For Italians: How Much Time Will It Take?

The Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco
Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Last week on the Conversational Italian! Facebook group, we talked about how to use the phrase ci vuole,” which means, “it takes time.”

This is a complicated Italian phrase for an English speaker to learn how to use, because in this case, volere is conjugated like the verb piacere. But of course, it is a very important phrase to know if one truly wants to converse in Italian, because we commonly talk about how much time something takes us to do!

Below is an excerpt from my blog for advanced students of Italian that contains materials Italian teachers may want to use as well. I am hoping to soon compile these blog posts into an Italian course, but for now, stay tuned to for an essay each month on important topics we all need to learn to become more fluent in Italian.

If you want to read more about beginning and intermediate Italian, of course, my textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers is available for delivery from and Learn Travel The rights to purchase the book in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be purchased at Learn Travel


How to Conjugate Volere for Phrases Describing Time

To describe the general passage of time that it takes to do something, an English speaker will often say, “It takes time.” Here is the method that must be followed to translate this phrase into Italian: in Italian, the impersonal adverb “ci” is always used to begin the phrase, and the verb “volere” is then conjugated to reflect the amount of time taken, in either the third person singular or plural. This is the same way we conjugate the verb piacere, only with piacere, the reference is to what we like, rather than to how much time something takes.

So when saying, “It takes time,” the word “time” is considered one segment of time, and the third person singular form of volere, which is “vuole,” is used.

If the time “it” takes is one minute, one hour, one month, or one year—that is, if the reference is to one time segment, again, use “vuole.”

If the time “it” takes is more than one of each time segment (plural), the third person plural form of volere, which is “vogliono,” is used.

Ci vuole tempo. It takes time.
Ci vuole un minuto. Ci vogliono due minuti. It takes one minute/two minutes.
Ci vuole un’ora. Ci vogliono due ore. It takes one hour/two hours.
Ci vuole un giorno. Ci vogliono due giorni. It takes one day/two days.
Ci vuole un mese. Ci vogliono due mesi. It takes one month/two months.
Ci vuole un anno. Ci vogliono due anni. It takes one year/two years.


Learn Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers Textbook

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Reading Italian Menus: Il Secondo (cont’d)

Roman restaurant
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

As I mentioned in the last blog post on this topic, when I first traveled to Italy as a college student, I had difficulty at first when I tried to read and order at an Italian restaurant. I thought back to how many lessons I had had in Italian through high school and college and then realized that the reason was simple: Italian courses in school did not focus on the vocabulary I needed as a traveler.

Years later, when members of the Italian-American Society of Peoria asked me if I could help them with Italian before a trip to Italy they had planned—for vacation or to visit long-lost Italian relatives—I remembered my own difficulties, and I created the Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books. These books focus on the vocabulary and phrases we all need to know to enjoy our trip to Italy!

Along these lines, members of the Conversational Italian! Facebook group have been discussing their favorite main course dishes and, of course, these include fish dishes. The Italians know many wonderful ways to prepare fish—as you would expect, because they are surrounded by the sea and fresh fish are in abundance. They also import fish from their Scandinavian neighbors.

Fish is also important as an appetizer in Italy. One of my favorites is called “fritto misto,” fresh fish and shellfish fried in a light batter and presented beautifully on a large platter for all to share.

I’d love to hear about more Italian favorites! Continue the conversation on this blog, and join us on our Facebook group if you like!

Read the list below of common fish and shellfish that are served as a delicious main course or appetizer in Italy, taken from Chapter 17 of Conversational Italian for Travelers. See if this list reminds you of one of your favorite Italian dishes!


Fish and Shellfish in Italian


la sogliola filet of sole
la trota trout
il merluzzo cod
il baccalà cod (dried)
 il pesce spada swordfish
il branzino sea bass
il tonno tuna
il salmone salmon
i calamari squid
la seppia cuttlefish (like squid)
i gamberi shrimp
gli scampi large, shrimp-like crustacean from the
Mediterranean Sea
le capesante scallops
l’aragosta lobster
le cozze mussels 
le vongole clams
le ostriche oysters
le acciughe anchovies
le sardine sardines
l’anguilla eel
i granchi clams
le lumache snails
il polpo octopus
l’aringa affumicata smoked herring


Learn Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers Textbook

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The Italian Subjunctive Mode Part 2: Easy to Conjugate but Tricky to Use!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Book Display

This blog about the Italian subjunctive mode, or il congiuntivo, is the second in a series on this topic that I’ve created for advanced students and teachers of Italian. Each blog post will focus on real-life situations and give examples of when the Italian subjunctive mode should be used. Below is an excerpt from the original post.

Visit the Learn Italian! blog post from June 5, 2016, to read the entire article and get started with learning how to express yourself more naturally and fluently in Italian!

Italian Subjunctive Mode:  Easy to Conjugate but Tricky to Use!

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mode that is used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

The subjunctive mode is said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mode, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mode in the phrase to follow.


Points to remember about the subjunctive mode:

 In Italian, the introductory phrases usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

Note that the simple present or past tenses can also be used after the introductory phrases listed below, rather than the subjunctive mode, if you are speaking about a fact or something you believe to be true. This use will make perfect sense to the Italian listener, even when the subjective mode is otherwise commonly used.


In each blog post in the “Speak Italian” series about the subjunctive mode (“il congiuntivo”), phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mode will be presented. Then we will review the Italian conjugation for the subjunctive mode in the present and past tenses. Finally, examples of common phrases used in daily life with the subjunctive mode will be presented. Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian, and try out the subjunctive mode in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the second blog post in this series: Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2): Speak Italian!
—Kathryn Occhipinti

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.

Speaking with the Waiter in Italy

Italian Restaurant at the Grand Hotel Isles des Borromees, Italy

Two summers ago, I had the pleasure of staying at the lovely hotel pictured here on Lago Maggiore, Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, in the town of Stresa, in the lake region just north of Milan. I’ll never forget how wonderfully relaxing dining “al fresco” every morning in the hotel’s beautiful restaurant was.

In this photograph, the waiter is in the background, waiting for the lunch service to begin. Enjoying daily meals here made me think of how knowing just a few Italian phrases really helps interactions flow smoothly when dining in Italy. The waiters appreciate it, and it makes the meal that much more memorable.

This blog with useful Italian phrases to speak to the waiter was just posted on May 31, 2016, on the Learn Italian! blog for Stella Lucente, LLC, and Below is an excerpt. Click on the link to read the entire blog post if you like.

If you like what you are reading, our pocket book, Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrasesis available to take with you overseas on your next Italian vacation!    

After Caterina arrives in Italy, she stays with her Italian cousin Pietro and his family in Milan for a while and adapts to Italian life and the Italian language. Then, in the last unit of the book, they all go on a summer vacation together. Caterina and the family stay at a typical northern Italian lake resort in the town of Stresa on Lago Maggiore.

For those travelers who are adventurous enough to try out their Italian on their own visit to Italy, read on for some phrases that will come in handy when ordering at an Italian restaurant. Get started by speaking with the waiter. A delicious meal is soon to follow!

To listen to the dialogue from Chapter 16, when Caterina and her Italian family arrive at an Italian restaurant and begin their wonderful meal together, go to the interactive audio dialogues on our website at
—Kathryn Occhipinti

Braciole: Italian Beef Rolls for Dinner

Braciole - Italian Beef Rolls

My grandmother came to this country as a young woman in the 1920s to wed my grandfather, who had been her childhood sweetheart some 8 years before, when they both lived in the same small town in Sicily. She left her family behind, but brought with her the knowledge of how to cook the Italian food that she grew up with and that my grandfather loved so well.

As a child, one of my favorite dishes that my grandmother, and then my mother, would make at home was called braciole (meat rolls with a surprise filling in the center).  The recipe for my family’s braciole and the tomato sauce to cook them in was originally posted on 5/9/16 on the Learn Italian! blog for Stella Lucente, LLC  and Below is an excerpt. Click on the link for the recipe!

I’d love to hear if your family makes this dish and your favorite recipe!

Italian beef rolls—involtini di carne,  also known as braciole, bracioli, or  bruciuluni (in Palermo Sicilian dialect)—are a favorite southern Italian treat that are often served for the Sunday family dinner. What I enjoy most about this dish is that there are so many different variations, and every family that makes braciole has its own special traditional recipe. My family hides a whole hard-boiled egg in the center for a surprise when the braciole is cut open. Other families chop the egg in half or into smaller pieces, and some families do not use egg at all!

By the way, I am not sure of the origin of the word braciole used here in America, but in Italy, braciola refers to a cut of pork (usually grilled), and this dish can be made with pork cutlets. My friend Peter Palazzolo from the Speak Sicilian! Facebook group mentioned to me that long ago this rolled-up meat was cooked with grapevine twigs cured like coal, or bracia. But, I think my friend and Italian teacher Maria Vanessa Colapinto (blog eleganza per me), is correct with her idea that the real origin of this word comes from the Italian for the old-type grill that the rolled-up meat for this dish was cooked on. This grill is still used today and is called a “brace.” Meat cooked in this way is “all’abrace,” or “on the grill.”