SHARE
COPY LINK

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Pasticcio’

Like all the best things in life, it started with macaroni.

Italian word of the day: 'Pasticcio'

What does pasticcio mean? You’d probably imagine it means the same thing as the French word pastiche, which we borrowed into English long ago. But the French word was in turn borrowed from the Italian pasticcio

Pasticcio, from the word pasta, is what Italians call a kind of macaroni pie – or a least, they did a few hundred years ago.

You won't find it on many Italian restaurant menus nowadays, but it was apparently a kind of beef casserole topped with pasta and baked, which sounds like something I would definitely eat, and was popular in various parts of southern Europe.

English speakers who'd somehow become familiar with this messy, multi-layered dish had begun to apply the name to various sorts of hodgepodges (musical, literary, or otherwise) by the 18th century, according to one dictionary.

– La canzone era in realita un pasticcio di tre melodie diversi

– The song was really a pasticcio of three different tunes

For over a hundred years English speakers were happily using the word pasticcio, until we discovered the French word pastiche sometime in the late 1800s and started using that instead.


Although you might still come across pasticcio in English, pastiche is now much more common.

While pastiche is usually taken to mean a combination or hodgepodge, artfully done or not, Italians take it a step further.

When something is a pasticcio, it’s simply a mess – the kind of mess that you don’t get yourself out of easily.

– è proprio un bel pasticcio

– it's a real mess

– cacciarsi nei pasticci 

– to get into trouble

One place you could look for examples of exactly the kind of complex, multi layered, scandal-ridden mass of irregularities and confusion that would merit the description of pasticcio would be in politics (Italian or otherwise.)

It’s a bit like getting into a pickle in English, but perhaps with the implication of more chaos.

– L'indiscrezione del ministro ha messo tutti in un bel pasticcio

– The minister's indiscretion has got us into a real pickle

There’s even a verb, pasticciare, which means to screw up, mess with, or make a mess of something.

– l'avevo detto di non pasticciare con quello

– I told you not to mess with that 

And a pasticcione is a bungler, or a person who messes everything up.

And yes, it can still also be used simply to talk about pie.

  • un pasticcio di carne
  • A meat pie

So whatever kind of mess you're talking about, this Italian word has you covered.

You can see our complete Word of the Day archive here. Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Gita fuori porta’

No Italian summer would be complete without this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Gita fuori porta'

As far as Italian summer traditions go, there’s only one thing more quintessentially Italian than the ‘pennica, the post-lunch nap which people from all corners of the country seem to effortlessly slip into with flawless poise and clockwork timing. That one thing is the ‘gita fuori porta’.

You might have already heard the expression on a couple of occasions, but don’t worry if you haven’t. Now that Ferragosto, Italy’s most deeply felt summer holiday, is only a few days away, listen out for it in your next conversation with Italians.

READ ALSO: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

So before we get into the ins and outs of how the ‘gita fuori porta’ works, what exactly does this phrase mean?

At first glance, the most logical translation might appear to be something like ‘a trip out of the door’. But the word ‘porta’ here has nothing to do with front doors (or houses, for that matter) as it refers instead to a city’s main entry gate.

To this day, the boundaries of most Italian towns are marked by ancient protective walls, generally dating back to Roman or medieval times. Though these walls no longer serve their original purpose, in many cases a town or city centre is still accessed via a number of gates, or ‘porte’.

So, a ‘gita fuori porta’ is a particularly Italian way of describing a trip out of town, whether that be to the seaside, in the countryside or in the mountains. 

Ti va di fare una gita fuori porta questo weekend?

Non troppo, tesoro. Fa troppo caldo.

Do you fancy a trip out of town this weekend?

Not really, honey. It’s too hot.

Marco e Maria stanno organizzando una gita fuori porta. Cosa ne pensi di unirti a loro?

Va bene, a patto che lo scegliamo noi il ristorante questa volta.

Marco and Maria are organising a trip out of town. What do you say we join them?

Okay, as long as we pick the restaurant this time around.

But what’s so special about a trip out of town done the Italian way?

Regardless of whether it’s a family trip or a trip with friends, the gita has a precise set of features that all Italians seem to be aware of from a very young age, almost as though  information on how to execute the proper gita came embedded in their own genetic setup.

Firstly, a gita is intended as a day trip, leaving no later than 10am and returning home by dinner time. Secondly, the journey to the chosen destination is always of short or medium length (i.e. rarely longer than two or two and half hours) and is made by car or motorcycle.  

Last but not least, the gita is always a hugely important social event and the smooth unfolding of the trip is seen as vitally important. As such, a number of rituals precede the days and hours before the momentous getaway.

These include: anxiously looking at weather forecasts and updates starting from over a week before the trip; concocting detailed back-up plans “just in case the weather experts get it wrong”; and finally, meticulously reading the reviews of any bar, restaurant or trattoria in a 50-kilometre radius of the chosen destination.

So, should you be tempted to join a trip all’italiana (Italian-style), make sure you do all of the above.

You might also hear the term ‘scampagnata’ used instead of ‘gita fuori porta’. 

Though the term may suggest otherwise – ‘campagna’ means countryside in Italian – ‘scampagnata’ has exactly the same meaning as ‘gita fuori porta’, thus referring to all possible sorts of day trip, not just those to the countryside.

Faremo una scampagnata ad Asolo per Ferragosto.

Ah, bello. Merita veramente una visita.

We’ll be in Asolo for Ferragosto.

Oh, nice. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

SHOW COMMENTS