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How to Talk at an Italian Festival


Any foreign language you don’t practice, you slowly forget, and even the basics escape your mind. So, we thought it would be a good idea to do a refresher lesson on how to get by at an Italian festival. After all, it is summer and Italian festivals abound. So study this lesson well and you’ll be ready to navigate the festivals with a true Italian flair. But don’t worry, we’ll get back to basic Italian grammar and conversation next month. For now, divertitevi, enjoy yourselves.

The major festivals are usually connected to the local parish, and a few are sponsored by local Italian-American cultural organizations. This lesson is to introduce some simple Italian words and phrases to let you use a little Italian for fun when you are enjoying a day at una festa.

Let’s begin by learning the difference between festa and festival. Both are Italian words. Festival is also English and its meaning is applied to the outdoor Italian celebrations of religious, cultural and heritage pride. However, the Italian word festival refers more to the English word fest, as in songfest. A good example is Festival di San Remo, Italy’s annual San Remo Song Festival, from which came the famous song by Domenico Modugno, “Volare.”

Festa is the word used in Italian for the traditional festivals. It also means party as in birthday party and holiday as in chiuso per festa, closed for the holiday.

Here are a few words and phrases to try at your local religious festa:

La processione dei santi: The procession of the saints

La santa Messa: Mass

La Benedizione: Benediction

Santo patrone: Patron saint

Il prete: Priest

Now for everything else:

Il cibo: Food

Il panino: Sandwich

Il gelato: Ice cream

La granita al limone: Lemon water ice

La birra: Beer

Il vino: Wine

I giochi: Games

Le giostre: Rides

I premi: Prizes

La bancarella: Booth

L’intrattenimento: Entertainment

Il gelato: Ice cream

If you’ve never been to una festa, this season check one out. Buon divertimento! Have fun!

This month’s falso amico:

It is mostarda. Despite its use by Italian- Americans for mustard, at a festival in Italy if you asked for mostarda for your hot dog; you would get a crazy look from the vendor. Mostarda in Italian is a Northern Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup. Commercially the essential oil of mustard is employed, which has the advantage of transparency; in home cooking, mustard powder heated in white wine may be used. The Italian word for mustard is il senape.

This month’s proverb:

This month’s proverb comes to us from Sardinia.

Sardinian: Ama si cheres essere amadu.

Italian: Ama si vuoi essere amato.

English: If you want to be loved, love.

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