Italian expression of the day: ‘Fare il ponte’

Are you 'doing the bridge' in Italy this week?

Italian expression of the day: 'Fare il ponte'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Italy’s public holidays often fall in the middle of the week – and this gives rise to the popular Italian practice of ‘doing the bridge’.

Many people fare il ponte or ‘do the bridge’ to create a long weekend when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday, as it does this year with All Saints’ Day on November 1st.

READ ALSO: The Italian holiday calendar for 2022

While some countries, for instance the UK, shifts the date of its public holidays to ensure they’re always on a Monday, Italy lets them fall whichever day of the week they come.

That’s a bummer when they fall on a weekend, but a bonus whenever they’re on a weekday.

What to do if your Republic Day or Ferragosto ends up on a Tuesday or Thursday? Of course you’re not going to work one day and be off the next – that’s just silly.

The civilised thing to do instead, naturally, is ‘make a bridge’ between your day off and the weekend, by taking that troublesome Monday or Friday off.

Grazie al ponte, avremo quattro giorni di vacanza.
Thanks to the long weekend, we’ll have four days off.

Abbiamo fatto un ponte di tre giorni.
We took three days off.

Avete progetti per il ponte?
Any plans for the long weekend?

If the holiday happens to fall on a Wednesday, even better – just do the pontone (big bridge), and take two days off – or the whole week.

Italy’s Liberation Day this year is on a Monday, so even though that doesn’t necessarily make for an ideal bridge, you could take the Friday or Tuesday off and have a four-day mini break for the price of one day’s holiday. Not too shabby.

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

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According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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