Al fresco, outside or locked up?

We laughed so much the other evening during our lesson in the Dante Alighieri Society with my level 5 students about this expression… Al fresco! I found out that Leo and Cathal named their golf team ‘Al fresco’ and after reading this story you will know why it is so funny.

You use the expression ‘al fresco’ to say that you want to eat outside, but it does not mean exactly the same in Italian.

In Italian the expression al fresco means literally ‘in the chill or in the cool’, but it does not mean outside. In fact, we say that ‘il vino e’ al fresco, in cantina’ (the wine in the chill in the cellar’ or that ‘il formaggio va conservato al fresco’ (the cheese has to be kept in a cool place). Besides, you know that it is not necessarily cool or chilly in Italy outside, especially from May on. In fact, you may not want to eat outside (unless you are up in the mountains) in August as the temperature is unbearable. You would probably prefer to eat inside with the air conditioning where it is much cooler.

We also use the expression ‘al fresco’ to mean that someone is in prison. In fact, ‘Giovanni è al fresco’ means Giovanni is in prison. This is a more light hearted way to state it than saying ‘Giovanni è in prigione’ (in prison). The expression comes (probably) from the fact that prisons had thick walls and were not very warm. It is interesting that ‘cella’ in Italian is the room of a prison and it is not too different from your cellar (cantina).

After this long story, you will now remember that in Italy you want to eat ‘fuori’ (outside) or ‘all’aperto’ (in the open air), you do not want to eat ‘al fresco’ as you do not want to eat in a prison… Can you now picture Leo, Cathal and all their golf team al fresco (behind the bars)? I can…

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