The Italian language doesn’t distinguish between “house” and “home.” A casa is always a casa, whether it’s an appartamento, a villa, a casetta, villetta or villino (cottage), a casa di campagna (country house) or a casa al mare (beach house). And, of course, there are other types of houses, such as a casa di correzione (reformatory), a casa editrice (publishing house), a casa di moda (fashion house), a casa delle bambole (doll house) or a casa di riposo (retirement / nursing home).
However, there is a time when a house is no longer a home: when you move (traslocare/trasferirsi). After 27 joyous years amid the redwoods (fra le sequoie) of Mill Valley, we are leaving Florence Avenue–or, as my Italian friends would exclaim when learning my address, "via Firenze." (If I couldn't live in Firenze, it's always given me delight to live on Florence!)
After decades da padrona di casa (as the lady of the house), it is not easy to leave the place where we celebrated so many feste (parties) for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays–even a wedding (matrimonio), with our daughter as the flower girl (damigella). But I no longer feel at home (sentirsi a casa) in the empty rooms (stanze vuote).
All that remains are walls (pareti), windows (finestre), ceilings (soffitti) and floors (pavimenti). I pause at the entrance door (la porta d’ingresso), where I would say to guests, “Make yourself at home!" (Fai come se fossi a casa tua!)
The word casa also makes itself at home in Italian proverbs and idiomatic expressions, such as these:
*Non sapere (neanche) dove stia di casa…: Not to have (even) a clue of something, to ignore completely, to be totally unaware of (usually negative). For example: "Non sa dove stia di casa la cortesia" (he doesn't know the meaning of courtesy) or "Non sanno dove stia di casa l’educazione" (They don’t have any manners).
*A casa del ladro non si ruba: Thieves don’t steal at home, or there’s honor among thieves.
*A casa mia non si fa: You don’t do that at my house, or that isn’t the thing to do.
*Avere un cuore grande come una casa: to have a heart as big as a house, to be very generous.
As I say farewell to our home sweet home (addio, casa dolce casa), I know that the things that really make a house a home come with us: so many beautiful memories (tanti bei ricordi) of the times we shared under its roof (sotto il suo tetto)!
Words and Expressions
stare in casa — stay at home
fatto in casa — home-made
cambio di domicilio -– change of address
casa madre — main branch, parent company, head office
Casa mia casa mia, per piccina che tu sia tu mi sembri una badia — My home, my home, tiny as you may be, you seem a palace to me! In other words, there's no place like home!
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.
Click below to listen to a charming children's song about a very unusual house: