Italian word of the day: ‘Imbiancato’

Here's a word you might find useful with the wintry weather arriving in northern Italy today.

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

Whenever freezing weather arrives in Italy, it makes for some stunning photos of famous sights transformed by more than a slight dusting of snow.

Many visitors are surprised to learn that it can snow heavily even in southern Italy, and that snowfall is common in the north. There's no doubt that Italy's already jaw-dropping sights and landscapes are even more magical in this weather. 

Luckily, Italians have a particular word to describe the phenomenon. 

Imbiancato is an adjective used to describe something that has been turned white, or diventato bianco.


We don't have a one-word equivalent for this in English – it would be something like 'enwhitened'.

Some dictionaries give 'whitewashed' as an English translation, but that doesn't quite work – since we don't say that snow has “whitewashed” a place.

For example:

– La neve ha imbiancato i sassi di Matera

– The snow has turned Matera’s Sassi white.

– Vedemmo Vesuvio imbiancato

– We saw Mount Vesuvius covered in snow

As if one cool word for being covered in snow wasn't enough, you could also use innevato, also meaning snowy or snow-covered.

– l'intera città era innevata

– The whole city was covered in snow

We think these are beautiful examples of how sometimes we express even the simplest thoughts completely differently in Italian than we would in English.

And of course, you can also say:

-Sulla neve

– In the snow

– Coperto di neve

– Covered in snow

So when you come across a magical Italian winter landscape, at least you won't be lost for words in Italian.

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: ‘A meno che’

You might want some help mastering this phrase, unless your Italian is already advanced.

Italian expression of the day: 'A meno che'

It’s always helpful to have a little caveat up your sleeve when making plans – just in case something crops up and you need to change course.

In English, there’s a pretty simple way to express this idea: we just use the word ‘unless’ followed by the present simple.

Italian, however, is a bit more complicated. We need to add a non after a meno che – something that can trip up anglophones – and then follow this with a subjunctive, since we’re talking about a hypothetical situation.

Potremmo andare a fare un giro in bicicletta, a meno che tu non abbia da fare?
We could go for a bike ride, unless you’re busy?

La festa si terrà all’aperto, a meno che non piova.
She’ll have the party outdoors unless it rains.

To wrap your head around this addition of a negative, it can help to think of the Italian translation less as “unless XYZ is the case” so much as something along the lines of “as long as XYZ weren’t the case.”

A meno che is the most common variant you’ll hear, but if you want to mix things up a bit, you could instead use any of salvo che, tranne che, or eccetto che.

Il rimborso sarà effettuato entro 24 ore, signora, salvo che Lei non cambi idea prima di allora.
The refund will be processed within 24 hours, madam, unless you change your mind before then.

L’intervento chirurgico non è necessario, tranne che i sintomi non causino dolore.
Surgery isn’t necessary unless the symptoms are causing you any pain.

Unless you’ve been watching TV throughout this explainer, we’re sure you’ll be confidently using a meno che and its equivalents in no time.

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