Archive | Uncategorized

Ultimo lettorato al Dante… De Chirico and his Metaphysical Art

Italian art and culture in Cork

Giorgio de Chirico (1888- 1978), Self-Portrait [Et quid amabo nisi quod aenigma est?], 1911, oil on canvas

Last Monday evening saw Prof. Catherine O’ Brien giving a wonderful lecture on De Chirico.

De Chirico (July 10, 1888 – November 20, 1978) was the father of Metaphysical art which inspired the surrealists and was in contraposition with Futurism. In fact, while Futurism cuts all bridges with the past and also denies it any importance, De Chirico finds in the past the foundations of his art.

Many of us had never heard much about this painter with Italian origins or about his Metaphysical art, not even those who are actually Italian (like myself), but Prof. O’Brien took our hands and led us picture by picture through the metaphysical journey that De Chirico would have liked us to undertake.

A journey through metaphysical expressions which takes off from physical entities which have their origins in the real world, such as la Mole Antonelliana (located in Torino), the arches of many Italian towns, several statues of Arianna, mannequins, trains and so on, and it will take us to something that is not physical, but nonetheless real and always present in our life: the enigma… ineluctable part of human existence.

It is not by chance that one of the pieces showed by Prof. O’Brien on Monday night was ‘Nostalgia dell’infinito’ (nostalgia of theItalian in Cork infinite) which she linked to one of my favorite Italian poems ‘L’infinito’ (1818-1819) written by Giacomo Leopardi. Here you will find the Italian copy and its English translation. Leopardi feels that there is ‘more’ beyond what we see, probably much more and the thought of it almost scares him… his and our limits are in Leopardi’s poem represented by an edge (la siepe) which also helps him to feel that there is something beyond it. In fact, without it, he might have not been able to have such a perception and to enjoy it (dolce naufragare in questo mare – sinking in this sea is sweet to me). As in Leopardi’s poem the edge has the fundamental role of the limit which allows us to perceive somehow the infinite, so in De Chirico’s painting we have the tower to allow us to feel the ‘whistle’ of the infinite… the enigma.

Many thanks to Prof. Catherine O’Brien for having led us through this wonderful journey and allowed us to hear the ‘whistle’ again… it is always more and more difficult in our busy lives.

Italian art and culture in Cork

Giacomo Leopardi



Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,

e questa siepe, che da tanta parte

dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.

Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati

spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani

silenzi, e profondissima quiete

io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco

il cor non si spaura. E come il vento

odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello

infinito silenzio a questa voce

vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,

e le morte stagioni, e la presente

e viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa

immensità s’annega il pensier mio:

e il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.

English translation

Always dear to me was this solitary hill

and this hedge, which, from so many parts

of the far horizon, the sight excludes.

But sitting and gazing endless

spaces beyond it, and inhuman

silences, and the deepest quiet,

I fake myself in my thoughts; where almost

my heart scares. As the wind

I hear rustling through these trees, I, that

infinite silence, to this voice

keep comparing: and I feel the eternal,

the dead seasons, the present,

and living one, and the sound of her. So in this

immensity drown my own thoughts:

and sinking in this sea is sweet to me.



Felice Anno Nuovo a tutti!

Did you have Panettone or Pandoro at Christmas? Are you ready now to celebrate Capodanno? Here are some Italian traditions about it.

You probably already know that Capodanno is composed of two words and a preposition CAPO D’ANNO which literally means HEAD OF YEAR. In fact, it should refer to the first day of the year, but we in Italy all refer to it as the 31st night and the 1st of January.Italian traditions

As in all the countries we have some traditions which are supposed to bring good luck or to ward off evil spirits. For example, all over in Italy we use to eat ‘Lo zampone e le lenticchie’. Lo zampone is the trotter of the pork with a roll of skin attached and filled with lean pork meat (see picture). Le lenticchie are lentils. Sometimes, people don’t like to have a foot of pork in their plate, so they go for ‘Cotechino’ instead. It looks like a big sausage (see picture) and it is the some thing as zampone. This plate eaten during the night is supposed to bring money and prosperity to the eater. Try and let me know!Italian South tradition

Another food which is suppose to have the same property is the ‘Melograno’ or pomegranate. Lentils and pomegranate seeds are actually quite similar.

Red is the colour of Capodanno and it is supposed to bring good luck. In fact, women are supposed to wear new red under garments during Capodanno’s night…

An old tradition says that you should kiss someone underneath the mistletoe… I have never seen anybody doing it, I am not so old!
During Capodanno’s night we are also used to having fireworks, and any town, small or big, has their own. Many families also buy their own to have their own fun. In the antiquity, fireworks were supposed to keep away evil spirits.

In the end, please, take a piece of advice. If at Capodanno you are around Napoli, be extremely careful. As another of our traditions is to throw away things during Capodanno’s night! Over there, they throw things out of balconies and windows… you really don’t want a washing machine or dishwasher landing on you… Also because in Italy we say that you will spend the rest of the year in the same way you spend Capodanno and you really do not want to spend it in a hospital!Italian North traditions


The importance of writing

I am always telling my students how effective writing is to improve the mastery of the language we are studying and to enhance our confidence. In fact, through writing we can improve our sentence construction, our grammar and expand our vocabulary at all Italian levels. As in Italian we use the present tense to talk not only about the present but also about our immediate and planned future, beginners can keep a journal and write about their daily activities, holidays or Christmas’ plans. In this way there won’t ever be the problem of ‘what should I write about?’ as we always know what we are going to do tomorrow or how we are going to cook our turkey next Christmas. The more we write the faster we improve.  Mistakes will get fewer and fewer and we will improve our speaking, too. In fact, the more frequently we write the more we get confident when we talk about the topics we wrote on.


Those who are at a more advanced level and have a weakness should work on it through writing in order to get rid off the problem. Writing, in fact, helps to ‘dig’ the famous pathways about which I have recently posted: . My friend and student (the famous Maria) wrote many many sentences with the hypothetical construction, talking about her life; linking our learning to something meaningful and dear to us makes our learning even more effective. This is why I suggested that she should write about her life ‘Se non avessi incontrato mio marito…’ (If I had not met my husband…); this is a wonderful example of hypothetical construction and also such a meaningful topic for her to write about.


It is true that writing takes time, indeed, but it is worth it, trust me. Write regularly, an 80/100 (beginners-lower intermediate) 150/200 (intermediate and upper intermediate) 250/300 (advanced-fluent) word essay a week or every 10 days. It pays off, believe me. Send your writing to me on and I will be happy to check it for you!


Martedì andiamo…

Martedì andiamo tutti dal dottore all’ospedale! Ooh no, facciamo le corna!


Are you ready? This Tuesday we are all going to the doctor… ’Facciamo le corna’ is an Italian expression which literally means ’let’s make horns’, but you would say it means ’touch wood’…



Dove andiamo domani?


Andiamo al mercato a fare la spesa!

Vorrei un po’ di patate, 4 pomodori, un mazzetto di prezzemolo…

Tomorrow we are going to do our shopping to the market… because in Italy we have so many beautiful markets, check it out with us!


How long does it take to learn Italian?

Learning Italian, as many of you already know, is a wonderful journey and, as such, its duration depends on many factors. It also depends on your goals, of course. A student may be completely happy to master the language to the extent that he or she can go to Italy and be able to ask for information, place an order, have a brief conversation with natives. Another one may want to learn Italian in order to advance their careers and, thus, they want, not only to be fluent (which includes speaking on the phone with natives), but also have a good command of grammar. Between these two types of students there are many others with different requirements which lead them to learn Italian.


As I said in a previous post, it is easy to start learning Italian. In fact, it is very easy to read as we pronounce it as it is written. In a single lesson a student will learn how to pronounce every Italian word!

Moreover, many words are very similar between Italian and English. As you probably already know, Italian is a Latin language and, therefore, all English words coming from Latin have a corresponding Italian  word, easily recognizable. For example, volcano (vulcano), city (citta’), family (famiglia), defenestrare (defenestration, to throw someone out the window) and so on.


For these reasons, it is not too difficult to achieve your goals, as long as you put some effort and time into your learning. This means, for those who already attend a course, revising what has been done during class, preferably sooner rather than later, doing their homework and revising again before each lesson. Taking some Conversation Classes would help a lot and, of course, talking to natives and going to Italy every now and then. Watching movies, listening to audio books or podcasts is also a great way to improve your listening, which is probably the hardest part when a person starts learning as an adult. E-book readers, Kindles, iPads and so on are wonderful learning tools as they allow you to read and listen at the same time.


The more you do of all the above, the faster you will achieve your goals, whichever they are.


For those of you who belong to the second category I mentioned in the first paragraph, and have no time to enjoy the journey, going to Italy and attending a course and working there for a while is definitely the best solution.


For those of you who are Spanish things are much easier, especially if your  goals are more conversational. Things get more complicated if you want to have a mastery of grammar and write academic pieces.


As an English learner, I use to belong to the second category I mentioned in the first paragraph. I needed to learn English, from scratch, in order to advance my career. I had taken private lessons for about a year and came to Ireland, hoping that 4 months would be enough to achieve my goals. This was about 7 years ago… I am still here, I am still learning and I love it!


Buona Pasqua to everybody, but let’s not forget Pasquetta!

Buona Pasqua a tutti (which literally means Good Easter to all, but you would translate Happy Easter to everybody).

Today I have been asked by my neighbor if the Easter Bunny has already come to my house… My face probably answered for me and she gave a few coloured and rubbery rabbits to my son Kevin (she probably thought that I was a heartless mother!). Actually, we do not have the Easter Bunny in Italy and tradition dictates that the egg is the symbol of Pasqua (Easter). I remember painting eggs and, sometimes, putting some cotton chicks with them when I was a child. The relationship between chicks and eggs is quite obvious, but I cannot really see the connection between a rabbit and an egg! Paese che vai, usanze che trovi (countries you go to, traditions you find) we say in Italy. It will, nevertheless, be great fun tomorrow to look for the eggs in our granny’s garden with my son Kevin.

In all the Italian houses tomorrow there will be a great lunch based on lamb or kid (goat) and eggs. Besides lots of chocolate eggs, in Italy we will have the Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove) which is a sort of answer to the Panettone. In fact, the Colomba is a soft cake with candied fruit covered by a crunchy icing with almonds… Here is a picture, doesn’t it look yummy?

Almost as popular as Pasqua is our Pasquetta which literally means little Easter. We celebrate Pasquetta on the Monday after Easter (Easter Monday) and tradition dictates that families and friends go out for a picnic. Therefore, our countrysides, beaches, mountains or parks are all covered with tablecloths and barbecues and everyone enjoys it!

And remember the saying: Natale con i tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi! Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever you want!


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes