Five Special Wineries from “Timeless Italy”

Mastroberadino wines in Campania Italy

Among my very favorite things to do while in bella Italia is to visit the wineries. As one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, some of the very best come from Italy. Italy supplies nearly one-third of the global wine production. In fact, Italy is now the world’s largest wine producer by volume, closely followed by France. […]

via My 5 Favorite Italian Wineries — Timeless Italy

Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I Saw…

Burano in Venice, Italy
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently by the end of 2017?

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

If we learn how to incorporate “commonly used phrases” when we speak Italian, we will be able to express ourselves more easily and quickly. We will be on our way to building complex sentences and speaking more like we do in our native language!

This post is the fourth in a series that will originate in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group. After our group has had a chance to use these phrases, I will post them on this blog for everyone to try.

Another of our “commonly used phrases,” that will help us talk more easily is
 “What I saw…”
leading into “I saw him,” “I saw her,” or “I saw it.”

 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.

This material and more on this topic are available in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference book Just the Grammar on and Learn Travel

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


What I Saw…

in Italian

The past tense for “I saw,” a one-time event, uses the passato prossimo past tense form, which is “ho visto.” This Italian past tense verb also translates into the less commonly used English form “I have seen.”  

Because the phrase “I saw” is frequently used in everyday conversation, we should commit the Italian verb “ho visto” to memory. We can then “build” on this simple, easy-to-remember verb to help us remember other more complex phrases.

A very common question/answer situation arises around “whom” we “have seen.” How many times in a family situation does one ask, Did you see/Have you seen…?” The subject in the question is now the familiar “you,” so the Italian phrase will change to “Hai visto…?”

Ho visto… I saw/I have seen…
Hai visto…? Did you see/Have you seen…?

The simple answer to the question “Did you see Peter?” is, of course, “I saw Peter.” But in conversation, we don’t like to repeat the same word over and over again. To make our conversation more interesting and flow more smoothly, we would more likely respond “I saw him” instead. We could also ask, “Did you see the movie?” and answer, “Yes, I saw it.”

In Italian, “lo” is the word for him or masculine it, and “la” is the word for her or feminine it. These direct object pronouns are placed before the verb in Italian, instead of after the verb, as we do in English, to make the sentences, “I saw him,” “I saw her,” or “I saw it.”



Grammar alert!*

(If you don’t like grammar rules, just skip to the end of the blog post, where we will summarize the important phrases to remember.)

To follow, I will show how to combine the Italian past tense verbs using avere with a direct object pronoun when we are talking about other people. There are three rules of grammar to follow that I have listed here from our Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar book.

(1) The direct object pronoun is placed before the passato prossimo compound verb.
(2) The third person singular direct object pronouns (lo and la)
usually drop their vowel before the letter h in conversation.
(3) The last vowel of the past participle must agree in gender and number
with the object that it refers to when using the third person singular and plural.


So to ask and answer the question, “Have you seen Peter?” “Yes, I’ve seen him,” just follow rules (1) and (2) below.

Hai visto Pietro?   Have (you) seen Peter?
Lo ho visto. Rule (1) I saw him.
Lho visto. Rule (2) I saw him.


So far, so good. The words “L’ho” flow easily together and are spoken as one word, short and sweet. However, if we were looking for Caterina, we would need to also change the ending of the past participle of the verb to agree with the feminine direct object pronoun ending, which we have just dropped! So our phrase would instead be “L’ho vista” for “I saw her.” We have to follow rules (1), (2), and (3) to make one short sentence!

Hai visto Caterina?   Have (you) seen Kathy?
La ho vista. Rules (1) and (3) I saw her.
Lho vista. Rule (2) I saw her.


And, finally, for the plural forms, when referring to two males or a male and a female, we need to use the direct object li and the letter i for the past participle. If we should see two females, we would use the direct object le and the letter e for the past participle. These examples below follow rules (1) and (3).

Hai visto Pietro e Michele?   Have (you) seen Peter and Michael?
Li ho visti. Rules (1) and (3) I saw them.


Hai visto Caterina e Francesca?   Have you seen Kathy and Frances?
Le ho viste. Rules (1) and (3) I saw them.


Not a fan of grammar?

You don’t have to be! Let’s summarize the phrases used most often to describe what or who I saw.

Ho visto… I saw/I have seen…  
Hai visto…? Did you see/Have you seen…?  
L’ho visto. I saw him. I saw it.
L’ha vista. I saw her. I saw it.
Li ho visti. I saw them. (all male or male+female group)  
Le ho viste. I saw them. (all female group)  


Remember these phrases, and I guarantee you will use them every day!


*For those who like grammar, this passato prossimo verb is derived from
 avere (to have) + the past participle of the action verb vedere (to see).

All About Italian Movies and… Love

Italy, the town of Stresa
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

As the title suggests… this blog post is about how to speak in Italian about two of everyone’s favorite topics—movies and love! The idea for this post came to me after I finally watched an old Italian DVD that I’ve had in my collection for some time. I realized that this movie has many phrases about love and relationships that we don’t usually learn in textbooks, spoken in clear and (fairly) slow Italian.

The movie is called Violent Summer because it takes place at the end of World War II, but it is really a love story. The actors were famous at the time, and the movie has a lovely, lyrical feel to it. If you want to watch it, I have a spoiler alert—there is really not any violence in this movie because it is mostly about the privileged few who were able to escape the violence of war… until the end.

Visit the Learn Italian! blog post from April 18, 2017, to read the entire dialogue and get started with learning how to talk about movies… and love! Following is an excerpt:


Speak Italian: About Italian Movies and Love 

In the dialogue to follow,  we listen in on a telephone call between two good Italian friends who are sharing thoughts about a famous Italian movie. The movie is about a love story that takes place during World War II. Common idiomatic expressions used when talking with a friend, vocabulary related to the movies, and phrases about love have been underlined.

Listening to foreign films is a wonderful way to learn another language. The movie described contains short sentences spoken in clear Italian and is a good place to start to build a vocabulary about relationships and love. Spoiler alert: The only real violence is at the very end of the movie, although its title is Violent Summer.


Speak Italian: About Italian Movies and Love

Una sera, il telefono di Maria ha squillato. Era Francesca, la migliore amica di Maria.
One evening, Maria’s telephone rang. It was Francesca, Maria’s best friend.


“Maria! Sono io! Come stai? Puoi parlare per un attimo?”
“Maria! It’s me! How are you? Can you talk for a bit?”


“Ma, certo Maria. Che è successo?”
“But of course, Maria. What happened?”    Read more…

Some of this material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on Special thanks to Italian instructors Simona Giuggioli and Maria Vanessa Colapinto.

Traditional Sicilian Easter Cheesecake

Italian Easter Cheesecake from Ragusa, Sicily
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Easter is a very special time for celebration in Italy, as most Italians are Catholics or Christians.

The Easter season begins with Carnevale, which technically starts in January the day after Epifania, followed by Ash Wednesday (Mercoledi delle Cenere) and Lent (la Qauresima).

The week before Easter is called Holy Week in the Catholic Church. During this week, processions are held in the streets, often re-enacting the story of Jesus Christ, and special Masses are held.  This culminates in Good Friday, or Venerdì Santo.  The national holiday is officially Easter Sunday or Pasqua, followed by Easter Monday, or Pasquetta.

The week before Easter, Italians will say their “good byes” when leaving a group with the phrase, “Buona Pasqua!”

The Italian Easter Sunday is a day for the family to gather and attend church, followed by a special meal that is rich in the eggs and dairy that families in the past centuries were obligated to “give up” during the Lenten period.

The method for making traditional Sicilian Easter cheesecake given here is made in my family hometown of Ragusa, Sicily, and was passed on from my grandmother to my mother here in America. It is a very rich dessert and is still a family favorite on Easter.

The recipe was originally posted on March 21, 2016, on the Learn Italian! blog for Stella Lucente, LLC, and Below is an excerpt.

I’d love to hear from you after your family has tried this recipe!  


Easter Cheesecake Recipe:
Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie

Italian Easter traditions are unique to each region of the country and have been lovingly handed down within families through the generations. Ricotta cheesecake, a version of which was first served by the Romans centuries ago, has come to play a part in the Easter celebration in Sicily as well.

The recipe given below is for a Sicilian Easter cheesecake—actually a “ricotta pie,” made with a sweet Italian pie crust and sweet ricotta and farro wheat filling.  It has been passed down through the years within my father’s family from the town of Ragusa in Sicily. If you would like to see how the lattice pie crust top is assembled, visit the Stella Lucente Italian Pinterest site.

Farro wheat is one of the oldest forms of natural wheat grown in southern Italy and has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries. This whole-wheat grain is added to the ricotta filling as a symbol of renewal, along with dried fruit left over from winter stores and traditional Sicilian flavorings, in order to create a rich texture and a perfectly balanced sweet citrus and cinnamon flavor. Try it this Easter for a taste of Italian tradition! —Kathryn Occhipinti

Click on the link here for the recipe: Traditional Sicilian Sweet Farro Wheat Pie    Buon apetito!