Snowing in the Italian Language

Jan 27, 2015

Snow tree

la neve 


For more than 35 million Americans along the corridor (lungo il  corridoio) from Washington to Boston, the world has been innevato (covered in snow).  Although some parts of Italy also get plenty of snow, Romans say that in their city “nevica a ogni morte di papa” (it snows every time a pope dies–or once in a blue moon). However, in the last few years I've been in Rome for two tormente di neve (blizzards). At the very least, the experiences added some snow-tinged terms to my vocabulary.

Wherever it occurs, una tempesta di neve (a snow storm) can wreak what Italian newspapers call caos neve (snow chaos), including:

• traffico in tilt sulle autostrade (traffic gridlocked on the highways)

• le città totalmente paralizzate (cities totally paralyzed)

le scuole e le imprese chiuse (schools and businesses closed) 

• interi paesi senza  elettricità (entire towns without electricity)

• aeroporti e autostrade chiusi (airports and highways closed)

• treni bloccati per ore (trains blocked for hours)

• persone morte per il freddo o per incidenti (people dead from the cold or in accidents)

• disagi, situazioni di emergenza e rabbia dei cittadini, costretti a trascorrere ore in auto o in stazione, in attesa di poter raggiungere casa (inconvenience, emergency conditions and anger from citizens forced to pass hours in their cars or in stations waiting to be able to reach home)

Snowy weather (tempo nevoso) also brings wintry delights. When snowed in (bloccati dalla neve), youngsters put on snowboots (stivali da neve) and throw snowballs (lanciare palle di neve or giocare a palle di neve) or make a snowman (un pupazzo di neve). Their parents have a very different task: spalare la neve (shoveling snow).

At this time of year Italians often take una settimana bianca (a white week or winter holiday). Many like to go to the mountains (andare in montagna) to ski (sciare) in a chic tuta da sci (ski suit), snowboard (fare snowboard)  or go mountain-climbing (fare alpinismo).

Personally I prefer to stay snug and warm in a stazione invernale (ski resort) with un bianchino (a glass of white wine) and enjoy il panorama (the view).

Words and Expressions 

fiocco di neve –- snowflake

la nevicata — snowfall

imbiancare or imbianchire -– turn white or whiten (used for mountain tops as well as hair)

spazzaneve –- snow plow

catene da neve – snow chains

Biancaneve e i setti nani –- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and  LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

Photo: © Stevanzz | - Lonely Tree Covered By Snow In Winter. Tuscany, Italy Photo


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La Passione
Mona Lisa
La Bella Lingua