Summer in the Italian Language: A Harvest of Words

Aug 23, 2017

Harvest blog pic

Il raccolto

The harvest

Where I live in rural Sonoma county in California, the harvest (il raccolto or la messe) is well underway. Harvest time (la stagione del raccolto) has already passed for some fruits, including our famous Gravenstein apples (mele) as well as local plums (susine), peaches (pesche) and berries (frutti di bosco).

Italian towns celebrate their harvests in their different ways, including festivals (le sagre). A traditional wheat festival (festa del grano) features a parade of wheat wagons (una sfilata dei carri di grano), agricultural tools (attrezzi agricoli) and works made by “straw artists” (artisti della paglia) in the form of braids (trecce), laces (laccetti) and other confections that look like woven fabrics (trame intessute).

A gatherer or picker (raccoglitore) may bring in a harvest (fare la raccolta) of corn (cereali), fruits (frutta) or vegetables (verdura). However, in Italian the verb raccogliere can translate as pick, gather, collect and pluck as well as reap. For instance, one can raccogliere francobolli (stamps), antichità (antiques) or even allori (honors). Una raccolta di libri rari refers to a collection of rare books. There is nothing I like better than to find a quiet, secluded place (un luogo raccolto) and curl up (raccolgiersi su se stessi) with a good book. 

As a reflexive verb, raccogliersi means to concentrate, collect one's thoughts or pull oneself together. We could all use some moments during the day for il raccoglimento (meditation, contemplation, concentration). There is much to be said for the benefits of living raccoltamente (attentively) and being raccolto in se stesso (composed within one's self).

However, at times we need to do more, to gather our strength (raccogliere le proprie forze) and take up a challenge (raccogliere una sfida). If necessary, you may have to rally (chiamare a raccolta) others to your cause. Yet it never pays to stir up trouble without just reason. Remember: Chi semina vento raccoglie tempesta (Who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind).

Words and Expressions

Raccolta differenziata –- waste sorting

Raccogliere il guanto –- take up the gauntlet

Capelli raccolti –- tied-up hair

Raccolto in preghiera –- absorbed in prayer  

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.   

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