Advertisements
Archive | Italian Language RSS feed for this section

16 things I will miss when we leave Italy

7 Oct
7 October 2016. I have received many comments on Facebook, here, and via email about our impending departure from Italy. Some people are shocked as we are “living the dream.” Why give it up? My next few posts will address the good and not-so-good about both the U.S. and Italy, as places to live. Living somewhere and traveling there are entirely different things. First, what I will miss about Italy, i.e., the good stuff!

1. €1.00 shots of espresso and high-quality €1.20 cappuccino served in seconds at almost any bar.

Notice the cappuccino is not a Big Gulp, but a sensible size. Not so many calories so you can have cake, too.

Notice the cappuccino is not a Big Gulp, but a sensible size. Not so many calories so you can have cake, too.

Why does it take an American barista so long to make a coffee? An Italian has it in front of you in seconds! And it is good! No funny flavors, no 20-ounce mugs, and no paper cups! Even in the tiniest mountain hamlet, in a museum, or in a castle on a hill, you can get espresso. In a real cup. I love my coffee in a ceramic cup and a small cappuccino is just the right amount. 

2. Bars on every street where you can get the aforementioned beverages and good sandwiches for under €3.00.

Fast food is a sandwich you pick up in a bar for €2.70-3.00. Many varieties on a fresh panino with the best ingredients from prosciutto and formaggio to a vegetarian’s dream combo including my favorite, cicoria, They warm it and hand it to you. Maybe you sit down if it is your neighborhood place and not a tourist zone. It’s simple, fresh, delicious, and mostly healthy.

3. Trains

The train we take most often, Italy's Frecciarossa (Red Arrow).

The train we take most often, Italy’s Frecciarossa (Red Arrow).

OMG we love to travel by train. Go to Torino for a day? Sure! Venezia overnight? Why not? We have flown on only three trips in 4.5 years. Love love love the trains and the early-purchase discounts!
See Ric. Ric is happy. Ric in on a train in a sleeper compartment, How civilized!

See Ric. Ric is happy. Ric in on a train in a sleeper compartment, How civilized!

4. The ability to go almost anywhere in Europe with little planning

Instead of mounting an expedition from the U.S., we can explore Europe so easily from Base Camp Barton in Roma. Thank you, cat sitters, for making this possible!
Luscious, tender grilled octopus.

Luscious, tender grilled octopus.

5. Seafood

I always hated anchovies until I had them fresh, marinated. A plateful is a perfect antipasto. Mixed into fresh pasta they are heaven; with mozzarella, a delight! I love pizza Napoletana for its simplicity. Then there is calamaro. Not deep fried little Os, but lovely, fresh, grilled squid. Or polpo (octopus), gently grilled or sliced paper-thin as carpaccio. How about a hearty bowl of mussels in wine sauce? Good reasons to come back to Italy.

6. Wood-fired pizza

One of our four favorite pizzerias, La Pratolina. Smoked salmon and arugula with perfect mozzarella and no "sauce." Divine crust, wood-fired oven.

One of our four favorite pizzerias, La Pratolina. Smoked salmon and arugula with perfect mozzarella and no “sauce.” Divine crust, wood-fired oven.

Yes, there are wood-fired ovens in the U.S. We will seek them out. But simple Italian pizza will be hard to replace. Especially at Italian prices. Will I seem a pig when I order my own pizza in the U.S? Here it is the norm. To not order your own pizza is boorish.

7. Fresh mozzarella available in almost every little store daily

No pre-shredded Kraft plastic, please! Fresh mozzarella, whether mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte, there is no room in our lives for anything less than fresh. Praying that Pastaworks in Portland has it!

8. Wine that does not blow the budget

We spend 75% less on wine here than we did in the U.S., and that is not because we are drinking less of it or drinking bad stuff.

9. Being greeted warmly – even with un bacio – at places we frequent. Loyal patronage is recognized and rewarded.

My buddy il Commandante, aka Marco, and me.

My buddy il Commandante (The Captain), aka Marco, and me.

Yesterday I called one of our two favorite restaurants, La Fraschetta del Pesce to make a reservation. Il Commandante (The Captain) recognized me immediately, was delighted to hear we were coming back on Saturday, and I know we will be personally welcomed as friends. From the second time we dined there, we were “regulars.” This happens at so many places: the delivery guys from DOC, the bar at Piazza Buenos Aires, the salumeria in Campo dei Fiori. You feel like you — and your business — are appreciated. 

10. Our portiere. What a wonderful tradition this is! Someone to take care of the building, help the tenants, keep things safe.

There are no doubt fancy buildings in big North American cities with doormen and building supers, but we are privileged to have a portiere in even middle-class buildings in Roma. What does he — or she — do? Takes in the mail; holds packages; lets tradespeople in; ensures security by not letting solicitors in; cleans; welcomes; takes care of (our) cats for short absences; gathers intelligence. The portiere is the go-to person for neighborhood news. The portieri in both of the buildings we’ve lived in have been true blessings. They have helped me with Italian and befriended us. We shall miss them.

11. Produce that tastes like what it is and that will spoil in a few days because it isn’t treated with chemicals.

Ths bounty in the market in autumn.

The bounty in the market in autumn.

Carrots taste like carrots, but they only last a few days, turning limp soon after purchase. Peppers are sweet and crisp and add immense flavor to anything you cook. Apples are a miracle of flavor. How can the fruit be so darn good? I bought a red pepper in San Francisco last summer. It was organic. It tasted like cardboard.

12. August in Roma

We will not miss the heat, and August is somewhat a month to be endured, but it really is fun to wander around the neighborhoods when so many people are absent. Pedestrian crossings are passable as they are not needed for parking. “Rush hour” on our main shopping street is Christmas-morning quiet. Buses are empty and we get to sit down. It is a culturally significant event, this exodus.

13. The passaggiata and the business in the street, the sociality of it all, even if you don’t talk to anyone.

Getting out for a walk every day is part of the Italian lifestyle. So smart to stroll through the neighborhood, see what is new, pick up some ingredients for dinner. Maybe have a coffee, a gelato, or un’apperitivo. See and be seen, enjoy the weather, then go home to make dinner. Eating before 20:00 is declasse.

14. So many kind people and interesting acquaintances: Our doctors, our landlords, the Embassy people. 

Especially my friend Eleonora. Ele patiently tutored me in Italian until I am finally at the point where I can have a reasonable conversation. Now we are “just” friends and that is the best! We play Scarabeo (Scrabble) together and laugh a lot. She tries to explain Italy to me. I will miss her dearly! 

15. Speaking Italian

Tiring as it is, I do like to speak Italian and I shall miss that daily possibility. My comprehension has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 18 months outside of the Embassy. 

16. Telling people “We live in Rome!”

Piazza San Pietro at Easter. We've had a marvelous time here!

Piazza San Pietro at Easter. We’ve had a marvelous time in Roma!

When fellow travelers hear our English they inevitably strike up a conversation with “Where are you folks from?” We are proud to be Americans and Oregonians, but what a joy it has been to say “We live in Rome!”
Advertisements

Four weeks to go!

29 Sep
29 September 2016. Four weeks from today we fly out of Roma, headed back to Portland. This was not an easy decision and throughout the next few weeks I will share some of our departure activities as well as thoughts on separating from Italy. It’s been four-and-a-half lovely years, which have passed like a nanosecond!
The path that brought us to Italy was accidental at best.
  • 2008 – Ric got his first passport in 40 years and said, “Let’s go to Europe.” I had been begging to go for years. All he ever wanted to do was go to Hawaii. He thought Europe was just full of old stuff. I said, “The U.K., France, or Italy: You pick and I’ll plan the trip.” So Italy is his fault.
  • March 2009 – I started Italian courses at Portland Community College. One night each week. Let me tell you, it was not enough.

    Atop Basilica San Marco, October 2010, where we fell in love with Italy.

    Atop Basilica San Marco, October 2010, where we fell in love with Italy.

  • October 2010 – We took a three-week trip to Italy. On Day 4, Ric famously said (while sitting in the sun in Venice drinking wine), “This is fabulous. We have to come back.”
  • We started joking about moving to Italy. If a job came up in Europe, should I try for it? Could we afford it? They’d never pick me, would they?
  • I applied for positions in Copenhagen and London and was rejected. In September 2011, I applied for Rome, never believing I’d be selected for such a big demotion.

    At Pompeii, December 2011.

    At Pompeii, December 2011.

  • December 2011 – We took a one-month trip to Italy. Yup, still loved it! On Morning 3, I woke up to an email from my boss asking “Did you want to move to Rome?” He had no idea I had applied.
  • After a winter and spring spent moving the entire organization to a newly constructed building I would never work in, in May 2012 Ric retired and we hauled the two cats to Rome. I accepted a 50% cut in pay and went from executive to secretary. I never looked back.
Libby and Janie, ready to fly to Rome, 2012!

Libby and Janie, ready to fly to Rome, 2012!

For three years we (Ric qualified for a part-time job in security) had the pleasure of working in the American Embassy in Rome. What a dream! I served with some very smart and committed people (I did in Portland, too) and had the privilege to learn how an embassy works, to meet people from many government agencies, and to make Italian friends. We went to the Marine Corps Ball and receptions at the Ambassador’s villa. We lived in a lovely apartment provided by the embassy that had no English-speaking tenants. THAT helped my Italian improve!
Settled in Rome, attending the Marine Corps Ball.

Settled in Rome, attending the Marine Corps Ball.

We loved the convenience of travel from Rome and took full advantage of any time off to see more of Italy and start to experience more of Europe. We could hop on a train and go anywhere!
At the end of my tour-of-duty, we were not ready to return to the U.S. The notion of work-as-we-knew-it was anathema. I was eligible to retire. Why not?
The 18-months since we retired have been a completely different adventure and one we would not trade for anything. My Italian is quite passable now as there are few people (mostly just Ric) that I can speak to in English. We have learned how things do and do not work without the loving embrace of the American Embassy. We have found medical services that are extraordinary and very personalized. We discovered that Poste Italiane is pretty dependable but very expensive. I ragazzi at the Via Sicilia office are particularly nice.
Here we are with our portiere, Pellegrino, who has been a friend and a blessing.

Here we are with our portiere, Pellegrino, who has been a friend and a blessing.

But it is time to go back to the U.S. It is time to re-establish a household of our own (we’ve been subletting a furnished place). We have experienced some of the frustrations Italians have with their own country and bureaucracy and while the U.S. is not perfect, things really do work quite well there. In the U.S., you can return items when you change your mind or they don’t fit and they will refund to your credit card. Not in Italy! In the U.S., you can turn on the heat in October if it is cold. Not in Italy!
Today we went to disconnect our cable and Internet service. They require 60 days notice so we have to pay through November even though we will turn in the equipment on the 27th of October. Can you imagine? Two months notice to disconnect a service? 
In the U.S., we can depend on certain services and we know how to argue when something does not work well. I’ve gotten better are standing up to service providers in Italian, but it is a strain to have to argue over everything since arguing is a national sport.
Allora, we will always come back annually to Italy as travelers for as long as we are able. Despite my sarcasm, we have a fondness for the people and the culture, but to travel here is far different than to live here. And we would never give up our passports. Never.
Stay tuned as the departure adventure unfolds. I know Janie is excited.

More false friends

21 May
21 May 2016. As I continue to struggle with study Italian, I like to amuse myself with false cognates, or false friends: words that sound like an English equivalent but have a completely different meaning. We call them falsi amici in Italian. These are the bane of every foreign language student. If you haven’t read it already, you might enjoy my post from 2014. Here are a few more for your enlightenment or enjoyment.
Eventualmente is not something you’ll get around to, rather it means something you might do…possibly…maybe…if need be, as in “Maybe I’ll look for a new job” but you are not really motivated. If in the fullness of time something did or will happen, we say alle fine.
Attualmente is something going on at this very instant, not something that is “for real.” In Italian we might say per davvero, in realtà, or incredibilmente, depending on the context. 
A fattoria is a farm, not a factory. The place stuff is manufactured is a fabbrica. This is really confusing because fatto is the past participle of the verb for “make” so you’d think fatto=fattoria therefore “made.” Nope.
Italian sheep farm or fattoria. Not a factory.

Italian sheep farm or fattoria. Not a factory.

Confrontare does not mean to confront, but rather to compare. If you want to confront someone, the verb is affrontare.
Parente is a relative while genitore is a parent, not sexual body parts.
Cane parkingYour cane (pronounced KHAN-ay) may greet you at the door, but not allow you to lean on him for stability. One day on the bus we overheard an American couple remark “Look, cane parking!” when they saw a sign saying such and a little metal hook planted in the wall. It was, of course, a place to park your dog  with a leash tie-up.
Pretendere is demand or insist. If you are dressing up as Wonder Woman you fare finta.
Crudo means uncooked, as in prosciutto crudo, not crude. A person who is crude is rozzo.
Attendere is to await something, such as to hold the line when on the phone or to wait for the ATM screen to load, while participare is what you do when you go to the opera.
Tastare is to touch, not to check the quality of your cooking. That’s assaggiare. When one goes to a winery one does un assaggio.
In Paris we did a wine and cheese tasting, un assaggio.

In Paris, we did a wine and cheese tasting, un assaggio.

A capitolo is a chapter in a book, but Roma is the capitale of Italy.
What may be conveniente to you may be expensive to me as conveniente means affordable or suitable. Comodo means convenient as well as comfortable.
At the bottom of a letter, there is a firma (signature). This is not a company. A company is an azienda or una ditta.
A most famous firma.

A most famous firma.

Occorrere is to need, succedere is to occur.
Baldo does not describe a hairless head, but rather someone who is bold. Calvo means bald.
Accidenti is not a fender-bender: that’s an incidente. Accidenti is an exclamation like “darn it!” Safe enough to say in front of grandma.
When your computer crashes you might shout "accidenti!" (or somehting stronger.)

When your computer crashes you might shout “accidenti!” (or something stronger.)

If you want to call someone an ass, a scumbag, or a bastard, try stronzo which clearly does not mean strong. When someone parks in the pedestrian crossing, they are a stronzo. (This is not a nice word, BTW.)
Eh basta! That’s enough for now! (Basta is a perfectly nice word although it sounds rather naughty.)

 

Signs

12 Dec

So many interesting and amusing signs. Thought I’d share a few.

Add for an English-language school. What does this have to do with learning English?

Add for an English-language school. What does this have to do with learning English?

 

Gives new meaning to multilingual. The Italian word "lingua" means tongue.

Signboard advert: Gives new meaning to multilingual. The Italian word “lingua” means tongue. 

 

Fleece Navidad...Get it? American Christmas music is huge here, considering there is not a lot of Italian seasonal music, but I don't know if non-Englosh speakers would really understand this pun. In Italian fleece, as in a jacket, is "pile."

Fleece Navidad…Get it? American Christmas music is huge here, considering there is not a lot of Italian seasonal music, but I don’t know if non-English speakers would really understand this pun. In Italian fleece, as in a jacket, is “pile.”

 

I know this was a favorite from a blog I posted recently. Worth another share.

I know this was a favorite from a blog I posted recently. Worth another share.

 

Land of many languages

11 Jul
The Val Gardena is home to the Ladin people, an ethnic group of the South Tyrol with their own language, culture, and traditions. Repressed under Fascism, the language and culture is now embraced and celebrated in this small region. The language is spoken by an estimated 84% of the people in our favorite town of Ortisei and is spoken in the home as a means of  keeping the language alive. But as one cannot communicate outside the small Ladin region without other languages, almost everyone speaks German and Italian (education is all in Italian), and many people also speak English fluently, which is helpful with the numbers of non-German and non-Italian tourists.
Embracing this linguistic variety can cause confusion among visitors. We have been here five times now, and the other day got into an argument about the name of the main piazza in Ortisei. I said it’s Piazza San’Antonio and Ric said, “No, it is Piazza San Antone.” How could we not know that? Here’s why:
Sign in the piazza: Italian, German and Ladin names for the same piazza in Ortisei.
Sign in the piazza: Italian, German and Ladin names for the same piazza in Ortisei.
Even the town itself has three distinct names. In Ladin, it means “place of nettles.” Luckily we have not encountered any of the stinging variety.
Does trail #9 lead to 3 places? No. All are names for the same cute town.
Does trail #9 lead to 3 places? No. All are names for the same cute town.
Some place names are vastly different. The other day we were taking a trail we had not intended to hike. We were not really lost, just a bit off course. At a junction where we had to make a decision, we saw a couple descending so I waited to see if they could clarify our choice. First try, in Italian I asked, “Parla Italiano o Inglese.” Blank stare, then the man says, Deutsch.”  “Do you speak English?” I ask. “A little,” he responded. When I asked where they had come from, he answered with “Langkofelhütte.” Luckily I knew that was the German for Rifugio Vicenza and not our destination, that we should take the other path. How can the same place have such wildly different names?
A final note, many signs at restaurants, etc., are in Italian, German and English to help the majority of travelers. But translations being what they are, sometimes they are amusing. At this rifugio (one of the nicest we have seen) the hills were steep, but what we really needed was some coffee.
IMG_4947
%d bloggers like this: