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.

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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

 

Italian Wine: In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo by Tom Maresca

How the Italians were able to win over the US market for high quality wine. Fascinating article.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

In Memoriam: Lucio Caputo

Earlier this month, Lucio Caputo died at the age of 84. His passing didn’t attract a lot of attention outside the wine world, but within that micro-universe it reverberated enormously.

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From 1974 to 1982, Caputo was the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York, at that time a position of incredible importance for Italian products in the United States, and most especially for Italian wine. He left the Italian civil service in 1983 (declining a fat government pension) to stay on in New York to found the Italian Wine and Food Institute, an agency he successfully headed for the next 30 years. The IWFI did a tremendous job over that period of promoting the best of Italian wines and food products. Its annual tastings and awards dinners were always highlights of the season for wine professionals.

But for those of us who remember what the situation of…

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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!