Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Word's Mistaken Identity

I was reading Flash Art's Italian edition for August-September 2009 and chanced upon a curious and mistaken explanation for the title of a project called "Travelogue" involving contemporary art in Capri.

Benedetta Bernasconi, the article's author, wrote, "Travelogue- titolo che unisce i due termini ingesi travel e blog - ..." (Travelogue - a title that combines the two English terms, travel and blog).

She obviously didn't do her homework and made too many assumptions when giving this explanation to readers. Travelogue is a word with a much longer history than blog. Does she even know the background of how we came to the contemporary term of blog? Probably not.

According to Wikipedia, blog comes from the term "weblog" which was originally used to indicate a kind of online diary which chronicles daily thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. Along the way, someone played around with the word by dividing it into "we blog". From that, the contraction was born.

Blogging is not necessarily relevant to a travelogue. A blog could be a travelogue. But a travelogue could also be a lecture, video, personal diary or book about travels.

More appropriate is to perhaps reflect on the word "log" that has been around in the English language for centuries, coming from the Middle English word logge. Two appropriate definitions that could help explain Ms Bernasconi's division and understanding of a compound nature of the word "travelogue" are the following: 1) to enter in a record, as of a ship or an aircraft. 2) to travel (a specified distance, time, or speed): logged 30,000 air miles in April.

Yet in the end, travelogue, is plain and simple a singular and real word that exists with its own definition. No artists organization is to credit for putting together this word.

Let's all try to read our dictionaries and online sources a little better in the future, Ms Bernasconi.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guest post: The Anglo-Italiano invasion

by Ainsley Okoro

The English aren’t naturals when it comes to foreign languages – which may be why they spent hundreds of years ensuring the rest of the world spoke theirs.

As a Brit of a certain age, therefore, the five years in which I’ve tried to master Italian have been far from plain sailing.

Howlers that still make me cringe? Asking a Forte dei Marmi waitress where to leave la mancia (the tip)…only to end up enquiring what to do about la minchia (a crude term for the male genitals). Even worse was the time I confused ho scoperto (“I discovered”) with ho scopato (“I f*****”). It was only our second meeting – but I hope my future mother-in-law guessed what I wanted to say.

But all that trouble to learn the world’s most romantic language…only to find that half of Italy now seems to speak “Anglo-Italiano”, an ugly mishmash of English and Italian.

Accommodation for your visit to Florence? If gli hotel are fully booked, lo staff may point you to un bed and breakfast among i top in the area. Staying longer than a few days? Why not try un residence or un loft with un big open-space and equipped with tutti i comfort?

And being near the town centre should make it ideal to fare lo shopping at un shopping centre, boasting a wide range of i fashion outlet and i discount shop.

Just as bad is the media, where you learn Il Premier Silvio Berlusconi has misused il suo private jet to carry le showgirl and i VIP to i party at his villa. He is also said to have bedded una sexy escort. It’s not the first time il tycoon has committed un gaffe and the scandal has damaged il feeling between him and voters. Now he grumbles about il suo privacy and lo stress.

Following il summit di G8 in Italy – with altri leader such as Barack Obama and le first ladies – Berlusconi called un meeting of his cabinet to tie up un budget. But a journalist has un scoop – during briefing, Berlusconi blamed Il Ministro del Welfare for the deficit hitting un record.

But the worst offenders are beauty and gossip magazines: Madonna non è piu single. She’s found un nuovo boyfriend and she and il suo partner have been photographed in un resort. Fancy un po’ di restyling, Signora? Learn all about il beauty, gli accessory-must and i color this season – sono black and white. And il new look is un paio di jeans with un T-shirt extra large.

Elsewhere, una showgirl from un reality show is drinking i cocktail in un bar, before indulging in a spot of il clubbing then going home with un pop star from un boyband.

Surely Italian has enough words of its own that do the job just as well – velina rather than showgirl, spuntino instead of snack, il fine settimana, not weekend.

Little surprise that in 2008 the prestigious Dante Alighieri Society announced a campaign to halt the use of English in Italian. It’s going to be a tough task – Anglo-Italiano is now il nuovo trend


Ainsley Okoro works for the property for sale in Italy website Homes and Villas and specialises in Calabria property and Tuscany property

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday's False Friend

magazine v. magazzino

We like to read lots of magazines in the US. I grew up in a household that had about 15 titles delivered weekly or monthly. The word magazine can easily be mixed up with the Italian magazzino, which means warehouse. After printing, the magazines might stay in a magazzino before being sent to subscribers and newstands. Use the Italian word rivista to translate magazine.

Eng) A new Italian edition of 'Wired' magazine was launched this year.

It) Una nuova edizione italiana della rivista 'Wired' è uscita quest'anno.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Oldest Botanical Garden in Europe

It's in Padua, mind you.
Founded in 1545 thanks to Professor Francesco Bonafede, who wanted to enrich his university seminars on the medicinal properties of plants.

I visited this Botanical Garden 222 years and 353 days after Johann Wolfgang Goethe visited it and was inspired to write about its palm tree, now one of the most prolific exotic tree types growing in Italy and the mediterranean.

The original is now housed in a gazebo su misura (custom-built).

These days, the huge old tree seems to be exploding in a big wild mess contained within some glass panes, but what is a palm tree still alive from 1585 supposed to look like anyway?

The great find on my visit to the garden was seeing so many university students using it as a research source. It's not just a tourist trap in Padua, which means a lot. It's original aim as a study center has been maintained over the centuries. Some of the first experiments in botany occured here. Now, there are corners dedicated to regional species that are endangered and students analyze the plants' properties before it's too late. Other areas cultivate exotic plants (including North American varieties which is funny to see as "exotic", like a maple tree). Medicinal ones are kept in still other sections.

At one time, the university students had to take exams by going around the garden and producing the correct names of the various plants which their professors pointed to. Now that kind of visual memorization is no longer necessary. In its place, carefully handwritten signs denomiate the plant species for students and tourists. In the US, you would NEVER see handwriting in this situation. Here is a picture showing the name and Bolivian origin to some giant lily pads.

A pink lily in bloom

A cactus detail

Agave and aloe plants first came to Europe from Mexico through this garden. Other plants which are taken for granted by today's Italians but which came from other continents include the sunflower, tulip tree, lilac and hyacith.

A tree that has seen dozens of wars and survived bombing this past century, exposes its inner belly.

A historical evolution of the garden:

The original plan for the garden. Each quadrant of plants formed a different design.

16th century pillars had very clear rules inscribed for its visitors as follows:

1. Do not knock at this gate before the date of St. Mark the Evangelist (25 April) or before 10 o'clock in the morning.
2. Whoever enters from the decumen gate must not go far from it.
3. In the garden, do not break off stalks, pick flowers, remove seeds of fruit or dig up roots.
4. Do not tread on small plants.
5. Do not damage the garden in any way.
6. Do not do anything against the Prefect's will.
7. Trespassers will be punished with fines, prison or exile.

The first enclosing walls were built in the 17th century to protect the plants from being stolen during the night.


When Padua's upperclass wanted to meander through beautiful gardens in their lovely attire on a Sunday afternoon, they decided to revamp the botanical one here in the shadows of St. Justine. The 1800's brought a flourish of decoration, statues, fountains above and around the circular walls of botanical garden and additional garden areas. The busts feature famous botanists.


In 1997, Padua's Botanical Garden was inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some more pictures of "my walk in the park" in the Botanical Garden.

Via Orto Botanico, 15
35123 Padova - ITALY

tel. +390498272119
fax. +390498272120


April-October: every day 9.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m., 3.00 - 7.00 p.m.
November-March: 9.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. (closed on public holidays)


4€ regular
3€ reduced price
1€ students

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tour del Gelato: Los Andes

Eat a dream

That would be the flavor Sogno at Los Andes, an excellent gelateria in Padua which I am adding to the Tour del Gelato hosted by Ms. Adventures in Italy.
(Sogno ingredients: coconut and almonds)

Click here for the official Tour del Gelato blogroll.

As the name Los Andes reveals, the owners have a passion for South America and ice cream. Their delicious flavors include the normal line-up of vanilla, chocolate and fruit varieties, as well as Tierra del Fuego in honor of Chile's landscape and Mar del Plata. The South American tastes often include the ingredient Dulce de Leche, for an exotic flair.

The locals stop here on a Sunday afternoon while biking or strolling along the riverbanks nearby that cross through Terranegra, the neighborhood that houses Los Andes. During the week when school is in session, mothers and children get in line at the end of the school day from the English Language School of Padua. This means that lots of the kids found at Los Andes can speak English so they could even help you order your own cup or cone. I took this picture during the unofficial "children's hour" with tons of tots wandering around and salivating over their gelato.

If you are fending for yourself and need some pointers about how to order a good gelato on your own, consult this link from WhyGo Italy for excellent advice on vocabulary and gelato philosophy.

Outside Los Andes, at the corner of the Residence Terranegra

The husband and wife owners, Donato and Angelica, in front of their fruit shake section. This is a favorite for the ladies who want to eat something fresh without the guilt of a caloric gelato. Los Andes offers about 20 combinations with apple, orange, kiwi, pineapple, banana, ginger and more! Fruit shake is centrifuga in Italian.

The owners with their gelato assistant John from Colombia. The partitially-covered sign on the wall reads "il gelato artigianale per passione" (homemade ice cream with passion) and the flavors at Los Andes prove that statement both in the quality of their ingredients and obvious dedication.

Don't worry about fall and winter's arrival. Los Andes has special themes and launches for the changing seasons. Halloween will inspire flavors like la zucca assassina (Killer Pumpkin), la vedova nera (The Black Widow), il morso di Dracula (Dracula's Bite). Also for October, about 50 chocolate flavors will arrive at the gelataio's discretion ranging from white chocolate to 100% cocoa. An Angolo del Thé (tea corner) is planned for the winter where a high-quality selection of teas will be available to add to the gelato delights.

Yes, Los Andes is off the beaten track of Padua's tourist areas but well worth the trip. Even the Gambero Rosso agrees, based of what I hear! Take bus line 4 south from the city center to the final stop "Terranegra" (about 10-15 minute ride) and continue north a couple of blocks to get your cooling gelato thrill next the Alì supermarket in the Residence Terranegra complex on the left.

A good idea might be to come out of the city center after a day of touring Giotto and Saint Anthony wonders, have a delicious gelato or centrifuga and then walk those calories off along the nearby riverbank, just like the locals do! It's a slowfood philosophy gelato solution!

Los Andes di Furlan Donato
Gelateria Artigianale-Caffetteria
Via Mons. G. Fortin, 43
35128 Padova (Terranegra)
tel and fax: 049.8022382
closed on Tuesdays

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday's False Friend

taste v. tasto

Taste is one of the most powerful senses and we love to use it abundantly when we live and visit Italy. But the similar word in Italian, tasto, refers to a key on a keyboard, many of which I am using to create this post. Translate taste into gusto for best results.

Eng) Wine has a different taste based on the region where it is produced.

It) Il vino ha un gusto diverso in base alla regione dove viene prodotto.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Glutton for American Food!

I amazed myself the other day by my reaction as I walked down the aisles of an American supermarket after 2 years of not touching US soil. It was like I was a kid in a candy shop. Yes, there were mounds of candy because this particular supermarket, located on an American military base, had a special section dedicated to Halloween candy even though that holiday is a month and a half away. But I really wasn't interested in the candy since Italy makes better varieties, especially when talking about chocolate, for example.

My eyes bulged to see great big bags of Tostido tortilla chips and salsa, chocolate chip cookies, humus, fluffy and soft Wonder hamburger rolls, cheap peanut butter, maple syrup, pancake mix, rice pilaf, cranberry juice and root beer. I went a bit crazy filling up my cart. Even basic ingredients like brown sugar and oats were a treat to find and buy for future recipes.

I live in a land of excellent food but some things are missed here in the bel paese. A question for other expats: which foods do you crave when abroad? Do you share any of mine?

Some of the American food truely tastes good. Some has become rare to see in Europe so therefore it takes on greater importance for me. Other foods bring back memories of childhood.

At checkout, it was the best $50 spent in a long time!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rain in Concert

It's the first day of real rain in Padua in months. I cannot believe that I was actually happy to get soaked today while returning home from the city center on my bike. The grass has been dying for a good drink of rainwater. This is unusual because the Veneto is defined by its abundant rain during the fall and winter, yet this summer has been dry indeed. Maybe this rain is the turning point to introduce this year's fall temperatures to Padua.

In honor of this welcome rainfall, I would like to share a lovely video of rain in concert which a French friend, Florence, sent to me a while ago. All I know is that it is entitled "La pluie" (The rain [in French]) She is from another very rainy area in Europe: Brittany, France. So without further ado, may I present this video:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Romantic Rumble

I know I am in the city center of Padua when I hear the familiar rumble of car wheels rolling over the cobblestone streets. The soothing sound accompanies my steps as I walk under the porticos and along sidewalks while going to work, shopping and strolling from café to café with friends to have an aperitivo in the early evening.

Over the summer, many of the streets have been repaved because of special underground work that was done while the Paduans were on vacation at the beach. The city enjoyed a couple of months with very little traffic and few cars.

Now in September, the summer's work is being finished along Via Zabarella, seen in the picture below. The workmen carefully place each stone down, hammer it into the sandy mortar and fill in the gaps. A sober and elegant fan pattern emerges from the cobblestone design.

Each time I leave Padua for an extended stay elsewhere, such as re-entry to the US, I can't wait to come back to the deep, long, rolling, medieval sound of Padua's streets.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mare e Monti e Mercato

Sea and Mountains and Market

Yesterday I said goodbye to my father who is returning to USA. In his ten days in the country, we were able to explore the mountains, countryside and swim in the sea.

My husband, F, and I challenged his stamina and legs by climbing the Tofana di Rozes (3225 m/9033 ft) in the Dolomites under a glorious autumn sky.

We sent him golfing on an ambitious course at the foot of the Eugaean Hills, west of Padua, where the the woods and water seemed to "eat" his golf balls. Deeper into the hills, we had him feast on galletto , a small delicious chicken, for dinner that night.

We drove him to the Adriatic Sea to sit under a rainbow umbrella in Sottomarina near Chioggia to enjoy one of the last days of summer on the beach in total September relaxation.

In the middle of these trips dotting the Veneto map, we left him on his own in the center of town to discover what the city of Padua could offer him for this, his fourth trip. Watching the market close up shop at midday was reported to be the highlight while there were also impressive paintings by Tiepolo, Titian and other great artists that awaited him in the Eremitani museum that afternoon.

I believe it is important to sometimes leave my guests on their own in Italy so they can discover something with their own eyes. When I am at their side, some people may only focus on what I explain to them but importance is subjective so it is good to have the person decide on his own focus for at least a while. For my father, the market provides the local/foreign intrigue that he is looking for.

Readers, thank you for your patience and gift of time that you let me spend with my father.

Ciao, Dad. Alla prossima!
(See you next time!)

Pictures: climbing the last leg of the Tofana di Rozes; the view of Lagazuoi and Marmolada from the summit; Golf Club Montecchia from their website; online announcement from Bagni Arcobaleno in Sottomarina.

Friday's False Friend

eventually v. eventualmente

Eventually means "in the end" for English speakers while a similar word, eventualmente, is a way to express the idea of "possibly" for Italians. Use the Italian words "alla fine" when you would like to convey the English meaning.

Eng) I eventually got back to writing my blog after spending a week being a tour guide for my father.

It) Alla fine sono tornata a scrivere il mio blog dopo aver passato una settimana in cui ho fatto la guida turistica per il mio padre.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spending Time with Dad

Since my father has come in from abroad for 10 days, my blogs have been suspended for a few more days. I only get to see him about once a year so I need to take advantage of the time I have with him now.

He also needs A LOT of help getting about town with a language and cultural barrier. These are situations where roles are reversed and the parent becomes the "kid" who needs to be attended to by his "expert" daughter.

Vieni con me, Dad. Ti porto in giro.
(Come with me, Dad. I'll take you around.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday's False Friend

college v. collegio

It's back-to-school season. Are the dedicated sales on in USA? College students have hit the books and younger pupils are doing the same. Be careful about how you use the English term college because, for us, it refers to university. In Italian, a similar word, collegio means boarding school or the on-campus lodging provided to our university students.

Think plain "university" when you want to say college: università.

Eng) My son started college last week.

It) Il mio figlio ha cominciato l'università la settimana scorsa.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Neverending Story of Construction in Italy

For years, I have been listening to the sounds of restoration or construction. It began in Venice, when the building across the canal had work done for over a year as the owners remodeled the house. Then I moved to Padua.

In the first apartment, you could say I had a respite. In reality, I exchanged construction noise for car traffic and sirens. I was living on a major thoroughfare next to the hospital so not only did I enjoy rush hour traffic and pollution, but I also had sirens outside my windows at least 3 times an hour. The sirens could even be heard during telephone conversations with friends and family in America.

Once I got out of that situation and found a nice residential area to call home, the construction began again. For the first year, a new small condominium was being finished next to our house. No sooner was that project finished, than the property directly across the street decided to resume 20-year-old project for another larger building, including condos and commercial space.

The demolition of the old pillars began two years ago and the building has finally finished this summer. I can't believe the construction is over! There aren't the big trucks blocking traffic anymore. Our neighborhood parking spaces have been given back to us. The big box is standing and ready for occupancy with a big banner hanging with per informazioni (for information)and a telephone number.

It had gotten to the point that the sound of a jack-hammer was like a lullaby during my afternoon naps, when I could take them. Having silence is odd now.

Below is a picture of the project from our front lawn. What do you think? Would you want to live there? I must admit that although the area is great, this building doesn't look very inviting to me with its "pool" blue paint and bulky, restricted terraces. The condo has been named L'Ancora (The Anchor) and there is a big anchor as the focal point of the landscaping area in front. Padua only has canals and two rivers that run through or around it with virtually no boat traffic so I don't understand the symbolism.

My husband and I are making bets on what the commercial spaces will become. Will we get a take-away pizza joint? That would be convenient. Will a new perfume shop do business there? Or a small supermarket or green grocer? I guess we will find out by the end of the year. We haven't seen anyone move in yet. For now, the construction company has set up its offices in the second-floor office suite.

In the meantime, two new demolitions and new housing projects have started further down the street. The trucks are back in the neighborhood. It is just neverending.... but at least we can't hear their noise.

Funny thing is that my husband and I are looking to move again. Who knows what projects lurk around the new property. Maybe this time we will be the ones making the noise, especially if we find a house to fix-up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009