For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Ferie’

Here's a word you'll be seeing everywhere in Italy this month.

Italian word of the day: 'Ferie'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you live in Italy, you’ll be all too familiar with the scene: You arrive at your favouite pizzeria, only to find a sign hanging on the door saying ‘chiuso per ferie’.

Of course. It’s August.

It’s the same story at the butcher’s, the baker’s and in some areas even the banks.

– Chiuso per ferie, di ritorno a settembre

– Closed for holidays, back in September

Millions of Italians leave for their summer break at the same time, around the beginning of August, and taking three weeks or the whole month off is far from unusual.

Ferie – the plural form of feria, which you’ll almost never hear – means “holidays”, but not necessarily the kind you set off on.
– Siamo tutti in ferie estive
– We’re all on summer holiday
While the word vacanza usually refers to a holiday in the sense of a break or trip, ferie are often the holidays you claim from work – like ‘leave’ or ‘time off’.
You might also use the word vacanza.

– Quest’anno andremo in vacanza in Sicilia.

– We’re going on vacation in Sicily this year.

Vacanza can also be used in the plural, literally meaning ‘vacations’:

– le vacanze sono andate bene

– While this literally translates to the rather odd-sounding phrase ‘The vacations went well’, it simply means ‘I/we had a nice holiday’.

The distinction between these two words becomes clearer when you go back to the Latin roots: while vacanza comes from vacantia – ’emptiness’ or ‘leisure’ – ferie comes from feriae, an ancient word for a ‘festival’ or ‘holy day’. 

Ho quindici giorni di ferie pagate.
I have two weeks’ paid leave.

Ha preso una settimana di ferie.
She took a week off work.

It’s plural because it referred to holidays that were marked every year – like the Feriae Augusti, the festival of Roman Emperor Augustus – the summer celebrations introduced in 18 BC that are the origins of modern-day Italy’s Ferragosto

These days, you’ll see ferie and vacanze used practically interchangeably for holidays of all kinds. 

But ferie seems to be more commonly used, especially when talking about vacations around the sacrosant Ferragosto holiday on August 15th. And some say it refers more to taking annual leave, whether you actually take a trip or not.

If you’re planning to work in Italy, you’ll want to ask your employer about ferie retribuite (paid holidays).

But ferie isn’t just for August. Italians also use the phrase giorno di ferie for any day they take off work for any reason.

– ho preso un giorno di ferie
– I took a day off
If you’re lucky, this August you can say:

– ho fatto le ferie al mare 

– I spent (literally ‘did’) my holidays at the seaside
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: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.