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Italian Lesson – February


Of course, this month’s lesson is dedicated to Valentine’s Day, Italian-style.

We begin by citing Italian lovers who are famous throughout history: Paolo and Francesca, the ill-fated pair described in Dante’s “La Divina Commedia;” 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, 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.

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 cioccololatini.

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
  • 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 manch – 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
It is from one of many Neapolitan proverbs dedicated to love.
Napoletano: Ammore sincero dura na vita e renne allere.
Italiano: L’amore sincero dura tutta la vita e riempie l’amante di buon umore.
English: Love that is sincere lasts a lifetime and fills the lover with high spirits.

This month’s falso amico
It is romanzo, which doesn’t necessarily translate to the English word “romance.” Romanzo more often refers to a “love story.”

Next lesson: Carnival and lent.

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