August in New Zealand. A polar blast turned the country white on the weekend. Hail has pelted Aucklanders while snow has paved the Desert Road and blanketed Dunedin. Flu rates have reached epidemic levels.

August in Italy. With persistent high temperatures (expected to reach 41C this week in some parts) it is the month when Italians take their holiday and head either to the seaside or to the cool of mountain towns. And it is the month when they celebrate an important holiday, Ferragosto.

Well, it’s your choice: you can fight the chill with a hot cuppa and a wooly jumper. Or you can read on and warm up with the world’s most musical language, Italian, and indulge in their culture and history.

Let’s start with some essential Italian phrases:

Andiamo in spiaggia!
(Let’s go to the beach!)
Incontriamoci in gelateria!
(Let’s meet at the ice-cream shop!)
Non dimenticare il costume da bagno, l’asciugamano, e la crema solare!
(Don’t forget your togs, towel and sunscreen!)

Ferragosto – buone vacanze!

August 15 is probably the most important holiday in Italy other than Christmas day as it marks both, the federal holiday Ferragosto and the religious holiday of the Assumption of Mary. The term Ferragosto derives from the Latin Feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest) and was introduced by the Roman emperor Augustus in 18 BC. The emperor felt it was necessary to create a time of relaxation after weeks of strenuous work bringing in the harvest – and the busy schedule of festivals that followed.
August is the traditional holiday month in Italy and the majority will religiously plan their holiday around Ferragosto, leaving factories, offices as well as many restaurants and shops closed for vacation, chiuso per ferie, with only those near tourist spots likely to be open.
Today, Ferragosto is still honoured as a feast day, and those who are not heading off on a vacation for the whole month of August spend the day chilling out and enjoying a scampagnata (excursion to the countryside or picnic) with family and friends or attend one of the local festivals to delight in huge meals – even in the hottest temperatures – and watch the firework displays in the evenings.

Italians and their food

In Italy food is culture. It is part of the life style and history of the country. Each region displays its own distinctive cuisine through different traditional styles of cooking and selection of local ingredients. Italian dishes are popular around the world. Spaghetti, lasagne and risotto all come from Italy. Pizza is probably one of the very few words that is understood all over the world.

But few people know about the sometimes amusing meanings of what we understand to be dishes:

all’arrabbiata – angry-style, because the sauce is hot.

calzone – trouser

cappuccino – although cappuccio means ‘hood’ or something that covers the head in Italian, the name probably derives from the colour of the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the capuchin order

farfalle – butterflies

gelato – from ‘gelare’, to freeze

gnocchi – lumps (colloquially also: idiot)

orecchiette – little ears

penne – pens

saltimbocca – leap-into-your-mouth (because it’s so mouth-watering).

spaghetti – from spago, small twine.

stracciatella – from straccio, rag. Little rag soup i.e. egg drop soup (the liquid eggs dropped in the boiling liquid look like rags).

tiramisu – pick-me-up (coffee and liquor do the trick).

So, did you get an appetite for more? Imparate l’Italiano. Iscrivetevi al nostro corso di lingua Italiana.