Italian Word of the Week from Gemelli Press: Arrangiarsi

Gemelli Press has a great new weekly series featuring a new Italian word every week. Here’s an excerpt from their first entry. Well done Gemelli!


This is one of Italian’s famous reflexive verbs, so “si arrangia”means “she arranges herself” or “he arranges himself.”

OK, minds out of the gutter. That is *not* what it means.

“Arranging oneself” is more figurative, and it may not make a lot of sense to you. I empathize. That’s because arrangiarsi is so utterly Italian. Indeed, it has been called l’arte di arrangiarsi (the art of arranging onself).

So what’s a good translation?  To read the rest of the post, check out the Gemelli Press Blog.

I before E…. except after C

This is a rhyme all of us learned in school when studying grammar.  Not too hard to learn and it pretty much holds true.  Receive. Perceive. Believe. Yes. It works.  Enter, the Italian language.  So many  grammar rules with so many exceptions. It goes on and on. Makes me dizzy trying to understand the rule, then learn when the rule doesn’t apply.  Every Tuesday evening I have a private tutoring lesson with my Italian teacher, Elisabetta. It’s an enjoyable session where I learn not only about the language but also about the culture and the country. We talk, laugh and learn. It’s a great combination. And,  Elizabetta lets me do fun things like work on translating lyrics from songs I hear on Italian radio. To listen to Italian radio I use an iPhone app called TuneIn Radio. It lets you listen to radio streams from all over the world. I listen to KISS KISS Italia, broadcasting live from Naples, as I go to and from work. I find that it is much easier to listen to Italian songs rather than Italian news broadcasts. After all, singing is slower than the fast talking radio announcers on the news stations. Along the way I have been introduced to the songs of Javonotti, Ligabue and Fiorella Mannoia and finding I can actually sing along.  As I’m singing,  I often wonder how a radio station that advertizes that it is “cento per cento Italiana” (100% Italian) can call itself Kiss Kiss?  Shouldn’t it be Baci Baci?  Ah, I reason, it must be one of those complicated Italian language rules.

Mondays at the Marketplace

A couple of years ago I became interested in learning about my Italian ancestors.  With Bavetta being the family name, I set out to find them in Sicily.  This has proven to be more difficult than I thought.  So I built a webpage and started building a family tree – thinking I could figure out how to get my distant relatives to help with the tree.  They had to be out there right?  Well I found about 300 Bavettas on Facebook and another handful on Twitter, but I have yet to find any new relatives or establish any new connections.  I have made some wonderful new Bavetta friends in Italy and Argentina but I don’t know if we are related or not.  During these travels on the internet I met Judy Witts Francini who sent me a message and offered to help translate.  Since then I’ve been following her cooking school blog, the Divina Cucina, and in between drooling over her recipes and food pictures, I have been  trying to figure out how to connect with her in Italy. Now that I’m going to Florence and Tuscany in May, I have arranged to take her Florence Marketplace tour which is now given by her associate Laura Gordon Giannozzi. Here’s a snapshot of the tour:

Discover gastronomic Florence with “Mondays at the Market”, a food lover’s walking tour of the Central Market with tastings and lunch. The four-hour experience, usually 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes a trattoria lunch and dining recommendations for Florence plus the Divina Cucina cloth shopping bag — which you’ll quickly fill! Learn the secrets of the Central Market. San Lorenzo is a second home to Florentine home cooks and chefs. Taste traditional Balsamic vinegars, 12 to 30 years old. You will learn how to use it in cooking. Taste extra virgin olive oils and learn how to create an Italian pantry. Don’t forget your camera as the market is one of the most colorful places in Florence. Built in 1865, it is one of the largest and oldest markets in Italy. After the tour, we will have a wonderful lunch at a local trattoria and learn where to go and what to do while in Florence.

So, I still haven’t figured out how to meet up with Judy (and I WILL do this some day). But… I am taking Italian lessons so someday maybe I can talk to my relatives ….once I find them.

Too Much Tuscan Sun….is there such a thing?

IMG_0980 Today I read “Too Much Tuscan Sun – Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide.”  Through this book I fell in love with the Chianti countryside, from the violence of the rainstorms to the bumpy roads leading to abandoned farmhouses to the three hour lunches. I could taste, smell and feel it all.  The book is written by Dario Castagno who owns Rooster Chianti Tours and it is ostensibly about his many experiences with ugly (as well as nice) American tourists. There are many funny remembrances as well as lively descriptions of Americans tourists that filled me with utter embarrassment. But as Dario says, one can’t judge a country by a few of it’s inhabitants – something we should all remember.  What struck me most wasn’t the tours gone bad. It was how absolutely in love Dario is with the region and how delighted he is to share this with us. I picked up this book to read the tour vignettes but left it feeling like I had actually traveled to Italy.  As part of my upcoming trip in May, I will be visiting the Chianti area and many of the towns he talks about.  I can’t wait.