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Fluency Classes? Caffè italiano!

Italian Beginners CorkDuring our Fluency classes we talk a lot, ONLY in Italian, of course. We talk about Italian regions, Italian food, Italian dialects, Italian traditions, Italian holidays, Italian good and bad habits, Italian gestures and many more topics. Right now we are talking about ‘Caffè italiano’ and, believe it or not, there is so much to say.


First of all, I have a question for you. Please, take a look at these 2 pictures and tell me which one is the caffè.

Italian Beginners Cork

Italian Beginners Cork







Solution: the caffè is the one in the tazzina (small cup).

The other one is a café (French word for bar).

In fact, in Italy we go to a bar to have our colazione (breakfast) or pranzo (lunch). Many bars in Italy close at 7pm, so they are not to be confused with pubs. We do have some bars or ‘birrerie’ that are open, but many bars are opened only during the day.

Now that we know what Italians mean by ‘caffè’… let’s see how many kinds of caffè they have. I’m telling you, they are so many that it will take us hours to talk about them… for now, let’s take a look at some pictures: do you know all the names of these caffè? Next week, after our lesson, you’ll know all about them!

Italian Conversation Cork

Italian Beginners Cork


Il Presepio a casa di Kevin

Christmas Italian Cork

Our presepio is getting better and better. My son adores this Italian tradition and this year we shared it with his schoolmates who were very impressed. Every year we add some new features, improvements and ideas for the following Christmas. As you might already know in Italy we have the tradition of building a nativity scene called Presepio (or Presepe) during advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The birthplace of cribs and nativity scenes, both alive and not, was Italy in 1223. It was, in fact, San Francesco d’Assisi who invented them. His first presepio was in a grotto where he reproduced the nativity scene with real people, except for Baby Jesus who had been replaced by a doll… but the doll, legend says, became a real baby at midnight, 24th of December. This is, in fact, the time of the real Christmas for Italian people, to go to mass, to toast and exchange our presents.


Italian in Cork traditions

Italian Cork traditions


Fluency Classes in Cork

Fluency Classes

We talk a lot here during our Fluency classes… in Italian of course… ONLY in italiano!

When we study grammar rules in the grammar book they seem clear enough, but to implement them FLUENTLY in a real conversational context, is another story. This is why Fluency classes are so useful. Here some practical examples. When we go to buy some clothes we ask simple questions such as ‘how do I look?’ or ‘do I look OK?’ or ‘do I look smart?’. Trust me that if we translated these expressions into Italian… they wouldn’t make any sense! Therefore, in our Fluency Classes we are learning the Italian ways to say the same things and… at the start these don’t sound familiar to English speaker’s ears, but through using them in fun activities, real life situations, role playing and listening to Italian dialogues we get the hang of it.

Conversation classes Italian

In order to get the best out of our Fluency classes we use topics that are fun, useful and that allow us to talk about our interests, experiences or things that matter to us. Tasks are challenging in order to engage us but also practical and fun. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that we do our best and learn the most when we’re having fun. This is because cognition and emotion affect each other in the oldest part of our brain (the Amygdala). This part of our brain reacts to fear and happiness and this reaction strongly affects our ability to learn and memorise. On top of that, we shouldn’t forget that being in a good mood helps the production of ‘serotonin which plays an important role in learning, memorisation other important areas such as social abilities’ (‘Learning how to learn’ Dr. Barbara Oakley, University of California, San Diego).



A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale (any joke is allowed)


It’s Carnevale time in Italy and everyone in every town, village and school is working on costumes, masks or floats. Children are taking it very seriously and they spend all their savings on ‘scherzi di Carnevale’… (Carnevale’s tricks). There is a great variety of them: fialette puzzolenti (smelly vials), cushions which sound in a very embarrassing way when you sit on, itchy powders and many many more. I was amazed the other day when my students (my grown up students) told me that they thought Carnevale was only about Venezia… ‘no, no, no’ said I!Conversation classes Cork

In fact, Carnevale has very ancient origins and every town has their own traditional mask and you can see them on floats when they go around their town among colourful ‘coriandoli’ (you call them confetti), ‘stelle filanti’ (streamers) and trumpets. Many of the traditional masks or characters are servants, such as Colombina (Venezia) or Pulcinella (Napoli) or Arlecchino (Bergamo), probably because Carnevale used to have a liberating and subversive purpose so through it servants could make fun of their masters. Some masks are actually masters, such as Dottor Balanzone (from Bologna) or Gianduia (Torino) or Pantalone, rich and mean Venetian merchant.

Perfect your Italian Cork

Carnevale comes with big celebrations in every town in Italy and there are so many famous Carnevale besides the one in Venice, such as the Carnevale of Viareggio, Carnevale of Fano (the most ancient in Italy, it was celebrated in 1347 for the first time) or the Carnevale of Ivrea. In Ivrea they celebrate their Carnevale with ‘la battaglia delle arance’ (the battle of the oranges), a real war where organised groups representing old and noble families (each with their coat of arms) throw oranges at each other from their floats… very spectacular, very unique and very messy, too. Remember to wear a red hat if you decide to go there, so they won’t throw oranges at you!

Italian in Cork


ZAMPONE o COTECHINO questa notte?

Italian beginners Cork















Zampone o Cotechino questa notte?

Those who are preparing the Cenone per Capodanno (New Year’s eve feast) will be faced with this conundrum ‘Are we having zampone or cotechino with our lenticchie tonight?’.

‘Are we having zampone or cotechino with our lenticchie tonight?’.

Everybody in Italy knows that having zampone or cotechino with lenticchie at Capodanno brings good luck for the new year, but some people prefer the zampone (the pork trotter) and some others prefer the cotechino (the salame shaped one). Actually, they are ‘brothers’ made with the same ingredients. In fact, the content is the same: pork minced meat and fat, some spices such as cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg (each butcher might have their own secret recipe!), but the ‘container’ of the zampone is a pork rear trotter while for the cotechino it is the lining of pork gut… Experts say that the cotechino is going to be more tender because of the nature of its casing, while the zampone is going to offer a more chewy combination between the soft inside and the harder rind… We also have to say that some people just don’t like finding a pork trotter in their plate and they will definitely go for the cotechino!

Both, zampone e cotechino come from Modena (Emilia Romagna) and they need to be cooked for at least 2 hours (unless you go for the precooked ones which are very popular and you will find them in every supermarket).. here is a recipe if you’d like to try this lovely Italian plate tonight.

Ricetta per il cotechino


L’Italia in miniatura

IMG_5889Il giro d’Italia in … 2 ore!!

Have you seen the pictures? Aren’t they spectacular? This is a wonderful place for grandi e piccini (little people and grown ups)… it is called ‘Italia in miniatura’ and is in Rimini. You can read more about it on their website qui. You’ll be amazed at the detail that these miniature monuments can actually show. There are also reproductions of European monuments and it’s not finished, yet! Go to see Venezia in ‘Italia in miniatura’. It is beautiful and it is a great experience. Plenty of activities and rides for children and you can have a refreshing fight in the Castello con I cannoni ad acqua (castle equipped with water cannons)… you’ll have a ball!

IMG_5792 IMG_5876 IMG_5896 IMG_5900 IMG_5934



La Costa dell’Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna, the coast

Italian Conversation CorkItalian tourists are used to saying that ‘I Romagnoli hanno saputo tirare fuori il meglio dalla loro terra’ (Romagna people were able to get the best out of their land. This is to say that la Romagna (the part of the coast of the Emilia Romagna) is not as beautiful as many other Italian regions and coasts, but they transformed this place into a wonderland for children and their families… Alice (8 years old) back to her holiday home in Lido Adriano (half an hour from Italian Conversation CorkRavenna) from two weeks of holidays in the south of Sardinia with its crystal clear sea and its unspoiled nature said ‘Finalmente, questo si che è mare!’ (Finally this is the sea!). Of course, in Sardinia she didn”t have the parchi giochi (play grounds), I gonfiabili (the park with the Inflatables), the fun swimming pools and, above all, all the friends that she meets here in Lido Adriano! Il versante adriatico (the Adriatic coast) has so much to offer for an unforgettable holiday for grandi e piccini!

Italian Conversation Cork


Want to go to Italy with small children…

Italian for Beginners CorkA few months ago a student and friend asked me where would be suitable to go on holidays in Italy for a family with small children. I told her that two years ago we did a house swap with an Italian family who have their holiday home in Pinarella, a small town located in Emilia Romagna. I wrote some posts about this great place which is just perfect for families with children and I’m going to top them up with some fresh updates.

The coast of Emilia Romagna offers long sandy beaches which are equipped with the

Fluency Cork

Il nostro bagno. This was our ‘bagno’ for 2 weeks

so called ‘bagni’… which are not bathrooms in this case. In fact, the ‘bagno’ is a strip of beach where you will find a bar that, among other things, serves affordable lunch and dinner, a play ground, a trampoline for children, a tennis or volleyball court, rows of parasols and sun loungers up to the ‘bagnasciuga’ (foreshore) and of course bathrooms and hot and cold showers. These bagni are similar, but they offer different levels of entertainment for their guests, such as activities for children, sports and activities for adults and so on. This is not exactly what you have in mind when you think about a wild and

Italian Cork

Il ‘bagno’ con i suoi ombrelloni ed i giochi per i bambini

untouched beach, but these places are great when you have children. They find their friends there, they’re busy playing and they’re pretty safe, too… They’re happy… we’re happy! Prices depend on the period (August is hot season) and on how long you need your spot for. We cut a pretty good deal this year. We paid €100 for 2 weeks and we had our 2 sunloungers+ 1 parasol and a shed with our toys and inflatables. It is possible to find free beaches, too. If you get bored with the ‘vita da spiaggia’ (beach life), this part of Italy

Mirabilandia, una delle attrazioni sul Mare Adriatico

Mirabilandia, una delle attrazioni sul Mare Adriatico

offers so many great attractions, entertainments and fun stuff for everyone in the audience! A couple of years ago we went to Mirabilandia (check it out this year we went to an amazing place (you gotta wait until next post to find out what) but there is much more all around Rimini and these places are easily reachable by car, train or bus.


Italian for children

Dimenticavo!! In Emilia Romagna si mangia benissimo and prices are usually pretty good. Ecco alcuni piatti tipici


Obliterate, validate, timbrate, il biglietto, but DO IT!

Italian for children in CorkObliterate, validate, timbrate, il biglietto, but DO IT!
I don’t know if other countries have this rule, but in Italy it is compulsory to validate (obliterare, validare or timbrare are the Italian verbs) train tickets BEFORE GETTING ON A TRAIN. In fact, the majority of train tickets are ‘open tickets’ which last a month or more. Only by validating them, they become effective and they cannot be used again. Unfortunately, it is very easy to forget this rule while running to get on the right train, and, subsequently, get a €60 fine when checked by the train

Italian for beginners Cork

Il controllore sta dando la multa (fine) a due ragazze

conductor. On the other hand, train conductors are not to blame, they help when they can. One of them delayed the start of a train to allow us to validate our tickets, but he had to fine two poor girls 10 minutes after… paese che vai usanza che trovi (whichever country you go to, you will find different rules). Allora, validiamo il biglietto prima di salire!


Ricetta per La Pasta Fatta in Casa (senza glutine).


Learn Italian traditionsINGREDIENTI
200 grams gluten free flour (Odlums Tritamyl self raising flour, highly recommended)
2 eggs
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons Xantham gum

Add the dry ingredients to a mixer/blender. Add enough water until it is

Italian in Cork


able to blend into a smooth wet paste with no lumps at all. Let it blend for 2 minutes or so until it is smooth then slowly add extra flour until the mixture is a little less wet. Dust a flat surface with flour and spoon the mixture onto it. Slowly knead the mix constantly adding flour until the dough is warm and pliable and no longer sticky. You will be adding a lot of flour to get to this stage but it is important to do it this way. If you add too little water the dough will have little lumps and will never be right. Better to start too wet then too dry if in doubt. The dough will not last long in this ideal state so break off little lumps, pat them into shape and put them through the flat half of the pasta maker. This



will flatten them into a pitta (or slightly longer) type shape. Take this and run it through the past makers tagliatelle attachment (or other if you prefer). While doing this it is a good idea to periodically knead the dough a little to keep it pliable. Hang the pasta over something and boil some water. Put a good handful of salt into the water. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and let it cook for 3-6 minutes until ready. Drain the pasta, but save a little bit of water. It will help to mix the pasta with the ragù.The recipe for the 30 minute ragù will be out soon. BUON APPETITO!



L'impasto (dough)

L’impasto (dough)

Italian traditions in Cork

Aggiungete un pugno di sale grosso

Learn Italian in Cork

Aggiungete la pasta

Italian Conversation Fluency

Le tagliatelle appese


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