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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather like a true Italian

Although Italy is known for being balmy and bright, Italians have plenty of expressions and proverbs to refer to cold and rainy weather. Here are ten phrases you can throw into conversation in these chilly days.

Fa un freddo cane.
Fa un freddo cane. Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

The weather in Italy has taken a turn for the colder and wetter, with storms and snow sweeping through the country.

As autumn turns into winter, the mercury is set to drop even further, setting teeth chattering and extremities tingling.

Of course, the temperature difference is markedly different between the northern alpine regions and the much milder southern regions.

READ ALSO: From beer to hairdryers: 10 Italian words that come from German

Still, Italians from all corners of the peninsula share a love of talking about how cold and wet it is, so if you’re an Italian language learner who wants to impress with your command of cold-themed lingo, we’ve got you covered.

Che Freddo GIF - Che Freddo Coperta Cold GIFs

Fa un freddo cane

When the cold is really biting, simply saying fa freddo (it’s cold) doesn’t go far enough. Fa un freddo cane is an idiomatic phrase used in spoken Italian on those freezing cold days. It means, “It’s freezing cold!”

The phrase literally translates as, “It makes a cold dog”, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. But it means something more like “it’s dog cold!”

Dogs don’t have much to do with the phrase in reality, much like with the English phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs”. It’s just a (polite) way of emphasising how awfully cold it is. For more language tips on this phrase, see here.

Ho il naso gelato

“Sono stanco e ho fame, ho la coda gelata, e il naso gelato, e le orecchie gelate, e i piedi gelati”.

This adorable quote from one of the puppies in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians pretty much sums up winter. Everything is cold and frozen.

As the family of dogs made their way through freezing snow drifts to escape the evil clutches of Cruella de Vil, one of the exhausted little fellas said, “I’m tired and I’m hungry, my tail is froze, and my nose is froze, and my ears are froze, and my feet are froze”.

cold 101 dalmatians GIF

READ ALSO: 10 of the most common Italian translation fails

Of course, it should be frozen in English but he’s only little for getting past participles right.

Although you’ll likely best know gelato as a staple of Italian food, in winter you’ll probably have an ‘ice cream nose’ at some point. It really means you have a frozen nose, as gelato simply means ‘frozen’ from the verb to freeze, ‘gelare‘.

Che freddo, ho i brividi!

When you want to express how chilly the weather is making you feel, you might want to convey that it really is so cold that you’re shivering.

So you could say through chattering teeth, ‘Che freddo, ho i brividi!’ to mean, ‘It’s so cold! I’ve got the shivers!’

Ho la pelle d’oca

Another way of saying that you’re suffering from the freezing temperature is to compare your skin to that of a goose’s.

In English you’d say, ‘I’ve got goosebumps’, whereas the Italian equivalent is close: ‘Ho la pelle d’oca’ means ‘I’ve got goose skin’.

Tom Holland Spider Sense GIF - Tom Holland Spider Sense Spider Man GIFs

Cielo a pecorelle acqua a catinelle

If you really want to show off your language chops, try throwing this Italian proverb into conversation. It literally means, “Sky in sheep’s clothing, water in buckets” and is the great classic of Italian weather proverbs.

Not only does it give a clear picture of the impending rain shower, it also has a solid scientific basis.

READ ALSO: 12 of the most useful Italian words you need to know

Those small clouds similar to lots of little cotton balls – that look like a flock of sheep – are cirrocumulus clouds found between six and seven thousand metres above sea level. They indicate the presence of cold and unstable air at that altitude, often signalling the arrival of a humid warm front accompanied by possible thunderstorms or showers.

So, the next time you see this cloud formation in the sky, you can say ‘Cielo a pecorelle acqua a catinelle!’ and therefore both sagely predict the weather and impress people with your Italian at the same time.

Viene giù che Dio la manda

“It’s raining and God is sending it”, was the custom, blaming God for the bad weather. Blasphemy is a delicate topic in Italy, a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic, but you’ll notice that a lot of Italian phrases curse God or Mary (Madonna).

If you really want to emphasise how much it’s raining, this phrase will express it well – just be careful who you say it to.

Piove di brutto

Perhaps you want to say more than it’s just simply raining. The heavens are opening and it’s bucketing down, it’s definitely not a little drizzle. 

Commenting ‘piove’ doesn’t quite cut it in this case. Adding on ‘di brutto’ makes it clear that it’s raining ‘badly’. You can use ‘di brutto’ in a lot of contexts to emphasise your point, just as in English you might say you want something badly. It isn’t always necessarily negative, rather that it magnifies and adds weight to your point.

Rain Rainy Day GIF - Rain Rainy Day Miss You GIFs

READ ALSO: 19 of your favourite Italian words (and some of ours)

Piove di dirotto

The expression ‘piove a dirotto‘ is used to describe an abundant, copious amount of rain. The origin of the term is believed to be linked to the etymology of the adjective ‘dirotto‘, which means ‘broken’.

So it provides the imagery of rain breaking into several parts, a heavy rainstorm therefore, like a river bursting its banks.

Si muore di freddo

It’s so cold that you can’t feel your fingers or your toes and all you can do is imagine getting somewhere warm and cosy before you turn into a complete ice block.

‘Si muore di freddo’ gives the really rather serious impression that it’s so cold, you’ll die because of it – equivalent to the English ‘I’m dying of cold’.

Piove sul bagnato

If it’s so wet that you just can’t get any wetter, this phrase will come in handy. ‘Piove sul bagnato’ means it’s raining on the wet.

Handy for those days when you wonder if you’ll ever see the blue sky again.

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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

UPDATED: Some of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

Listening to podcasts is a great way to immerse yourself in a new language. For everyone from beginners to advanced learners, here's a list of audio shows that will help improve your Italian.

UPDATED: Some of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

After we published a list of top 10 podcast recommendations for Italian language students, several readers got in touch with their own suggestions.

Below you can find our updated list of the best podcasts to listen to when learning Italian, featuring additional reader recommendations. Enjoy!

For beginners to intermediate learners:

In 2022, there’s a vast range of podcasts for people wanting to learn Italian from scratch – here we’ve selected just a few.

Since beginners will often struggle to understand even slow Italian, almost all these podcasts come with a paid subscription tier that provides access to transcripts and other accompanying materials.

That said, you don’t need to pay anything to simply listen to most of these shows. Give them a try, and see what you can pick up for free.

Coffee Break Italian

The creators of this show are on to a winning format: stop native speakers of a language in the street to ask them questions on a given theme; slowly repeat their answers and translate them into English; replay the interviews so the listener can fill in the gaps they missed the first time around.

It’s a simple but highly effective technique, allowing learners to acquaint themselves with the language as spoken by real Italians while giving them the tools they need to extract meaning from strong accents and colloquial turns of phrase.

News in Slow Italian

This podcast does exactly as advertised: gives you the week’s major international news in a (very) slow Italian.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best TV shows and films to help you learn Italian

It’s good for keeping up with current events as well as learning the language. One particularly useful function of the paid tier is that it allows you to hover over certain phrases in the transcript and see the English translation.

Easy Italian News

Can’t get enough of people slowly reading the news to you in Italian? You’re in luck, because Easy Italian News is another resource that does just this.

Unlike News in Slow Italian, Easy Italian News purports to be entirely free and donation-based, so you have access to the entire transcript as you listen. New episodes every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Italiano Automatico

Alberto Arrighini has taken his highly popular Youtube channel, Impara l’Italiano con Italiano Automatico, and made each episode available to listen to via the Italiano Automatico podcast.

While those who opt to listen via the podcast will miss out on the captions and slides Arrighini provides in his Youtube videos, it’s ideal for busy listeners who want to learn on the go. 

Each episode is roughly 10 minutes long and tackles different aspects of Italian such as regional accents, conjunctions, and answers to questions like when to use essere vs stare.

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian?

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian? Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Quattro Stagioni

This bite-sized podcast from Alessandra Pasqui takes the form of five-minute long episodes covering everything from recipes to travel diaries from Italian cities to biographies of famous Italians.

The programme’s short length makes it perfect listening for walks to the shops or when waiting in line at the post office.

Simple Italian

Simone Pols hosts this programme for intermediate Italian speakers. It’s another basic set up: Pols takes as his starting point a theme or a recent experience and spends around 20 minutes taking about it in slowed-down Italian.

READ ALSO: Seven songs that will help you learn Italian

Recent episodes including his musings on include why it’s important to say no, the definition of beauty, and what he learned from spending six weeks in Palermo.

Italianglot

In Italianglot, Carmine Albanese, a Neapolitan Italian who is also a polyglot fluent in English, French, Spanish and Modern Greek, educates listeners about all aspects of Italian history and culture in his native language. We note that Italianglot promises to help you learn Italian with “minimal effort”, which sounds good to us.

The reader who wrote in to recommend this show says it’s particularly suitable for intermediate learners, but it’s worth noting that it also goes all the way up to C1/C2 level for those with more advanced Italian.

L’italiano vero

L’italiano vero, or ‘True Italian’ boasts of being “the first Italian-learning podcast that speaks to you like a real Italian”, with hosts Cubo and Paolo teaching practical Italian phrases to use in real-life situations like going shopping or having a coffee.

The person who wrote in to champion this show says “I like their senses of humour, and at the same time seriousness about teaching aspects of Italian and Italian life.”

Added extras like episode transcripts require a Patreon subscription, but with their lowest tier starting at €1 a month, you may well find it’s worth the expense.

Italiano con Amore

This podcast comes highly recommended by one reader, who says of host Eleanora Silanis, “She’s delightful and always has interesting subjects. Her diction and her accent are perfect and she speaks just slowly enough to catch every word but not so slowly that it’s tedious.”

The basic podcast is available online for free, and in addition three course levels are offered: ‘Classico’, ‘Plus +’, and ‘Portofino’. This one’s a bit more pricey than the others, but comes with a range of benefits including a workbook and live lessons for higher-tier subscribers.

For advanced learners: 

These podcasts were made for native Italian speakers, but you don’t need to be one yourself to enjoy them.

Practically non-existent until just a few years ago, the Italian podcasting industry has flourished in recent years. Whether you’re into true crime, long-form narrative journalism or science, these days there’s something for everyone.

Here are just a few well-known Italian podcasts for advanced speakers wondering where to start.

Veleno

This 2017 podcast is often referred to as ‘Italy’s Serial’, both for its in-depth investigative journalism and the fact that it’s credited with introducing large swathes of the population to the concept of podcasts altogether.

The story centres around a Satanic Panic that gripped the Bassa Modenese territory in the late 1990’s, leaving huge destruction and grief in its wake.

READ ALSO: The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian

It’s an impressive piece of longform narrative journalism that makes for uncomfortable listening in some parts and will make you burn with righteous indignation in others.

Radiografia Nera

The Radio Popolare news station didn’t exist before 1976: but what if it had? 

That’s the starting point for this podcast from Tommaso Bertelli e Matteo Liuzzi, who in each episode recount a different crime that took place in post-war Milan up until the year the station was founded, sourcing most of their facts from archived court documents and police reports.

You’ll hear plenty of stories about bank robberies and stick-up jobs, but also learn of broader historical crimes such as attempted coups.

The hosts have a rapid-fire style of delivery, so Italian learners may want to slow the podcast down or go back and listen more than once to fully grasp the whole story – but it’s good practice if you want to challenge yourself.

XXX. Photo by Siddharth Bhogra on Unsplash.

Limoni

L’Internazionale‘s Annalisa Camilli has won awards for her in-depth reporting on migration to Italy, but there’s one story from her past that she always kept at arm’s length – until now.

In Limoni, which was released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the G8 protests in Genoa, Camilli looks back at what happened at the 2001 event in which hundreds of protestors were injured and over forty unarmed people were set upon and tortured by police as they prepared to go to bed.

Camilli, who attended the protests as a young person, examines the events in light of information that has come out in the years since, bringing a new clarity to what happened and why things went so badly wrong.

Il gorilla ce l’ha piccolo

Despite its irreverent name (which translates roughly as ‘Gorillas have small d**ks’), this animal-focused podcast contains a genuine treasure trove of information about the animal kingdom.

Presented by the biologist Vincenzo Venuto, each episode takes a broad relational theme, such as families or cheating, and examines how these things play out among various animal species. In looking at how animals handle aspects of sex, birth, ageing, death and grief, Venuto gives us a greater insight into our own species.

Problemi

From Jonathan Zenti, creator of the excellent (sadly only three-episode-long) English language podcast Meat, comes Problemi. In each episode Zenti talks about something he has a problem with, helped along by interjections from one of his own voice-altered alter egos.

In other hands, this might sound like a relatively dull basis for a podcast, but not in these ones. Zenti’s persona as a host is prickly and impious, but equally capable of deep compassion. His lack of interest in self-censorship and sometimes uncomfortably frank disclosures can make this mostly humorous show surprisingly painful at certain moments. It’s one of the few I’ll sometimes return to.

Demoni Urbani

Another true crime podcast here for fans of the genre. Hosted by actor Francesco Migliaccio but authored and produced by an entire creative team, Demoni Urbani (‘Urban Demons’) aims to peel back the surface to reveal the ‘heart of darkness’ beating away in various Italian metropolises.

While the first series focused solely on Italy, later episodes have gone international, narrating the stories of crimes committed as far away as Japan and the former Soviet Union. The reader who wrote to endorse this podcast recommended it for its “great true crime stories. Excellently told.”

Do you have any recommendations for an Italian podcast we haven’t mentioned here? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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