Buona Festa della Donna 2019

I’ve re-blogged the original post from 2017 in honor of Womens Day this year.

Our saying is about a truly Italian holiday, the Festa della Donna, which was celebrated on March 8 this year. It is a simple holiday started by Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei after World War II (dopoguerra)during which men give the mimosa flower to all the women in their lives as a show of appreciation and love.

The saying below is a tribute to Sicilian women that was written by my favorite, and world-renowned Sicilian author, Andrea Camilleri. His mystery series has been made into the hugely successful BBC television series Inspector Montalbano, segments of which I watch almost every day to keep up on my “local” Italian.

Buona Festa della Donna!

Il 8 di Marzo

Festa della Donna 2017
Buona Festa della Donna! A tribute to Sicilian women from renown Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri.

Featured image photo by Dénes Emőke – London, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15200409

Your Italian Travel Tips… Gone But Not Lost: The Bridges of Florence during World War II

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

Ciao a tutti! Today I am featuring one of my favorite bloggers and her unique insights about Florence.

About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.” The post for August was written by Stacy di Anna Pollard,  who writes the blog Prayers and Piazzas, in which she shares her love of  Italy and the Italian language.

I was thrilled to return from my visit to Florence this past July to find that Stacy had just posted a blog about the history of the bridges of Florence.  So many visitors to Italy have walked across, photographed, and enjoyed the beauty of the bridges that cross the Arno River – as I was privileged to do again recently.  But until I read this article, I did not appreciate the sacrifices the Florentine people have undergone so we could enjoy their city today.  Luckily for us, Stacy loves to share her research!

In her own words, Stacy says about herself:

Wife, mom, friend, blogger, reader, Italiana-Americana, introvert. Here I write about the most important things in my life: my family (“prayers”) and my love of Italy and Italian (“piazzas”). I also enjoy writing about gratitude, joy, books and travel. Blogging from America with Italy on my heart. – Prayers and Piazzas: link to the site: http://www.prayersandpiazzas.com


In the post to follow, Stacy describes how most of the bridges and much of the city of Florence was destroyed during World War II.  Read on to find out how the city’s most famous bridge – the Ponte Vecchio – was saved so that our generation and future generations will always be able to wonder at its glory!

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

Prayers & Piazzas

By late July of 1944, Allied forces were very close to liberating Florence from the Nazis, who had occupied the city for the past year.

“The Allied forces are advancing on Florence,” warned thousands of leaflets dropped by American planes. “The city’s liberation is at hand. Citizens of Florence, you must unite to preserve your city and to defeat our common enemies… Prevent the enemy from detonating mines which they may have placed under bridges…” ¹

But different directives were coming from the German high command to the citizens of Florence. On July 29, 1944, residents along the Arno — around 150,000 people — were warned to leave their homes by noon the next day. Ultimately, the whole area was blocked off, with German paratroops standing guard at various posts.

On August 3, another warning was issued from the German high command: Beginning from this moment, it is prohibited for…

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Buon Anno Nuovo 2018!

Florence Italy's Ponte Vecchio

To all my friends… May all your Italian dreams come true in 2018!

Auguri di un Felice e Prosperoso

Anno Nuovo!

Best Wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Il Primo di Gennaio

Florence, Italy Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Veccchio, or “Old Bridge,” in Florence, Italy
I hope you have enjoyed my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing about the Italian language and Italian traditions. Please visit me at this blog in 2018, and invite your friends to join in for more Italian language tips, Italian sayings, and Italian cultural notes.
And remember, this blog is part of our open Facebook page, Conversational Italian!, which is a great place to share about all things Italian. Practice your Italian on this page, ask questions, and share pictures from your trips to Italy.   I’d love to hear from you!
—Kathryn Occhipinti 
It’s never too late to learn Italian or too early to plan your trip to Italy!
For advanced Italian language materials, Italian cultural notes, and Italian recipes, visit our sister blog at Learn Italian!
Visit our website www.LearnTravelItalian.com, which has FREE Online Interactive Italian Dialogues recorded by native Italian speakers. Follow Caterina on her trip through Italy! Listen to all you need to know about transportation in Italy, making friends, and of course, how to read those Italian menus!
All blogs and Internet materials courtesy of the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books, available on Amazon.com. and LearnTravelItalian.com.
Learn Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook

Buon Fine Settimana con Proverbio!

Italian Proverb 

Il 18 di Novembre 2017


Buon fine settimana con proverbio! from our Facebook group, Conversational Italian!

Isn’t it interesting the way the Italian proverb has an English equivalent, but the exact phrasing is a little bit different?  I guess we all think about the same things, but in a slightly different way, depending on where we are from!

I’d love to hear more Italian phrases or English phrases similar to this one!  Please write if you know of others.   -Kathryn

Proverb in Italian meaning "it's not as good as it seems"
This proverb is the Italian way of saying that things may not be as good as they seem to the outsider.

Five Tips to Celebrate San Martino in Venice, a Legend and Traditional Menu — La Venessiana

Venice, Italy


San Martino's Day Candy
Candy for sale to celebrate San Martino in Venice, Italy 2017, courtesy of La Venessiana

You can best witness the Feast of San Martino in Venice at the Rialto Market. This is a “hub” offering all the ingredients we need to prepare traditional spicy dishes, reflecting the harvest now arriving in the city because it’s the end of the agricultural year, the ancient Venetian capodanno agricolo. November is a transition…Read…

via Five Tips to Celebrate San Martino in Venice, a Legend and Traditional Menu — La Venessiana

Discovering Pesto alla Genovese

Metropolitan Farms grows Genovese basil.
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Last May, I attended an event organized by Catherine Lambrecht, director of the Chicago Foodways Roundtable . The event was called Metropolitan Farm Tour: Explore an Urban Ag Destination. Metropolitan Farms uses a relatively new technique called aquaponics to create a closed-loop greenhouse system that can produce hydroponically grown herbs and lettuce and fish for local sale year round.

As part of their crop, Metropolitan Farms grows high-quality Genovese basil from seed, year round, as is done in the region of its origin, Liguria, in Italy. Most of their basil is sold wholesale. They also make their own pesto (several varieties) for local sale.

Walking through the Metropolitan Farms greenhouse, I could almost smell the fragrant pesto that would come from this ingenious system.

Visit the recent Learn Italian! blog post from October 11, 2017, to read all about my experiences trying to create an authentic pesto for my family. Learn (probably) more than you’ve ever wanted to know about pesto history, making pesto, and growing basil! Below is an excerpt:


Pesto alla Genovese Meets American Aquaponic Farming in Chicago

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 labeled “pesto” by an Italian company that I found in a grocery store in Peoria, Illinois. Back then, I was trying to learn true Italian “regional” cooking and specifically trying to expand my sauce-making techniques beyond the ubiquitous and well-loved southern Italian red tomato sauce.

Diary of my first experiences making pesto…

So, on the day of my first foray into northern Italian sauces, I put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil, added some spaghetti, and dusted off my jar of Italian-labeled pesto that had probably been sitting on the grocery shelf for many, many months before I had purchased it. I opened the jar and saw that olive oil was floating on top, separate from the basil that makes up the major component of the sauce. I mixed the basil and olive oil together, not knowing if this was the correct thing to do. (It was. The olive oil layer on top helps to preserve the pesto.)

When the spaghetti was ready, I drained it and poured some of the thick, dull green pesto from the jar over my hot spaghetti and mixed it to coat. Was I supposed to use the entire jar? I wasn’t sure. I tasted it. It wasn’t too bad, but really, it wasn’t very good either, and I wasn’t really sure why. After all, pesto is a famous dressing for pasta. Millions of people love it!

Not one to give up easily, a few weeks later, I tried to make a pesto sauce for my pasta again. The second time, I emptied the contents of my jar of pesto into a small pan to warm the sauce. Even worse! Now, I know that pesto is a “cold emulsion” type of “dressing” for pasta and should never be cooked! But, as I said, back when I was first introduced to pesto, I really had no experience about how it should be prepared or how it should taste.

Pesto success at last?

Finally, one year when I had an overabundance of fresh basil in my garden one late summer, I remembered pesto alla Genovese. Perhaps fresh basil was the secret. I turned to my favorite Italian cookbook, Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. I had purchased this cookbook in 1992 while in training in San Francisco and credit it with sparking my interest in discovering true Italian cuisine for the home cook. Each region is beautifully introduced with photographs of beautiful platters of food set in the Italian countryside. Translated from the Italian, and beautifully compiled with all regional specialties included, detailed notes on each specialty, and clear directions, Italian Regional Cooking is my “bible” of Italian cooking, even today. Unfortunately, when it comes to the recipe for making pesto alla Genovese, the directions are a bit vague. Read more…

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.

Buon Fine Settimana con Proverbio!

Italian Proverb 

Il 29 di Settembre 2017


Buon fine settimana con proverbio! from our Facebook group, Conversational Italian!

Isn’t it interesting the way the Italian proverb mentions “doing – fare” before “saying – dire,”  while we English speakers have the same proverb in reverse?  Italians also say, “It is like white and black,” rather than “black and white,” like us English speakers.

I’d love to hear more Italian phrases where the descriptive words are opposite than English.  Please write if you know of others.

Can anyone guess where the name of the church in the photo?  Would love to hear!

Italian proverbs
Learn Italian with Italian proverbs!


Buon Fine Settimana con Proverbio!

Italian Proverb 

Il 8 di Settembre 2017


Buon fine settimana con proverbio! from our Facebook group, Conversational Italian!

I like this proverb because it mentions a type of zucchini, cocuzza. There have been songs written about this zucchini, believe it or not, which is very, very long. Does anyone know about music or other sayings that include this zucchini? Recipes? Would love to hear! – Kathryn

Learn Italian Proverbs and Learn Italian Culture
Restaurant on the Lido, Venice, Italy


Italians Know – “Sapere” vs. “Conoscere”

Rome's via dei Fori Imperiali
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

To be “in the know” about how the Italian language works, we must know how to use the verb sapere and be acquainted with the verb consoscere.  As summer comes to a close and the new school season begins here in America, we had a request to spend a little time focusing on the verbs sapere and conscere  in our Conversational Italian! group on Facebook.

Once we tap into the Italian way of thinking and learn a few simple examples, it becomes easy to express what we know in Italian! Read below to see how this works.  The excerpt is adapted from our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books
Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar. To listen to these Italian verbs in action, go to the audio tab for Chapter 5 on our website LearnTravelItalian.com.

How many ways can you think of to use the verbs sapere and conoscere? Please reply. I’d love to hear! 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 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.


To Know in Italian – 

Sapere vs. Conoscere


Sapere is an irregular verb that ends in -ere.  It means to know.  Think about how many times each day we say, “I know,” or, “you know,” or, “Do you know?”  In Italy, these expressions are also used frequently.  Since sapere is irregular, the root will be different from the infinitive verb for all forms except the voi form.  Interestingly, the root for the noi form differs by only a single letter from the regular root – with the addition of a second letter p.  As usual, try to remember the most commonly used io, tu and noi forms.

Sapereto know (a fact)

io so I know
tu sai you (familiar) know


sa you (polite) know

she/he knows

noi sappiamo we know
voi sapete you all know
loro sanno they know



Conoscere is a regular -ere verb.  This verb also means to know, but is used differently, more along the lines of to become acquainted with a person or a place.  The regular conjugation will be given here for completeness.  Notice that the pronunciation of the ending changes, with a “hard c” sound for the io and loro forms due to the endings of sco/–scono, and the “sh” sound for the forms that have the –sci and –sce combination.


Conoscereto know (be acquainted with)

io conosco I know
tu conosci you (familiar) know


conosce you (polite) know

she/he knows

noi conosciamo we know
voi conoscete you all know
loro conoscono they know


As an aside:  Later, in Chapter 7, we will learn how to conjugate the –ire verb capire, which means to understand (capisco, capisci, capisce, capiamo, capite, capiscono). Back in the 70’s, a common phrase among Italian-Americans in New York used between family members and friends was, “Capisci?” (“ka-peesh” in New Yorkese) meaning, “Do you get it?”  Don’t confuse the different forms of capire with the conjugations of conoscere!



Technically, both sapere and conoscere can be translated as to know, although they are used in different situations.  To follow are some examples of how each verb is used.


  1. Sapere is used to indicate knowledge of something, such as a fact. For instance, if we tell someone that we know a language very well we are stating a fact and use sapere. Notice how the definite article (the) (l’) is used after the verb sapere to describe the Italian language in this case.
Io so l’italiano molto bene.
I know (the) Italian language very well.


  1. Sapere is used to describe knowlege of something tangible that we can see or feel. In our dialogue for Chapter 5 of Conversational Italian for Travelers, Caterina and Susanna describe what they do (and do not) know about the corn that they can see growing in northern Italy using the verb sapere. In order to say specifically, “I know that,” in Italian, Caterina includes che, which means that, in her sentence.  The word che cannot be omitted in these types of sentences, as we often do in English.  Here are two examples that use sapere to describe something that we can see.
“Ma ora so che anche voi avete il granturco in Italia.”
“But now (I) know that you all have (the) corn in Italy.”
Io so che il cielo è blu.
I know that the sky is blue.

By the way, if  you don’t know something, you must say,
“Non lo so.”“I don’t know it.” 

  1. Sapere is used to describe the ability to do something. Notice in the translations below that the English phrase how to” is not necessary in Italian. Instead, and an infinitive verb follows directly after “io so.”


Io so guidare la macchina.
I know (how to) drive a car.


  1. Sapere is also used when asking questions. If asking directions from a stranger, it is customary to begin with, “Mi scusi,” or just, “Scusi,” for the polite (command) form of “Excuse me.” Then follow with the polite, “Lei sa…”.


Mi scusi; Lei sa quando arriva il treno?
Excuse me; (do) (you pol.) know when arrives the train?
Do you know when the train arrives?
Mi scusi; Lei sa dov’è il binario tre?
Excuse me; (do) (you pol.) know where is (the) track three?
Do you know where track three is?                


  1. Conoscere means to know, as in to be acquainted with a person or a place. In our dialogue from Chapter 5 in Conversational Italian for Travelers, when Susanna asks Caterina if she knows any people other than her cousin in Italy, they both use the verb conoscere.


Susanna:        Tu conosci altre persone a Milano?
(Do) you know (any) other people in Milan?
Caterina:        Si, io conosco mio zio Salvatore e mia zia Rosa.
                        Yes, I know my Uncle Salvatore and my Aunt Rose.


Here are some additional examples of when to use conoscere:


Io conosco Julia, la nonna di Paolo.
I know Julia, Paul’s grandmother. (lit. the grandmother of Paul)
Io conosco Milano molto bene.
I know Milan very well.


  1. Conoscere is also used in reference to meeting/getting to know someone for the first time.


Caterina vuole conoscere suo cugino Pietro in Italia.
Kathy wants to meet/get to know her cousin Peter in Italy.


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