Tag Archives: Italian language

Happy Vigilia di Pasqua

Aha! Ashley and anyone else who was on the case with me may be interested to know that “Vigilia di Pasqua” (Easter Eve) is what you call the day between venerdí Santo (Good Friday, literally Holy Friday) and Pasqua (Easter).

Thanks, Diane Hale. If you want to read a little more about Easter in Italy, her article is a great resource.

Most interesting to me is the Italian word for Passover (“Jewish Easter” more or less, and the origin of the Easter celebration – the liberation of Egyptian slaves; Easter was later paired with the celebration of the Christian resurrection story.

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“Non bagnarti prima di piovere!”

Rain, rain, go away…

Er…I’ll take your 2-hour delay!

That’s right motherfuckas!!! Due to intense rains and flash flooding, thunder and lightning, Sigonella recently announced a 2-hour delay for all non-essential personnel, and that means this bee-otch. If this post is a bit more vulgar than you’re used to, blame it on the rain. Or, blame it on the sailors I work with. There was a lovely welcome period where they refrained from saying “shit” or dropping the f-bomb. I’m not sure if work is more intense, or they just realized I’m not easily offended, but the honeymoon language sensitivity is definitely over.

Here are a few fun Italian words to add to your vocabulary:

“Piovere” = to rain – (Say it: “PEE-yo-vay-ray”)

“Piove” = It’s raining – (Say it: “PEE-yo-vahy”)

“Pioggia” = rain – (Say it: “PEE-yOh-zjah”) (where the “zjah” sound is really soft, like “jah” but with a little edginess)

And, to go along with all the rainy day sayings we have in English, you can remember this Italian phrase, reminding us not to get take a bath before you get wet…reminding us not to lather up before the water pours on you…reminding us not to freak out about getting wet before you actually get wet – or is it really reminding us to live in the moment (like most phrases do? lemons/lemonade, anyone?)…in any case, it is fun to say because it’s Italian:

“Non bagnarti prima di piovere!”

Update: Catania airport closed at 8:16pm due to hail, heavy rains and heavy winds! Holy Schnikes!

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Molto bene


The Italian plateau has been broken. Er, rather, I should say that I see fault lines breaking and the plateau is significantly weakening. Wait, strike that! I am rising above the plateau, so I should say that the plateau is fading behind me because I finally found a path up the Italian language mountain.

If you have studied a language, or know someone who has, you may have heard about the “plateau” that you hit where you feel like you are learning more and more words, but your overall language skills are at a standstill.

Even though my Italian language skills are meager, I was wallowing in plateau-land for months now. I wondered if I would ever communicate in Italian, if I would ever be asked a question by a stranger and be able to answer it, if I could make Italian friends…

The wondering is over – for now. This week I successfully kibitzed with the padroni (owners) of our neighborhood pizzeria. I am sure something was lost in translation, but the experience was overall amazing.

Then, this evening while we were grocery shopping, an Italian asked me how to use the “Self Cashier” or “Self-Casa” as it is called at the IperCoop where we shopped. When I used my halting Italian to answer him, I expected him to brush me aside in favor of a local. Instead, he nodded at what I was saying and we made it through! It was a HUGE success! Um, also, don’t ask me to repeat what I said to him, because hand gestures also go a long way when you’re communicating with Italians.

Lastly, although we are still working on arranging our first “outing” – we have contacted our “Amici.” Carmelo and his wife are officers in the Italian military and they have a three month old son. They live in Acireale, too. I imagine it may be difficult to arrange evening gatherings with their newborn, though I hope we can develop a rhythm of get togethers.

On the topic of friendship, we also have a lovely friendship budding with our landlord and his wife, Pina, as well as their children who are now facebook friends. They are friendly, warm and accommodating of our many questions and requests. This weekend they are hosting us for an afternoon and evening at the legendary Acireale Carnevale! Whoo hoo!

*80s photos coming on Friday!

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Hitting the pastry limit: a sad, sad day. Tocchiamo ferro that the limit gets reset.


(Uno) 1. If you haven’t already, please, please, please check out Mi Scusi! This blog is written about the same area of Sicily and the author is a wonderful writer who captures the heart of the moment in her story-telling. Her most recent post made my heart sing.

(Due) 2 e (Tre) 3. Two new Italian idioms:
“Incrociare le dita” = cross your fingers. This one crosses the language barrier.

“Tocchiamo ferro” = touching iron… This is a close relative of the English idiom “knock on wood.” You know how we look around and if no “wood” is there to knock on, many people knock on their heads in a light-hearted joke? Yea, well, the Italian men would look around and if there is no “iron” to touch…they, uh, well, they touch something else that they would like to *think* is as strong as iron. Ahem.

(Quattro) 4. Anais Nin. She has a mesmerizing spoken voice, and her writing’s not bad, either. She said: “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” This is why I am constantly trying to carry a notebook around with me. Anybody have ideas for jotting down ideas in the moment?

(Cinque) 5. Hitting the pastry limit. I am not a big donut person (nor a doughnut person), I didn’t even really go for the pastries before we arrived here. You may remember my pastry ravings from Geneva, the ricotta donut song I was singing, or you can anticipate the amazing pastries I had at Escriba (Barcelona)…so all of us must be a little surprised when I hit my pastry limit at work today. It was a sad day for all involved: me, my stomach, and my throat (not that I barfed, just that it felt like my stomach was trying to push the pastries up my throat).


Celebrating my January yoga goal by adding a new element! I have been practicing yoga off and on since a former boss inspired me (Marcia) with the calming, soothing nature of the strengthening and stretching practice of yoga. My practice ebbs and flows; due to adjusting to Sicilia, I have been in a big ebb. In January, my goal was to do five sun salutations a day, for at least 27 days out of the month. I did it and am carrying my goal forward into February and adding an extra motion; keeps my blood flowing and my practice daily.

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Fern Gully for reals


(Uno) 1. Slogging through Attending a spouses club meeting. It was pretty fun, and I didn’t get home too late, but I find it mentally tough to take on evening activities. It may be a function of sharing a car, or still adjusting to the commute. Anyone else dread events that you were initially happy to plan?

(Due) 2. Joyful sounds! We have our entertainment system up and running. TV is mounted on the wall, stereo and ipod arranged just so.

(Tre) 3. Mini language lessons at work. My Italian colleagues, Armando and Nicolo, are both generous, relaxed men who delight in the efforts we all put into learning a little more Italian. As 20-year veterans on our military base, I truly admire their patience and their capability to nurture the glow that they must see in new personnel every year. Grazie mille, ragazzi!

(Quattro) 4. Making jokes in a foreign language. Nothing makes you feel more accomplished, even if you have a long way to go. Hence, my “ragazzi” call to Armando and Nicolo. They each have a couple of decades on me, and usually you call your peers or younger people “ragazzi” – the first time I said “Ciao, ragazzi” to Nicolo and Armando, they laughed heartily. Good thing I was in on the joke!

(Cinque) 5. Working for the weekend. You know you’re doing it, too.


Nothing pulls at my heartstrings more than an underdog story. Unless it’s an underdog story about a displaced group of people. Enter, the newest example of Fern Gullyism. This Peruvian tribe is feeling the squeeze of loggers and tourists among other unknown effects pushing them more into public spheres. I am no expert on such populations, though I do fantasize about the purity of their lifestyle. As I have matured, I recognize the role I play in displacing such people (tree-based products, folks). I also find the frequent low-status of women distasteful. Yet, my heart is singing for the Mascho-Piru!


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Italian language day!!!

(Uno) 1. Il viso = face.

(Due) 2. Il occhio = eye.

(Tre) 3. La bocca = mouth.

(Quattro) 4. Il naso = nose.

(Cinque) 5. Il sorriso = smile.


Our faces are windows into our inner minds and hearts. Our eyes and mouths reveal hesitation, excitement and suspicion. Italians use the word “occhio” to indicate “watch out” or “look!” or “check that out.” If you hear “occhio” on a crowded bus or train, you may want to check your wallet pocket or your purse – the Italian might be warning you of a pickpocket. A “bocca negra” is a rich chocolate mousse-like dessert that leaves one with a black (negra) mouth. It was a favorite dessert item on the menu at Lombardino’s in Madison, Wisconsin. Ciao, ciao to all my special friends there right now!!!

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We are Family – an Italian lesson.


Theme day = FAMILY!

(Uno) 1. Family = La famiglia.
Mother = Madre
Father = Padre
Sister = Sorella
Sisters = Sorelle
Brother = Fratello
Brothers = Fratelli

(Due) 2. In our modern age, we need to know how to describe the whole nuclear family:
Stepmother = Matrigna
Stepfather = Patrigno
Stepsister = Sorellastra
Stepbrother = Fratellastro

(Tre) 3. Of course, none of us would be here without the grandparents.
Grandparents = Nonni
Grandmother = Nonna
Grandfather = Nonno

(Quattro) 4. If you’re anything like me, your life is enriched by your wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins.
Aunt = zia
Aunts = zie
Uncle = zio
Uncles = zii
Cousin = cugino
Cousins = cugini

(Cinque) 5. And then, if you choose to get married, how do you refer to your new family?
Mother-in-law = suocera
Father-in-law = suocero
Sister-in-law = cognata
Brother-in-law = cognato

UPDATE: As Tracy pointed out in the comments, I left out two very important family members.
Husband = Marito
Wife = Moglie


“We are family!” (“Siamo una famiglia” just doesn’t roll off my tongue the same way.) Over the last two days, our family has enjoyed the temporary addition of my brother (fratello) Jim. We have mixed sight seeing with starting our home viewing of the HBO series “The Wire.” We visited Nicolosi, Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, ambled about Santa Maria Ammalati, and of course we watched the New Year’s Eve firework show under Mt. Etna’s silent snow glow. Today we walked into Acireale to see the Duomo and pick up veggies. Jimmy cooked dinner tonight, burritos featuring sauteed eggplant and peppers!

Aci Castello on a sunny winter afternoon. I can just imagine all the sun-bathers we saw last summer.

We climbed to the first level in the castle, here is Jim with Aci Trezza in the background.

Jim looking out on Aci Castello.

Today’s view of Acireale’s Duomo, still decorated for the holidays. Being a strongly Catholic country (about 98%), the Sicilians are celebrating Christmas through the Epiphany. Decorations and parties will continue until that time.


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