FOOD FIGHT! Why thousands of people join a massive food fight in this Italian town each year


Why thousands of people join a massive food fight in this Italian town each year
Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges is one of Italy’s most famous and messiest carnivals. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy is home to many spectacular spring carnivals, from masks and extravagant costumes in Venice to political satire in Viareggio. But one of the most unusual festivals takes place in a small town in northwestern Italy, where thousands gather each February to wage war… with oranges.

 

The three-day food fight in Ivrea, Piedmont has taken place each year since 1808, making 2018 the carnival’s 210th edition.

Huge crowds descend on the city for the Battle of the Oranges, a messy fight believed to commemorate a revolt against the monarchy. The festivities kicked off on Sunday and continue until Tuesday, February 13th, the day before Ash Wednesday and the Christian festival of Lent.

According to legend, a 12th century rebellion began after a baron visited a peasant girl on the eve of her wedding, hoping to exercise the right medieval lords supposedly had to have sex with any women from the lower classes.

But the girl fought back, beheading the baron and marching around the town with his head, an action which sparked a peasant uprising.

These days, the battle is recreated using fruit, and festival-goers or ‘aranceri’ (orange-throwers) are divided into teams. Those on foot represent the commoners, split into nine teams with different emblems. Others, portraying the Napoleonic troops who used to rule the town, fight back from horse-drawn carts.


Participants in this year’s carnival. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

People dressed up as the Mugnaia (‘miller’s daughter’, the peasant girl who started the revolt), also called Violetta, and Napoleonic officers parade through the streets. Violetta hands out sweets and other small trinkets to those who have come to watch.

Huge stacks of crates filled with the citrus fruits line the streets to supply the participants with ammunition, while the carts are stocked with oranges too.

It is not exactly clear why oranges are the fruit of choice, and in previous decades, beans or apples were used instead. Each year, hundreds of thousands of kilograms of oranges are imported from Sicily to the northwestern town.

Spectators can choose to wear a red hat to mark themselves as a bystander (donning the hat also means you cannot throw any oranges yourself) or stay safe from flying pulp by sheltering behind the nets which are put up to protect Ivrea’s buildings.

Other rituals include a large bonfire, again symbolic of the revolt but also of the arrival of spring, as well as the musical and theatrical performances common to many Italian carnivals.

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Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy


Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy
Beautiful sunsets and empty streets: That’s autumnn in Rome. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr
It’s never a bad time for an Italian holiday, but autumn is when the country really comes into its own. Read on for the top reasons you should book a trip here now.

1. The Colors


Autumn by Lake Como. Photo: rglinsky/Depositphotos

Whether it’s the autumn sunshine illuminating reddish city buildings, the changing hues of leaves in the countryside, or glistening reflections in one of the country’s many amazing lakes, autumn is surely the most beautiful time to spend in Italy. Instagrammers rejoice: no filter needed here!

 

2. Streets to yourself

Get to see Castel Sant’Angelo without the hordes.. Photo: pio3/Depositphotos

Italy is a popular choice for summer holidays, so between May and September the city centres swell with tourists. This means it’s harder to find a quiet table at restaurants; hotels, airlines and train companies hike their prices; and queues for the most famous tourist attractions can reach ridiculous lengths.

With autumn finally here you can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy having the streets to yourself. You’ll also get a more ‘authentic’ sense of Italy, as most Italians leave the cities during the summer months – meaning many local businesses and eateries close down during peak season too.

3. Food festivals

Autumn is the best time to visit your local market. Photo: davidewingphoto/Depositphotos

Autumn means harvest time, and in Italy that means plenty of regional festivals celebrating the local dishes. It’s a perfect time to explore nearby towns, with many of them hosting a sagra (food festival) to celebrate – and eat! – their truffles, chestnuts, pasta sauce, figs and mushrooms.

Look out for the white truffle festival on October weekends in Alba, Piedmont; the aubergine sagra in Savona; and the limoncello festival in Massa Lubrense. For travellers with a sweet tooth, time your visit to coincide with the massive Eurochocolate fair in Perugia in mid-October or Cremona’s nougat fest. Those are just a few of the options, so make sure to check out what’s happening near you.

Even if you can’t make it to a local sagra, the variety of fresh vegetables available at local markets, and the smell of chestnuts as sellers roast them on the streets, make Italian autumn a foodie paradise. Many restaurants will serve seasonal specials, so make sure to ask your waiter what they recommend.

4. Wine time

The Italian wine harvest. Photo: tepic/Depositphotos

After all that food, you’ll need something to wash it down – and luckily it’s the wine season, with harvesting taking place in each of Italy’s 20 regions. If you can’t make it out to the vineyards, you can visit any one of the many towns and villages that host grape festivals (Sagra dell’uva), and taste world-class Italian wines.

Olive harvesting takes place around the same time, so if you prefer you can also experience the first stage of another Italian speciality: extra virgin olive oil.

5. Breathing space at the beaches

This is Sperlonga beach near Rome – in November. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

The combination of tourists going home and locals deciding it’s far too cold for beach weather makes autumn an ideal time for a coastal excursion. No longer will you have to battle for a sunbed or a spot to place your towel, or deal with hiked-up prices for deckchair rental and gelato. You may even find you get the beach to yourself.

6. Autumn weather

Tuscan sunrise. Photo: sborisov/Depositphotos

Speaking of which, Italian autumn is altogether a much more pleasant season for those who find Italy’s sweltering summers tough to bear.\

After months where anything other than taking a long siesta and eating ice cream in piazzas seems far too taxing, the cooler – but usually still sunny – autumn means you can finally go on long walks, sightseeing afternoons and explore all that Italy has to offer without having to stop for a drink of water in a shaded area every few minutes.

7. Culture overload

The autumn months are the perfect time to get dressed up for a show. Photo: wulfman65/Depositphotos

Theatres are generally closed in Italy over summer, but the cooler months see theatre and opera seasons kick off again, so even on rainy days you won’t get bored.

High profile events taking place over autumn include the Rome Film Festival and Montecatini Opera Festival in central Italy, while Bologna’s Jazz Festival is well worth a trip to the north of the country. There are also plenty of smaller festivals on across the peninsular, from the mainstream to the niche; for example, the Siena Palios are over for the year, but you’ve still got time to plan a trip to the annual Donkey Palio in Cuneo.

 

The Local

Tourism is killing Venice, but it’s also the only key to survival for the Italian City


'Tourism is killing Venice, but it's also the only key to survival'
Throngs of tourists flood the streets of Venice. Photo: Venezia Autentica
By Catherine Edwards/The Local
Venice has topped travellers’ bucket lists for centuries, but in recent years the city has struggled to cope with mass tourism, while tension has grown between visitors and locals.

 

By the 17th century, a trip to Venice had become a rite of passage for upper class northern Europeans, who flocked to the lagoon city as part of the Italian Grand Tour. Writers and artists drank in inspiration from the city where imposing architecture was reflected in glittering waters and Venice became a symbol for Italian romance.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the city is groaning under the weight of tourism.

Cheap flights, huge cruise ships, and the city’s Instagram appeal attract so many travellers that on a given day, there are more visitors than residents in the Veneto capital. It’s the type of tourism as much as the sheer amount that causes problems: the majority of visitors don’t stay overnight in the city, meaning most of them spend their time and their money in the same small areas.

Small businesses and artisans’ craft shops have been replaced by identikit souvenir stalls and fast food restaurants to cater to day-tripping bargain hunters. In recent years, Venetians have staged frequent protests against the mass tourism which has pushed up rents and forced many families out of their hometown.

But could the visitors hold the key to Venice’s survival?

“Venice is a one-industry city; it relies on tourism, like our bodies rely on food to survive,” says local resident Sebastian Fagarazzi.

“But in order to thrive, you need to have the right kind of food; the right kind of tourism. The wrong kind can mean death.”

Sebastian Fagarazzi’s family had to close down its textiles shop due to the pressure created by mass tourism; he says all his friends have left the city. Photo: Venezia Autentica

Fagarazzi and his partner, France-born Valeria Duflot, have launched Venezia Autentica, a social enterprise with the aim of promoting responsible tourism and supporting local business in the city.

Frustration with visitors has grown to the point that last summer, angry locals plastered the city with flyers reading ‘Tourists go away! You are destroying this city’, but the couple believe not only that tourists could help save Venice, but that a large number of them want to do so, and would if they were given the tools.

“Tourism is the problem, but it’s also the only solution,” Fagarazzi tells The Local. “Everyone protests [against excessive tourism], but no one has done much to try to have an immediate positive effect.”


Crowds mass at the Rialto Bridge. Photo: Venezia Autentica

Duflot met her partner on a visit to Venice before later making the city her home and remembers the difficulty she had in finding out about the real side to Venice, beyond the tourist hotspots and gondoliers.

“When I spoke to locals and met Sebastian, I learnt a lot about the city and enjoyed my time there much more. But at the start,it’s very hard to get that information and to know how to have a positive impact,” she says.

The 30-year-old came up with the idea for Venezia Autentica when walking down the city’s main street one day. To one side, she saw a crowd of cruise ship tourists; to the other, a group of young Venetians, carrying flags and singing local songs.

“In a flash, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could get these two groups to understand each other? I know other people care about the impact they have on Venice, and if just a small proportion of the visitors thinks like that, then we can have a huge impact, particularly as the Venetians now are so few,” Duflot explains.


Valeria Duflot first came to Venice in 2014 and now calls the city her home. Photo: Venezia Autentica

The pair are sceptical about recent measures introduced by city authorities aimed at protecting the city’s heritage, including bans on new hotels and takeaway food joints in the historic centre.

“They’ve basically closed the stable door after the horse has bolted,” says Fagarazzi. “It should be the city authorities who regulate tourism – you can’t expect visitors to do in depth research; after a 40-hour working week, you come on holiday to relax! But it’s meaningless political manouevring. The bans only apply to new establishments when there are hundreds already, and there will be exceptions when it suits the authorities.”

One thing missing from the new measures is any concrete proposal of support for Venetian-run businesses or local residents, such as tax exemptions for entrepreneurs or housing support for young people.

The two Venetians hope their business will offer some support to local entrepreneurs and artisans by highlighting their shops to visitors and educating tourists on the expertise and long hours that go into making a typical mask, for example.


A Venetian artisan works on a mask while a young girl watches. Photo: Venezia Autentica

Fagarazzi is acutely aware of the pressures local businesses face: in 2015, his family was forced to close its popular clothing shop in the city centre, after facing increasing pressure linked to the effects of mass tourism.

At the age of 32, he says the majority of his friends have been forced to leave because they can no longer make a life in Venice – “and it’s my generation that makes babies!”

“People worry that Venice could disappear because of flooding, but it actually could disappear much sooner,” Fagarazzi comments. “Without the Venetians, it’s not Venice. Time is running out.”

The local population has dropped below 55,000, less than half the figure of 40 years ago, as Venetians find themselves priced out of their hometown. What’s more, it has one of Italy’s oldest populations; despite the fact Veneto is the country’s second wealthiest region, youth unemployment is extremely high.

The couple hope that by supporting local artisans, they can help them stay in business and create opportunities for young Venetians to continue living in the city and carve out rewarding careers.


A lace-maker sits at work outside her shop. Photo: Venezia Autentica

On their website, they offer information about the city, guidelines for responsible tourism, and a selection of local restaurants and artisan shops that have the ‘Authentic Venice’ seal of approval. All have been personally tried and tested by the couple, their family and friends; as Fagarazzi says, “we need to be sure that it’s a consistently good experience -a business which makes Venice proud”.

Aside from following the online guide, there are a few clues tourists can look out for when hunting down a true Venetian experience. Duflot explains that there is no particular neighbourhood to go to for artisan shops, but there are some red flags to look out for.

“If you see someone standing outside a restaurant beckoning you in, or menus with pictures and flags of different countries, walk in the other direction!” she warns. “And in ‘artisan shops’, if you see any kind of massive sale or very cheap products, it won’t be good quality – which can be dangerous too.”

On the other hand, a true artisan shop will likely have a clear specialization in one kind of product; a craftsman at work – or signs that they’ve been working; and prices that reflect the fact that the simplest mask, for example, takes around seven hours to create.

“But the best litmus test is always to ask the salesperson about the craft. A seller of mass-produced souvenirs might badger you to buy things or repeat the same catchwords like ‘Murano glass’; an artisan will be able to tell you everything about what they do. Their eyes will light up,” says Duflot.


A mask-maker shows off her creations. Photo: Venezia Autentica

The pair say they hope that would-be visitors aren’t scared off Venice by the stories of anti-tourist sentiment, but also that they will take more time to learn about the city.

“It’s not a theme park to tick off your bucket list; it’s a real, living city with people and struggles which visitors should appreciate,” says Fagarazzi.

To get a glimpse of Venetian life and better understand the city, he advises visitors to venture off the well-trodden tourist trail and explore side streets and quieter piazzas. Not only does this ease the pressure on the city’s main thoroughfares, it’s also more likely to lead to a unique shop or experience.

“As a Venetian I’m envious, because I don’t get to experience the magic of getting lost and finding that incredible shop you’ll never find again. It’s like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter – sometimes you stumble across the very thing you’re looking for, totally at random,” he says.

“Venice has always been very welcoming to all kinds of people,” adds Duflot. “Here, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – just treat Venetians and their city well.”

 

An unfair split


In Italy, trusting a partner to do the best by you isn’t always a safe bet.

That’s Queer 

In a gay relationship, 50-50 isn’t an equal proposition and can unexpectedly leave a trusting partner on the brink

My move to Italy in 2001 sharply curtailed my career possibilities and earning power. The best I could do was become an English instructor, a job that would never pay well or give me much chance for advancement. My companion Alberto, on the other hand, was a doctor with a secure position in a local hospital. What’s more, he already owned a modest apartment in Milan and had inherited part of a house on Lago Maggiore.

Many people still hold to the idea that one partner, usually the man in a heterosexual relationship, must be the primary wage earner, the so-called breadwinner. My father told me this in no uncertain terms, calling me a “parasite, living off Alberto’s money.” While it’s true my standard of living is higher than what I could manage on an English teacher’s salary, I still pay my own bills, including half of our second-hand car and our old boat. Though I share living expenses with Alberto, we don’t split things 50-50 and he contributes more.

If anything were to go wrong between us, Alberto could continue living as he does now. I’d have to return to Canada and find a way to reinvent myself in the workplace.

I married Alberto in Canada, but the Italy I moved to in 2001 contained no legal mechanisms to protect me. Same-sex civil unions didn’t exist. Alberto named me as his heir in his will. He added an insurance policy and also drafted a contract stipulating I had rights to a certain percentage of his estate. Unfortunately, as many wives would attest, not all husbands are as careful or considerate.

Click the Link for the Rest of the Story

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?feature=Features&column=95

 

How an economic miracle transformed love and marriage in post-war Italy


How an economic miracle transformed love and marriage in post-war Italy
A newly married couple walks near Rome’s Arch of Constantine. Photo: AFP
By: Catherine Edwards/The Local
Italy in the 1960’s was experiencing a whirlwind of change. The Second World War had left a legacy of acute poverty and a country suffering an identity crisis after years of fascism and occupation, but by 1964, the transformation was so stark as to be dubbed a ‘miracle’.

With the help of US aid, Italy rebuilt its infrastructure, evolved from a primarily agricultural economy to an industrial one, and became known for its innovative production techniques and impressive design.

This meant profound changes, not just for the Italian economy but also for the lives and feelings of ordinary Italians.

“Love and marriage were completely redefined in Italy after the war,” says Dr Niamh Cullen, a lecturer specializing in the history of modern Italy at the University of Southampton, who has studied personal documents from the era to piece together how everyday life was affected.

Cullen first became fascinated by the era after spending a year in Turin. The city, home of FIAT and the ‘capital’ of the industrial boom, was one of the centres of post-war mass migration, as young people left the countryside seeking work and a better life. This migration, together with the rise of mass culture and celebrity culture, was the catalyst for Italy’s transformation.

“I wanted to uncover as much as possible how ordinary people lived through these changes; what they thought and how they felt about the world they were living in,” Cullen tells The Local.

Her research has focussed on the evolution of dating, love, and marriage, from the pre-war days when relationships were often decided by families through to a growing acceptance of ‘marriage for love’.

           An Italian street pictured in the 1960’s. Photo: RomanNerud/Depositphotos     

But while Cullen can trace a broad shift from traditional values to modern ones, her studies of hundreds of diaries and memoirs revealed that for the individuals involved, “matters were almost more complex and messy than this”.

For one thing, the change to a modern view of love was not linear.

“Modernization had already begun in the early 1900’s,” explains Cullen. “But [Fascist dictator Benito] Mussolini tried to turn back the tide of these changes. Mussolini’s ideal woman – at least according to official propaganda! – was the traditional peasant woman, more interested in having lots of babies than in fashion and beauty.”

The regime passed laws aimed at curbing migration to the cities, as his regime glorified rural Italy and wanted to keep people – particularly women – in traditional peasant ways of life.

Fascist propaganda painted a negative picture of the ‘modern women’ who lived in the cities and followed trends, in an attempt to dissuade women from rejecting the traditional role of wife and mother. Though these efforts were unsuccessful in halting falling birth rates and migration to the cities, it wasn’t until several decades later that the change became drastic.

The outbreak of the Second World War meant couples and families were separated, often for many years. And the violence and upheaval of war seemed to press pause on the change which had seemed inevitable, with Italians desperate to return to ‘normality’ when peace was restored.

“There was a renewed emphasis on conservative morality and on traditional, domestic roles for women in the 1950’s, and Italy this meant that the Catholic Church had a particularly strong hold on society in the 1950’s,” says Cullen.

What’s more, the stagnant economy and widespread unemployment of the 1950’s meant that most young people were focussing on getting by rather than modernizing.

That all changed towards the end of the decade. As the Marshall Plan saw money poured into Italian industry, jobs opened up in the cities, especially in the North – and the youngsters followed in their droves.

This was a seismic shift in the Italian family model, and its traditionally strong ties began to loosen.

Generations had traditionally lived under the same roof, but now young people on the cusp of adulthood had unprecedented freedom. They could not only earn their own money and live independently, but also meet, date, and marry new people in big cities hundreds of miles away from the watchful eye of their parents – and the suitors their family may have picked out for them.

At the same time, rural ways of living were eclipsed by urbanization and the growth of mass culture, meaning that traditional ideas of gender roles and courtship gave way to more modern attitudes.

“Broadly speaking, young Italians were moving away from marriages arranged by their families and increasingly beginning to choose their marriage partners themselves,” says Cullen. “There was an increased emphasis on marriage for love, in Italy as everywhere in the post-war Western world.”


                                  Photo of Venice: RomanNerud/Depositphotos

But as the rules began to change, young people struggled to navigate the rapidly evolving dating scene.

Cullen has studied problem pages of popular women’s magazines, which discussed topics such as the new rules of courtship, the acceptability of socializing in mixed gender groups, and whether girls could approach a boy or should wait for a traditional formal ‘declaration of love’.

“Often the advice was contradictory; customs were changing so quickly that nobody was really sure how to act,” says Cullen.

“One girl wrote to [magazine] Grand Hotel in 1955, asking for help choosing between a goldsmith and a poor labourer, who she said she was in love with. The agony aunt told her to choose the labourer if she felt she would die without him, but marrying for love was clearly not such a clearcut decision for the letter-writer!

“This shows that while the idea of marriage for love was all very well in magazines and films, it was often not a very helpful notion for young women who were not expected to work and have an independent income. Not marrying was not considered an option either in rural Italy and in the advice columns there was a strong emphasis on finding a husband, any husband before it was too late,” Cullen explains.

She says that in the memoirs and diaries she has studied, men were generally much more romantic, “describing their love for their fiancées in strong, definite terms”. Women, meanwhile, who were very often financially dependent on their husbands, were more likely to have a more pragmatic view of the relationship, and often “emphasized doubts and anxieties”.

“Simply put, not everyone could afford to be romantic,” Cullen says. “Of course, with memoirs, these accounts are filtered through memory. But it’s still possible to glean some sense of how emotions and attitudes were changing. I found it important to pay attention not just to what was said but what was not said; where do the gaps and silences lie?”

Arranged marriages and marriages for love weren’t always easy to tell apart, not only for historians, but potentially even for the young people involved at the time.

One account, which Cullen describes as the most moving she came across, had to be read between the lines. A Tuscan woman described meeting her husband at a dance, their courtship, and eventual decision to marry, in what seemed like a typical marriage for love.

“But she seemed somehow ambivalent about these events, and looking closer, it was clear that her family put her under pressure to marry,” the historian says. “As the youngest daughter in a large family, it was made clear that she was a burden.

“The wording she used to describe the wedding day was a little odd but made it clear that it was primarily her family who felt happiness (and relief) at seeing her married off. Her own feelings were less clear; it seemed she could not even admit them to herself. At the same time, it was clear that she loved her husband and they shared a long and happy life together.

“This memoir showed, to me, how love, marriage and happiness could be understood in very different ways depending on the world that a person is born into.”

The best – and most creative – Italian insults


The best - and most creative - Italian insults

In Italian a person who is very unattractive is called a “cesso” (toilet). Toilet photo: Shutterstock
When it comes to insults, no-one does it quite like the Italians. Whether it’s a simple hand gesture or an imaginative curse, they have a gift for expressing displeasure, even if their insults don’t quite translate into other languages. Here’s our pick of the most creative rude terms, but be warned: these are not to be used at dinner with your Italian in-laws.

Li mortacci tua! | Your bad dead ancestors!

Family is everything in Italy, so you know you’re in trouble is someone starts insulting yours – especially dead ones. This Roman expression implies the recipient is descended from ancestors of questionable morality. Not to be used lightly.

Photo: Shutterstock

Stronzo | Turd

This is much stronger than the English equivalent and considered to be very vulgar – younger people often use it playfully among friends, but it’s best to avoid it unless you’re totally sure it would be well-received. The specific connotations vary, but it’s often used when someone is arrogant and doesn’t care about others.

Cavolo | Cabbage

Sounds harmless? This is one of the safer terms on this list: “Cavolo” is simply a less aggressive way of saying the far more offensive “cazzo”, which translates as “shit”. It’s similar to English-speakers who replace ruder terms with “sugar” or “fudge”.

For example: “Che cavolo vuoi?” (literally: what the cabbage do you want?) The English equivalent would probably be: “What the heck do you want?”

Photo: Shutterstock

Rompicoglioni | Ball-breaker

In English we would say a “pain in the neck” or “pain in the ass”. In Italy, however, the anatomy is slightly different and you would say “rompicoglioni”, or “ball-breaker” in English. It comes from the expression: “Rompere i coglioni” (to break someone’s balls), which you would use to let someone know that they are really getting on your nerves. For example: “Mi rompi i coglioni!” 

Coglione | Testicle

On the subject of balls, a single “coglione” is used to refer to an idiot. For example: “Tutti in ufficio pensano che sei un coglione!” (Everyone in the office thinks you’re an idiot).

Cesso | Toilet

If you think someone is unattractive in Italy you don’t have to stop at “brutto” (ugly). Literally translating as “toilet”, “cesso” is used to describe someone who is particularly unpleasant to look at. Use with caution.

Photo: Shutterstock

Porca miseria | Pig poverty

This phrase might baffle non-natives. “Porca” does translate as pig – but in this context it is an adjective that is perhaps best translated as “bloody” or “damn”, used frequently by hassled Italians. The equivalent would probably be “bloody hell!” But we have to say, this porcine variant has a certain ring to it.

For example: “Porca miseria, it’s freezing out here!”

Porca paletta | Pig spade

Noticing a piggy theme here? If you’re familiar with Italian you’ll know that “paletta” is a spade. Precede it with “porca”, however, and it becomes an exclamation of frustration, similar to “porca miseria”, but milder. Stronger variations include “porca puttana” (porky prostitute) and “porco dio” (porky God).

Photo: Shutterstock

The 35 signs you’ll never be truly fluent in Italian


The 35 signs you'll never be truly fluent in Italian
The moment when you realize you’ll never be mistaken for a native. Photo: Pexels.
You may have lived here for years, read the textbooks, gone to the classes, even survived an Italian dinner party… but do you ever get the sinking feeling you’ll never be truly bilingual?
By: Catherine Edwards/The Local

You’re not alone. Achieving true fluency in a second language is tough, and even if you’ve shaken off your native accent and use Italian daily with your friends and colleagues, there are usually a few complex bits of the language you’re never sure if you’re using correctly, and most likely have given up caring.

Here are 35 of the signs that you’ll never be truly fluent.

  1. You face a dilemma every time someone asks ‘Parli italiano?’  Do you nod, and risk causing confusion when you’re instantly thrown by their next question, or say no, admitting to them and yourself that the hours you spent studying verb conjugations were basically worthless.
  2. Speaking of verb conjugations, you’re still not quite sure about when to use the imperfect tense, passato prossimo or even the passato remoto.

  3. …But you rarely opt for the latter, because you never did learn the millions of irregular forms.

  4. It annoys you that the word ‘annoiato’ doesn’t mean ‘annoyed’ and that a ‘fattoria‘ isn’t a factory.

  5. Or perhaps you’re familiar with most ‘falsi amici‘, but are still guilty of using‘eventualmente’ (which means ‘possibly’) or ‘attualmente’ (currently) in the wrong way.

The feeling you get after realizing you just sent an important email with several embarrassing mistakes. Photo: Jazbeck/Flickr

  1. You find yourself writing things like ‘communicazione’  and ‘respondere’ and curse the days when you used to think ‘Italian’s so easy, most of the words are basically the same as in English’.
  • You had to read the above sentence several times to figure out what was wrong (it’scomunicazione and rispondere).

  • ‘Nessuna problema’. You always forget that ‘problema‘ is a masculine noun. The same goes for cinema, tema and the rest of the words in that group of irregulars.

  • During arguments, you struggle to piece together a sentence, let alone the well-crafted point you wanted to express. Instead, you stick to hand gestures – hey, at least that’s something.

  • You either avoid using ‘ne’ altogether, or are never totally sure if you’re using it correctly.

  • You’ve accidentally used ‘tu’ with your university tutor or boss, or mixed up ‘Lei’ and ‘tu’.

  • When you bravely attempt to use some of the slang your Italian friends have taught you, they laugh because you’ve said it wrong or it just “sounds so cute in your accent”.

  • Instead of mastering the grammar, you’ve focussed on immersing yourself in more important parts of Italian culture. Like the food. Photo: Kanko/Flickr

    1. You have some kind of embarrassing story about the time you asked if there were ‘preservativi’ in your food, or failed to pronounce the double ‘n’ in ‘penne‘. (Clue: ‘preservativi‘ means condoms, not preservatives, and ‘pene‘ with a single ‘n’ refers to a man’s genitals)
  • When words start with a vowel, you still have to take a moment to remember whether to use ‘un’ or ‘un” with an apostrophe.

  • You say things like ‘Non posso usare i verbi modali’, forgetting that modal verbs are much less common in Italian (for example, ‘non riesco a parlare italiano’ or simply ‘non parlo italiano‘ would sound much better than ‘non posso parlare italiano‘, which implies there is something physically stopping you from doing it.)

  • ‘Vado a casa. Vado al cinema.’ Why the difference? You’ve resigned yourself to the fact you’ll never know.

  • ‘Io parlo italiano‘. Overusing subject pronouns (io, tu, lui, lei…) is a dead giveaway that you’re still thinking in your native language.

  • The same goes for the possessive pronouns ‘mine, yours’ in Italian. It’s much more natural to say ‘ho perso la borsa‘ (I’ve lost my bag) than ‘ho perso la mia borsa’ which is more emphatic (I’ve lost MY bag).

  • You innocently begin a sentence like ‘Se avrei potuto aiutare…’ before realizing you’ve set yourself a horrible trap and now have to figure out which tense to use next. Is it ‘avevo detto qualcosa?’ ‘avrei detto qualcosa?’ or something completely different?

  • You thought you understood your teacher’s explanation, but when you look over your notes you realize it just doesn’t make sense. Photo: CollegeDegrees360/Flickr

    1. Frankly, you’ve given up hope – or at least, given up talking about it. You kick yourself every time you blurt out ‘spero che’, because now you’ll have to use the long-forgotten subjunctive tense. Tip: replace ‘che’ with ‘di’ and you can use the infinitive, just as long as the subject is the same for both verbs. Sneaky!

    21. Knowing when to use or omit the definite article is guesswork more than anything, and you find yourself wanting to throw your unhelpful grammar book at your unhelpful teacher when they say things like “it just depends”.

    22.You rehearse your answers for conversations you’re going to have, and get annoyed when the other person veers off-script. You weren’t prepared for this!

    1. You can get by just fine with your group of Italian friends, but panic when faced with phone calls… and let’s not even mention the hundreds of different dialects.
  • Maybe you’ve begun to lose your native accent, but you’re rarely mistaken for an Italian. People comment on your “unusual dialect” and make guesses at where you might be from.

  • 25. Figuring out whether an ‘ire’ verb is going to conjugate like ‘sentire‘ or ‘dormire‘ is one of life’s little mysteries.

    1. In general, you think Italian plurals are pretty easy but you sometimes forget to add a ‘h’ after ‘c’ or ‘g’ in feminine plurals like ‘amiche‘.
  • You still don’t know where the ‘à’ and ‘ù’ accents are on the keyboard, because you usually just ignore them (or forget they’re even there…)

  • Sono di New York’ but ‘vengo da New York’ – you’re often not 100 percent sure which preposition to use.

  • Photo: Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr

    1. It still feels unnatural to follow ‘qualche‘ (some) with a singular noun. Tip: think of‘alcuni’ as meaning ‘some’, and ‘qualche’ as ‘a… or two’.

    2. You’re pretty sure you know when to use ‘magari’ and ‘mica’ but still feel nervous about casually slipping them into conversation.

    3. You steer clear of compound words like ‘datemelo’ because you’re never sure what order everything should go in. Instead you usually end up plumping for something you know a native would never say, like ‘Puoi dare lo a me?’ Whatever, people still understand what you mean – most of the time.

    4. You sometimes forget that ‘gente‘ (people) is used in the singular, ie ‘la gente pensa che…’

    5. To be or not to be? Whether it’s not knowing whether to use ‘avere’ or ‘essere’ in the perfect tense, or saying something like ‘sono 18 anni’ or ‘sono calda‘, it really is the question.

    6. You’re pleased with yourself for using the verb ‘piacere‘ correctly almost all the time, but sometimes forget that it has to agree with the object. So saying ‘mi piace il libro’ is fine, but ‘mi piace i libri’ is not – it’s ‘mi piacciono‘.

    7. Finally, you’ve accepted that you’ll never pass for native and no longer consult your grammar book every time you want to say something. Instead, you focus on expressing yourself as best you can and accept that sometimes you’ll say something that sounds a little bizarre – and all the Italians you know are fine with that.