*I pesi e le misure*

**Weights and Measures**

When I weigh myself in Italy, even after third helpings of *tiramis**ù*, I look at the double digits indicating kilograms and feel *magra* (thin). Everywhere else, from the supermarket to the gas station, I’m stumped by Italians' ways of weighing.

Italy, like most of world, uses the *sistema metrico decimale *(decimal metric system), which is much simpler than that used in the *paesi anglosassoni* (Anglosaxon countries): You just multiply or divide by 10, 100, or 1000 — which is much quicker than multiplying or dividing by 12 or by three. However, even a simpler system can be disorienting (*disorientare, creare confusione*) if you’re not familiar with it.

Fruit and vegetables are sold in "*chilogrammi*" (kilograms) or simply "*chili*" (pronounced *keel-ee*). *"Mi dia un chilo di mele per favore,*" you’d say. (Give me a *chilo *of apples.) A *chilo* is a little more than two *libbre (*pounds) and is divided into ten *etti* (one *etto* is about three ounces). If you want to buy some prosciutto, you would say, *“Vorrei un etto (o due etti) di prosciutto.”* (I’d like an *etto*—or two *etti*—of *prosciutto*.)

A *chilo* is divided into a thousand grams or *grammi, una misura piccolissima* (a very tiny measure). If you go to a goldsmith’s (*dall'orefice)* to buy something, the weight *dell’oro* (of the gold) would be expressed in *grammi.*** **

The basic measure *di lunghezza* (of distance) is *il metro* (the meter), which is a little more than a yard. A meter is divided by 100 centimeters. A thousand meters make *un chilometro* (a kilometer), which is used to indicate* le distanze* (the distances) — say, between two cities. *Un miglio* (a mile) is about 1600 meters, more than one and a half a kilometer. Milan and Rome are about 600 *chilometri* or 380 *miglia* from each other.

*L'altezza delle montagne* (the height of mountains) also is expressed in *metri.* Monte Bianco (Mount Blanc), for instance, is *alto 4900 metri e non 4 chilometri e 900 metri* (4900 meters high — not 4 kilometers and 900 meters).

If you want to buy milk or gasoline, the measure to use is *il litro* (the liter). It takes 3,78* litri* to make a gallon. (Attention: Italian uses *la virgola*–the comma– in numbers where the United States uses *il punto*—the period.) With gas, it’s easy to get around this problem in two different ways: You can ask for “*il pieno”* (a full tank) or you can buy whatever quantity corresponds to the amount of money you want to spend. For instance, you might ask for *20 euro di benzina* (20 euro worth of gasoline).

You may be tempted to try, as I have, to translate the unknown measurements into familiar ones. A better option: *imparare le misure del luogo *(learning the measures of the place). If you do, you will feel a sense of satisfaction that is *fuor di misura* (beyond measure).

**Words and Expressions**

*Vendere a peso *— to sell by weight

*Vendere a peso d’oro* — to sell by the weight of gold or at a high figure

*Il peso degli ann*i — the weight of the years

*Avere due pesi e due misure* — to have two weights and two measures, to be unfair

*Peso morto* — dead weight

Dianne Hales is the author of *MONA LISA: A Life Discovered *and the* New York Times *best-selling* La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.*

However many kilometers or miles you travel every day, here is a song to keep you company along the way:

There’s another measure that Italians use that is significantly different – temperature is measured in degrees Celsius and not Fahrenheit, so when it’s really hot, it’s 33 degrees outside.

Us Canadians have somewhat of an advantage here because we learn some things metric and some things imperial (like the US). So growing up, I knew how tall I was in feet and inches (but not centimeters like the Italians do), how much I weighed in pounds but not kg. But I bought my gas in liters, not gallons, and the road signs have the speed limit in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. Even though in school, we did the 100m sprint, when I went hiking in the Rockies, I knew how high the mountains were in feet, not meters.

I never got used to ordering things in Italy in “etti”, even though I know 1 etto is 100 grams. Even now, I just don’t remember how much 100 grams of prosciutto is.

And the price of gasoline in Italy is virtually impossible to figure out because not only do you have to translate from liters to gallons, but then you have to convert Euros to dollars!

Brava! I’m always impressed that Canadians master two languages, let alone two measuring systems.