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Italian word of the day: ‘Sfizio’

This word can be hard to resist.

'Sfizio' written on a black chalkboard background
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Italy is a great place to give in to simple pleasures. That pastry you have for breakfast, or the extra cup of coffee you allow yourself after lunch. Or perhaps just those last five minutes taking in the sunshine when you really should be back at your desk already (ahem, guilty).

Naturally Italians have a word for such indulgences: sfizi (plural), the little ‘whims’ or ‘fancies’ that strike all of us now and then.

Uno sfizio (pronounced “svee-tsio”) is something you don’t need but for whatever reason, you want. 

Ognuno ha i suoi sfizi.
Everyone has their whims.

In Italy such desires are often met by food, which is why you often see sfizi crop up on menus: it’s a term for all the extras you might be tempted to add to your order – ‘treats’, essentially. You might also see the adjective form, sfizioso, used to describe dishes (or any other things) that are ‘indulgent’ or ‘extravagant’.

Insieme ai vini vengono serviti sfizi locali.
Delicious local delicacies will be served along with the wine.

Questo gelato è proprio sfizioso.
This ice cream is really indulgent.

But uno sfizio isn’t just the thing that satisfies your craving, it’s also the craving itself. You talk about ‘freeing yourself from the whim’ (tolgiersi or levarsi lo sfizio), or as we might put it in English, ‘giving in to the urge’ or ‘scratching the itch’.

Oggi mi leverò uno sfizio, comprerò quel giubbotto che desidero da tanto tempo.
Today I’m going to give in to the urge and buy that jacket I’ve had my eye on for so long.

È uno sfizio che devo togliermi.
It’s an itch I just have to scratch.

Caprices like these can drive you to act per sfizio: ‘on a whim’, ‘just for fun’ or ‘for the heck of it’.

Me lo sono comprato solo per sfizio.
I bought it purely on a whim. 

La Juve sembra quasi giocare male per sfizio.
Juventus almost seem like they’re playing badly for the heck of it.

Which sfizi will you give in to today?

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

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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.