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Italian Lesson – February 2024


This month’s lesson is the traditional lesson dedicated to an Italian-style Valentine’s Day.

Italian lovers are famous throughout history: Paolo and Francesca, the ill-fated pair described in Dante’s “La Divina Commedia;” Romeo e Giulietta (Romeo and Juliet), the two young lovers from Verona immortalized by Shakespeare; 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 and chaotic festivities.

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

Truth is that although Italy may be the country of love and lovers, the holiday as it 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 is an important day 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 ciccolatini. 

The Italian language is rich in a vocabulary 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” are 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

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

Italiano:“Il bacio e la più alta poesia dell’amore”.

English: The kiss is the greatest poem of love.

This month’s falso amico

It is stormo. It means flock as in a flock of geese. Storm in Italian is best reflected by the word temporale.

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