Italian word of the day: ‘Ristori’

We bet it'll be a relief when you finally understand this word.

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

You may have noticed this word come up in headlines about the latest 'Decreto Ristori', the package of financial aid measures the government has announced to help out those whose pockets have been worst-hit by the Covid-19 emergency in Italy.

READ ALSO: How to apply for Italy's new €1,000 emergency bonus payment

Plug the phrase into Google Translate and you'll get the delicious-sounding 'Refreshments Decree'. But ristori in this context refers to sustenance of a different kind.

The word can indeed mean 'refreshments': ristoro (singular version) comes from the verb ristorare, 'to refresh', especially by eating or drinking.

It derives from the same Latin root that gave us the word 'restaurant', the place you 'restore yourself' with the help of a good meal and a glass (or more) of wine.

That's why you might spot a punto di ristoro ('refreshment stand') in a station or by the motorway, or avail yourself of the servizio di ristoro ('refreshment service') aboard a train. 

But the word can also have a more spiritual sense: it refers to refreshment of the mind as well the body, such as the kind you get from taking a break or getting some sleep.

In this sense we'd translate it as 'solace' or 'relief'.

Dopo un giorno frenetico, il sonno è un grande ristoro.
After a hectic day, sleep is a great relief.

Cercava ristoro dalle sue preoccupazioni in conversazioni con gli amici.
She sought solace from her worries by talking to friends.

This is the sense in which it applies in the Decreto Ristori: the measures are meant to be 'relief' from the hardship that months of restrictions have left many in Italy facing.

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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.