On the Farm in the Italian Language

Apr 7, 2011

In this guest blog, Carolina Gengo Di Domenico, director of La Piazza di Carolina, a preschool and language center in Westchester, New York, introduces the crops that grow and the animals that live on a farm.

Italian farm pic

la fattoria

the farm

by Carolina Gengo Di Domenico

“Nella vecchia fattoria ia-ia-o!” 

So goes the nursery school song, “Old MacDonald,”  in Italian.  But in Italian the farmer’s name is Zio Tobia (Uncle Tobias).

A traditional farm, as American and Italian children learn in school, consists of a farmer (contadino), cows (mucche), pigs (maiali), horses (cavalli), and sheep (pecore).  The cows graze in the pascolo (pasture) eating erba (grass) and producing latte (milk).  The horses and sheep eat fieno (hay) which is kept in the fienile (hay-loft or barn), and the pigs roll around in the fango (mud). 

American farming has a long history  of producing crops like peanuts (noccioline), maple sugar (zucchero d’acero), tobacco (tabacco), and cotton (cotone). Today cattle (bestiame) ranching  is a big industry. as is dairy (latticini) farming. Major American crops are corn (granturco), soybean (soia), and wheat (grano).

At one time agriculture (agricoltura) made up over a third of Italy’s economy.  It now represents less than three percent.  Although many Americans think of Italy as an agricultural society (mainly due to the large number of Italian immigrants who were identified as contadini), barely a third of Italy’s land is arable and suitable for farming. But despite its mountainous terrain, Italy still has a large work force (1.4 million) employed in farming.  

In the north, Italy produces grains (cereali), sugar beets (barbabietole), soybeans (soia), meat (carne), and dairy products (latticini).  The warmer climate in southern Italy is suitable for growing fruits (frutta), vegetables (ortaggi), olive oil (olio d’oliva), grapes (uva), and durum wheat (grano duro). The average size of Italian farms is only seven hectares (a hectare is the equivalent of 2.47105 acres), which is rather small for a farm—but perfect if you’re a tourist  staying on a converted farm.  

Agriturismo, a rural Italian version of a Bed and Breakfast, has become  very popular in Italy.  Most properties are restored farms, with beautiful backdrops and charming interiors. The owners normally grow their own food then use the fresh ingredients, often organic, to prepare meals for their guests. Click here for a useful guide to agriturismo accommodations. 

La Piazza di Carolina is offering a special family summer trip to an argiturismo in Tuscany that includes a Kids Camp with language and cooking lessons as well as excursions. You can find more information here

Words and Expressions (Animals and their Sounds):

il cane bau –- the dog goes “bow”

il gatto miao –- the cat goes “meow”

la muca muu –- the cow goes “moo”

il maiale gru –- the pig goes “oink”

You can enjoy a delightful animated rendition of Nella vecchia fattoria below: 

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