Dreaming In Italian

La Casa – the house (in this case the apartment)

Monday, December 21st, 2020

I’m finally getting around to showing pictures of the house. I had taken only 3 pictures when Laura and I arrived on July 18th when the house was mostly empty of furniture and I include those to show all of the stuff that came from Laura’s house in Torino.

The entryway (ingresso) in July
The same view now with a couple of my pictures on the wall an antique chest of drawers and mirror and stuff on the coatrack
A view from the other direction. My circus poster, the two shopping carts (carrelli) and three big armoires on the right from Laura’s house that fit perfectly.
The hallway from the entryway to the “living space”. I say living space because it’s a large room that serves as dining room, living room and office. We just call it the “sala”. Note the overhead neon lighting. Pretty cool.
In the image above you can see a little nook on the right where I have some of my stuff from travels and a few things of Laura’s
Opposite the nook is the master bedroom. The door to the hallway is not shown but is to the left side of this view.
The other side of the bedroom with the armoires brought from Laura’s house. You can just see the edge of the door to the hallway on the right and the door to the bathroom on the left. There is also a door to the terrace on the left that you can’t see in this photo.
The ceiling of the bedroom is pretty cool. There is a similar ceiling in the entryway.
This is the master bath. It comes equipped with a cat. I installed all of the shower stuff myself. At the top of the photo you can see a storage area with sliding drawers. Our suitcases are stored there – plus I’m sure some other stuff. I forget what other stuff is in there but will investigate further one of these days.
The hallway from the end of the other hallway to the kitchen – the same overhead novel lighting. You can just make out the door to the second bathroom on the left before the kitchen.
This is the second bathroom. Pretty small but it has about everything required (except no bidet).
Kitchen with a door to the terrace, dishwasher and sink.
More of the kitchen, oven/cooktop, microwave, refrigerator and toaster oven – plus a bunch of wine :^) And of course the water heater on the right. All of the houses that I’ve seen have a water heater (always tankless) that provides not only the hot water for usual purposes but also for heated water for the radiators to heat the house.
One side of the terrace. The terrace is totally enclosed by walls so there is no view and only direct sun at noon. Still it’s useful if not ideal.
The other side of the terrace. From the left a window for the main bathroom, then a door to the bedroom and a door to the entryway. There is lighting outside as well as switched electrical outlets.
Here’s that large living space as seen from the entrance hallway when we arrived in July
Here is the dining room end of the room now.
Here is the view of the same living space when we arrived, from the end nearer the kitchen, complete with Laura.
And here is the living room/office end of the room now (but without Laura at the moment).
And there’s more. Beneath the main floor of the house there is this mezzanine area with a complete living space – currently in disarray – and with another little room at the far side,
The other little room is a laundry room and bathroom complete with a bidet but with a bathtub only suitable for a child.

That’s the end of the tour. I hope that you enjoyed it. Ah but wait, I need to add a Baci quote and I have another one from one of the more quotable people who ever lived.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

I look forward to any comments.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New year although the covid grinch has certainly had an impact on Christmas this year. But hang in there the vaccine is on the way. This is definitely not a time to let your guard down.

Transgender words in Italian

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Ok, this has nothing to do with actual sex. During this period of lock-down and being largely confined to the house I have been reading a lot and I always come across curiosities of the Italian language. So with a lot of time on my hands I thought that I’d write about some peculiarities of the Italian language as I sit here in my uniform of sweatshirt and sweatpants.

As many (most?) of you probably know many languages other than English have nouns that have a gender; masculine (maschile) or feminine (femminile). This really complicates the grammar because the corresponding article and adjective needs to have the same gender. One of the challenges for a native english speaker such as myself is getting used to this fact. Almost all nouns that end in an “o” are masculine and then the plural ends in an “i”. Most of the words that end in an “a” are feminine and the plural ends in an “e”. If the noun ends in an “e”, it can go either way, someone told me that about 60% of the time it’s masculine and otherwise feminine. Then there are those that change from masculine in the singular to feminine in the plural which really drives me crazy. A lot of the parts of the body are “transgender”. Examples are:

Il ginocchio , le ginocchia – the knee, the knees
l’orecchio, le orecchia – the eye, the eyes
il dito, le dita – the finger, the fingers (by the way there is no specific word for toe. They are just the “finger of the foot” (“il dito del piede” with the plural “le dita dei piedi”- crazy eh?)

And there are a bunch of others – the words for “eyelash”, “eyebrow”, “bone” that follow the same pattern as well as non-body parts such as “l’uovo, le uova” – egg and eggs.

And of course changing the vowel at the end of a word can completely change the meaning. One example that always comes to mind is: il mento (chin), la mente (mind) and la menta (mint – the herb) and you can add to that the vowel “menti” (you lie) from the verb “mentire” (to lie). This example is only scratching the surface of this change in meaning by changing only the final vowel.

I’m sure that I make errors all of the time but the italians cut me a lot of slack. They understand from context that I didn’t mean an “herb” when I meant to say “mind” just as I understand an Italian that uses an incorrect word in english. And of course from my accent they know that I’m not Italian as soon as I open my mouth and sometimes even before I open my mouth.

And oh,yes. There is the whole thing about pronunciation of words. Italians will often tell me if you see a written word then you can always pronounce it correctly. Well, that too has lots of exceptions. “Ancora” and “ancora” – one is an “anchor” and the other is ” again” or if used with a negative, i.e. “non ancora” it means “not yet” and of course the two words are pronounced differently as are “leggere” and “leggere” one is the verb “to read” and the other is “light” as in light in weight and pronounced differently. Ah the exceptions make life interesting in the world of italian language.

As I read more and more Italian books I find more and more idiomatic expressions. An english example would be “I lost my train of thought” that is; it doesn’t make literal sense since nobody has lost a means of transportation that runs on rails but we all understand it. In italian that would be “ho perso il filo di discorso” which would literally be “I lost the line of conversation”. The more that I learn the Italian language the more aware I am of how much we use idiomatic expressions in english. One example is an expression that I used above “cut me a lot of slack” It seems that I can’t speak more than one sentence without using an expression which makes no sense when translated literally and Italian is much the same – and probably all languages are the same.

Well, I hope that this post hasn’t been too boring. Let me know.

BTW it just came to mind that one relief from the isolation of lock-down is conversations with friends with the app WhatsApp. You can make calls to anywhere in the world with video if the other person has WhatsApp on their smart phone. If you’d like to try it let me know and we can arrange a chat.

Stay safe, wear a mask, stay away from crowds – the vaccine is on the way and hopefully by next fall the world will be approaching normality.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot a saying from a Bacio:

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

And I love comments, you can subscribe, blah blah blah.

What are you doing during the lock-down?

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Frankly the lock-down is a pain in the ass. Like everyone I’m tired of it all but at the same time I dread the prospect of getting sick and maybe even dying. So I go outside the house almost strictly to go grocery shopping, see a doctor every once in a while or go to the pharmacy for stuff. I also always wear an N95 mask. So probably like many of you I read, watch films or series on Netflix or Amazon prime and cook. Fortunately both Laura and I are pretty good cooks so we have been eating well. In the last week we’ve had polenta with baccalà, orecchiette with broccoli and anchovies and octopus with potatoes. By the way, octopus is really delicious, relatively easy to prepare and readily available here. Many Americans are put off by the tentacles but it took them awhile to enjoy calamari. So I suggest that you give it a try.

We’ve now watched two miniseries on Netflix:”The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Liberator”. We also watched the most recent season of “The Crown”. All of those were excellent and we always choose Italian as the spoken language and also subtitles in Italian (for me). I can understand some of the spoken dialog but not enough yet. The interesting thing is that the subtitles often don’t match the spoken (usually dubbed) language. I suspect that is because different people do the dubbing from the original language and someone else does the subtitles from the original language. So I’m making progress since I can usually at least tell the difference.

Films: “Our Godfather”, the story of a Sicilian mafioso that became an FBI informant, the latest Borat movie and most recently “The Right Stuff”. We also watched “The
First King” which I would definitely NOT recommend unless you enjoy a lot of gratuitous bloody violence.

I always read books in Italian (my form of enjoyably studying Italian) and almost always mysteries. An interesting aside is that mysteries are called “gialli” (yellows) because when a major Italian publishing house started publishing a series of mysteries (starting in 1929) the covers were yellow. I read mysteries because I generally like them and they use more common words than “literature”. I did however read a Hemingway book. Hemingway felt less inclined to show off his mastery of the language then many other authors of literature. Maybe I’ll get an Elmore Leonard book translated into Italian.

The recent books:

  1. Three books by Gianrico Carofiglio – my favorite Italian thriller/mystery writer. “Un Mutevole Verità” (A Changing Truth), “L’estate Fredda” (The Cold Summer). By the way a large number of his books are available in translation through Amazon and I highly recommend them.
  2. One book by Marco Malvaldi – he tends to run hot and cold. Some of his I really like and some, well, not so much. This one is “Il Gioco delle tre Carte”, (Three Card Monte)
  3. One Hemingway “Il Vecchio e il Mare” (The Old Man and the Sea)
  4. The John Grisham book “L’uomo della Pioggia” (The Rainmaker).

And now another two quotes from Perugina Baci:

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.
Qualsiasi uomo può sbagliare, ma solo un idiota persiste nel suo errore.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

Let me know how you are passing the time while being mostly stuck at home.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Here in Bologna I cooked a turkey breast, made cranberry sauce and roasted green beans and carrots with shallots. It was something of an adventure. I went to a nearby butcher shop (macelleria) and bought a half turkey breast. I was going to buy a whole one until I saw the size. Even a half was 2 kilos (about 4.4 pounds!). I had seen a recipe in the New York times about a method to cook it which was described as absolutely the best (Torrisi’s Turkey). The name comes from an Italian-American restaurant in New York. It’s pretty complicated but I was up to the challenge. It turns out to be a type of sous vide cooking that you can do in the oven at home. If you’re interested here is a link to the recipe: https://food52.com/blog/11723-torrisi-s-turkey. It really is good and we’ve now made 3 meals of it and there’s still some, well, a lot left that I want to find another use for rather than just slices of delicious turkey breast on a plate.

The turkey breast and veggies
Dessert – yum

For the cranberry sauce I had to use dried cranberries since I could find no fresh ones here. Since they are sold mainly as snack foods they have a significant amount of sugar added so I added almost no sugar. It came out well as did the veggies.

We drank a wine from Piedmont (Torino is the capital) – a Ruchè. Then after dinner two little fruit tarts from a good pastry shop not far from where we live and followed by a little glass of Armagnac which I generously share with Laura.

And of course another little quotation from one of those Perugina Baci. In fact I’ll do two in case I’ve already used one

I always astonish myself. It is the only thing that makes life worth living.
Io continuo a supirmi.
E’ la sola cosa che renda la vita degna di essere vissuta.

Oscar Wilde

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.
La felicità è quando ciò che pensi, ciò che dici e ciò che fai sono in armonia.

Mahatma Gandhi

Stay safe – wear a mask and do all of the other things you know that you should do.

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P.S.I have no idea why the photos are distorted. I’m working on it.

P.P.S. I think that I’ve fixed it, at least found a workaround.