According to the cleaning mavens at Proctor and Gamble, Italian women spend 21 hours a week on household chores as opposed to Americans who spend just four. Italian women supposedly wash their kitchen and bathroom floors at least four times a week. American women just once. Some of our Italian relatives don’t have dishwashers, believing that hand-washing may be better. Perhaps even calming and therapeutic.
Italians still hang their laundry out to dry and iron nearly all their wash, even socks and sheets. They don’t understand our obsession with plug in “air fresheners” and don’t believe that food odors are offensive. They open their windows to let the fresh air in even if they live in the cities.
Italians also spend time sweeping the sidewalks and streets in front of their entry ways and like to use traditional cleaning supplies. In Italy the Swiffer Wet Mop was such a flop that the company took it off the market. According to Federica Rossi Gasparrini, chair of Federcasalinghe (Housewives’ Association) “No (Italian) woman will forgo a clean house, even if she works. It’s part of love for the family.”
One of the most important fresco cycles in Italy is by the Italian Renaissance master Giotto located in a chapel on the estate grounds of a money lenders son who in atonement for his father’s sins sought redemption through art. Reginaldo Scrovegni was a wealthy moneylender from the city of Padua. His reputation was such that he was portrayed in the Seventh Circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s no wonder that Enrico Scrovegni, Reginaldo’s son, felt compelled to build a private chapel next to the family palazzo in penitence for his father’s sins. He must have been frightened out of his mind after reading Dante’s description of his impending doom and hoped not only to atone for the sins of his father but his own as it was suggested that Enrico was also involved in usurious practices. So Enrico commissioned Giotto to design a chapel with a series of frescoes on the site of a Roman arena that was on the grounds of his family estate.
Giotto’s Last Supper
The vaulted chapel is a work of breathless beauty with a ceiling that resembles a starry blue sky.The walls of the chapel contain 37 panels in 3 tiers with scenes of the life of Christ and his mother Mary including a pre da Vinci painting of the Last Supper that in someways is as intriquing as Leonardo’s masterpiece in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. In Giotto’s versione the apostles are arranged around the table, some with their backs towards us, in a more realistic scene of a Passover meal. It’s interesting to note that the Last Supper had been portrayed many times prior to da Vinci’s Il Cenacolo including a 13th-century image with Mary Magdalene embracing the feet of Christ beneath the table while the beardless apostle John reclines his head on his Lord’s chest.The
Portrait of an Ideal Woman (Botticelli 1487)
Send a special message to the women in your life today. March 8th is International Women’s Day.
In Italy they celebrate Festa della donna (Festival of the Woman) with banners and yellow mimosa. This time of the year, traveling in Italy, I noticed hundreds of bouquets of mimosa and banners everywhere. The Italians have always valued women and their role in society. Italy is like a great caldron of sensuality and emotion. History and art are sprinkled in for good measure and the outcome allows creativity to flourish and for women it allows their special talents to emerge.
If the number of yellow-flowered mimosa I have seen in Italy during March is any indication of the esteem Italy has for its women than I think they are greatly appreciated.
The Italian language is very fond of suffix endings. A few letters added to the end of a word can expand the meaning of the word by degrees of smallness, largeness or extremes. Of course there are Italian words themselves that convey the same meaning as the modifying suffix but the economy of word usage by just slightly altering the ending of an Italian word is a fun way to express degrees or extremes. Some people use these nomi alterati frequently and others tend to use adjectives instead*. Sometimes these suffix endings are not acceptable substitutes for a descriptive adjective but when they are Italian “word changelings, the offspring of a noun or adjective with a modifying suffix, make the original word all the more melodious and sound so much better than their English counterpart. Italian word changelings intensify the meaning and when pronounced with the right inflection and tone make the Italian language that much more colorful and fun to speak.
For example the following suffix ending – ino (a) used to indicate a diminutive form or smallness.
a car – una macchina – (a small car) una macchinina
a piece – un pezzo – ( a small piece) un pezzino
a white cup – una tazza bianca – (a small white cup ) una tazzina bianca
*you can also use the word piccolo (a) to mean small or tiny.
Another common suffix ending in Italian used to indicate a superlative quality such as “extremely” or “very” is –issimo (a) and of course you can also use molto
bella (beautiful) – bellissima (very beautiful)
cara (dear) – carissima (very dear – dearest)
buono (good) – buonissimo (very good)
alto (tall) – altissimo (very tall)
*you can also use word molto to mean very much, a lot
The word ending – one is used to indicate largeness.
baci (kiss) – bacione (big kiss) ragazzo (boy) – ragazzone (big boy)
la porta (door) – la portone (the big/main door)
There are many ways to say “Thank You” in Italian. Italians by nature are a thankful people. Warm and hospitable and pleasing to be of help. They are thankful for their food, wine, art and design and the beautiful landscape of their country. They are thankful for surviving two World Wars, the Black Death, natural disasters, barbarians and at least six civil wars, unstable rulers and countless city-state skirmishes. So having multiple ways to express their gratefulness and thanks doesn’t seem a bit overdone but honest and true.
“Grazie” has become part of a international vocabulary of thanks and along with the corresponding reply “prego” is one of the first words students of Italian learn but there are other ways Italians say “thank you” including
- Molte grazie – “many thanks”
- Mille grazie or grazie mille – “thank you very much” literally translated to mean “thanks a thousand times” or “a thousand thanks”
- Ringraziare – a verb used to mean “to thank” or “to give thanks” conjugated with various pronouns*
And in response there is the ubiquitous, widespread and multi-contextual Italian word “Prego” the most commonly used way of replying to “Grazie“. However my favorite response is the use of the phrase “non c’è di che.” This response is used to say no need for thanks it was my pleasure to do it. Translated to “do not mention it”, the favor you are being thanked for was my pleasure to do.
||I thank you (singular informal)
||I thank you (singular formal)
||I thank you (plural)
We don’t know for certain if Renaissance legend Leonardo da Vinci, made New Year’s resolutions but if he did, based on Michael Gelb’s bestseller How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, they might have included the following
- Develop a curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
- Practice persistence and worry less about getting things done. Remember that everything leads to a greater understanding even the things that are begun and unfinished.
- Develop a positive attitude. Learn from mistakes and aim for progress but letting go of perfection.
- Simplify and remember that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
- Stay active physically and mentally spending time in nature for that is what stimulates neural connections that activate healthy behaviors and actions.
- Avoid anger and grievous moods and keep your mind cheerful. Practice poise and grace.
- Do not worry about pleasing other people if it becomes more important than our own health and self-care goal.
- Make dining a pleasurable and sensual experience and stop eating just before you feel full.
- Find your purpose by looking at your life vision, values and goals from a holistic perspective so that you can integrate them into your whole self.
- Temper logic with imagination; work with play; problem solving with creativity.
- Cultivate your senses and reflect on their enjoyment.
- Make an action plan with visuals and text for continuous improvement and measure your progress.
Time to pick our favorite Italian wines for Christmastime entertaining. Experts agree there is no better wine for the holidays
than Cabernet Sauvignon, that spicy, dark-fruited lingering red we all love to pair with meat. After all grand cuts of meat are what the holiday table is all about. We want that intense garnet color and incensual aroma in our glass reflecting the glistening lights and complementing the sugar and spice that are symbolic of our holiday meals. I could find a formidable match with an Amarone, Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello from Montalcino. A Vino Nobile or Rosso from Montepulciano, a Chianti Classico, or a complex Sicilian but sometimes a robust red can weigh you down so we’re looking for a lighter version of a traditional Italian red.
I’m choosing a Lagrein (pronounced la-GRINE) from Italy’s Alto Adige (Sudtirol) just because I happen to love the region and well it’s the most Christmasy part of Italy. Surrounded by the Alps and the Dolomites there is a fairytale-like atmosphere that makes the days of Advent very special. Lagrein wine is dense and dark purple/ruby in color with aromas of black raspberries and plums, cinnamon and nutmeg with flavors of cranberries and some leathery notes. Sounds like Christmas to me. It’s a relative of Trentino’s Teroldego (which I like) so I think I’ll invite it to join us at the holiday table. Who would you like to invite?