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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Ora solare’

What is Italy's 'sun time', and why does it arrive in winter?

Italian expression of the day: 'Ora solare'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

If you're in Italy this weekend, you'll find yourself running on 'sun time'.

No, we're not talking about a late summer (that comes in November) – we mean Italy's ora solare: 'solar time', or what we'd call standard or winter time.

The phrase is used to differentiate from the ora legale ('legal time'), or daylight savings time, which is what Italy – along with the rest of Europe – switches to in summer.

While l'ora solare isn't true solar time, calculated by the movement of the sun in the sky, it's closer to it than l'ora legale, when we're deliberately out of sync by an hour in order to give ourselves an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

Typically l'ora legale lasts for seven months between late March and late October, while l'ora solare is in place throughout the winter.

The clocks go forward (avanti) in spring, while in autumn they go backwards (indietro).

This year the switch falls on Sunday, October 25th, with clocks going back at 3am and giving us an extra hour in bed.

Fra poco si passa all'ora solare: dovremo portare le lancette un’ora indietro.
Soon we'll go back to winter time: we have to put our clocks back an hour.

Note that ora is the word for both 'time' and 'hour' in Italian: you can usually tell the difference by whether it's used with the definite article (l'ora, 'the time') or the indefinite (un'ora, 'an hour').

Potentially l'ora legale could be on its way out: the EU has said that each member state is free to get rid of the clock changes and stick to either winter or summer time all year long.

Italy hasn't yet decided which ora it will pick, or indeed whether it will keep them both. So make the most of that extra hour of sleep while you can.

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

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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