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LO SAPAVI CHE? (DID YOU KNOW?): The origins of three common words: Gazetta, paparazzi and espresso


These three commonly used words originated in la bella lingua.

In the Republic of Venice during the 16th century, the city was a hub for merchants and commerce. The home of Marco Polo was the gateway to the Orient where spices, gold, and silk could be found. The basic currency in Venezia at the time was called la gazetta. The gazetta was the common coin used for commerce among the Venetians. The first newspaper is credited to the Venetians. It cost one gazetta. Thus the first newspaper was called la gazetta.

“Notizie Scritte” (Written notices), launched by the government of Venice in 1556, completely justified its name. It was handwritten; and it was noticed – not only by Venetian citizens of the time. It is widely accepted to have been the first paper to be actually sold – for a price of one coin, called a gazetta.

In 1960 the director Federico Fellini made a seminal film called “La Dolce Vita.” It won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie starred one of the great Italian film actors, Marcello Mastroianni. Marcello’s character is a journalist who writes about the loves, lies, foibles and scandals of Rome’s celebrities. He would often be seen on Via Veneto to observe their outrageous behavior accompanied by his personal photographer. His name was Paparazzo. Years later life copied art and future photographers of this ilk began to call themselves paparazzi.

Espresso is also known as caffe’. When espresso was first invented in the 19th century, coffee bars were flourishing all over Europe and demand was high and the brewing process was slow. In 1884 Angelo Morondi of Torino found a solution.

Angelo Morondi was granted a patent in 1884 for new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage. The machine consisted of a large boiler, heated to 1.5 bars of pressure, that pushed water through a large bed of coffee grounds on demand, with a second boiler producing steam that would flash the bed of coffee and complete the brew.”

Other inventors later improved on Moron-di’s original design and invented the first “caffe’ espresso.” Luigi Bezzara along with Desederio Pavoni introduced the first single espresso caffe’ at the 1906 World’s Fair in Milano.


Lou Thomas

Lou Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia, in a family with origins in Abruzzo. He is a Temple graduate who has been teaching Italian for 20 years at all levels. He attained a master’s degree in teaching Italian from Rutgers University. The sounds of Vivaldi and Jovanotti fill his classroom. His favorite quote is Il vino e’ la poesia della terra.

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