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! A lot has happened in my Italian garden in just two short months. There is some harvesting to be done already! And there is much more planting to be done now that the last threat of frost is over.

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 2019, 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.

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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.

 

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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:

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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.

 

 

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 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.

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

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