Your Italian-American Gardening Tips – Growing Tomatoes and Making Caprese and Panzanella Salads

Large bowl of just-picked tomatoes of various sizes and colors in the shade.
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

All Italian gardeners I know spend the summer diligently watering and weeding in eager anticipation of their favorite crop — the tomato. For most of us, the tomato is the reason we create a garden at all. Yes, it is wonderful to grow eggplants, zucchini, and peppers so that these vegetables are a short walk from our kitchen when we need them.  But for those who love fresh tomatoes, there is nothing like a warm, juicy tomato pulled fresh from the vine after ripening in the sun. Tomatoes are a fruit, and those left to ripen to their full potential will have a complex balance of acidity and sweetness. Each variety will have its own subtle variation in flavor.  It is impossible to describe the feeling eating such a delicious fruit brings to one who has only eaten commercially grown store-bought tomatoes, except to say that for many of us it is close to heaven.  

Since I live around the corner from a family-run nursery, I am lucky to find over 20 varieties of tomato plants every spring that are ready to plant. Each of these is listed as determinate (the tomato plant will stop growing after it reaches a certain size) and indeterminate (the tomato plant will not stop growing and will need side stems, a.k.a. “suckers” pruned).  In a previous blog, Your Italian-American Gardening Tips (with Recipes) – Tomatoes, Zucchini… I discussed how to grow tomatoes and gave several tips about what to do if you should run into difficulties.  In a You-Tube Video, I posted about how to prune suckers from an indeterminate tomato plant. Growing Tomato Plants: Pinching off side stems.

Let’s talk a bit more about tomatoes for the end of the summer season this year!

 

“What is the purpose of growing different types of tomatoes?” you may ask. In one of my Instagram posts, I share a picture of the tomatoes I grew this year and list the uses for each.

Four bowls that contain various types of tomatoes and peppers
Recent harvest of different varieties of tomatoes, including plum, pear, and cherry tomatoes. Italian peppers also included in the photo.

In short, we all know that medium to large tomatoes, the largest of which are called “Beefsteak” are great for cutting into slices or wedges and eating on sandwiches, in salads, or just by themselves. Some people like to add a sprinkle of salt or a drizzle of olive oil to their plate of tomato wedges to create the perfect summertime snack. Dried oregano can be added to wedges of tomatoes along with olive oil for a “tomato salad,” with or without red onion.  These tomatoes come in many shades of red, as well as pink, yellow, and even “zebra” yellow and green. The different colored varieties add visual interest to a salad and those other than the bright red tend to have less acidity.

Plum tomatoes are fleshier than other tomatoes and have less juice. These are the tomatoes that undergo processing to create tomato paste. San Marzano plum tomatoes from the region around Naples are the most sought-after plum tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes are a favorite of mine because they ripen early and produce tomatoes all through the summer and into the fall. They are a great snack for eating out of hand and are wonderful to add to lettuce salads as they are already bite-size and will not loose their juices and soften the lettuce. Grape tomatoes are slightly larger than cherry tomatoes.  This year I had cherry tomato plants that produced red, yellow and brown tomatoes. All were delicious!

 

 For tips on how to create an authentic Caprese Salad with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, visit Your Italian-American Gardening Tips with Recipes: Basil (Basilico).  Be creative! 

 

Caprese salad in a large serving bowl made with alternating red and yellow tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
Caprese salad in a large serving bowl made with alternating red and yellow sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

 

Caprese salad made with alternating red and yellow tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
Caprese salad made with alternating red and yellow cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about Panzanella salad?” you may ask.
Isn’t this another wonderful Italian tomato salad I can create with my fresh tomatoes?

I have also blogged about making Panzanella salad before, and included tomatoes in this salad, in the blog for my learn Travel Italian website entitled, Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil.   Here is an image from that blog of my initial idea of what this salad should be like:

Bowl of Panzanella salad with bread, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.
Bowl of Panzanella salad with bread, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

I recently updated that blog to include a little known fact (at least to me). The original Panzanella salad did not include tomatoes!  Here is a photo I posted on Instagram of the Panzanella salad I made after I learned of a recipe from the great writer of the Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, from the 1300s.

Plate of cucumbers, red onions, reconstituted bread and basil for Panzanella salad
Panzanella Salad made in the 1300s according to Giovanni Boccaccio: Stale bread (softened), cucumber, red onion, basil and mixed greens.

My family did not make Panzanella salad when I was growing up.  As an adult, I had tried this salad in in restaurants and thought it a nice change from the usual Caprese salad, so I added it to my post.  Caprese and Panzanella salads, I thought, were the two important Italian tomato dishes.  Recently, I learned from a blog by Emiko Davies titled  “Bronzino’s Panzanella,” that Panzanella salad is indeed a popular and traditional Italian salad in Tuscany, mentioned by the writer Bronzino himself in a poem, prior to the appearance of tomatoes in Italy. 

We can assume that Panzanella salad started out as a way to use up old bread, as stale Tuscan bread lends itself well to being softened with a sprinkle of water. A little red onion, perhaps some basil, and olive oil and red wine vinegar might have been all an Italian housewife had available to lend some flavor her bread salad.  According to the recipe provided by Bronzino, cucumbers and even some arugula could be added to magically turn the bounty of summer into a crunchy and refreshing summer treat.

Serendipitously, I had been growing Armenian cucumbers in my garden for the very first time this year, when I came across Davies’ blog. When I read about Bronzino’s version of Panzanella salad, I made it myself and posted the result on Instagram on Conversationalitalian.french.   

Panzanella salad made Bronzino’s way, with cucumbers, was truly a revelation. The seeds of the Armenian cucumber were easy to remove from the center of the vegetable, and without the skin this variety of cucumber was light, crunchy, and flavorful. There are no real proportions to this salad; use as much reconstituted bread as you like and as much cucumber and other ingredients as you have on hand.  Now THAT’s Italian!

Below is my method for making Panzanella salad with cucumbers, originally posted on Instagram on  Conversationalitalian.french.   and the method for making Panzanella salad with tomatoes, originally posted on blog.learntravelitalian.com. 

Try Panzanella salad both ways.  I ‘m sure you won’t be disappointed!


 

Today’s Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes

Tomato and bread Panzanella salad
Italian Panzanella salad with halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh torn basil and bread

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

 

Dry Italian bread, cubed, or large croutons
Sprinkle the dried Italian bread with water to soften
(see comments about the proper bread to use below*)

1-2 large, vine-ripened tomato, cut into small wedges
or several cherry tomatoes, halved
sprinkle lightly with sea salt

1/2 red onion, sliced thinly into crescents

Extra-virgin Italian olive oil
Italian red wine vinegar

Large, freshly picked basil leaves, hand torn

Mozzarella, preferably soft, cubed or small bocconcini (optional)

Method

 

In a large dish, combine small wedges of fresh tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes and dry Italian bread (as pre-processed as above) and red onions.

Drizzle on extra virgin Italian olive oil and red wine vinegar and combine.  Make sure the bread has softened enough to be edible. If not, you may want to let the ingredients sit for a bit before finishing the salad.

Then add the optional mozzarella and torn basil leaves.

Mix gently.

Taste and drizzle with extra olive oil and vinegar if needed.

Mix again gently to combine all and enjoy!

*About the bread for any Panzanella salad: be sure to use a crusty loaf of  good* Italian bread that is at least two days old and has dried out and hardened. Bread that has become stale naturally will need to be sprinkled with water to soften a bit prior to making this salad. Place the bread in a small bowl and sprinkle it with water the morning before you are planning to make the salad. The end result should not leave the bread mushy; the bread should spring back to life after the water is added if you are truly working with real Italian bread. If the crust is still too hard, it can be removed. Remember that the bread will continue to soften when it is combined with the vinegar and tomato juice when you make the salad.

If you want to make Panzanella salad with fresh Italian bread, you can always cut it into slices and dry it out in the oven just enough to be crunchy, or even add a bit of olive oil and brown it a bit to make croutons.

 

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Traditional Cucumber Panzanella Salad

 

Plate of cucumbers, red onions, reconstituted bread and basil for Panzanella salad
Panzanella Salad made in the 1300s according to Giovanni Boccaccio: Stale bread (softened), cucumber, red onion, basil and mixed greens.

 

 

 

Visit www.learntravelitalian.com for more of my Italian and Italian-American recipes, cultural notes and  advanced Italian language blog posts updated monthly. Click on the link “our blog” in the upper right hand corner to reach blog.Learn Travel Italian.com.

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Say, “I miss you…” with Mancare

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
1Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021? 

Then one verb you will need to learn how to use is mancare (to miss). This is the verb Italians use when they have not been able to visit a loved one. Of course it is important to be able to tell those we care about that we miss them!

In this blog, we will discuss how to use the verb Italian mancare, which part of a group of Italian verbs that always take an indirect object pronoun and therefore “work” differently from your typical Italian verb.  

Previously, we have spoken about piacere (to like), the prototype for this unique group of Italian verbs in our blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day: Piacere, How Italians Say, “I like it!.” We have also covered another verb of this type, servire (to need) in our blog “How to Say, “I need…” in Italian: Mi serve…”

After this blog, we can add mancare to our list of important Italian verbs discussed that only take indirect object pronouns. Piacere, servire, and mancare all work in the same way, but we will go over once again how to conjugate and translate a verb of this type.

Note: in our very last blog, we made a list of verbs of communication and giving that take an indirect object pronoun when referring to a person. These verbs are in a different group than piacere, servire, and mancare, since they take a direct object pronoun when referring to things, but are a very important group to understand as well!

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 mancare, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 49th 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
Mancare

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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Overview of Italian Verbs

that take

Indirect Object Pronouns

A short review of Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns:

In our very last blog, we made a list of verbs of communication and giving that take indirect object pronouns when referring to a person.

Previously, we have spoken about piacere (to like), the prototype for verbs that always take indirect object pronouns, in our blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day: Piacere, How Italians Say, “I like it!”  We have also talked about another Italian verb that uses only indirect object pronouns, the verb servire (to need), in our blog “How to Say, “I need…” in Italian: Mi serve…”

After this blog, we can add mancare to our list of important verbs that only take indirect object pronouns. All three of these verbs work in the same way, but we will go over once again how to conjugate and translate a verb of this type with mancare. Full disclosure: there are other Italian verbs that only take indefinite articles, along with the three already mentioned! Below is a short list of the most important Italian verbs that only take indefinite articles.

Piacere

to like

Servire

to need

Mancare

to miss

Mancare

to miss

Mancare

to miss

Mancare

to miss

A short review of the Italian indirect object pronouns and their meanings:*

mi

to me

ti

to you (familiar)

Le

to you (polite)

le

to her

gli

to him

   

ci

to us

vi

to you all

gli

to them

*Of course, mi, ti, ci, and vi do double duty as direct object pronouns. Also, with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself, etc.

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How to Say, “I miss you!”

with Mancare

The Italian verb mancare has many meanings: to miss/to lose/to lack/to be lacking/to omit/to fail. Perhaps the most common way mancare is used is to convey the idea of “to miss someone,” so it is important to learn the conjugation and sentence structure for this verb for everyday conversation.

To start off, you should know that the sentence structure used for mancare is the same as for the verb piacere, the prototype for Italian verbs that only take an indirect object pronoun. You should also realize that this group of Italian verbs works differently from its English counterparts. Therefore, the English translation will not match the Italian word for word. The idea will remain the same, however.

In English, we say the subject of the sentence misses someone using the person who is missed as a direct object. Example: I (subject) miss (verb) John (direct object).

In Italian,  however, there are two significant differences from the English way of thinking.  Below are English and Italian sentence structures with examples that have identical meanings. We will change the Italian sentences into the most commonly used Italian structure with an indirect object pronoun step by step, in order to aid in understanding how both languages can say the same thing in a different way. For these examples, the English translation is given in the Italian way of thinking, and is in parentheses. Notice the color coding that follows throughout the examples: subject in brown, verb in green, direct object pronoun in blue, and indirect and stressed object pronouns in red.

First, let’s look at the English way of thinking. The subject is the person talking and the direct object is who they miss:  

English: [subject: person missing someone+ mancare conjugated to reflect subject + direct object: person missed]

              I         +     miss      +      John.

Now, let’s turn this English idea around to make an Italian sentence. To Italians, the person who is being missed is the subject of the sentence.  With this logic in mind, the person missing someone must be expressed by a stressed object pronoun or an indirect object pronoun. The sentence with a stressed object pronoun:

Italian:  [subject: person missed +  mancare conjugated to reflect subject + stressed object pronoun: person missing someone]

            Giovanni   +    manca    +    a me.
            
(John           is missing          to me.)

Although our Italian example above is grammatically correct, those conversing in Italian most commonly use an indirect object pronoun instead of the stressed pronoun,* and place the indirect object pronoun pronoun before the verb.

Italian:  [indirect object pronoun: person missing someone mancare conjugated to reflect subject + subject: person missed]

            Mi        +         manca      +    Giovanni.
            
(To me             is missing           John).

To make matters more confusing to the English speaker, the subject of the sentence — which in this case is Giovanni — can be left out entirely as long as the person who is being discussed is known from the context. But, in most cases the subject is then added to the end of the sentence for clarification.

*The stressed pronoun is handy to use for emphasis, as its name suggests.

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Below is the present tense conjugation of mancare. Notice that the tu and noi forms have irregular spelling to keep the hard “c” sound that we hear when we pronounce the infinitive verb. These are marked with an asterisk.

Mancare = To Be Missing (To)

io

manco

I am missing (to…)

tu

manchi*

you (fam.) are missing (to…)

Lei

lei/lui

manca

you (polite) are missing (to…)

she/he/it is missing (to…)

 

 

 

noi

manchiamo*

we are missing (to…)

voi

mancate

you all are missing (to…)

loro

mancano

they are missing (to…)

The sentences below give some common examples of how to use the verb mancare in the present tense. To aid the English speaker in understanding this Italian way of thinking, the Italian subject pronouns are included in parentheses. But remember that Italian subject pronouns are usually left out of a sentence, unless needed for clarification. Also, the word-for-word Italian to English translation is given in parentheses, with the correct English translation in the third column in bold black.

If the idea behind how to use mancare seems too complicated at first, just memorize the first four examples, as you will likely use these the most!

Example Sentences with Mancare 

(Tu) Mi manchi.

(You are missing to me.)

I miss you.

(Lei/Lui) Mi manca.

(She/he is missing to me.)

I miss her/him.

 

(Io) Ti manco?

(Am I missing to you?)

(Do you) miss me?

(Lei/Lui) Ti manca?

(Is she/he missing to you?)

(Do you) miss her/him?

 

(Io) Gli manco.

(I am missing to him.)

He misses me.

(Io) Le manco.

(I am missing to her.)

She misses me.

(Tu) Gli manchi.

(You are missing to him.)

He misses you.

(Tu) Le manchi.

(You are missing to her.)

She misses you.

Gli manca (Maria).

(Maria is missing to him.)

He misses Maria.

Le manca (Maria).

(Maria is missing to her.)

She misses Maria.

Gli manca (Paolo).

(Paul is missing to him.)

He misses Paul.

Le manca (Paolo).

(Paul is missing to her.)

She misses Paul.

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Mancare is often used in the past tense. Consider the phrase “I missed you!” This implies that a definite period of absence has passed, and now the individuals are finally together and are able to talk about their feelings. The past tense of mancare is regular in the passato prossimo and takes essere. This is the past tense form for mancare that is most commonly used during conversation.

See below for the passato prossimo conjugation of mancare:

Singular forms: sono sei, è, + mancato(a)

Plural forms: siamo, siete sono + mancati(e)

The imperfetto form of mancare is regular as well, and is used most often for narration. Remember when telling a story about something that has happened without mentioning a specific period of time to use the imperfetto past tense.  If you need a refresher on when to use the passato prossimo and imperfetto, refer to our previous blogs about the Italian past tense.  In the case of mancare, the reference is often to a nonspecific amount of time that people missed each other in the past. 

See below for the imperfetto conjugation of mancare:

Singular forms: mancavo, mancavi, mancava

Plural forms: mancavamo, mancavate, mancavano

Find four common examples below of how to use the verb mancare, in past tense, with the passato prossimo. As in the examples for the present tense, the subject pronouns are included in parentheses, but remember that they are usually often left out of a sentence unless needed for clarification. Also, the direct Italian to English translation is given in parentheses, with the correct English translation in the third column in bold black. How many more examples can you think of?

 

(Tu) Mi sei mancato(a).

(You were missing to me.)

I missed you.

(Lei/Lui) Mi è mancato(a).

(She/he was missing to me.)

I missed her/him.

 

(Io) Ti sono mancto(a)?

(Was I missing to you?)

(Did you) miss me?

(Lei/Lui) Ti è mancato(a)?

(Was she/he missing to her/him?)

(Did you) miss her/him?

Remember how to use the Italian verb
mancare in Italian
when missing someone dear to you!


Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
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Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – “He Said/She Said” and Object Pronouns

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front

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 2021? 

Two of the most popular every day phrases are, “He said to me… ” or  “She said to me…” In fact, the equivalent phrase in Italian, “Mi ha detto.”  is used so often that it usually comes out in quickly, in one breath! 

In this blog, we will discuss the popular phrase “Mi ha detto,” and use it as a springboard into a discussion of indirect object pronouns that can be used with the verb dire and many other Italian verbs as well.

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 dire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 48th 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 past tense verb + indirect object pronoun
Mi ha detto…

See below for how this works.

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

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

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

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

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

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What He Said… What She Said…

in Italian with Object Pronouns

Let’s begin by looking at the verb dire — to say — in our important phrases “he said” and “she said” for discussion in this blog. The past tense for “he said” and “she said” in Italian, a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo, and is “ lui/lei ha detto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English past tense, “he has said” and “she has said.” 

Since the subject pronoun is generally left out of an Italian sentence, we are left with “ha detto” to describe both what he said and what she said. The subject pronouns lui (he) or lei (she) may be added before the verb for emphasis in this case, but generally those having a conversation know who they are talking about.

Because the phrases “he said” and “she said” are used frequently in everyday conversation, we should commit the Italian passato prossimo verb “ha detto” to memory. 

To make a complete sentence using the verb dire to describe what was said, use either “di” or “che  to link the subject  and verb to the topic that was discussed. Di is used as the conjunction in the examples in the table below to answer a question in the affirmative or negative. Of course, even though our focus in this blog is on how to use the verb ha detto, it should be noted that one usually answers “yes,” or “no,” for themselves with ho detto, although they can also relay someone else’s answer using a different conjugation of dire, such as ha detto, abbiamo detto, etc. In all situations, when answering “yes” or “no” in Italian, the conjunction di is required.  

Ho detto di si.

I said yes.

Ho detto di no.

I said no.

   

Ha detto di si.

He/She said no.

Ha detto di no.

He/She said no.

 

 

Abbiamo detto di si.

He/She said yes.

Abbiamo detto di no.

He/She said no.

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Adding an indirect object pronoun before the verbs ho detto, abbiamo detto, or ha detto will allow the speaker to describe to whom something was said.  For this section, though, our discussion will focus only on “ha detto” and  Italian indefinite articles.

Why focus on “ha detto? One of the most popular every day phrases is, “He/She said to me,” which is, “Mi ha detto”  in Italian. In fact, the phrase “mi ha detto” is  used so often that it usually said in one breath! We can build on this simple, easy to remember phrase to describe more complex situations.  For instance, we can substitute other indirect object pronouns for mi (to me), such as ti (to you), gli (to him), or le (to her).  

In English, when we use the indirect object pronouns “to me,” “to you,” “to him/her,” they are placed after the verb, while in Italian, they are placed before the verb.  This may take some time to get used to. In the summary table below, the indirect object pronouns are in red.

Ha detto

He said / She said

Mi ha detto

He said / She said to me

Ti ha detto

He said/ She said to you

Gli ha detto

He said / she said to him

Le ha detto

He said / She said to her

The next table uses our verb ha detto and indirect object pronouns in example sentences.  For these examples (and for  all other instances in Italian except those given in the table in the previous section regarding a “yes” or “no” answer), “che is used as the conjunction.

The subject pronoun is included in some of the examples in the table below for clarity. Again, the Italian and English indirect object pronouns are in red. In all cases except the first, when the subject is directly quoting what someone else has said to them, English uses a direct object pronoun, and this is given in green. Notice how many permutations of the same sentence are possible with only the singular indirect object pronouns! 

Lui ha detto che il film era bello.
Lei ha detto che il film era bello.

Mi ha detto: “Il film era bello.”   

He said that the film was good.
She said that the film was good.

He/She said to me: “The film was good.”

Mi ha detto che il film era bello.

He/She told me that the film was good.

Ti ha detto che il film era bello?

Has he/she told you that the film was good?

 

 

Giovanni gli ha detto che il film era bello.

John told him that the film was good.

Anna gli ha detto che il flim era bello.

Ann told him that the film was good.

 

 

Giovanni le ha detto che il film era bello.

John told her that the film was good.

Anna le ha detto che il film era bello.

Ann told her that the film was good.

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Our example sentence, Mi ha detto che il film era bello,” and its translation, “He/She told me that the film was good,” brings up an important difference between Italian and English verbs and object pronouns; not all Italian verbs that take indirect object pronouns do so in English!

We have just seen the the Italian verb dire takes an indirect object pronoun that goes before the verb, whereas its English counterpart “to say,” in general conversation usually takes a direct object pronoun that goes after the verb. We would not say, “He told to me that the film was good,” although this is correct in Italian!

This adds to the difficulty in choosing when to use an Italian indirect object pronoun, since the correct English translation will not always reflect the indirect object pronoun choice in Italian. 

The difference in the Italian and English [object pronoun-verb] combination may not be immediately apparent in the phrase “mi ha detto,” since the Italian pronoun mi plays double duty as both an indirect and direct object pronoun! The Italian pronoun mi can be translated as both “me” (direct object pronoun) and “to/for me” (indirect object pronoun).*

The same goes for the Italian pronoun ti, which is translated as “you”(direct object pronoun) as well as “to you (indirect object pronoun).

Choosing between an indirect and direct Italian object pronoun when conversing about others in Italian becomes important in the masculine third person, as one must decide between lo (him) and gli (to him). For females, the choice is between la (her) and le (to her).

So how does an English speaker know when to choose an indirect object pronoun in Italian?

 Italian verbs of communication and giving
take indirect object pronouns
when referring to a person.

The table below is a short list of the verbs of communication that take Italian indirect object pronouns when referring to other people in conversation. You will recognize the example verb in this blog, dire, at the top of the list.

Note that if one of these verbs is followed by a person’s name, the Italian pattern to follow is [verb + a + name].  The Italian indirect object pronoun can be though of as substituting for the a placed before a person’s name. 

In some cases, both Italian and English verbs take an indirect object pronoun but in other cases the English translation uses a direct object pronoun, as we’ve already mentioned. Unfortunately, there is no rule that connects the Italian way of speaking to the English way, so the Italian verbs that take [a + name] or indirect object pronouns just need to be memorized. In short, in order to speak Italian, we must think in Italian!

*And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

Some Italian verbs of communication that take indirect object pronouns:

Dire

to say

Parlare

to talk

Telefonare

to call

Scrivere

to write

   

Domandare

to ask

Chiedere

to ask

   

Insegnare

to teach

Spiegare

to explain

Consigliare

to give advice

Examples that use Italian verbs of communication with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

Ho detto a Maria che…                  I told Maria that…
Le ho detto che…                           I told her that…

Ho domandato a Franco se…            I asked Frank if…
Gli ho domandato se…                      I asked him if…

La Signora Rossi ha spiegato a me che…   Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…
La Signora Rossi mi ha spiegato che…       Mrs. Rossi explained to me that…

Some Italian verbs of giving that take indirect object pronouns:

Dare

to give

Offrire

to offer

Regalare

to gift

Mandare

to send

Portare

to bring/deliver

Examples that use Italian verbs of giving with indirect object pronouns are given below. The indirect object pronouns are in red, the direct object pronouns are in green, and the person to whom the object pronoun refers to is underlined. Of course, there are a infinite number of combinations! Try to create your own sentences, taking situations from your own life!

Ho dato a Maria il vino.                 I gave Maria the wine.
Le ho dato il vino.                          I gave her the wine.

Ho offerto a Franco un lavoro.      I offered Frank a job.
Gli ho offerto un lavoro.                I offered him a job.

La Signora Rossi ha mandato a me…  Mrs. Rossi gave me…
La Signora Rossi mi ha mandato…      Mrs. Rossi gave me…

*And, of course with reflexive verbs mi stands for “myself” and ti stands for “yourself.” 

Remember how to use the phrase
“mi ha detto” in Italian and I guarantee
you will use this phrase every day!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Author on the Shelves – #Languages – Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) by Kathryn Occhipinti

The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone

A great big GRAZIE MILLE to SALLY from the Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore for her review of my Conversational Italian for Travelers series reprinted below!

Delighted to welcome Kathryn Occipinti to the Cafe and Bookstore with her language books in Italian and French. Very useful now that the world is opening up again.

About Conversational Italian for Travelers

Your traveling companion in Italy! Truly different from other phrase books – this book is friendly, humorous, and also provides a method to understand and remember important Italian phrases. There are many tips for the reader on how to create their own phrases and how to ask questions to get around Italy comfortably. Includes sections not found in other phrase books so the traveler can really fit into the culture of Italy. Light weight book of phrases slips easily into a pocket or purse. Keep handy simple phrases of greeting, how to change money, or how to take the train. Learn about how to communicate politely in any situation. And, of course, learn how to read those Italian menus and order at an Italian restaurant! This book is contains excerpts from the larger work, Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook. All the phrases you need to know with tips on how to create your own!

One of the reviews for the book
P. Zoro4.0 out of 5 stars Effective learning guide Reviewed in the United Kingdom

Travelling to a foreign country can be a terrible experience if you don’t know how to communicate. Kathryn thus solved this potential problem for all foreign visitors to Italy with her book picking on just the important phrases.

To start with, the book is both exciting and humorous. The reader discovers the Italian alphabethas 21 letters and borrows some additions from Latin. There are surprising differences from English, like z becomes zeta and is pronounced zeh-tah. I spent some time translating my name and found the result amusing. Learning to pronounce the words correctly was an enjoyable experiment in which I found myself closer and closer to sounding very foreign and learned.

I discovered “buongiorno” is all I need to say from morning to early evening, and if I am not yet in my hotel then “buonasera” will do until bedtime. For hi and bye to friends there is just one word to learn – “ciao”, but there are so many ways to say goodbye you really have to take your time to learn them. “Millie Gracie” means thanks a lot (a thousand) though I expected it to be “thanks a million”.

The writer takes the reader through the basic everyday conversational Italian in an interesting manner. You learn to be polite and formal and at the same time to be friendly and appreciative of any assistance. You also learn how to form important phrases, how to ask for the important things and making friends. The book teaches you to get comfortable at the hotel, at a restaurant and when sightseeing. It is indeed a comprehensive guide I would recommend to anyone travelling to Italy who does not speak Italian.

As for me if someone says “Parla italiano?” (Do you speak Italian?), I will just say “Si, un po’” (Yes, a little) even though sono di Zimbabwe (I am from Zimbabwe).
Si, I loved this book.  

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And:Amazon UK  – Electronic copies: Learn Travel Italian

Also by Kathryn Occhipinti

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – More reviews: Goodreads – Websites:  French and Italian: StellaLucente.com – Blogs: Beginning Italian: Conversational Italian! – Twitter: StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and @travelfrench1

About Dr. Kathyrn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist of Italian-American descent who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for about 10 years. During that time, she founded Stella Lucente, LLC, a publishing company focused on instructional language books designed to make learning a second language easy and enjoyable for the adult audience.

Using her experiences as a teacher and frequent traveler to Italy, she wrote the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books, which follow the character Caterina on her travels through Italy, while at the same time introducing the fundamentals of the Italian language.

Nada Sneige Fuleihan is a native French speaker and translator who now resides in the Chicago area.

The two writers have teamed up to create the pocket travel book, “Conversational French for Travelers, Just the Important Phrases,” using the same method and format as found in the Italian pocket book for travelers “Conversational Italian for Travelers,” originally created by Kathryn Occhipinti.

You can connect to Kathryn on her websites, blogs and social media at these links

Facebook group: Conversational Italian!
Facebook pages: Stella Lucente Italian and Stella Lucente French             
Instagram: Conversationalitalian.French
YouTube Channel: Learn Conversational Italian
Pinterest: StellaLucenteItalian and StellaLucenteFrench

Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share Kathryn’s books on your own network.. thanks Sally.

Your Italian-American Gardening Tips – Growing Basil and Making Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese with gnocchi in a bowl lined with prosciutto slices, held by blogger Kathryn Occhipinti, from Conversationalitalian.french Instagram post 2021.
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

This summer I have had the usual bumper crop of fresh basil leaves from the basil plants in large pots that I keep in a sunny position in my garden and provide with an abundance of water.  The plants started to go to seed — make the green and white column of flowers at the end of each stalk — by mid June. So, I dutifully cut back my basil: at first just the flowers, then the stalks with the flowers, and then in mid July did a hard cut-back, taking both stalks and leaves, leaving about 50% of each plant. This will enable the basil plants in the pots to keep growing new stalks with new basil leaves, hopefully into August.

I’ve posted about growing basil before, of course, since basil  is such a wonderful Italian herb to have in the home garden, and is easily grown in pots and harvested throughout the summer. For a post on how to grow basil, visit Planting a lettuce patch and starting tomato and basil from seeds.  For tips on how to grow basil and an authentic Caprese Salad method, visit Your Italian-American Gardening Tips with Recipes: Basil (Basilico).

I have also blogged about making pesto before, which I love to do at least 2-3 times each summer when I have an abundance of fresh basil leaves.

There is truly nothing like the fresh aroma of newly crushed basil over a warm bowl of pasta. And best of all, my children love it!

If you are really curious about what pesto is and how it is made, read the reprinted blog below to learn “everything you always wanted to know” about making pesto from my blog Learn Italian!, where I post tips on how to learn advanced Italian and also share authentic Italian recipes. In this blog Pesto alla Genovese with Gnocchi: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Making Pesto! ,  I give a short history about my experiences trying to make basil,  the best  basil plant to use and the theory behind the method. I have included a video in the original blog about  how to use a marble mortar and wooden pestle — essential equipment — no food processors, please!

Finally, at the end of this blog I have reprinted the recipe with the proportion of basil, garlic and cheeses that I like. Try my method and modify the ratio of ingredients for your family! 

If you would like to see me making pesto live, watch this 1 minute video from my Instagram post on Conversationalitalian.french:

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

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Pesto alla Genovese with Gnocchi: Everything You Always Wanted to Know!

Pesto alla Genovese is the famous bright green “pasta sauce” from the northern Italian region of Liguria, whose capital is the city of Genoa. My introduction to pesto, which was not a part of my southern Italian upbringing, was from one of those little glass jars I found in a grocery store in Peoria, Illinois. The jar had been labeled “pesto” by an Italian company. Back then, I was trying to learn to cook true Italian “regional” cooking and specifically to expand my sauce-making techniques beyond the ubiquitous and well-loved southern Italian red tomato sauce.  Read the full post here: Pasta alla Genovese.

 

 

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Italian Recipe: Kathryn’s Pesto alla Genovese
con Gnocchi

Ingredients and tools needed for making Pesto alla Genovese: Mortar and pestle as it is being used, olive oil, cheese, basil leaves
Pesto alla Genovese: Ingredients needed are shown as they are slowly ground together in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.

Ingredients for Italian Recipe
Kathryn’s Pesto alla Genovese
(Serves 4)

Small leaves from 1 small sweet basil plant (Genovese basil is best!)
(about 3 cups of lightly packed leaves, rinsed, patted dry, stems removed)
1 to 2 small garlic cloves, peeled, halved lengthwise
(and bitter green center removed if present)
2 tablespoons Italian pine nuts
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups of extra virgin olive oil, from Liguria, if possible

If desired: Prosciutto to line the bowl of gnocchi and pesto dressing for serving.

Method for the Pesto 

Note: Before starting, set a large pot of well-salted water on the stove to boil, and cook your pasta  or gnocchi to “al dente” tenderness (“to the tooth). Time the pasta so it finishes cooking just before the pesto is complete. Keep in mind that fresh pasta and gnocchi will take far less time to cook than dried pasta.

  1. Put the garlic cloves into the mortar with a few grains of salt and begin to crush. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush into a smooth paste.
  2. Remove the garlic/pine nut mixture from the mortar to a small bowl.
  3. Put a few of the basil leaves and a few grains of salt into the mortar and begin to crush, using the method shown in the link to the video in this blog post.
  4. As the basil leaves become crushed and release their essential oils, add a few more. Continue to crush the leaves, adding a few at a time, until all are crushed fairly uniformly.
  5. Add whatever salt is left to the crushed basil leaves, the garlic/pine nut mixture, and then drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Combine.
  6. Add the cheeses and a bit more olive oil. Combine.
  7. Drizzle in the rest of the olive oil while continuously stirring the garlic/pine nut/ crushed basil/cheese mixture until a creamy dressing has formed.
  8. Reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of pasta water and mix into the pesto to warm.
  9. Quickly drain the pasta and put the warm pasta into a large serving bowl.
  10. Dress with your pesto, mix to coat, and serve immediately!

 

  • If desired, as in the Instagram video above, line a large bowl with prosciutto and carefully added your pesto dressed gnocchi. Allow gnocchi to warm the prosciutto a bit, and then serve. This idea from John Coletta’, chef of Quartino Restaurant in Chicago, in his cook book titled: “250 True Italian Pasta Dishes.”

 

A large bowl lined with prosciutto slices and filled with gnocchi that have been tossed to coat with pesto dressing.
A large bowl lined with prosciutto slices and filled with gnocchi that have been tossed to coat with pesto dressing. This presentation is courtesy of John Coletta, chef of Quartino Restaurant in Chicago.

 

  • If you would like to preserve your pesto rather than use it right away, it can be frozen in small plastic containers. Top off with a small amount of olive oil. Leave a small amount of room in the container for the liquid to expand and then cover.

 

Visit www.learntravelitalian.com for more of my Italian and Italian-American recipes, cultural notes and  advanced Italian language blog posts updated monthly. Click on the link “our blog” in the upper right hand corner to reach blog.Learn Travel Italian.com.

Occhipinti Author Interview, by Dawn Mattera for Modern Italian Network.org

Collage with photo of Kathryn Occhipinti, author, and images of the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

As an independently published author, I am always thrilled when asked to give a video interview, since this is such a personal way for me to connect with my readers. And I do I love to talk about my reasons for venturing into the realm of Italian language learning as much as I love to write about the Italian language and culture!

So I was very excited when Dawn Mattera, a professional speaker and an author herself who writes about Italian culture, interviewed me last week. Dawn and I have become friends through an internet community focused on the Italian culture called The Modern Italian Network (m.i.o).  There is no charge to join the m.i.o online community of Italians and Italophiles and receive daily updates on all things Italian.  From their homepage:

 

Why mi.o?

mi.o is a community for people who wish to share their passion for Italy with others, learn about all aspects of Italian culture including the Italian language, and find the best ways to experience Italy and Italian culture both in Italy and around the world.

 

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

 

I’d also like to include a few words about Dawn Mattera, who kindly took time out of her day to interview me about my Conversational Italian for Travelers books, my tips to learn Italian, and my travels to Italy.

Dawn Mattera is an author and speaker who has helped people for over 25 years achieve personal success and overcome challenges. She has written articles and newsletters for international organizations, hosted and spoken at packed seminars and virtual events, and starred in monthly TV spots. Dawn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, a Diploma for the Italian Language, and is a Microsoft Office Master (but, would rather be a Jedi master). She is also a Certified Unhackable® Coach, Speaker and Trainer. 

 

Dawn Mattera’s latest book on Amazon is The Italian Art of Living: Your Passport to Hope, Happiness and Your Personal Renaissance. 

 

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Finally, if you would like to hear me — Kathryn Occhipinti — talk about why I wrote the Conversational Italian for Travelers books, listen to my tips on how to learn Italian, and learn why knowing even a few Italian words will greatly enrich your trip to Italy, just click on the link below! 

If you are interested in my Conversational Italian for Travelers books and the FREE material to learn Italian that I talk about in the video, click on the link below for my website, www.learntravelitalian.com.

For the Interactive Audio Dialogues that tell the story of Caterina, the Italian-American girl who travels to Italy and at the same time teach us “everything we need to know to enjoy our trip to Italy, click here.

To “look inside” my Conversational Italian for Travelers books and to purchase a book for delivery –or– to purchase the right to download a book in PDF format onto two electronic devices, go to the website purchase page at www.learntravelitalian.com.

Buon divertimento! 

Above all, enjoy your adventure learning Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! The many uses of the Italian verb “Riuscire”

Colorful homes on a block in Burano with a garden and a park bench out front
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 2021? 

Many Italian verbs have a similar use to those in English, which simplifies translation from one language to the other. However, many times the use of an Italian verb will vary  from the usual English connotation.  And in many situations, the same verb can have many different meanings in both languages, depending on the context. Riuscire, the  Italian verb that is commonly followed by “a” to mean “to be able to do something” is one of those verbs that is used in many ways in Italian and is important to “manage to learn” 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 riuscire, we will be able to communicate just as we do in our native language!

This post is the 47th 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
riuscire.

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 of the  Italian Verb

Riuscire

The Italian verb riuscire has a wide range of meanings and its use lends a bit of sophistication to one’s Italian phrases. It is important to “manage to learn” the nuances of the verb riuscire in order to create sentences as we would in our native language.

The Italian verb riuscire, when linked by the conjunction a to another verb, is translated into English as “to be able to” or “to manage to.”  The meaning is similar to potere, with an important exception: riuscire lends an undertone of personal effort on the speaker’s part. Hence the translation into English as “to manage to.”  In the negative sense, the use of riuscire a  implies that despite maximal work beforehand, it was not possible to make something happen.

In short, the use of  riuscire is in a way more sophisticated than the use of poterePotere is used to make a simple statement about whether something is possible, without stating if the issue is under one’s control or not. There is no reason given or backstory implied with the verb potere. Specifically, with potere, there is no reference as to the ability of a person to make something happen.  Riuscire is commonly used in Italy, even by children, when they want to include a personal emphasis in their statement.

Riuscire a can also mean “to turn out” or “to come out.”  When something has turned out well, the veb riuscire is commonly followed by the phrase “alla perfezione.” 

When riuscire is conjugated and followed by [bene + verb], riuscire takes on the meaning of  “to be good at” something. Riuscire can also be used when describing that one is successful at something.

In two situations, when riuscire is followed by the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile, the meaning changes again, to: “to seem” or “to come across as.” This is a colloquial use of riuscire.

Finally, riuscire can be used to mean “to succeed” and also as [ri + uscire] to mean “to go out again.”


Let’s talk about how to conjugate riuscire in the present, past, and future tenses before using it in some example sentences. 

Present tense: riuscire is an irregular -isco verb in the present tense. The present tense conjugation is below:

io

riesco

tu

 riesci

Lei,lei,lui

riesce

noi

riusciamo

voi

 riuscite

loro

riescono

Past tense: When used in the passato prossimo to describe a single event, essere is the helping verb and the past participle is riuscito. And, of course, remember our usual rule for past participles: if you are female, or your subject is a group of people, make sure to change the past participle riuscito to riuscita, riusciti, or riuscite!

Riuscire is regular in the imperfetto past tense (riuscivo, riuscivi, riusciva, riuscivamo, riuscivate, riuscivano).

Future tense: Riuscire is regular in the future tense (riuscirò, riuscirai, riuscirà, riusciremo, riuscirete, riusciranno).

Finally, an important grammar rule: use indirect object pronouns (le = to her /gli = to him/ gli = to them) with riuscire. 


1. Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “being able to do” something

  • Notice that when linking the verb riuscire with a action verb, the preposition ais required.
  • Common daily phrases link riuscire a with trovare, prendere, or fare to describe if one has been able to find, get, or do something.
  • Note that a substitute verb for riuscire a would be potere, which also means “to be able to,” although riuscire a  is often used to emphasize one’s efforts beforehand (as described above). Potere, on the other hand, is used to make a simple statements regarding whether something is or is not possible, without taking into account if a situation is under one’s control or not.
“Ho guardato in tutta la casa. Ma non riesco a trovare il mio telefonino da nessuna parte!”
“I’ve looked all over the house. But I can’t find my telephone anywhere!” 
 
“Sei riuscito a prendere un appuntamento con il dottore?”
“Have you been able to get an appointment with the doctor?”

     

    2.  Use [riuscire a + action verb] to describe “managing to do” something

    • Use riuscire a with the meaning of “to manage to do” something, often in the past tense. As in our examples in #1, the use of riuscire emphasizes that the speaker has been struggling beforehand, and is the verb used to communicate that one has or has not “managed to” get something done.
    • Riuscire a can also be used with the future tense to emphasize one’s willingness to “manage to” get something done.
    • Riuscire a can be used in place of farcela, which means, “to make it,” but can also mean “to manage to” or “to succeed.”
    “Sono riuscito a trovare i documenti necessario per la riunione di domani.”
    “I managed to find the necessary documents for the meeting tomorrow.” 
     
    “Sono riuscito a fare la spesa per la cena stasera dopo il lavoro.”
    “I managed to go grocery shopping for dinner tonight after work.”

    “Non sono riuscito a parlare con Maria alla festa ieri; lei era molto occupata.”
    “I didn’t manage to talk with Maria at the party yesterday; she was very busy.”
     
    “Sei riuscito a finire ancora il progetto? È passato già un mese!”
    “You haven’t managed to finish the project yet? It’s been a month already!”

     

    “Ho molto da fare la settimana prossima, ma riuscirò a venire a trovarti!”
    “I have a lot to do next week, but I will manage to visit you!”
     
    “Nostro figlio riuscirà a risparmiare i soldi per una macchina nuova.
    Anzi, dovrà riuscire; non gli diamo una lira!”
    “Our son will manage to save money for a new car.
    Actually, he will have to manage; we will not give him a cent!”

     

    “Marco sta male stamattina. Non ce la farà ad andare a scuola oggi.”
    “Mark is not feeling well this morning. He will not make it to school today.” 
     
    “Marco sta male stamatina. Non riesce ad andare a scuola oggi.
    “Mark does not feel well this morning. He cannot manage to go to school today.”

     

    3. Use riuscire to describe how something has “turned out.”

    “A mia nonna riesce alla perfezione la pasta al forno ogni volta.”
    “My grandmother turns out perfect baked pasta every time.” 
     
    “Molte persone sono riuscite a venire alla la festa ieri sera.”
    “Many people turned out for the party last night.”

     

     

    4. Use [riuscire + bene] to describe if someone is “good at” something

    • The verb riuscire is followed directly by bene when using the verb to describe what someone is “good at.” An alternative method would be to use bravo(a) + a to describe that a person is very talented or knowledgeable in their field.
    • When using riuscire,  the verb that describes exactly what a person’s special talent is can be placed at the end of the sentence in it’s infinitive form.
    • Or, the action verb describing what someone is “good at” can start the sentence and riuscire can be placed at the end. With this sentence structure, “a” should be placed before a name, to signify “to + name.” An indirect object pronoun should be placed before the verb risucire if an individuals’ name is not mentioned.
    “Maria riesce bene a cucinare.  Ma lei non riesce bene a far cuocere il pane.”
    “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”
     
    “Cucinare a Maria riesce bene.  Ma cuocere il pane non le riesce bene.”
    “Maria is good at cooking. But she is not good at baking bread.”

     

    5. Use riuscire to describe being successful at something.

    “La mia mostra è riuscita. Ho venduto dieci dipinti!”
    “My show was a success. I sold ten paintings!”
     
    “Giovanni è un bravo atleta; lui riesce in ogni sport che prova.”
    “John is a talented athlete; he is successful at every sport he tries.”

     

    6. Use riuscire with the adjectives simpatico/antipatico or difficile/facile colloquially to describe how someone or something “seems” or “comes across.”

     

    “Maria mi è riuscito simpatico.”  / “Giorgio mi è riuscito antipatico.”
    “Mary seems nice to me.”           / “George comes across as nasty to me.”
     
    “Mi riesce facile immaginare di vivere in Italia.”  /  “Mi riesce difficile immaginare di vivere senza te.”
    “It seems easy for me to imagine living in Italy.” / “It seems difficult for me to imagine living without you.”

    7. Use the riuscire to describe “going out” again. 

    • There are many Italian verbs that begin with “ri” to signify repetition of an action. Of note: ripetere  means to repeat
    • Ri + uscire can mean “to go out again.” Therefore, the words “di nuovo” or “ancora” are not necessary.
    • Riuscire is not used in the sense of “going out” on a date, which instead in Italian is simply, “Ho un appuntamento con…” for “I have an appointment/date with…”
    “Devo riuscire di casa per sprigare commissioni.”
    “I have to go out of the house again to run errands.”
     
    “Sono appena tornato da fare la spesa ma ho dimenticato il vino per cena stasera.
    Devo risucire e comprarlo subito!”
    “I just returned from grocery shopping but forgot the wine for dinner tonight.
    I have to go out again and buy it right away!”


    Remember how to use the Italian verb riuscire 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

    Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – Getting from polite to familiar in Italian with “Dare del tu!”

    Burano in Venice, Italy and Everyday Italian phrases
    Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
    Kathryn Occhipinti, MD for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

    Ciao a tutti! We are on our way to speaking Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2021!

    When visiting another country, it is important to understand how to be polite. If one wants to “fare una bella figura” in Italy, that is, “make a good impression,” it is important to know a few polite words in Italian. For those staying in Italy for an extended visit or settling in Italy permanently, it is equally as important to know how to express one’s feelings friendship.

    Italian has a special way to bridge the gap linguistically from between two people who start out as acquaintances and become friends. A simple phrase is relayed from one person to the other: “Dare del tu.” If accepted, is a true sign of friendship!

    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 build on the “commonly used phrase”  “Dare del tu,” which is Italian for, “Let’s be friends and use the familiar form with each other,” we will be able to communicate the closeness we feel with a friend, just as we do in our native language!

    This post is the 45th 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

    The “commonly used phrase” in Italian

    Dare del tu?
    is used to ask,
    Let’s be friends and use the familiar form with each other!

    See below for how this works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Let’s Talk About…

    Getting from Polite to Familiar in Italian with
    Dare del Tu

    Italian has three subject pronouns with three different verb conjugations in the present tense for conversing with  acquaintances and friends.  Reflexive verbs include a reflexive pronoun as well. This is less complicated than it may seem at first.

    Let’s look at the conjugation table for chiamarsi, the reflexive verb that means “to be named,” or “to call oneself.” This verb is one of the first verbs an Italian student learns to conjugate and contains all the elements to understand polite and familiar verb tenses. A refresher, from our Conversational Italian for Travelers book, “Just the Important Phrases” is given in the section below. 

     

    How do we conjugate an Italian verb into the polite or familiar form?

    First, let’s conjugate chiamarsi the way we would any other –are  verb. Chiamarsi (to call oneself/to be named) will have the same stem and endings as chiamare (to call someone — directly, or on the phone).  The stem for both chiamare and chiamarsi is chiam. Add the -are endings to the stem chiam to form the new verbs below.  The stress will fall on the second syllable for our first three forms and the loro form. The stressed syllable has been underlined in the table.

    Chiamare – to call someone

    io

    chiamo

    I call

    tu

    chiami

    you (familiar) call

    Lei

    lei/lui

    chiama

    you (polite) call

    she/he calls

     

     

     

    noi

    chiamiamo

    we call

    voi

    chiamate

    you all call

    loro

    chiamano

    they call

    To complete the conjugation of chiamarsi, add a reflexive pronoun before each conjugated verb.  Notice that in English the reflexive pronoun goes after the verb, so this may take a little getting used to.

     

    Chiamarsi to be called, as in a name/to name oneself 

    io

    mi

    chiamo

    I call myself

    tu

    ti

    chiami

    you (familiar) call yourself

    Lei/lei/lui

    si

    chiama

    you (polite)/she/he calls
    yourself, herself, himself, itself

     

     

     

     

    noi

    ci

    chiamiamo

    we call ourselves

    voi

    vi

    chiamate

    you all call yourselves

    loro

    si

    chiamano

    they call themselves


     

    How do we use an Italian verb in the polite form?

    From the translations in both tables in the last section, we see the the “Lei” form is called the polite form of the verb; this means one addresses someone they have not met before as “you” with “Lei” and the polite verb conjugation. In the case of chiamarsi, one would ask, “Come si chiama?” “What is your name?” in a polite way during introductions.

    As with all social conventions, there are rules to follow regarding when one should be polite to another.

     

    The polite form Lei is used between adults when they first meet
    and to show respect for others.

    Using the Lei form of Italian shows that one is a educated person who follows proper social norms.

    Lei is especially important to show respect when addressing someone who is older than the speaker or who is in an important  social position, such as a boss at work, a professional such as a teacher, doctor, or lawyer, or a government official. When professionals and government officials who are not friends speak with each other, Lei is also required. 

    The easiest way to train your ear to listen to the polite form is to watch an Italian TV series where the characters are shown in their place of work. In the popular series “Commissario Montalbano” or  “Detective Montalbano” the detective always replies to his superior, the “Questore,” or “Chief of Police,” with the Lei form and usually speaks calmly, with a measured tone. But when the same detective is talking to the policemen that work for him, he uses the tu form and colors his sentences with any number of colloquial exclamations.

    An important note about being polite in Italy: remember that children are never addressed with Lei! Even a child that you meet for the first time.

    The question comes up, then, when one is “adult” enough to be addressed with the Lei form. This, of course, will vary, but the other person should have attained at least the age of the speaker. Also, keep in mind that in Italy children are called bambini, which we translate into English as “babies” until about 12 years of age and then are ragazzi, or “girls and boys,” until long after the teenage years! 

    If both speakers have reached the age of 21, is probably safe to start using the Lei, although, in this case the situation should also be considered.

    Younger people tend to be informal with each other in social gatherings, and sometimes even at work! While I was visiting Italy, my older Italian friend once politely reprimanded a 20-something shopkeeper for using the tu form with customers by asking the shopkeeper to revert back to using Lei. (See the last section of this blog for how this is done.)

    Keeping all of the above in mind, when entering a shop, it is polite to say, “Buon giorno,” and most shopkeepers will politely greet those entering with a “Buon giorno,” in return and continue the conversation by speaking to the customer with the Lei form. Therefore, it is useful for the Italian student to recognize the polite verb endings for the present tense -are, -ere, and -ire verbs that will be used, which are: (-a, -e, -e).

    It will be appreciated if the traveler also speaks to the shopkeeper in the Lei form, but understood if the traveler replies in the tu, or familiar form, given the difficulty of this concept for the non-native speaker. The tu form for all present tense verbs has a single ending, of course, which is “-i.”

    A common polite line the shopkeeper may ask the customer after the usual greeting is, “Posso aiutarla?” for “How may I help you?” If you as a customer don’t need anything in particular, but would like to “just look around,” you can answer politely with “No, grazie, Sto solo dando un’occhiata.”

    To learn more about shopping in Italy, visit our blog “Quanto costa?” For more phrases you need to know when conversing at an Italian shop, check out our pocket travel book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” or download Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” into your phone at www.learntravelitalian.com.

     


     

    How do we use an Italian verb in the familiar form?

    From the translations in both tables in the first section, we see the the “tu” form is called the familiar form of the verb; this means that one addresses people they know well, such as family members or friends with the tu form. As we mentioned in the last section, children are always addressed with tu.

    Someone the speaker has just met, who is the same age as the speaker and they feel a friendly connection with can also be addressed as  “you” with “tu” and the familiar verb conjugation.  In the case of chiamarsi, one would ask, “Come ti chiami?” “What is your name?” in a familiar way during introductions.

    As with all social conventions, there are rules as to when one should be familiar with another.

     

    The familiar form tu is used between family members, friends,
    and anyone the speaker has met who is their same age or younger
    to whom they feel a friendly connection.

    Using the tu form of Italian shows a warmth for an individual the speaker feels close to.

    So, in what situation would someone use chiamarsi to ask another’s name in the tu form? This statement seems like a contradiction; if I am using the tu form, I must already know this person, right? So, then why would I be asking their name? As  mentioned before, the tu form is always used with children, even if you’ve just met a child. So to ask a child’s name, use, “Come ti chiami?” If you ask the child’s name with the formal Lei, you will seem overly polite and may elicit a chuckle from the parent or even the child themself! 

    The expression “Come ti chiami?” is also helpful between adults. In the adult world, we may meet someone superficially as part of a group on a routine basis, such as in a required business meeting or in the classroom. So when two people know each other superficially, but have not been formally introduced, one may ask another directly, “Come ti chiami?” This assumes, of course, that the two individuals have the same position in the group and are of similar age and feel a connection due to their shared experience.

    According to Italian convention, to use the familiar tu with someone you have not officially met is a sign that you feel yourself better than them or that you simply don’t care about being polite. The movie, “The Nights of Caibiria,” by Federico Fellini, is a study in this type of personality. In the beginning of the film, a “famous movie star” character consistently addresses others with the tu form when he is out for the evening visiting night clubs in Rome. After he uses the tu form, others respond with the Lei.  When interacting on a personal level with a women he meets that night, he uses the familiar tu form from their first conversation; she knows that he is famous and does not reprimand him. The self-centered, “famous actor” drives this woman to another night club in Rome before he brings her to his home, and, after several hours finally asks her, “Come ti chiami?” 

    However, the traveler who is not Italian and has limited knowledge of the Italian language, any attempt to speak Italian is usually appreciated. It is not normally taken as a sign of disrespect if the traveler replies in the more easily remembered tu familiar form.

     


     

    Are there other ways to be polite and familiar in Italian?

    Also important to remember are the polite and familiar ways to say “hello” and ” good bye” in Italian. For instance, the Italian word “Ciao!” is now commonly used in America with acquaintances. But Italians only use this expression among close friends, and it is good to remember this social convention when one is a visitor to Italy.

    The correct translation of “ciao” is “hi” or “bye,” and not “hello” or “good bye.” This translation shows how informal this Italian expression really is! So when entering a shop keeper’s store, it is proper to say a polite, “Buon giorno!” for “Good day!” and when leaving, “Arrivederci!”  for “Good bye!” and not simply, “Ciao!” When Detective Montalbano speaks with the chief of police on the telephone, and the conversation ends, he uses the ultra formal, “Arrivederla.”

    Below is a table reproduced from the book Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases,” with the many (but not all) expressions of meeting and greeting that are used in Italy today. 

    Buon giorno.*             Good morning.  (lit. Good day.)         used all day into evening

    Buona sera.*               Good evening.                                     early night–time greeting

    Buona notte.*             Good night.                                         used when leaving/bedtime

    Buona giornata.          (Have a) good day.                             to wish someone a nice (entire) day

    Ciao!                          Hi!/Bye!                                                 informal greeting family/friends

    Salve.                         Hello._________________________________both familiar and polite

    Ci vediamo!                (Until) we see each other (again)!      for family or for a friend you

                                                                                                   hope to see again soon

    Arrivederci.                 Good bye.                                           familiar polite

    Arriverla.                     Good bye.                                           polite, with respect

    ArrivederLa.                Good bye.                                           formal written form

     

    Come va?                    How (is it) go(ing)?                             a slang greeting used often

    Ciao bella!/Ciao bello! Hey, beautiful girl!/Hey handsome!   for someone you know (well)

    A dopo!                       (See you) later!                                   good-bye between friends

    A più tardi!                 (See you) later!                                   good-bye between friends

    A presto!                    (See you) soon!                                   good-bye between friends

     

    *Can be written as one word: buongiorno, buonasera, buonanotte.


     

    How do I change from the polite to the familiar in Italian?

    Since Italian has created a situation where two people can be polite (to show respect for each other) or familiar (to show caring between family and friends), there is also a need for phrases that will take people from a polite relationship to a familiar one.

    The verb dare, which means “to give,” is used in important expressions that allow the change to be made from a formal conversation, using the polite verb form for “you” (the Lei form), to a familiar conversation, using the familiar verb form of “you” (the tu form).

    Imagine, for instance, that a conversation starts up at a gathering between two people who are of the same age and have just met.  At some point in the conversation, one will say to the other, “Diamoci del tu,” which does not have a good literal translation, but roughly means, “Let’s use the familiar form of you (the tu form) with each other and address each other familiarly.” The reflexive pronoun ci is added to the end of the verb diamo in order to refer to each other.  This is a familiar way to ask the question, and assumes a level of comfort that the feeling of familiarity will be reciprocated. 

    An even more familiar way to ask the same question is to use the command familiar form of this phrase, which is, “Dammi del tu!” for “Give me the tu!”  The use of this phrase emphasizes the closeness that the speaker already feels toward the other individual just in the way the question is asked, as familiar command phrases are normally only used between family and close friends.

    There are other ways to make this request.  If the person making the request wants to continue in the polite way of speaking when the request is being made, and switch only after consent is given, he or she could use the verb potere and the very useful phrase of politeness we have come across many times before in the Conversational Italian for Travelers books: “Mi può…”  In this case, the phrase would be, “Mi può dare del tu,” for You can use the familiar form of “you” with me.”

    Or, perhaps one is speaking to an older individual and is not sure the feeling of familiarity will be reciprocated.  They can use the same phrase in a question form, as in, “Le posso dare del tu?” which means, “Can I use the familiar form of ‘you’ with you?” Or, alternatively, “Possiamo darci del tu?” for “Can we use the familiar form with each other?”

    Finally, as noted earlier in this blog, Italians use the polite form of “you” in conversation as a way of showing respect to older individuals, professionals, or those in government.  Between Italians, then, a situation may arise where someone of importance might feel another individual is not showing proper respect or has become too familiar with them by their use of the familiar tu in conversation.  In this case, a conversation may start in the familiar, but revert to the polite at the request of a superior with the polite command, “Mi dia del Lei!” which means, “Use the polite form of “you” with me!

    The many ways to ask someone to have a friendly conversation with you are summarized below.

    “Diamoci del tu.” ___________________________________________ informal request 

    “Dammi del tu!”____________________________________________ informal command

    “Mi può dare del tu.” _______________________________________ polite request

    “Le posso dare del tu?” ____________________________________ polite question

    “Possiamo darci del tu?” ___________________________________polite question

     

    If you feel that someone is being too friendly or acting familiar in a formal situation, you can say:

    “Mi dia del Lei!” ____________________________________________ polite command

     

    If you’ve tried to switch from polite to familiar with friends you’ve made
    in Italy, leave a comment describing your
    method and let us know how it worked! 


    Remember how ask, “Can we speak in the familiar with each other?” in Italian with 
    “Dare del tu?” and I guarantee
    you will use this phrase every day!

     

    Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
    Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com

     

    The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
    Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

     

    Your Italian American Gardening Tips: Spring Greens – Healthy and Delicious Recipes for the Season

    Joshua McFadden Cavolo Nero Salad; cavolo nero greens topped with large bread crumbs and Peccorino-Romano cheese in the middle of a ceramic plate rimmed by flowers.
    Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
    Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

    Ciao a tutti! A lot has happened in my garden since my last “Your Italian-American Gardening Tips” blog in early April. I’ve been posting photos periodically on my Instagram ConversationalItalian.French to demonstrate the progression of fresh vegetables available during the springtime in Chicagoland. I also post videos on Instagram of seasonal Italian and French dishes using with what’s available in the kitchen garden.  For our blog today, it’s time for a recap of cool weather vegetables and for a report on which warm weather-loving Italian vegetables I’ve planted this year for summertime harvest.

    Recap: the seeds I planted in early spring have really taken off and the harvest of cool spring greens has been going on for about 2 weeks now! The cool weather in Chicago lasted throughout April and into the very last week of May, which is wonderful for the Italian lettuces, spinach, cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) and broccoli rabe (Italian: rapini)  that I am growing. Hearty greens don’t mind a bit of frost, and even though we had several nights of frost May they were not stunted by the bit of extra cold. And by May 15, the arugula and broccoli rabe had matured and were ready for harvest. See below for how to prepare broccoli rabe the Italian way as a side dish for dinner.

    My overwintered leeks have picked up growing where they left off last fall and now are grocery-store size. I harvested several to make “pot-au-feu” (see below) and planted new sets I bought from the garden store in their place. I should have an almost continuous harvest of these fragrant oniony vegetables available throughout the year. All other members of the onion family are growing nicely with the cool weather, including my overwintered chives (now flowering), and newly planted green onions and shallots.

    The potatoes I planted in the first days of spring struggled a bit with frost-bite, but their leaves seemed to have recovered. Those planted later were saved this difficulty as they are just now starting to show their first leaves.  I’m hoping “new” potatoes will be available for harvest by mid June and for weeks after.

    The strawberries in the raised garden between the potato beds are going strong, covering almost every inch of their box and flowering nicely, also getting ready for a June harvest.

    As I have mentioned in my  Your Italian-American Gardening Tips blogs, for the last two years, my focus has been on how to grow Italian vegetables in the suburbs, even in a small space.

    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.

    In this blog I’ll describe when to harvest springtime greens that love the cool weather, and provide some ideas for how to use them in simple dishes you can make at home.

    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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    Another Recipe with Leeks!

    Pot-au-feu: Classic French Dinner

     

    In my April post, I provided some tips about growing and cooking leeks, and provided an Instagram post of a salmon, leek and cream dish that I think is the perfect combination of flavors.  With my leeks now grocery-store size and available to harvest by mid May, I made a classic French dish called “Pot-au-feu,” which means “Pot on the fire,” that pairs veal shank with fragrant leeks, fennel bulbs, carrots and parsnips.

    The veal broth created by cooking the veal shank with spring vegetables makes a traditional and  flavorful starter for this spring-time meal. Vermicelli noodles are often cut into shorter pieces, cooked, and then added to the soup for a bit of texture. 

    The leeks, fennel, carrots, and parsnips are cooked in the broth after the veal is done to until just tender and make a wonderful accompaniment for the veal as the main course. Most Italians love a fragrant broth, as well as fennel, and I was glad I gave this simple dish a try. Watch me make Pot-au-feu on Instagram below by clicking on the image and then try your own. Your family will love the flavorful broth created while cooking the veal and this perfect springtime meal. (Ingredients listed on Instagram.)

     

     
     
     
     
     
    View this post on Instagram
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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

    //www.instagram.com/embed.js

     

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    Italian Lettuces and Greens Growing Strong

     

    What a difference a few weeks makes! Check out the image of my raised garden bed below on May 15, where I planted spinach and lettuces from Seeds from Italy early last April. (“Seeds from Italy” is the name of an American distributor of seeds from authentic Italian producers. Check out their website!) 

    Arugula: Both common and “wild” varieties of arugula were ready to harvest by May 15, and other lettuces and spinach followed shortly after. I enjoyed the “wild arugula” leaves that I planted for the first time this year. The wild arugula variety has leaves that are smaller and more tender then the common variety, so they are easier to mix into a salad. Both Italian varieties of arugula have the same peppery flavor.

    Cavolo Nero: The cavolo nero (a Tuscan kale, called “black cabbage” in Italian) seeds I planted in their own row just outside the garden bed are growing nicely and I’ve already thinned them out a bit, which created the opportunity for a kale and citrus salad. See the link to my Instagram post below.

    Broccoli rabe: As mentioned earlier, the broccoli rabe seeds I planted from Seeds of Italy took off and grew nicely all spring, and were ready to harvest by May 15. Broccoli rabe is actually a type of turnip that is grown for the greens rather than the root. Turnips and broccoli are in the same family, called the Brassicaceae family, so it is not surprising they can look similar.

    Broccoli rabe (cime di rapa or rapini in Italian) looks like a leafy green with several small ” broccoli-like clusters at the tip of their stalks.  Broccoli rabe should be harvested when the center stalk with the cluster of broccoli-like clusters becomes taller than the leafy portion of the plant. After this stalk elongates, it can take only a day or two for the plant to “go to seed” by forming small yellow flowers from the green clusters. I sewed a second set of seeds, in late May when I had harvested about half of my broccoli rabe, although these may not germinate or reach full maturity before the heat of summer sets in.

    Below is an Instagram post of how to cook broccoli rabe. It is usually sautéed in a large pan with olive oil, garlic, and 1 or 2 hot peppers, and with or without a bit of sausage. A large bunch will cook down significantly, just like spinach. I like to trim the stems off, although they are edible. Orecchiette pasta can be added for a classic pasta dish.

    Romanesco broccoli: The romanesco broccoli I planted started to perk up by the end of May, as did my Swiss Chard. 

    Onions: Shallot sets and green onion sets from the garden shop in my neighborhood complete my lettuce beds this year. As I’ve mentioned, it is easy to grow  all relatives of the onion family in Chicagoland. My chives came up again in their own pot nearby, as expected early in spring, as they have been doing for over 10 years!

     

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

     

    See below for an image of my garden beds with the greens and onions this year just after planting and in mid May.  Between the garden beds are lavender that I planted last year as part of my herb garden. A row of sedum was planted by the previous owners of my house, and comes up reliably every year, so I have kept it in place as a border. 

    Leeks growing in the center of a raised garden bed; in the distance another raised garden bed and additional land for leafy greens. Seeds have just been planted.
    Italian garden beds for lettuce, onions, and leafy greens, after seeds were planted. The leeks overwintered from last summer.

     

     

     

     

    Raised garden bed with rows of spinach, arugula, leeks in the foreground and lettuces and onion sets in the back. Broccoli rabe growing in the ground behind the beds.
    Raised bed in the foreground, left to right: 2 rows of spinach, 1 row of common arugula, 1 row of wild arugula, leeks. Raised bed in the back: mixed lettuces and onion sets. Semicircle plot: broccoli rabe to the right.

     

     

     

     

    Broccoli rabe growing in the semicircular plot behind the raised garden beds, ready to start harvesting. Large, saw-tooth type leaves are growing in a cluster.
    Broccoli rabe growing in the semicircular plot behind the raised garden beds, ready to start harvesting.

     

     

     

     

    Broccoli rabe close up, ready to harvest before the yellow flowers develop and the plant goes to seed.
    Broccoli rabe close up, ready to harvest before the yellow flowers develop and the plant goes to seed.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Broccoli rabe gone to seed; the stalk has elongated and the leaves are shriveled and small. Small bright yellow flowers sit atop the stalk.
    Broccoli rabe gone to seed.

    Just one week later, the temperatures reached 90° and this lasted for 3 days in a row. All broccoli rabe went to seed. The delicious leaves seem to shrink and most of the plant is just a long stem with yellow flowers on top.  The season was fairly long, but ended suddenly. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Salads, Salads, and More Salads

     

    Last year, I provided a method for how to create salads with the lettuces I grew in my garden and described how to make a classic vinaigrette in my blog  Four Salads for Summer Days.  I also showed methods for making herbed and garlic croutons. Check out this blog for the following salads: 

    1. Mixed baby greens, chive flowers and radishes (with Bree cheese and crackers) — a great salad for spring, using what’s available in the kitchen garden!

         2. Insalata mista (Typical Italian salad of mixed lettuces, carrots, tomatoes and radishes) with garlic croutons 

         3. Mixed greens, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and raspberries

         4. Spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries — spinach and strawberries are usually available at about the               time in early summer.

     

    Even with all the varieties of greens I had planted in my garden this year, I decided in early spring to follow the advice of my grandmother on how to make a nutritious salad and harvest dandelions freely growing around my property.  Dandelions are called “dente di leone” in Italian, and their saw-toothed leaves and bright yellow flowers are unmistakable. They come up on their own reliably in early spring every year (to the chagrin of those in the American suburbs who like a tidy lawn) and are a good source of Vitamins A, C, K and even minerals like iron and calcium. The stems always grow out from one central root, so be careful to watch for this root if harvesting ( especially before they flower), in order to make sure you are picking the correct weed! The smaller dandelion leaves are the most tender; when using the larger leaves, remove the thick rib along the back. Inspect both sides of the leaves for dirt and rinse very well and leave in the refrigerator; rinse again before using. 

     

    Dandelion ready to flower. Dente di leone in Italian. The image shows all stalks growing toward a central root.
    Dandelion ready to flower. “Dente di leone” in Italian. All stalks grow from a central root.

    Italians love dandelion greens with a simple dressing of red wine vinegar, pinches of salt and pepper and finely chopped garlic. The garlic is an important ingredient, as it counters the bitterness of the dandelion. The finely chopped garlic sold in the grocery store in jars and kept in the refrigerator is best for this type of salad dressing, as it is softer and less sharp than freshly chopped garlic. Chives and parsley are also available at the same time as dandelions in spring and can be freshly chopped and added to the salad dressing at the end. The ratio: 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar to 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  See below.

     

    Dandelion salad with a simple red wine and chive vinaigrette arranged on a plate in a starburst pattern like a composed salad, served with a breadstick.
    Dandelion salad with a simple red wine and chive vinaigrette served with a breadstick.

    A warm bacon dressing can also be used on dandelion greens, just as with spinach or frisèe. A thick slice of pancetta cut into rectangles and cooked slowly over medium heat makes delicious lardoons, as pictured below.  For a traditional vinaigrette that goes on this type of salad, sauté a chopped shallot in the rendered fat from the pancetta until it softens. Remove the shallot and 1 Tbsp. of rendered fat into a bowl and add 2 Tbsps of red wine vinegar and a pinch of mustard, salt and pepper.

    Dandelion salad Lyonnaise style with pancetta lardons; poached egg in center of greens with bacon bits and croutons in the periphery
    Dandelion salad Lyonnaise style with pancetta lardons

    For a salad made with fresh baby cavolo nero greens, check out my Instagram post below. The dressing I used was taken from the cook book “Six Seasons,” by Joshua McFadden, the chef who trained in Italy and started the kale craze from his Brooklyn restaurant.  He writes in his cook book “This is the kale salad that started it all.” Make your own large breadcrumbs with a good loaf of bread dried out in the oven at 200 or 250 degrees for about 20 – 30 min to sop up the delicious dressing. It is worth it! 

    For the Joshua McFadden dressing: 1/2 garlic clove, smashed, 1/4 cup finely grated Peccorino-Romano cheese, 1/8 tsp hot dried chile peppers, pinches of salt and coarsely grated pepper, “large glug” (2-3 Tbsp) olive oil and juice from one lemon. Whisk all together all ingredients.

    Chiffonade (roll up and cut into thin strips) cavolo nero, toss in dressing, and top with more grated cheese and breadcrumbs. 

     

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

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    Joshua McFadden Cavolo Nero Salad; cavolo nero greens topped with large bread crumbs and Peccorino-Romano cheese in the middle of a ceramic plate rimmed by flowers.
    Joshua McFadden Cavolo Nero Salad

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    Cooking Broccoli Rabe the Italian Way

    Broccoli rabe traditionally needs only a quick sauté in olive oil, garlic and small red chile peppers. The olive oil and garlic work counter the bitterness of the broccoli rabe and the chile peppers add an extra bit of zest, but can be omitted for those who cannot tolerate spicy-hot food. Red bell peppers cut into small pieces are a good substitute, although not traditional.

    I created a video while I was cooking up some broccoli rabe as a side dish to show how much of the vegetable you need for just 2 people. Quite a bit, really! The broccoli rabe really cooks down.  I added a bit of Italian sausage and could have also added Orecchiette pasta at the end for a traditional pasta dish and a satisfying meal. In fact, my children ask me to make broccoli rabe in the spring time and all summer long! 

     

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

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    Strawberries and Asparagus have come to life!

     

    Check out the difference in last year’s strawberry bed after the first fertilization in early spring and the second fertilization in mid May below. The strawberry crowns I planted earlier this year have struggled a bit, as there was not much rain this spring to help their roots grow, but are coming into their own slowly in the same raised beds as the asparagus.  Too bad I will have to wait at least another year to harvest my asparagus! 

     

    Raised garden bed with overwintered strawberries, now with green leaves
    Strawberries spring 2021, overwintered with both green and brown leaves. The small plant with new red stalks and green leaves peeking out in the center is overwintered rhubarb.
    Strawberry bed from 2020 with rhubarb growing in the center. The strawberry plants have taken over the bed.
    Strawberry bed from 2020 with rhubarb growing in the center. 

     

    Second year asparagus with first year strawberries in the perimeter
    Second year asparagus with first year strawberries in the perimeter.

     

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    This Year’s Peas and Then…

    Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant

     

    Peas did not come up as quickly as I would have liked this year. I think this was due to the lack of rain. We had the driest April and May months on record in Chicagoland. But luckily, I have plenty of space in my raised garden beds this year, so they are free to grow as long as they like. I reserved the far bed (#4) for my late  tomatoes with large fruits and tall stalks and my cherry tomatoes, both of which take up a lot of space.  Plumb tomatoes and early tomatoes are in the next two beds over (#2 and #3), along with eggplant, arranged in spots where peas did not come up. Not ideal, but they are adequately spaced.  Hot and sweet peppers are in bed #1.   

     

    Four new raised garden beds planted with peas
    Four new raised garden beds planted with peas
    Four raised garden beds with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from background to foreground. Peas growing in the beds in the foreground.
    Four raised garden beds with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from background to foreground. Peas growing in the beds in the foreground.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Please write and let me know what you are planting in your garden this year.
    I’d love to hear how your garden grows!
    Until the next blog, follow my Instagram account, Conversationalitalian.french
    for recipe ideas from my garden to yours!

    Our Italy — Tropea, Calabria: Italy’s Most Beautiful Village, by Karen Haid

    A white castle in the city of Tropea, Calabria, sits atop a sheer cliff of white stone. There is a small park behind the castle and at the foot of the cliff a beach with people enjoying the sun and sea.

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

    Ciao a tutti! Since 2020, I have been posting the series of blogs, “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 land.

    Today I am happy to share a guest blog entitled: Tropea, Calabria: Italy’s Most Beautiful Village — It’s Official! from the blog “Calabria: The Other Italy,” written by author, blogger and tour guide Karen Haid.

    Karen Haid is a multifaceted person, who was raised by parents who had lived in Italy for 5 years after their marriage and returned to the United States as Itaophiles. They transferred their love of Italian cuisine and culture to their children. Karen’s primary focus was the world of classical music prior to her immersion in Italian language when she visited Italy as an adult. Karen remained in Italy, where, on her way to becoming fluent in Italian, she has earned the Dante Alighieri Society’s certification of mother-tongue equivalency and a diploma in the teaching of Italian language and culture.

    Several years ago, Karen’s primary focus became the regions of Basilicata and Calabria. Karen lived in Calabria and so she was able to experience the Italian culture in that region firsthand. Given her advanced level of Italian, when she now returns to Calabria as a tour guide, she is able to have many meaningful and wonderful conversations with locals, in which nothing gets lost in translation. Karen now promotes and has written about Calabria in her blog and book of the same name, Calabria: The Other Italy. The explanation for Karen’s fascination with Calabria, from her blog:

    …from the moment she set foot on Calabrian soil, the author was intrigued by the characteristic determination of the Calabrese people, the wealth of its history and art, the beauty and variety of its landscape, and its rich culture, most often celebrated in terms of extraordinary culinary offerings. Calabria: The Other Italy grew out of her four-year immersion, observing, interacting and absorbing the wonders of the people and the place.

    Recently, the rest of Italy has recognized Calabria’s beauty as well. From Karen’s blog:

    Tropea, Calabria has just been voted the Borgo dei Borghi, the Village of the Villages, in a contest that asked Italians to choose the most beautiful amongst the Borghi più belli d’Italia, or Italy’s most beautiful villages. A difficult choice, to be sure, but Tropea isn’t called la Perla del Mediterraneo for nothing. Let’s have a look at this Pearl of the Mediterranean!

    Click on the link below to read more about Tropea and view photos of one this picturesque village, built into sheer cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean sea: Tropea, Calabria: Italy’s Most Beautiful Village — It’s Official!

    The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
    Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book is now available to download on your cell phone. No APP needed!  Purchase the rights today from our website at: www.learntravelitalian.com.