by the Dolomites, which constitute a unique environment recognized by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage Site.
There are 800 kilometers of slopes and also numerous snow parks, ski areas more suitable for families with specialized instructors and snow kindergartens.

Winter is great for winter sports lovers, although in some localities, such as the Marmolada, Stelvio and Tonale, it is possible to ski even in the summer months.

Click on this link to read the full blog: Discovering Our World: Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

 

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Let’s Talk About… Email in Italian

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2020? Well, the new year is upon us and it is time to make some resolutions! Maybe you’ve decided that this is the year to take that dream trip to Italy you’ve been thinking about for some time.

Learning Italian will help to make contacts with family and friends in Italy, and learning about how to send an email in Italian may prove valuable with personal contacts as well as with making reservations at hotels and other sites of interest.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  when we talk about email and we send an email, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 28th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

are used to talk about, send and receive
email.

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

Let’s Talk About… Email in Italian

Talking about the concept of email in Italian is tricky.  For one thing, the word “email” is an English abbreviation for “electronic mail,” and this abbreviation is not easily translated into Italian. For another thing, the way English speakers and Italians talk about email has evolved with each technological advancement in communication, and will probably continue to change in the future.  We may find that the terms we use in this blog today have been abandoned for different terms tomorrow!

But, let’s try anyway to talk about email the way Italians do — at least for now and hopefully into the 2020’s!

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When talking about how an Italian views the concept of email, the first and most basic question to answer is, of course,

“How does one translate the word “email” into Italian? “

The Collins English to Italian dictionary translation of email is simple and makes sense for both Italian and English: la posta elettronica, which translates as, “the electronic mail.”  

A single email message would be un messaggio di posta elettronica.

A person’s email address would be lindirizzo di posta elettronica.

Unfortunately, although these official Italian phrases make perfect logical sense, they are a bit too long for common, every day use. Since Italians, in general, easily accept useful foreign words into their language, it is not surprising that a quick look at the online dictionary Wordreference.com yields multiple permutations of English and Italian to translate the word “email.”

It should be noted here that the word “email” remains feminine when translated into Italian in all its various forms, since “la posta” or “the mail” is feminine in Italian.

Here are the different ways we can talk about email according to the online dictionary Wordreference.com.

la posta elettronica, la e-mail, l’email

il messaggio di posta elettronica, il messaggio email

l’indirizzo di posta elettronica,  l’indirizzo e-mail

It is apparent from the above phrases that Italians have, over time, shortened their correct but very long descriptive phrase la posta elettronica to the shorter phrase l’email.  This combination of Italian and English makes grammatical sense in Italian because the original word for “mail” in Italian is feminine and also because the Italian language generally eliminates the last vowel of the definite article la if the noun that comes after it begins with a vowel. L’email is commonly seen in written form on websites.

But, although l’email is correct grammatically, most Italians simply say “la mail.”

This difference in the official written form and the spoken form of the Italian word for “email” may originate from the difference in pronunciation between the English and the Italian letter “e.” In English, the letter  “e” can be pronounced with a long “ee” sound, as in “week” or short “eh” sound, as in “bed.”   But there is no long “ee” sound associated with the Italian letter “e,” and this may lead to confusion for an Italian when attempting to say the word “email” with the correct English pronunciation.  So, it is more simple in spoken Italian just to leave off the “e” in email, and say “mail.”

In the same way, note that a single email can be referred to in Italian as both the grammatically correct “un’email” and “una mail.”

Below is a summary of  the Italian phrases to describe email in Italian. The most common conversational Italian ways to say “email” are listed in the first column in bold letters.

la mail
l’email
la posta elettronica email in general
una mail / la mail
un’email
un messaggio di posta elettronica a single email
l’indirizzo mail
l’indirizzo e-mail
l’indirizzo di posta elettronica the email address

 

******************************

Now let’s talk about what to say if an Italian asks for your email address and you would like to reply in Italian.

The question: “Qual’è l’indirizzo mail?” is used for the English, “What is your email address?”

It will be important in this situation to know that the English word “at” used for the symbol @ is referred to with the visually descriptive Italian term “chiocciola,”  which literally means “little snail.”  And the “dot” in the English “dot” com is called a “period” in Italian, with the word “punto.”  

Italian email addresses often end in “it,” for Italy, and the abbreviation is usually pronounced as an Italian word. For email addresses that end in “com,” com is usually pronounced as a word, similar to English but with an Italian accent, of course!

The letters “it” and “com” may also be spelled out, using the Italian name for each letter. For the ending “it,”  the Italian letters are pronounced “ee tee.” For the ending “com” the Italian letters are pronounced “chee oh èmme.”

Below is a sample email address  that uses the name of this blog as a person’s first and last name, first written, then as it would be pronounced by an English speaker and an Italian speaker:

Conversationalitalian@aol.com
Conversational Italian “at” aol “dot” com
Conversational Italian “chiocciola” aol “punto” com

 

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Finally, how do we talk about sending and receiving an email?

Two verbs are commonly used to describe the acts of sending and receiving an email.  The Italian verb mandare is probably the most common way to describe the act of sending an email, although the verbs inviare or spedire, older terms for “snail mail,” can also be used. 

The verb mandare just means “to send,” though, and Italian will follow this verb with the clarification “via mail.”  As noted above, other variations might include “via email” or “via la posta elettronica. “

When an Italian has received a message, he or she can use the verb ricevere, which means “to receive.” This event would, of course be in the past tense, as for example, “Ho ricevuto una mail.” “I have received an email.”

Remember that if you have received an email “about” something, the  English word “about” is often expressed in Italian with the preposition “su.”  The preposition su is then combined with the Italian definite article (il, la, lo, l’, i le, gli) before the noun that describes what the email will be about.  The different combined forms are: sul, sulla, sulo, sull‘, sui, sulle, sugli.  More detailed information about combining prepositions is found in the Conversational Italian for Travelers reference book Just the Grammar.

“Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione?” translates as: “Have you received an email about the next meeting?”

Interestingly, if one person hears the notification sound that an email has “arrived” at another’s device, he or she may call out, “È arrivata una mail,” meaning, “An email has arrived.”  Remember to use the feminine form of the past participle for arrivare, which is “arrivata for the email that has just arrived! In the same way, an English speaker would notify someone with the line: “You have a message.”

When one needs to check their email, the Italian verb controllare, which can mean to check, to control, or to verify, comes into play.  One friend might say to another: “Controlla la tua mail!” for “Check your email!” Or, you may be advised: ” Controlla la mail in arrivo!” for “Check the email that is coming to you!”

A summary table is given below, with some example sentences, reprinted from the pocket phrase book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases.”

mandare via mail to send an email
ricevere una mail to receive an email
Ho ricevuto una mail. I have received an email.
Hai ricevuto una mail sulla prossima riunione? Have you received an email about the next meeting?
È arrivata una mail. An email has arrived.
You have an email.
Controlla la tua mail!
Controlla la mail in arrivo!
Check your email! (familiar command)
Check the mail that is coming to you!

 

Remember how to talk about email in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these phrases every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – WALKS© of Italy for 2020!

A colorful map of Italy with large icons over each city that depicts a popular tourist attraction for each, such as a picture of the leaning tower of Pisa over Pisa and the Duomo over Florence
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Auguri di buon anno 2020 a tutti! Grazie mille for following my blog, now online for it’s 5th year!

For the first post of 2020, I would like to announce a new affiliate that I have made with the tour group WALKS©, formally Walks of Italy.

Some background:  When I traveled to Europe last year, I signed up for several of the WALKS tours.  I was so impressed by the organization of the tours and the quality  of the tour guides that I decided to become an affiliate advertiser.

This is why, as you may have noticed, there are two new images that mention WALKS of Italy on the sidebar of this blog.

One image provides a link to one of the WALKS tours, and will take you directly to their website, so you can check out the company yourself and, of course, purchase a the “Venice in a Day” tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second, brightly colored image of a tourist map of Italy on my sidebar

A colorful map of Italy with large icons over each city that depicts a popular tourist attraction for each, such as a picture of the leaning tower of Pisa over Pisa and the Duomo over Florence
Map of Italy with the most popular Italian tourist destinations

is  directly above a link to a page I have created that lists the many other tours that WALKS of Italy offers in Venice, Rome, Florence, and Milan.

These links will also take you directly to the WALKS website, so if you find one you like you can make a purchase.

Just click on the link More WALKS of Italy Tours to be taken to this page and a whole world of tour ideas!

 

 

I do receive a small fee as an affiliate partner with WALKS, as mentioned on the page if you click one of the links on this blog.  For this, I thank you all very much!

For anyone planning their trip to Italy in 2020,  consider a WALKS of Italy tour. If you do choose to take a WALKS tour, please feel free to leave a comment about your experience on my  More WALKS of Italy Tours page.

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Italian Calamari for Christmastime or Anytime!

Large bowl with colorful red flowers filled with fried calamari rings and tenticles
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Buone feste and Buon Natale a tutti!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!

Every year I love to cook an Italian fish dinner for Christmas Eve. Many Italian-American families present seven fishes for their dinner, but I just serve a variety of fish and create an antipasto, primo and secondo course.

I’ve already shared a simple method to make fried calamari, a family favorite, with my ConversationalItalian.French followers on Instagram. If  you’d like to see how easy it is to fry up some calamari for a hot antipasto for your own Christmas Eve dinner, just click on the image below:

View this post on Instagram

Italian Christmas Eve recipe: Easy Fried Calamari for your feast of the 7 fishes! Buy calamari already cut and cleaned. Rinse, take out any hard spine left in body and cut of fins. Cut body into circles, dredge in flour and shake odd excess flour. The flour alone will make a very light, batter-type coating when fried in olive oil. Heat oil over medium heat. It is hot enough when a piece drops in sizzles. Drain oil on paper towels, transfer to serving bowl and salt lightly. Then fry tentacles same way. Enjoy hot out of the frying pan. For more Italian fish dishes check out www.blog.learntravelitalian.com tomorrow Dec 15………………………….. #osnap #osnapmedia @niafitalianamerican @osia_su #italianchristmas #italianchristmaseve #italianchristmasfood #italianchristmasfoodtraditions #italianchristmasdinner #feastofthesevenfishes #sevenfishesfeast #sevenfishdinner #italianfishdinner #christmaseve2019 #christmaseve2019🎄 #christmaseve2019♥️ #christmaseve2019🎅🏻🌲🎉

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

The full method for making fried calamari, along with my recipes for two other popular hot appitizers — stuffed calamari in tomato sauce and stuffed, baked fresh sardines —is being simultaneously posted on the Learn Italian! blog for my website, www.learntravelitalian.com, where all authentic Italian recipes  for the home cook that I personally use are found.  Below is an excerpt. Click on the link to print off the entire method and enjoy!

Share your comments below if you like, or in our Conversational Italian Facebook group.

 

Stuffed Calamari, Fried Calamari and Stuffed Sardines for Your Italian Christmas Eve

It is an Italian tradition to serve fish for Christmas Eve, in observance of the Catholic holiday.  In some towns in Italy and in many Italian-American families, this tradition has turned into a feast that features fish and shellfish for antipasto, primo and secondo courses —  fish is served fried, stuffed, with pasta, stewed, and baked.  Some families serve seven different types of fish, although I’m not sure if anyone really knows where the number seven originated from.

Each year, I plan my “feast of the 7 fishes” with some tried and true dishes — my shrimp scampi,  for instance, is always a big hit for the primo course and easy to make.  Last year I had fun with the antipasto course, and cooked up Sicilian and Sardinian-style stuffed calamari and stuffed fresh sardines — which, by the way, do not smell or taste “fishy” at all if you buy them fresh.  They were both a hit with young and old alike, so I present them here for your family to try.  I’ve also included a simple method for fresh fried calamari, complete with an Instagram video, as a well-known and well-loved family starter to any Italian-American meal.

Buon appetito e Buon Natale! -Kathryn Occhipinti

For the recipes, click HERE

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Benvenuto Natale!

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2019? Well, it is the end of the year, and time for the fall and winter celebrations. Why not celebrate how much Italian you’ve learned this holiday season?

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate the “commonly used phrases”  that we say when attending a holiday gathering, starting, of course with the Italian interjection “Benvenuto(a,i,e)!” or “Welcome!” we will be on our way to conversing in Italian with family and friends for the holidays, just as we do in our native language! 

Of course, we also need to learn the variations of  benvenuto in order to greet each individual or group correctly, just as we have previously how to address those we are talking to with the correct masculine and feminine endings.

And, by remembering common Italian phrases for a holiday gathering, you will automatically have committed to memory the rules for Italian interjections!

This post is the 28th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” at Italian gatherings

start with the interjection “Benvenuto!”

See below for how this works and for some “Important Phrases”
to use at YOUR next Italian holiday party!

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

************************************************

How to Use Benvenuto!

and Italian Holiday Party

Conversation

“Benvenuto!”* and its variations (Benvenuti! Benvenuta! and Benvenute!) are frequently used Italian interjections that all mean “Welcome!” Guests (gli ospiti) to an Italian household can expect to hear these words as a warm greeting before crossing the threshold into the home (casa) of the host or  hosts (la padrona di casa/il padrone di casa or gli ospiti).**  

Whether family, friend or acquaintance, every guest will be greeted warmly as a sign of the Italian dedication to hospitality for all. And, of course, the Italian Christmas season, which starts in early December and lasts until early January, brings with it many occasions for get-togethers with family and friends. For those interested in reading more about how the Christmas season is observed in Italy, click on the link to our previous blog Sperare (Part 2) – What I wish for the holidays…

Let’s get started learning some useful conversational expressions for Italian holiday gatherings from the very beginning — by first focusing on how to use the Italian interjection “Benvenuto!” to greet others.

There is only one rule to know regarding interjections: the ending of the interjection must agree with the gender and number of the noun (person, place or thing) that the interjection describes. Therefore, when the speaker addresses another person, the interjection must refer to the gender and number of the person or people who are being addressed. This, in turn, will determine the ending of the interjection!

Sound complicated?  Well, it is… a little bit. By remembering which form of benvenuto to use in four different situations, you will automatically have committed the rules for other Italian interjections to memory!

*Benvenuto can also be used as a noun and adjective as well, in these cases without the exclamation point, but with the same meaning of “welcome.” 

**Notice that the same Italian name is given to both guests and hosts: gli ospiti.
La padrona di casa refers to the woman of the house, or as we say in English, the hostess.
Il padrone di casa refers to the man of the house, or the host.

Interestingly, the English word hostess” means “stewardess” in Italian and has no other meaning in Italian. “L’hostess” means “the stewardess.”  

 

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How to Change Benvenuto

from Singular to Plural 

 

In general, of course:

  • A masculine Italian noun and its adjective will end in -o, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.
  • A feminine Italian noun and its adjective will ends in -a, and this ending will change to -e in the plural.
  • An Italian noun or adjective that ends in -e may be masculine or feminine, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

If you are interested in learning more about masculine and feminine words in Italian that end in the letter -e, and how to distinguish one from the other, this You Tube Video may be of help: Italian Grammar by Stella Lucente.

 

For our interjection Benvenuto! the following rules apply:

  • The singular masculine form is benvenuto.
    The plural masculine form (for a group of males or a group of males and females) is benvenuti.
  • The singular feminine form is benvenuta.
    The plural feminine form (for a group of females) is benvenute.

 

Therefore, if greeting one male person, you would say, “Benvenuto!” If greeting a group of males or a mixed group of males and females, you would say “Benvenuti!” 

What should you say if one of your female relatives or or a female friend is at your doorway? “Benvenuta!” of course.  And if she brings her female friends or mother, daughter, or female cousin?  Say, Benvenute!”

 

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Changing  the Italian Interjections

Bravo! and Beato! 

 

As a visit to the symphony, ballet, or opera is often a part of the Christmas holiday season in Italy and America, let’s apply what we’ve just learned about the interjection “Benvenuto!” to the frequently used interjection “Bravo!” 

If we follow the rules in the last section for masculine and feminine endings, we should cheer “Bravo!” when one talented male Italian singer steps in front of the stage curtain for applause. And we do hear this word “Bravo!” frequently in America for a performance well done. But, in proper Italian, we should also be cheering “Brava!” for the female diva of the performance, and “Bravi!” for the entire fabulous ensemble.

In general, any person, male or female, who is “good” at something, or has done “a good job” is a “brava persona.”  In this case, the noun persona is feminine and so the adjective that modifies this noun must be feminine as well!

One more example of a commonly used interjection is “Lucky you!”  Has your brother received an unexpected holiday gift from a friend?  If so, and if you would like to express your happiness for him, you could say,“Beato te!”  Your sister? “Beata te!” An acquaintance? Either “Beato Lei!” for a male acquaintance or “Beata Lei!” for a female acquaintance, of course!

If your parents were finally able to retire and plan their dream vacation to Italy, you might comment, “Beati voi!” for “How lucky you all are!  And if your sisters are able to take a vacation together after an unexpected windfall — Beate voi!”

The table below summarizes these three common Italian interjections.  There are many more. How many more can you think of?

Benvenuto! Welcome! (to a male)
Benvenuti! Welcome!
(to a group of males
or a group of males+females)
Benvenuta! Welcome! (to a female)
Benvenute! Welcome! (to a group of females)
Bravo! Well done! (to a male)
Bravi! Well done! (to a group of males
or a group of males+females)
Brava! Well done! (to a female)
Brave! Well done!  (to a group of females)
Beato te! Lucky you!
(to male) (familiar singular you)
Beato Lei! Lucky you!
(to male) (polite singular you)
Beati voi! Lucky you!  (to a group of males
or a group of males+females)
(polite plural you)
Beata te! Lucky you!
(to female) (familiar singular you)
Beata Lei! Lucky you!
(to female) (polite singular you)
Beate voi! Lucky you! (to a group of  females)
(polite plural you)

 

Benvenuto Natale!

Now that we understand how Italian endings change for Italian interjections — that is, that the endings must agree with the gender and number of the person or people who are being addressed — we can continue with some useful phrases for conversation at a holiday party.

In the following table:

  • Some of the phrases will have nouns or adjectives with endings that change depending on whom is speaking or on whom is being addressed.
  • Verb endings will change, as usual, with the choice of  polite or familiar address, and abbreviations pol. and fam. will be given in each case.
  • Command verb forms are often used, as denoted.
  • Subject pronouns will also change, of course, and when attached to the infinitive form of the verb are given in red.
  • When Italian subject pronouns are not given, but must be used in the English translation, they are written with parenthesis in English.

The phrases below have been reproduced from Conversational Italian for Travelers pocket travel book,Just the Important Phrases.” You can use these phrases as a start, and then create your own!

 

Upon entering someone’s home as a guest,  you may hear these phrases and respond accordingly:

Benvenuto!(a)(i,e) Welcome! (to male/female, singular and plural)
Entri!
Entra!
Come in! (pol./fam. command verb)
Si accomodi.
Accomodati!
Make yourself comfortable. (pol./fam. command verb)
Da questa parte, prego. This way, please.
Si sieda.
Siediti!
Sit down. (pol./fam. command verb)
Piacere di conoscerla.
Piacere di conoscerti.
Pleased to meet you. (pol./fam.)
Piacere mio. The pleasure is mine.
Lieto(a) di conoscerla.
Lieto(a) di conoscerti.
Delighted (masc./fem. speaker) to meet you (pol./fam.)
Molto lieto(a)! Delighted! (masc./fem. speaker)
Sono molto contento(a) di vederla.
Sono molto contento(a) di vederti.
(I) am very happy (masc./fem.) to see you. (pol./fam.)
Sono felice di riverderla.
Sono felice di rivederti.
(I) am happy to see you (pol./fam.) again.

 

Some useful phrases of response during a conversation at a party:

Non mi dica! You (pol.) don’t say! 
(lit. You are not telling me!)
Sono contento(a) per lei.
Sono molto contento
(a) per te.
(I) am happy (masc./fem. speaker) for you .(pol./fam.)
Mi piace molto!
Mi piace tanto!
I love it!/ I like it a lot!
(lit. It is very pleasing to me!)
Mi piace un sacco. I love it! (idiomatic expression)
(lit. It is pleasing to me a sac full.)

 

Upon leaving someone’s home after a gathering, you may express the need to leave and your thanks for a lovely evening using these phrases:

Devo andare via ora. (I) must leave now.
È stato un piacere. (It) has been a pleasure.
È stato divertente. (It) has been enjoyable/fun/a blast/amusing/funny.
Ti sei divertito(a)? (Did) you (fam.) enjoy yourself? (masc./fem.)
Mi sono proprio divertito(a). (I) really enjoyed myself. (masc./fem. speaker).
(I had a great time.)
Grazie di tutto. Thank you for everything.
Grazie per la Sua ospitalità.
Grazie per la tua ospitalità.
Thank you for your (pol./fam.) hospitality.
Grazie per una bella serata. Thank you for a nice/beautiful evening.
La ringrazio.
Ti ringrazio.
(I) thank you. (pol./fam.)

 

There are, of course, many more phrases that are useful to keep in mind for Italian conversations at a get-together or holiday party. 

If you are interested in learning more phrases, and keeping them handy in a pocket or purse for easy reference, consider purchasing Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases,” with its beautiful new cover.

Our book makes a great stocking stuffer for the Italophile you know!

Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases,” is a stand-alone book with “all the phrases you need to know” to enjoy your trip to Italy and with tips on how to create your own!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

Remember how to use the interjection Benvenuto! and I guarantee you will be able to easily add many more interjections to your daily Italian conversations!

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Italian Chicken Soup for an Early Winter

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

The chill of winter has settled over Chicagoland this week, bringing with it not one, but two snowstorms before Thanksgiving! In what seems like an instant, jackets and sandals have been swapped out for coats and boots, and the early morning ritual of scraping snow and ice off the car windshield before venturing out for the day has begun.

During these early days of winter, I like to pull out my stock pot and make my first large batch of chicken broth for the season.

The great thing about chicken broth is that is so versatile. Once made, freeze it in smaller batches to be retrieved as needed for warmth and comfort on a blustery day. It is simplicity itself to bring a small pot of chicken broth to the boil and quickly add ingredients like egg or Pastina (pasta) stars, which will surely delight the young children in the house.  Another day, add spinach to the eggs before swirling into chicken broth.  Or, finely chop celery, carrots, and then add some noodles and left over chicken pieces to make classic chicken noodle soup.  Left over rice and chicken makes a warming chicken and rice soup.

My family’s chicken broth recipe is now online, along with the methods to make egg drop and Italian Stracciatella (rags) soup.  But really, the choices of what to add to your homemade chicken broth are endless!

I’ve already shared the recipe with my Conversationalitalian.french followers on Instagram, so if you’d like to see how I make chicken broth, just click on the image below.  As you can see, it’s so easy I have one hand behind my back!

 

View this post on Instagram

Italian chicken broth “brodo” and chicken egg drop soup or chicken soup with pastina. Moms love to make it and kids love to eat it on a chilly day! Broth: 1 stewing chicken, carrots, celery, onion (peeled or not for yellow color), small potato, one tomato quartered. Egg drop soup: 4 cups chicken broth. Add salt to taste. Add slowly just before boiling: 2 eggs lightly beaten with 1/4 c Parmesan cheese. Stir until cooked through. For Pastina: Boil broth snd add Pastina Pasta. Fresh parsley from garden should still be available if desired as parsley loves the cool weather. Buon appetito! #osnap #italiansoup @niafitalianamerican @chicagolanditalians @sons_of_italy @osia_su #italianfoodblogger #italianfoodbloggers #italianfoodbloggers🍷🍕🇮🇹 #chickensoup #chickensouprecipe #chickensouprecipes #brodo #italianbrodo #italianchickensoup #strattiacella #chickeneggdropsoup #eggdropsoup #pastinainbrodo #pastinasoup #pastinasoupforlunch For more #Italianrecipes visit www.Learntravelitalian.com

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

The full method for this recipe was posted on the Learn Italian! blog for my website, www.learntravelitalian.com, where all authentic Italian recipes  for the home cook that I personally use are found.  Below is an excerpt. Click on the link to print off the entire method and enjoy!

Share your comments below if you like, or in our Conversational Italian Facebook group.

 

Italian Chicken Broth: Egg Drop Soup or Pastina Stars  

Italian chicken soup starts with a hearty chicken broth, or “brodo.”  Chicken broth is simplicity to make, with just a few ingredients most home cooks have around the house.  My mother would drizzle beaten eggs into her chicken broth to make wispy yellow strands of scrambled eggs, for “Egg Drop Soup” as my family called it,  also known by its more traditional name of  “Stracciatella “ or “Rags Soup.”  And, I think every Italian adult has fond memories  of their lunches at home as a young child, especially when they discovered tiny star-shaped “pastina” pastas  in their chicken broth for “Pastina Soup!”

To make the most flavorful Italian chicken soup, start with a broth made with “stewing” chickens.  Stewing chickens are the older, tougher chickens that will soften but not loose their flavor entirely and make a nice broth after  even just 1 to 1 1/2 hours of cooking in liquid.  The meat of stewing chickens usually can be removed from the bones and added to the soup if desired. Younger frying or broiling chickens can also be used to make chicken broth, but in this case the cooking time should be increased to 2 or 3 hours and by this time most of the chicken’s flavor will have been given up to the soup, rendering the chicken flavorless.

Italian moms know that adding a small tomato will make the chicken broth sweeter, a small potato will add a little starch for body, and if you leave the outer leaves on the onion the broth will become a golden color.   Try my family’s simple method and I’m sure your children will agree: Italian chicken soup is the quintessential comfort food!  For the full method to make chicken soup, click here.

—Kathryn Occhipinti

 

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers Book Review: “Linguistic Gem”

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases

Grazie mille Fra Noi Magazine, the largest circulation Italian-American Magazine in Chicagoland, for your review of Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases in your magazine!

Read below for a reprint of the November 2019 Fran Noi Magazine review of Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases book
right here in this blog.

 

There is also an online version of Fra Noi Magazine, which can be viewed by clicking here: Fra Noi Online Magazine.

Bonus: My language blogs are found here,  with the same click for free!

About Fra Noi Magazine:

In a previous blog,  Fra Noi Magazine — Read and become “a little bit Italian today!” I mentioned that the pages of Fra Noi Magazine are filled with interesting interviews about the Italian-Americans who are making a difference in our world today and informative articles about the community here in Chicagoland and in our Italian homeland.

Along with the timely Italian-American news Fra Noi Magazine provides, the magazine’s reviews of music and movies keep me up-to-date, and their travel section features great travel tips and beautiful photographs of a different region and city each month.

Important  to know: for Italian language students: 

Fra Noi Magazine now features five pages written entirely in Italian!  This is a wonderful opportunity for those learning Italian to increase their knowledge of the Italian spoken today, while at the same time reading timely and entertaining material about Italy.  The Italian articles feature Italian movies, Italian history,  Italian artists, and Italian sports.

Get your copy of Fra Noi Magazine: Just click on the link and subscribe to Fra Noi Magazine here: Order my copy of Fra Noi Magazine today! 

Read below for the November 2019 Fra Noi Magazine review of Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases with it’s newly designed cover!

A review article entitled "Linguistic Gem" was reproduced from Fra Noi Magazine for the reader
Fra Noi Magazine review article, November 2019 for “Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases” pocket travel book

 

And remember… Conversational Italian for Travelers books are
Available on   
Amazon.com  and www.LearnTravelItalian.com 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Bello means “It’s nice!”

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2019? Well, it is nearing the end of the year, and maybe by now you’ve had a chance to try out your Italian on your dream trip to Italy.  Maybe you’ve seen and experienced nice people and beautiful places on during your stay in the “bel paese.” Why not share about these experiences in Italian?

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  that use bello, the much-used Italian adjective that means “nice,” beautiful,” and so much more in Italian, we will be able to describe so many lovely things—just as we do in our native language! 

Of course, we also need to learn the variations of  bello in order to describe all the people and places that we will encounter that are beautiful in Italy!

And, by remembering common Italian phrases that describe what you will encounter in Italy, you will automatically have committed to memory the rules for the adjective bello! 

This post is the 27th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” in Italian

describe things that are “nice” or “beautiful”
with the adjective 
bello

and its variations – bel, bella, bei, belle, bell’

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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How to Use Bello

with Singular Nouns

 

Bello is an Italian adjective that one will use often when visiting the “bel paese”—so many people are and places are beautiful, nice, and lovely in Italy!  But, the form of this adjective will change according to the masculine or feminine form of the noun (person, place or thing) it modifies, the number of “things” that are beautiful, and also according to where this adjective is placed in the sentence.

When referring to a person, bello/bella are used to mean handsome and beautiful, as well as nice, or lovely.  Places or things can be beautiful, and also nice or lovely.  The context of the conversation will determine which meaning the word bello carries, although in many cases the meanings overlap. 

Note here: the adjective buono, which was the topic of our last blog in this series, is usually used when referring to food, which is always “good” in Italy!

Sound complicated?  Well, it is… a little bit. But by remembering some common phrases that use the adjective bello, you will automatically have committed the rules for this adjective to memory!

 

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We will start our discussion of bello with how to modify singular masculine nouns.  For masculine nouns, bello is placed either directly after the noun, or at the end of the sentence, after the verb è for is (from the verb essere). In the second case, the adjective bello will be separated from the noun it modifies, but both the noun and adjective will agree in gender and number. See the first two examples in our table below.

(You may notice that the rules for how and when to change the ending  for bello are identical to those for buono!)

A common Italian exclamation is, “Che bello!” which simply means, “How beautiful!” or “How wonderful!” This expression can also be used when an English speaker might say, “Cool!” to refer to something good. Another common expression one might hear in Italy is, “Che fai di bello?” for “What are you up to?” or “What’re you doing?” 

Il giorno è bello. The day is beautiful.
il giorno bello the beautiful day
Che bello! How beautiful!
How wonderful!
Che fai di bello? What are you up to?
What’re you doing?

 

But, when the adjective bello is placed before a masculine noun, the last letter -o is dropped from bello (along with the extra “l” when writing the word) to make bel, as in, “Che bel giorno!” for “What a beautiful day!”

You will remember that the Italian masculine nouns that begin with the letters s+consonant, z, ps, or gn are often treated differently in Italian from other masculine nouns that begin with a consonant.  For instance, the definite article lo must be used before these nouns, rather than the usual definite article il.

The two most important masculine nouns to remember in this category are studente (student) and zio (uncle).  When using these words in conversational Italian, bello usually follows these nouns, so we will not need to change the ending. 

Che bel giorno! What a beautiful day!
il bel uomo / il bel bambino the handsome man / the beautiful baby
lo studente bello / lo zio bello the handsome student
the handsome uncle

 

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For a feminine noun (person, place or thing), there is only one rule to remember—the adjective bella is used to describe something beautiful, nice or lovely, whether placed before or after the noun this adjective modifies.

La donna è bella. The woman is beautiful.
la donna bella the beautiful woman
la bella donna the beautiful woman
   
La città è bella. The city is beautiful.
la bella città the beautiful city
la città bella the beautiful city

 

But, of course, there is one exception to use of bella for feminine nouns: if bella is placed before a feminine noun that begins with the letter –a, simply drop the last letter from bella and add an apostrophe to make bell’ for smoother conversation.  Since our focus is on conversational Italian, just remember to bring the two words together when speaking, without repeating the -a ending, and don’t worry about the spelling!

A common Italian phrase is “Bella idea!” for  “Wonderful idea!” or “Great idea!”  Notice that there is no need to drop the -a from bella with this phrase!

la bell’amica the nice friend 
la amica bella the beautiful friend
Bella idea! Great idea!

 

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How to Use Bello

with Plural Nouns

The adjective bello follows the usual Italian rules for changing singular adjectives to plural adjectives when placed after the noun.

In general, of course:

A masculine Italian noun and its adjective will end in -o, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

A feminine Italian noun and its adjective will ends in -a, and this ending will change to -e in the plural.

An Italian noun or adjective that ends in -e may be masculine or feminine, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

If you are interested in learning more about masculine and feminine words in Italian that end in the letter -e, and how to distinguish one from the other, this You Tube Video may be of help: Italian Grammar by Stella Lucente, LLC.

 

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 Plural Bello/Bella after a noun

For the adjective bello, when placed after a noun, he plural will be belli.

For the adjective bella, when placed after a noun, he plural will be belle.

 

 Plural Bello/Bella after a noun

bello o goes to i belli
bella a goes to e belle

 

Now we are ready for some examples of noun/adjective combinations using bello to describe the beautiful people and places you will find in Italy!

il giorno bello the good day becomes
the good days
i giorni belli
la città bella the nice city becomes
the nice cities
le città belle*
la donna bella the beautiful
woman
becomes
the beautiful
women
le donne belle

*Notice that the  ending for città does not change in the plural, since it is invariable by definition, but the definite article and the adjective that modifies it do. If you really want to know if an Italian noun is masculine or feminine, just look to it’s definite article and the adjectives that modify it!

 

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 Plural Bello/Bella before a noun

When the adjective bello and bella are placed before a noun, changing the singular to the plural form is a little bit more difficult.  The endings actually follow the same pattern as the plural definite article (i, gli, and le), as described in the table below.

Don’t get too bogged down trying to memorize these endings right now, though, as most times it is perfectly fine to place bello after the noun and the regular endings can be used! 

 

Plural Bello/Bella before a noun

bel (masc. before consonant) goes to definite art.
 i
bei
bell’ (masc. before vowel) goes to definite art.
gli
begli
bella (fem. before consonant) goes to definite art. 
le
belle
bell’ (fem. before vowel) goes to definite art.
le
belle

 

 

il bel giorno the beautiful day becomes i bei giorni
il bell’albero the beautiful tree becomes i begli alberi
la bella settimana the nice week becomes le belle settimane
la bella donna the beautiful woman becomes le belle donne
la bell’europea the beautiful European becomes le belle euoropee

 

There are, of course, many more occasions to use the Italian adjective bello than those I have just listed.  How many more an you think of?

 

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

Remember how to use the adjective bello and I guarantee you will want to say something  “nice” or “beautiful” about Italy every day!

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – Visit Ragusa, Sicily, and Experience Centuries of Culture

Sicily Ragusa Ibla
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For October, I would like to share details of my recent visit to the ancestral hometown of my Occhipinti family,  which is called Ragusa, and is located high in the mountains of the southeastern tip of Sicily.

If you’ve been following my activities through my Instagram posts on Conversationalitalian.french,  or through my Facebook group,  Conversational Italian! you know that I was thrilled to spend 7 full days in Ragusa just last month.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.” I’ve been featuring travel bloggers in this series, but this month I will use this feature to show a bit of what I’ve just experienced in Ragusa in “travel blogger style,” with my own emphasis on language and history.

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.


 

Learning Italian
with
Commissario Montalbano

 

Before starting our virtual blogging tour of Ragusa, it should be mentioned that, due to the popularity of the BBC series Detective Montalbano (Commissario Montalbano), based on the detective novels of the brilliant Andrea Camilleri, who the world lost this past July 17, 2019,

the ancient Baroque towns of Ragusa and nearby Scicli and Modica, along with many places along the coast of Southern Sicily, have come into the forefront once again.

Yes, it is true. I am a HUGE fan of the Detective Montalbano series! Over the years,  this BBC series has helped me to gain an understanding of how people really use common Italian expressions (most of which, of course are not found in textbooks, and which I try to focus on in my own books and blogs).

Anyone who has attended even one of my Italian lessons has heard my recommendation for using the Detective Montalbano series as an aid to learning Italian. Listen to the characters as they interact, pick out the phrases you understand and focus on how these phrases are used.  Some characters will be easier to understand than others, just like people in real life.  One caveat—don’t try to understand the character Catarella, who speaks his own version of Sicilian/Italian that even the other characters often mention they do not understand!

Actually, it is amazing that I waited until this late in the blog to mention that I visited many of the locations where the Detective Montalbano series is filmed!

If anyone else is a fan of the Detective Montalbano series, you should know that the entire set of the Montelusa police station is now on permanent exhibition in the city of Scicli and that the Montalbano character’s villa at Punta Secca is now a tourist attraction, along with the restaurant Enzo da Mare a little further down on the beach. There are even “Detective Montalbano” tours on the internet.  If you’d like to create your own tour, simply download the sites of interest from the Ragusa Turismo Site on the internet.  

You will need a car to visit the sites outside of Ragusa, though, as the train is not very efficient in Sicily (or so I am told).

 


 

Particulars of Visiting Ragusa

Transportation (or lack of it) to your hotel:

Ragusa Ibla, or the historic, older section of Ragusa, is an ancient city, carved into the side of a mountain, with narrow, winding cobblestone streets that are interconnected by many steep and just as winding stairways.  As such, most of the city is protected by a limited traffic zone. Tour buses and city buses, along with a train station, are located in lots at the base of this mountain city. So, practically speaking, the first thing to do once you have booked your hotel is to contact the hotel before you arrive (either over the phone or through the Internet), the best way to get from those lots to the hotel front door!  Many hotels will send a porter to help with luggage, and many drivers know also that it will be necessary for them to get out of the car and to walk with luggage to get their guests to their hotel door.  It is always better to arrange this beforehand to eliminate confusion and any hidden fees.

Sicily Ragusa Ibla
Ragusa Ibla (old Ragusa) as viewed from the boarder with Ragusa Superiore (new Ragusa). Maiolica roofed bell tower of Santa Maria dell’Itria and Chiesa Anime Sante del Purgatorio are in the foreground.  The dome of the Baroque cathedral of San Giorgio is in the background.

 

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Where I’ve stayed:

Given the size and age of Ragusa Ibla, it should be noted that accommodations are provided mainly through bed and breakfast style hotels.

The exception is the San Giorgio Hotel, which is literally built into the side of the southern part of the mountainside of Ragusa Ibla. I did stay at this hotel in 2016, and found the staff so pleasant and accommodating (the  concierge actually took it upon himself to help me find the location of my great grandfather’s home) that I would recommend this hotel for those who want a more formal stay. Some of the rooms do not have windows, though, given the location, so I would ask about this if it is a concern. Otherwise, the hotel furnishing were modern, the hotel itself was clean, breakfast was lovely, and as I’ve mentioned the staff were wonderful, and even overly concerned that I enjoy my stay, some even mentioning their cousins with the Occhipinti name.

I have to admit that I chose the bed and breakfast I stayed at just recently for my 7 day trip based mostly on photos of the breakfast selection I found on the internet!  After several evenings of searching, I came upon the breakfast room of the lovely Hotel Sabbinirica, and chose to stay in the guesthouse around the back of the main hotel.  The guest house was spacious and clean, with a small courtyard, although it did not offer a view of the city.  And the breakfast did not disappoint! Every day the owners were on sight to make fresh espresso drinks to order and the breakfast table was laden with fruit, many varieties of Sicilian pastries (with new ones to try each day), Sicilian cheeses, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, toast and cold cuts. Juices, as usual throughout Italy, were freshly squeezed.  And the breakfast room was charming, a mixture of the old and new, built into the side of the mountain.

Sicilian Pastries from Hotel Sabbinirica Ragusa Sicily
Sicilian Pastries from Hotel Sabbinirica in Ragusa Ibla

 

Sicilian Pastries from Hotel Sabbinirica

 

Breakfast room at Hotel Sabbinirica, Ragusa, Sicily
Breakfast room at Hotel Sabbinirica, Ragusa, Sicily

 

The owners came to pick us up from the parking at the foot of the mountain in a motorized golf cart and drove us to the entrance of the bed and breakfast, showed us our room, and very kindly gave us directions on how to reach the main piazza (which was not far away) with the restaurants for dinner. At the reception were pamphlets that held suggestions for tours, both group and private and notice of a bus schedule to the surrounding town. To the side of the reception area was a small boutique filled with handcrafted Sicilian pottery and embroidery.

After our check-in, it was a long walk up the stairs each evening to reach the Hotel Sabbinirica from the taxi station at the Piazza Repubblica, or an even longer climb from the parking lot below. But, once reached, the hotel is on the same level as the lively main piazza that is lined with most of the shops and restaurants in town and hosts the largest church, San Giorgio at its far end. In the morning and evening, the hotel entrance boasted spectacular views of Ragusa Superior, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this hotel. 

Stairway to Hotel Sabbinirica, Ragusa Sicily
Stairway to Hotel Sabbinirica, Ragusa Sicily
Walking to the Piazza San Giorgio, Ragusa Ibla
Walking to the Piazza San Giorgio, Ragusa Ibla

 

There are many charming bed and breakfasts in Ragusa Ibla.  If you have a favorite, please share your experience!

 


Where to eat for a special night:

There are many restaurants in Ragusa that offer local specialties, from pizza to formal dining with all courses (antipasto, primo of pasta, secondo of fish or meat, and dolce). When traveling, I usually choose the restaurant where I have dinner on the spur of the moment, based on the location I end up at after I finish exploring for the day (side street not main piazza), the menu (no pictures, local specialties) and the clientele (locals).

While I was not in Ragusa every evening, so I cannot give an exhaustive list of restaurant recommendations, I did dine at MareDentro twice for dinner, and loved their fresh seafood and preparation of traditional Sicilian dishes.

I also had one special dinner with my traveling companion at the Duomo restaurant of Chef Ciccio Sultano.  The webiste Great Italian Chefs  says: “One of Sicily’s best-loved chefs, Ciccio Sultano has traveled as far as New York to hone his craft. Now back home, Ciccio’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Duomo is the standard bearer for Sicilian haute cuisine, attracting diners from far and wide to the city of Ragusa.”

My experience truly lived up to the hype. Despite the fact that we had only ordered a primo and secondo course, we were offered so many “special” treats that the chef “would be so pleased for us to try” that I was truly dazzled. Not only by the number of offerings abut also by the style of the chef. I don’t usually take photos of the food while I am out dining, so I guess we will just have to go with this description of my meal from the Great Italian Chefs website:” It only takes a cursory glance at Ciccio’s food to see that these dishes are unmistakably his. His playful, artistic flair is always on display, and his plates are a unique combination of his avant garde character and his love and respect for the food of his home.”

Then I found this description of the restaurants in Ragusa from The Thinking Traveler:

“The restaurant “Duomo”, in Via Capitano Bocchierei, 31, is double Michelin-starred and considered one of the very best restaurants in Italy, while La Locanda di Don Serafino and La Fenice both have 1 Michelin Star… Is Ragusa the gourmet capital of Sicily?”

 


Oh, and by the way… gelato:

This is an easy one. Both gelato shops on the main piazza in Ragusa were fantastic, with unusual flavors I have not seen in other parts of Italy.

Ragusa Gelato flavors
Gelato in Ragusa, Sicily

 


 

Short Historical Tour of Ragusa

Before the city of Ragusa was called Ragusa, it was founded by the indigenous people of Sicily and known in the world of ancient Greece as Hybla Heraea.  The Greeks colonized much of southeastern Sicily and flourished, especially in Agrigento along the southern coast and Siracusa along the eastern coast.  Southern Sicily in antiquity was considered a center of learning, with Archimedes (the philosopher and mathematician who discovered that 3.14… is pie), one of its most brilliant minds. Ragusa, however, remained independent from the Greeks, only to be overtaken by the Romans in the middle of the third century B.C. After this conquest, the city fell under the rule of many different peoples, but was finally given the name “Ragus” when under Arab rule. After the Norman conquest in 1060, the name was changed to Ragusa, which the city has carried to this day.  In 1860, Garibaldi added Ragusa to the newly united Kindgom of Italy.

Here is a short synopsis of how the Ragusa the visitor sees today came to be from The thinking Travaeler:

“Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, NotoModica, Scicli and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily.”

“Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now Ragusa Ibla. The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica.”

The town Ragusa Ibla is part of the Val di Noto UNESCO Heritage site and 18 of its buildings are protected by UNESCO patronage.

 


 

 Short Walking Tour of Ragusa

A visit to the Commune Ragusa website yields a list of churches and buildings for a UNESCO walking tour of Ragusa, and in particular a tour of Baroque architecture, or the Barocco tour.  There is a trolley that will take you on a tour as well, circling around the outer perimeter of the mountain to reach many of these sites.

Baroque architecture is said to have originated in Italy in Rome in the early 17th Century, and then to have spread into other parts of the Italian peninsula and Europe. By the mid-17th century, this highly decorative style was used to create churches with frescoes covering every inch of their walls and ceilings, which were held up by colorful, spiraled columns. The exteriors of government buildings and private homes were decorated with ornate, heavy balconies supported by heavy, statuesque corbels and framed by undulating ironwork to show wealth and power.

Baroque balcony in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily
Baroque balcony in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

 

Ragusa is just one town in a group of nine towns of medieval origin located in the Val di Noto, or southeastern Sicily that were rebuilt in splendor in the new Baroque style after the earthquake of 1693 devastated this region. The other towns are: Caltagirone, Militello, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ispica and Scicli.

On the first day of our stay in Ragusa, we visited the cathedral of San Giorgio and the  Later, we decided to follow the large, brown street signs from our hotel on the border of Ragusa Ibla to Ragusa Superiore.  Below are some images from our tours of Ragusa to enjoy.

Baroque cathedral San Giorgio in Ragusa, Sicily
Baroque cathedral Basilica di San Giorgio, completed in 1775

 

Portale San Giorgio, Ragusa Sicily
The door of the original San Giorgio church in Ragusa, the only surviving portion of the church built before the earthquake of 1693.

 

Giardino Ibleo, a public garden in Ragusa Ibla
Giardino Ibleo, a public garden in Ragusa Ibla

 

Entry to the main piazza in Ragusa
Entry to the main piazza in Ragusa

 

Walking toward Ragusa Superiore
Walking toward Ragusa Superiore

 

Walking to Piazza Repubblica
Walking to Piazza Repubblica

 

Map of a walking tour of Ragusa at the info center
Map of a walking tour of Ragusa on a wall at the info center

 

Via Scale steps from Ragusa Ibla to Ragusa Superiore
Start of via Scale staircase to cross from Ragusa Ibla to Ragusa Superiore

 

Looking back on Ragusa Ibla while crossing to Ragusa Superiore
Looking back on Ragusa Ibla while crossing to Ragusa Superiore

 

Ragusa Ibla from Ragusa Superiore
Ragusa Ibla from Ragusa Superiore

 


 

Sites of Interest

in and around

Ragusa

Church of Santa Maria delle Scale: location offers spectacular views of Ragusa Ibla. and is the oldest church in Ragusa. Occasional site of filming to use Ragusa Ibla as the backdrop for scenes in the Detective Montalbano series.

Palazzo Casentini—late 1700’s Baroque style

Palazzo Bertini—late 1700’s Baroque style

Church of San Giuseppe—Baroque church that houses many Baroque works of art; San Giuseppe is the patron saint of Ragusa, while San Giorgio is the patron saint of Ragusa Iba

Hyblean Archeological Museum—along the outskirts of Ragusa. Can’t believe I missed it this time around!

Shopping in Ragusa Superiore—My favorite shop for women’s fashion, Louisa Spagnoli is in Ragusa Superiore along the main shopping boulevard.  More casual styles than the Louisa Spagnoli shop by Piazza del Popolo in Rome.

Castello di Donnafugata (means “source of health” in Arabic; when translated into Sicililan sounds similar to the Italian “donnafugata”, but does not mean “the woman who fled”)—large estate with villa with origins in the 14th century, but current style in each room preserved as a museum is from the 19th century. Occasional site of filming for Detective Montalbano series.

Marina di Ragusa—Loved walking on the boardwalk along the beach at Marina di Ragusa one evening. This is where the Italians vacation with their families and after dinner is the time to “fare una passegiatta” (take a leisurely stroll). If you like people watching, this is the place, as everyone is dressed in the latest summer styles to “fare una buona figura” (make a good appearance). There is a large boulevard along the boardwalk and across the street are many apartments for rent for a week or more, a few hotels, and many restaurants large and small catering to Italian tourists. Maybe for my next trip?

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Buono means “It’s good!”

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2019? Well, now it is nearing the end of the year, and I’m sure you would like to share all your “good” experiences with friends. Why not do this in Italian?

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases”  that use buono, the Italian adjective that means “good” in Italian, we will be able to describe all the wonderful things we are sure to find when we visit Italy — just as we would in our native language!

Of course, we also need to learn the variations of  buono in order to say “hello,” “good day” or “good evening;”  phrases we will certainly use every day with family and friends, as well as with acquaintances in Italy.

This post is the 26th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many commonly used Italian phrases
and
many Italian greetings

describe things that are “good” with the adjective buono

and its variations 

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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How to Use Buono

with Singular Nouns

 

Buono is an Italian adjective that will come up quite often when one starts to learn Italian, and will use often while traveling — so many things are good in Italy!  But, the form of this adjective will change according to the masculine or feminine form of the noun (person, place or thing) it modifies, the number of “things” that are good, and also according to where this adjective is placed in the sentence.

Sound complicated?  Well, it is… a little bit.  But luckily, there are many “commonly used phrases” spoken every day in Italy that use the word buono. 

And, by remembering these common Italian phrases, you will automatically have committed the rules for how to use the adjective buono to memory!

 

We will start by explaining how to use buono with singular masculine nouns.

For masculine nouns, buono is placed either directly after the noun, or at the end of a sentence that uses the Italian verb è for is. In the second case, the adjective buono will be separated from the noun it modifies, but both the noun and adjective will agree in gender and number.

So, in our example below, we see that there are two ways to express the idea that you are having a good day. In both cases, the adjective buono is placed after the singular masculine noun giorno. 

Il giorno è buono. The day is good.
il giorno buono the good day

 

When the adjective buono is placed before a masculine noun,  however, the last letter -o is dropped from buono to make buon, as in, “Buon giorno!”

Buon giorno! Good day!
buon uomo  good man
buon bambino
buon ragazzo
good baby (boy)
good boy

 

The masculine buon is also an important word to remember when one wants to express good wishes to another, such as with the phrase, “Happy Birthday!”  In Italian, these phrases can start with, ” Auguri di…” meaning, “Best wishes for…” But, more often than not, Italians use shorter phrases to wish others well, and these phrases often start with “Buon…”

 

Check out the table below for some common phrases of best wishes.
Buon divertimento! I hope you have a good time!

Auguri di buon compleanno! Best wishes for a happy birthday!
Buon compleanno! Happy birthday!
Buon anniversario! Happy anniversary!
Buon viaggio! Have a good trip!
Buon divertimento! Have fun!
Have a good time!
Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!
Buon anno! Happy New Year!
Felice anno nuovo! Happy New Year!
(less commonly used)

 

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Now let’s talk about how to use buono with singular feminine nouns.

For a feminine noun, the adjective buona is used to describe something good, whether placed before or after the noun this adjective modifies. Again, one of our “meeting and greeting” phrases, “Buona sera,” will help us to remember this rule.*

Also, if you want to express the wish that someone has a good day for the entire day, you can use the adjective buona with the phrase “Buona giornata!”  The same applies for the entire evening with the phrase “Buona serata!”

 

Check out the table below for some common phrases that use buona.
Buona fortuna! Good luck!

La frutta è buona oggi.
la buona frutta
The fruit is good today.
the good fruit
Buona sera! Good evening!
Buona giornata! Have a good day!
(wish for the entire day to be good)
Buona serata! Have a good evening!
(wish for the entire evening to be good)
Buona idea! Good idea!
Buona fortuna! Good luck!

 

There is only one exception to the rule above: if buona is placed before a feminine noun that begins with the letter –a, simply drop the last letter from buona and add an apostrophe to make buon’ for smoother conversation.  Since our focus is on conversational Italian, just remember to bring the two words together when speaking, without repeating the -a ending, and don’t worry for now about the spelling!

So, if you want tell someone your friend—who is a girl—is a “good friend” to you,  you could say, “la buon’amica mia,”  for “my good friend.”  

 

*Some of these phrases can also be written as one word, as in: buongiorno, buonasera, and buonanotte.

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How to Use Buono

with Plural Nouns

The adjective buono follows the usual Italian rules for changing singular adjectives to plural adjectives.

In general, of course:

  • A masculine Italian noun and its adjective will end in -o, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.
  • A feminine Italian noun and its adjective will ends in -a, and this ending will change to -e in the plural.
  • An Italian noun or adjective that ends in -e may be masculine or feminine, and this ending will change to -i in the plural.

If you are interested in learning more about masculine and feminine words in Italian that end in the letter -e, and how to distinguish one from the other, this You Tube Video may be of help: Italian Grammar by Stella Lucente, LLC.

 

For our adjective buono, the following rules apply:

  • For the  masculine forms of the adjective buono, the plural is always buoni.
  • For the  feminine forms of the adjective buona, the plural is always buone.

 

 With these simple rules, we are ready to create some common noun/adjective combinations using buono and buona!

il giorno buono the good day becomes
the good days
i giorni buoni
il buon giorno the good day becomes
the good days
i buoni giorni
la buona notizia the good news
(one piece of news)
becomes
the good news
le buone notizie

 

There are, of course, many more occasions to use the Italian adjective buono than those I have just listed.  How many more an you think of?

Remember common expressions with the adjective buono
and I guarantee you will use then every day!

 

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

Ferragosto on the beach from "Take Me Home Italy" blog
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! For August I would like to share a blog from “Take Me Home Italy,” written by Marilyn Ricci, a friend who has recently moved to Italy and has been sharing her experiences with us through her writing.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

And, what better way to explore Italy and provide travel tips than to live there?  Marilyn has been able to experience first hand the important August celebration of Ferragosto.  To Italians, Ferragosto is a very important family and religious celebration, with roots that date back to Roman times.  Over the years,  the meaning  of Ferragosto has changed, but its importance has not diminished, and to Italians, it is still a very special holiday family get-together and summer fun, which brings the same excitement as the Christmas season later in the winter months.

Marilyn writes:

Have you heard of Ferragosto? Ferragosto is officially a holiday on 15 August. Yet, for Italians, it is typically more than one day of celebration.

What IS Ferragosto? Where did it come from and why is it such a huge national holiday?

Back when Augustus was the Roman Emperor, in the year 18 B.C.E., he instituted the Feriai Augusti, a day of rest for the Emperor and his people. The day was dedicated to the Roman god of fertility and of the harvest. It was a time to celebrate and be fruitful as only the Romans could do.

Click on this link to read the full blog: It’s Ferragosto! Let’s Party Like the Romans

 

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2019? Well, now more than half the year has passed, and I’m sure you have made a few Italian friends and would like to talk about your relationships with “each other.”

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to say “each other” in Italian, a “commonly used phrase” in English that is expressed with  Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs, we will be able to talk about common feelings and experiences — just as we do in our native language!

With a little Italian reciprocal reflexive verb  practice, soon we will be able to say “each other” in Italian in order to fully interact with our friends and describe what is happening around us.

This post is the 25th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
that describe our interactions with “each other”
use

  Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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How to Say “Each Other”

Italian Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

 

Reciprocal reflexive verbs are used in the special situation when two or more people perform the same action together; this will make all people involved the subject of the action.

To express this type of situation in English we simply add the phrase “each other” after the verb that describes the action. Italians employ the -si ending, as with regular reflexive verbs that describe actions that revert back to the speaker.

Listed below are verbs that commonly use the reciprocal reflexive form:

abbracciarsi to hug each other
aiutarsi to help each other
amarsi to love each other
baciarsi to kiss each other
chiamarsi to call each other
conoscersi to get to know each other
fidanzarsi to become engaged
guardarsi to look at each other
incontrarsi to meet each other
(planned meeting)
odiarsi to hate each other
parlarsi to speak to each other
salutarsi to greet each other
scriversi to write each other
sposarsi to marry each other
telefonarsi to call each other
trovarsi to meet each other
vedersi to see each other

A quick glance at this list reveals two things: (1) many of these reflexive verbs have non-reflexive forms with similar meanings, such as amare (to love), parlare (to talk), scrivere (to write), and vedere (to see); (2) many of these reflexive verbs are also used as simple reflexive verbs, such as fidanzarsi (to get married), and sposarsi (to get married).

The verb chiamare and its reflexive form chiamarsi are also interesting. Chiamare alone means “to call,” as in to yell over to someone (or to make a telephone call, now that technology allows us to do this) but chiamarsi in its simple reflexive form has a different meaning: “to call oneself a name.” Of course, every Italian student quickly learns the first conjugation of the verb chiamarsi as part of their initiation into the Italian language with the phrase,Mi chiamo…” for the English phrase “My name is…”  So chiamarsi does  “double duty” as a simple and a reciprocal reflexive verb, with different meanings depending on the context.

In short, reflexive verbs add shades of meaning to the Italian language in a simple, yet brilliant way.

 

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How do we actually use Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs in conversation?

Let’s give this a try with the two most commonly used persons in spoken Italian, the first person plural noi and the third person plural loro forms.

If the speaker is involved in the action with someone else—we are doing the action—conjugate the verb in the sentence using the first person plural noi form and put its reflexive pronoun ci before the  conjugated verb.

If the speaker is talking about a group of other people—they are doing the action—conjugate the verb in the sentence using the third person plural loro form and put its reflexive pronoun si before the conjugated verb.

As we have learned in our previous blogs, the subject pronouns are almost always omitted  when conversing in Italian, and this “rule” applies to sentences that use reciprocal reflexive verbs.  But the subject pronouns have been included in parentheses in our Italian examples in the table below, just to make it immediately clear who is the subject. With time, we should not need this hint, at least for the noi form, with its easily recognizable -iamo verb ending, which is the same for all verbs in the present tense!

Also, notice that in Italian the immediate future is expressed by the present tense, while in English, we tend to use the future tense for every future activity.  It is easy in English to speak in the future tense, since all we have to do is place the word “will” in front of the verb. Since the word “will” is not actually included in the Italian sentences given as examples, and we are not conjugating in the Italian future tense, the word “will” is given in parentheses in our English translations in the table below.

 

If we try to think a little bit in Italian, and translate the Italian ideas into the English we would ordinarily use, we will find that it is really not that difficult to understand Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs!

 

Io e Francesca ci vogliamo bene. Frances and I care for each other very much.
   
(Noi) Ci sposiamo oggi. We (will) marry each other today.
(Noi) Ci scriviamo ogni giorno. We write each other every day.
(Noi) Ci vediamo al teatro. We (will) see each other at the theater.
(Noi) Ci vogliamo bene. We love each other very much.

 

Caterina e zia Rosa si salutano. Kathy and Aunt Rose greet each other.
Michele e Francesca si vogliono bene. Michael and Frances care for each other very much.
   
(Loro) Si vogliono bene. They care for each other very much.
(Loro) Si incontrano. They meet each other.
(Loro) Si chiamano ogni giorno. They call (telephone) each other every day.

 

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Let’s try this in the past tense. Remember, of course, that all reflexive verbs take essere in the passato prossimo past tense, and that the past participle ending must change in gender and number when using essere as a helping verb.

 

Io e Francesca ci siamo voluti bene. Frances and I cared for each other very much.
   
(Noi) Ci siamo sposati oggi. We married each other today.
(Noi) Ci siamo scritti ogni giorno. We wrote each other every day.
(Noi) Ci siamo visti al teatro. We saw each other at the theater.
(Noi) Ci siamo voluti bene. We loved each other very much.

 

Caterina e zia Rosa si sono salutate. Kathy and Aunt Rose greeted each other.
Michele e Francesca si sono voluti bene. Michael and Frances cared for each other very much.
(Loro) Si sono voluti bene. They cared for each other very much.
(Loro) Si sono incontrati. They met each other.
(Loro) Si sono chiamati ogni giorno. They  called each other (on the telephone) every day.

 

There are, of course, many more occasions for the use of reciprocal reflexive verbs than those I have just listed.  How many more an you think of?

 

Remember how to the Italian reciprocal reflexive verbs and I guarantee you will use then every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Oregano (Origano) and Zucchini (Zucchina)

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! This week I will share about how to grow the herb oregano and it’s perfect Italian companion zucchini for one of my favorite Italian side-dishes, a simple “stew” of zucchini and tomatoes with onions and oregano.  Even children who don’t like summer squash will love this dish! 

As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.” 

For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.

Meanwhile, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen cooking our favorite meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables that my grandfather grew. She passed down the simple but delicious method for stewing zucchini with tomatoes and oregano to our family here in America.  After reading about how to grow oregano and zucchini,  you can watch me it in action as I cook the dish by clicking the Instagram link if you want!

Check out my Instagram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing oregano and zucchini.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about gardening!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Oregano – Origano

 

Italian-American Gardening tips - herb oregano
Oregano – just getting started growing in my garden

Oregano is a perennial, bush-like plant that is commonly used in tomato salads or combined with zucchini and tomatoes for a vegetable side dish (contorno). In the United States, oregano became popular after World War II, when it was brought back from Italy by American soldiers and became a common addition to tomato sauces in Italian-American households.

Oregano will come up each spring if planted directly in the garden, usually growing a bit larger each year.  Oregano likes sun, but can also grow in partial shade. Trim frequently with kitchen scissors and dry or keep the leaves fresh in the refrigerator on the stalk. Significant amounts of oregano can be harvested early in summer and the plant will regrow. Allow to flower late in the summer.  The plant is cold hardy and can survive a fall or spring frost, but will die back in the winter.  Remove any remaining dead branches in the spring and the plant will grow for another season.

To harvest oregano, cut off the stem with its leaves.  Then, use a small knife or your fingers to run down the length of the stem and remove the small leaves. Discard the stem. To dry,, bundle and hang from the stems upside down.  When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an air-tight container away from heat.

 

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 Italian Summer Squash – Zucchina e Cucuzza

Zucchina is one zucchini in Italian
Two zucchini plants growing side by side in the garden.

Zucchini in English, or zucchina/zucchine in Italian is a summer squash, also known as a marrow.  The immature form of a marrow is called a courgette. The smaller courgettes, which have more flesh and less seeds than the mature summer squash, are used widely in Italian cooking. Zucchini is popular fried, stewed, and even hollowed out and stuffed, and usually served as an appetizer or a side dish.  The zucchini flowers are edible and are often stuffed and fried as an appetizer.

Zucchini can be planted after the last threat of frost is over. Zucchini like well-manured, moist soil and can even grow on a compost heap (from personal experience)! Create a mound of soil and plant 4-6 seeds around the mound so the plants will grow next to one another.  This will encourage pollination by bees, who can easily fly from one flower to the next.

Male zucchini plant
Male zucchini flower on a long stalk from my garden

Zucchini plants come in male and female varieties, although they look identical and have almost identical flowers. However, only the female plant will produce a zucchini, which grows from the base of the female flower itself.  Male flowers will grow on a long, slender stalk.  When the pollen is transferred from the male to the female flower, the zucchini at the base of the female flower will enlarge as the flower slowly becomes smaller and finally dies off.  Some gardeners transfer the pollen from the male to the female flower on the tip of a Q-tip, hoping to ensure a large crop of zucchini fruit, but usually this is not necessary if enough seeds are planted.

For the most flavorful zucchini, harvest when 5-6″ long by cutting them off at the stem. Refrigerate with the short stem intact until ready to use. Be careful to check daily, or a giant zucchini may appear unexpectedly in the garden and most of the flesh will be replaced by seeds! Frequent harvesting will also encourage more female flowers to emerge and in turn this will produce more fruit.

Zucchini leaves are susceptible to fungus, and may turn brownish, but the plant should continue to produce fruit. Slugs and other insects may bore into the stem and cause the leaves to wilt and die. Sprinkling crushed egg shells on the soil may discourage slugs, who don’t like to slide over the shells. Planting zucchini in a different location each year will help to avoid the spread of these diseases to your crop next year.

To cook zucchini, simply cut off the stem and the opposite end and then cut the entire vegetable cross-wise into rounds or lengthwise into sticks or strips.

 

Cucuzza 

Image from www.specialtyproduce.com

A famous long, thin, light green squash that is harvested in the summer from southern Italy and Sicily is known as “cucuzza.”  Cucuzza (pronounced “goo-gooz” in  Sicilian dialect) typically grows from 1 to 3 feet. Unlike a true summer squash, the skin from this squash must be peeled before cooking.  There is a well-known Sicilian proverb that states, “Cucinala come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è!” meaning, “However you cook it, it’s still just squash!” 

Cucuzza is also used as an endearing term for a young girl in a 1950’s Italian novelty song sung by Louis Prima called, “My Cucuzza.”  He sings about the vegetable, Cucuza grows in Italy down on the farm.  It’s something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm… I call my girl cucuzza because she’s as sweet as can be.”  To hear the song sung by Louis Prima in it’s entirety, click this My Cucuzza link.

 

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Zucchini with Tomatoes and Oregano

Stewed zucchini, tomatoes and oregano
Stewed zucchini and tomatoes with fresh oregano and a slice of crusty Italian bread.

Watch the method in time elapse photography as I cook this dish on my Instagram channel by clicking here:

View this post on Instagram

That’s Italian! Zucchini and with tomatoes and fresh oregano (origano) from your garden – an easy-to-make and delicious vegetable side dish for summer. Even your kids will love this! Just sauté onions (don’t let brown) and zucchini with a pinch of salt a little olive oil. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Delizioso! Delicious! #osnap #chicagogarden #chicagogardener #chicagoland #italyinamerica #italiangardens #italiangardenstyle #oregano #oreganoplant #summersquash ##origano🍃 #origanofresco🌿 #origanofresco #zucchinirecipes #zucchinis #zucchina #zucchiniplant #summersquash #howtocook #howtocookzucchini #italianfood @italynearme #howtocookvegetables #howtocookvegetablestew

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

Ingredients: 

olive oil, 1 onion, 3 medium-size Zucchini, 6 plum tomatoes, fresh oregano, salt

Method: 

  1. Coarsely chop the onion, zucchini and tomatoes. (See the video for the method to chop these vegetables.)
  2. Pour olive oil into a large frying pan with high sides or a pot large enough to accommodate all the vegetables, heat briefly, and then add the onions and a pinch of salt.
  3. When the onions have softened, and turned clear, add the zucchini. Cover and let zucchini cook on medium heat to soften, stirring occasionally. Do not let zucchini or onions brown.
  4. When zucchini ha softened, add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste with a few grinds of pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat. If needed, add a little water.
  5. When the tomatoes have softened, add the oregano and cook until the herb has softened.
  6. When all vegetables have softened, but are not mushy, they are done!  The finished vegetable dish should have a little bit of “juice” and can be served in a separate small bowl if wanted.
  7. Serve with Italian bread to “sop up” the juices.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How We Dress in Italian

Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2019? Well, now more than half the year has passed, and I’m sure you are trying to talk about your every day activities with family and friends!  One of the most common topics of conversation in any language is about clothes and how we dress.

As I’ve said before, I believe that “commonly used phrases” are the key for how we can all build fluency in any language in a short time.

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to tell others how we dress and make “small talk” about how well others are dressed — part of “fare la bella figura” (looking fabulous) in Italian — just as we do in our native language!

In Italian we need to learn how to use three important verbs and we are all set to talk about what we are wearing—vestirsi, mettersi, and indossare. 

This post is the 24th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases” that describe what we are doing

are about
  “Putting on clothing…” or  “What we are wearing…”

 If I want to describe what we are wearing in Italian,

we must learn how to use the Italian verbs
Vestirsi, Mettersi, and Indossare

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

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What We Are Wearing in Italian


Vestirsi, Mettersi, Portare and Indossare

In Italian we need to learn how to use three important verbs and we are all set to talk about what we are wearing—vestirsi, mettersi, and indossare.  If we learn how to use these verbs properly, we will be able to tell others how we dress and make “small talk” about how well others are dressed — part of “fare la bella figura” ( looking good or making a good impression) in Italian — just as we do in our native language!

Vestirsi

Let’s start with the Italian verb “vestirsi,” which carries the general meaning of “to get dressed.” To use this verb, just conjugate it as you would any other reflexive verb to make a simple sentence.

We need to remember that for reflexive verbs, the subject pronoun of the sentence, (io, tu, Lei/lei/lui, noi, voi, loro), must be in the same person as the reflexive pronouns (mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si).

This sounds simple enough.  But, we also have to remember that the sentence structure in conversational Italian does not generally include the subject pronoun; the subject pronoun is understood from the verb ending, which will be unique for each speaker in the present tense.  So, for conversational Italian—even for reflexive verbs— the subject pronoun is left out of the sentence.  In our example table using reflexive verbs, the Italian subject pronoun will be given in parentheses for teaching purposes only.

In English, we do not convey this idea with a reflexive pronoun.  So the reflexive pronoun included in the Italian sentence will be given in parentheses in the English translation.

 

(Io) Mi vesto. I get (myself) dressed.
(Tu) Ti vesti. You get (yourself) dressed.
(Lei/Lui) Si veste. You (polite) get (yourself)…
She/He gets (herself, himself)… dressed.

 

(Noi) Ci vestiamo. We get (ourselves) dressed.
(Voi) Vi vestite. You all get (yourselves) dressed.
(Loro) Si vestono. They get (themselves) dressed.

 

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Mettersi 

When talking about putting on a particular article of clothing, such as a dress or suit (vestito)* for instance,  we must learn to use yet another Italian reflexive verb— mettersi, which means to put on oneself. 

Here is how it works:

Mettersi can be used to convey three different types of English sentences: I put on the dress,” “I put on my dress,” and “I put my dress on.” The reflexive pronoun mi (myself) is placed before the conjugated form of mettersi, as usual, and the article of clothing to be put on is then placed after the verb. The subject pronoun is omitted, as usual. So the final translation for “I put on the/my dress” is, “Mi metto il vestito.” 

If this all sounds complicated, just remember the simple phrase “mi metto” and replace il vestito with the article of clothing of your choice and you will be able to describe getting dressed with any article of clothing!

To describe action in the tu (you) form, just conjugate mettersi normally and then add the article of clothing, as in “ti metti.” For the lei/lui (she/he) form, use “si mette,” and so on.

(Io) Mi metto il vestito. I put on the dress./I put the dress on./I put on my dress.
(Tu) Ti metti l’anello. You put on the ring.
(Lei/lui) Si mette le scarpe. She/he puts on shoes.

*A note: Don’t confuse the verb vestire with the noun vestito, which means dress and also suit (pants and jacket or skirt and jacket).  These words are similar but have different meanings!  Also,  it should be mentioned that the plural noun, vestiti, means clothing.(Other words for suit that can be used for both sexes are abito and completo.)

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Portare

In order to say I am wearing…”  or I take the size…”  the verb portare, which is not reflexive, is usually used in the  simple present tense. You no doubt remember that portare is also commonly used to mean to bring”  or to carry.” 

Porto il mio vestito preferito. I am wearing my favorite dress.
Porto la (taglia) quarantotto. I take size 48.

 

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Past Tense Verb Choices

When speaking in the past tense, portare can also be used to say, I wore…” But perhaps because portare is used so commonly with its other meaning of to bring”  in the present tense, in order to describe what they have worn in the past, most Italians prefer to revert to mettersi and use its (irregular) past participle messo

Remember to use the helping verb essere for the passato prossimo past tense form with the reflexive verb mettersi.  And, of course the last vowel of the past participle must agree in gender with the person wearing the clothing (see the red vowels), since we are using essere as the helping verb. The table below shows how this all works:

(Io) Mi sono messo un completo.
(Io) Mi sono messa una gonna.
I wore a suit. (masculine)
I wore a skirt. (feminine)
Ho portato una gonna. I wore a skirt.

 

 

Another way to describe how someone was dressed is to use the imperfetto past tense of essere  with the descriptive past participle vestito(a,i,e).   This type of phrase can be used to make generalizations, as well as to refer to a specific article of clothing.  When being specific, the preposition con (with) is used in these phrases, as in the examples below.

Era vestito con un abito grigio. He was dressed in a gray suit.
Era vestita con una gonna blu. She was dressed in a blue skirt.
Eravamo vestiti tutti in rosso per la festa. We were dressed all in red for the party.

 

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Indossare

The verb indossare also means “to wear” and “to put on.”  This verb is used in exactly the same way as portare or mettersi.  To the Italian ear, however, the verb indossare is said to have a more elegant sound than portare or mettersi, and perhaps this is why indossare is more common in written Italian than in conversation.

Just like the other two verbs that have the same meaning, indossare must always be followed by the article of clothing that the person is wearing.

Caterina indossa un abito rosso. Kathryn is wearing a red dress.
La signora indossava un cappotto molto elegante. The lady was wearing a very elegant coat.

 

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Finally, when something fits perfectly on you or another, to really fit into Italian society, use the common expression calzare a pennello.”  Calzature refers to the art of making shoes, or “footwear,” so this Italian saying is the equivalent of  the English saying, It fits you like a glove” or It fits you to a T.”

 

Mi calza a pennello! It fits me perfectly!
Ti calza a pennello! It fits you perfectly!
Gli/Le calza a pennello! It fits (on) him/her perfectly!

 

Remember how to the Italian verbs vestirsi, mettersi, portare and indossare when talking about clothing and I guarantee you will use the every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers: “Just the Verbs”

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Your Italian Travel Tips – Matera: European Capital of Culture 2019

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Once again, here is a blog with unique travel tips that I would like to share.

About once a month, I have been re-blogging a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.”

The post for June 2019 was written by Orna O’Reilly, in her blog “Travelling Italy.”  O’Reilly is a former interior designer from Ireland, who also worked for many years in South Africa and Mozambique. Now living in Puglia in the south of Italy, Orna is writing full time and her award winning blog covers all things Italian.  Orna regularly writes for popular Italy Magazine and for glossy Irish magazine Anthology. Word on the street is that Orna will have a new novel out soon, set in modern day Venice and Dublin… Hope to be able to share more about this novel soon!

Orna writes this about Matera:

Dating back over 7000 years, the Sassi are said to be the oldest human habitation in Italy. After the inhabitants were rehoused in the 1950s, many of the caves were restored and, since the 1980s, many of them are now used as hotels, restaurants and homes for those original Sassi dwellers who wished to return.

Having an ancient biblical appearance, in most people’s imagination, over the years Matera has been the setting for at least twenty major movies. These include the obvious candidates, Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’, though other less likely movies have been filmed there, such as last year’s ‘Wonder Woman.’

In the blog to follow, Orna tells us in detail not only about the history of Matera, but what it is like to visit the city today.  After reading her blog, I felt like visiting myself, and hope to do so one day soon.  All of the highlights of the town are mentioned, with beautiful photos so that one feels they are actually waking down the city streets of Matera with a friend. And, of course, it is important to read to the end of the blog to come to the recommendations for hotels and dining!

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

Orna O'Reilly: Travelling Italy

Four hundred metres above sea level, among the rolling hills of Basilicata in southern Italy, lies the haunting city of Matera.

It is bisected by a deep ravine through which the River Gravina flows.

The sides of this deep gorge are studded by ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi, where families lived from Palaeolithic times, right up to the 1950s when the inhabitants were rehoused by the Italian government with the aid of UNESCO.

In 1993, the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was on the basis that it is the ‘most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem.’ The UNESCO website goes on to say that the ‘first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history.’

View original post 1,471 more words

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Basil (Basilico) and Parsley (Prezzemolo)

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Summer to the Italian-Americans I know means a garden of herbs and vegetables —of  fragrant basil, parsley and pungent tomatoes allowed to ripen in the sun—at the very least!

This summer, I’ve had to start a new garden from scratch now that I have moved to the Chicago suburbs from Peoria. So I thought I would take a few photos and share some of what I’ve come to know about gardening with this series “Your Italian Gardening Tips.” 

For as long as I can remember, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.  As a small child, I knew that my fondest memories of summer would begin as I opened the large, decorative, black iron gate to enter what to me was a miraculous place – my grandparent’s a two story attached brick building that had my grandfather’s grape vines growing happily along the only free side.  Out back, there was a small cement landing where the family gathered amid large decorative clay pots of herbs, with a pergola for the ripened grapes to hang from and provide shade, of course!

The rest of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of  vegetables, perfectly staked  in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land.  I loved picking the fragrant basil, perfectly red, vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh, soft  purple figs to take home. Yes, my grandfather even managed to keep fig trees alive during the cold NYC winters by bundling the branches up a pail and covering them with blankets, just so we could enjoy baskets of fresh figs for the summer.  And enjoy them we did!

Check out my Instagram account, ConversationalItalian.French to see photos of my garden as it progresses.

Below are my insights on growing Basil and Parsley.  Please leave a comment if you want. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about growing or using these herbs!  

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on Amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel Italian.com.

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Italian Herb Basil – Basilico

 

Basilico Basil
Ornamental basil with leaves of different sizes and colors

Basil is an annual plant whose leaves are valued for their use in flavoring Italian tomato sauces and in appetizers with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.

Two of the most famous Italian appetizers are Capresi Salad, from the island of Capri (tomato, mozzarella, basil) and Panzanella Salad (bread, tomato, basil). Fresh basil from the region of Liguria (nearby Genoa) is ground slowly with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese with a marble mortar and pestle to make the famous Pesto Genovese.  To read more about this basil sauce, click on my blog Pesto Genovese Meets American Aquaponic Farming in Chicago

There are many types of basil that can be found growing in Italy and other countries. Italian flat leaf “sweet” basil is most often used in Italian cooking, and the basil from Liguria is said to be the most aromatic and have the most complex flavor.

Basil must be grown from seed each year. Do not sow outdoors, as basil plants are very sensitive to frost. Sow indoors and plant outdoors only when the last threat of frost is over for your region. Basil grows well in containers, but will need bright sunshine, at least in the morning, and almost daily watering; if exposed to sunlight all day, the leaves may wilt, but additional water the plant will quickly recover.

 

Basilico, Italian sweet basil from Italy
Italian “sweet” basil with a broad leaf for cooking

When small, white flowers appears in mid to late summer, pinch back the stem, removing all the flowers, and harvest of the leaves can continue. Otherwise, the plant will go to seed and die.

If a basil stem with a few leaves is cut from the plant and placed in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill, roots will soon develop. When a good root ball has formed, the basil stem can be planted in a small pot of soil and will develop into a larger plant. This is a good way to keep fresh basil available during the winter months.

To harvest basil, pinch off several leaves or pinch off the stem from the top of the plant. Wash the leaves, pat dry, and shred by hand to add to tomato sauces or salads. Southern Italians love the cool flavor of fresh basil, and will top a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce with freshly torn basil as summertime treat.

To dry basil, harvest the entire plant and either hand upside down from the stem or place in a paper bag. When the leaves have dried, they can be removed. Store leaves whole for best flavor, or crumble. Place in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

 

Caprese Salad

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see the method for the easy-to-make and delicious Caprese salad, which is said to originate from the island of Capri. The ingredients are the key to this “salad”:  fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes,  soft buffalo mozzarella (from the water buffalo raised in the countryside near Capri, in the Campagna region) and fresh basil leaves.  A touch of sea-salt to bring the juices out of the tomatoes that provide the acid for the “vinaigrette” and a drizzle of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil makes an exquisite summertime treat!