Christmas in Italy: The Original Saint Nick

In some parts of Italy the feast of San Nicola, patron saint of Bari, ushers in the Christmas season with the giving of gifts on the eve or morning of December 6, his onomastico (name day). Although many stories of San Nicola’ s life may be mythical, he did inspire...

Giving Thanks in Italian

  There is an Italian name — la Festa del Ringraziamento — but no cultural equivalent for the day when the Pilgrim fathers (padri pellegrini) and the American native people came together to celebrate the harvest in the New World. Although turkey...

St. Martin’s Summer in Italy

Long ago on a cold and rainy November 11, a former Roman soldier named Martino came across a man stumbling and shivering on the road. Although he wanted to help, Martino had no money or blanket to offer. And so he took out his sword, slashed his cloak and gave half to...

Italy’s Other Languages

For centuries the Italian peninsula was a patchwork of hundreds of dialects, often as different from one another as French from Spanish or English from Italian. Sailors from Genoa couldn’t understand—or be understood by—merchants from Venice or farmers from Friuli. ...

Honoring Dante during the Week of the Italian Language in the World

This year the Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo (week of the Italian language in the world), from October 18 to 23, celebrates “Dante, l’Italiano.“ It is a fitting tribute during the 700th commemoration of  the poet’s death in 1321. Born in Florence in...

A Harvest of Italian Words

\ In Italy every season— la primavera (spring), l’estate (summer), l’autunno (autumn), l’inverno (winter) — has a different feel and focus. L’autunno is when farmers reap what they have sown. The harvest (il raccolto or la messe) has already passed for many fruits,...