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Italian Lesson – February 2022


This month we present the traditional lesson dedicated to Valentine’s Day, Italian style.

Italian lovers are famous throughout history: Paolo and Francesca, the ill-fated pair described in Dante’s “La Divina Commedia;’ the two young lovers from Verona immortal-ized by Shakespeare in “Romeo e Giulietta;” and Renzo and Lucia in “I Promessi Sposi,” written by Alessandro Manzoni from
1825-27, who succeeded in marrying each other only after overcoming many difficulties and obstacles.

In classical history, the Roman holiday Lupercalia was a pagan spring celebration. Priests called luperci participated in ritual sacrifices and fertility rites during the wild, chaotic festivities.

So with all this history of love and romance, spring lust and eros, debauchery and revelry, it would only seem natural that Italy, the purported land of romance, would celebrate Valentine’s Day with great passion and joy.

The truth is that although Italy may be the country of love and lovers, the holiday as is celebrated today in Italy has taken on an American flavor, much like Halloween or Mother’s Day. The big difference is that in Italy it is exclusively a celebration for couples or lovers. Children, family members, and friends do not exchange cards or presents.

However, for those who are in love Valentine’s Day in Italy, it is an important one to show their beloved how much they care. Depending on the age of the pair, gifts could include red roses or perfume, diamonds, or the traditional box of cioccolatini.

The Italian language is rich in a vocab-ulary of expressions and idioms, and frasi d’amore on Valentine’s Day are especially endearing. In English, the expression “I love you” is ubiquitous; while in Italian “Ti amo” is used only between lovers, never with friends, family, or inanimate objects. Instead, the expression “Ti voglio bene” is preferred.

Here are some words and key phrases to impress your “tesoro” this Valentine’s Day.

gli abbracci – hugs
affettuoso – affectionate
l’amante – lover
i baci – kisses
la cartolina d’auguri per San Valentino – Valentine’s Day card
i cioccolatini – chocolates
• il diamante – diamond
la festa di San Valentino – the festival of St. Valentine
• il/la fidanzato/a – fiancé/fiancée
• i fiori – flowers
gli innamorati – lovers
• provocante – provocative, sexy
sedurre – to seduce
sessuale – sexual
le smancerie – over-wrought, cloying sentiments
il mio tesoro – my darling
Ti penso sempre – I always think of you.
Mi manchi – I miss you.
Come sei bella – How beautiful you are.
Voglio vederti stasera – I want to see you tonight.
Tu sei una stella … la mia stella – You are a star … my star.
• Cara mia, ti voglio bene – My darling, I love you.

This month’s proverb
This month’s proverb is from one of many Sicilian proverbs dedicated to love.
Siciliano: L’amuri c’un veni di lu cori è comu ‘na minestra senza sali.
Italiano: L’amor che non vien dal cuore è come una minestra senza sale.
English: Love that does not come from the heart is bland like soup without salt.

This month’s falso amico
It is grazioso. Translated to English, it means pretty, not gracious. Gracious in Italian is best reflected by the word clemente.

Next lesson: Carnival and Lent.

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