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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 ELECTIONS

The Italian vocabulary you’ll need to follow the elections

Italian political goings-on are famously unpredictable, but they don't have to be impossible to understand. Here's a guide to the words and phrases you need to know ahead of Italy's crucial elections this Sunday.

The Italian vocabulary you'll need to follow the elections

Italian politics is hard enough to follow even for those with a lifetime’s experience of the political system and fluency in the language. For foreigners trying to follow events, it can be extremely confusing.

But once you’re armed with a bit of background knowledge and some specifically Italian political language, Italian politics does get easier to understand (at least, most of the time).

READ ALSO: Your ultimate guide to Italy’s crucial elections on Sunday

With Italy preparing for crucial general elections on Sunday, September 25th, it’s especially important to be able to at least get the gist of what’s going on.

From vocabulary basics to the peculiarities of Italian ‘politichese’, here’s The Local’s guide to the language you’ll need when following the election and political news in the coming weeks.

The basics

You may already have a good grasp of some basic political vocabulary, such as partiti politici (political parties) and i sondaggi (opinion polls).

L’elezione is ‘the election’, but Italians use the plural form (le elezioni) for general elections since voters will be choosing representatives in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.

The names for the two parts of parliament are la Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies – the Lower House) and il Senato della Repubblica (the Senate of the Republic – the Upper House).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

Italians vote on September 25th in elections expected to bring easy an victory for far-right and right-wing populist parties. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The system is anything but simple: it’s a mixed voting system with some seats allocated via proportional representation (‘un sistema proporzionale‘) and others by first-past-the-post (uninominale secco).

Don’t be alarmed if, on election day (il giorno di voto), you hear people talking about urns, or urne. Like its English equivalent, an ‘urna‘ is a kind of vase or container, but in Italian it’s used to refer to the ballot box, rather than anything to do with funerals. In Italian, andare alle urne means to ‘go to the polls’, or to cast your vote.

You do this using a scheda elettorale, or ballot paper – in fact, voters get two ballot papers – one for each house of parliament – at the polling booth (cabina elettorale). Or you might not: abstaining from voting (astensionismo) is increasingly common in Italy. 

As soon as voting ends, we’ll get an exit poll (this one’s easy – ‘gli exit poll’) and by the early hours of the morning, we should have the early results (risultati preliminari)

The parties – and campaign slogans

Italy has a large number of political parties and an ever-shifting political landscape, meaning some of the bigger names in this election may already be familiar while others were previously unknown.

Here’s a quick rundown of the main parties in the mix this time, their names in both Italian and English, and the slogans they’re using:

Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, or FdI).

Slogan: ‘Pronti’ – The hard-right party expected to take the largest share of the vote has the single word slogan pronti, meaning ‘are you ready?’

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

Is Italy ready for election season, and a new government? – A campaign poster shows hard-right Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni, who is likely to become the next prime minister. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

The League (Lega)

Slogan: ‘Credo’ – meaning ‘I believe’. Matteo Salvini’s right-wing populist party was told off by Catholic bishops for using a slogan with religious themes in attempt to appeal to the country’s conservative, religious voters. Posters have since featured various longer slogans, including ‘credo negli italiani‘ (I believe in the Italians).

Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle, M5S)

Slogan: ‘Dalla parte giusta’ – The populist party now headed by former PM Giuseppe Conte has chosen a simple slogan meaning ‘on the right side’.

Democratic Party (Partito democratico, PD)

Slogan: ‘Scegli’ – another one-word campaign slogan, this one means ‘choose’. Political analysts say it’s being used by Italy’s second-biggest party as a way to highlight its opposition to Brothers of Italy.

Italian Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta is asking voters to ‘choose’ his party over the ruight-wing coalition. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Azione + Italia Viva (Action and Italy Alive)

Slogan: ‘Italia, sul serio’ – These two small centrist parties are running together for election, presenting themselves as the sensible, moderate choice with the campaign slogan ‘Italy, seriously’. 

Forza Italia (Variously translated as ‘Go Italy’ or ‘Forward Italy’)

Slogan: none. Silvio Berlusconi’s party has chosen not to use one particular slogan this time, though some campaign posters feature the words ‘oggi più che mai‘, meaning ‘now more than ever’.

Find our complete guide to who’s who in the Italian elections here.

Italian ‘politichese’

Political-speak (or ‘politichese’) can be as dense and impenetrable in Italian as in any other language. 

But it can also be illuminating to learn a few of the words and phrases used in political discussions (and by journalists in particular) to describe the peculiarities of the Italian system.

Here are a few examples:

Toto-nomi

The prefix toto- is used in Italian news reports wherever speculation abounds: it comes from the football pools or totalizzatore calcistico (‘Football totalizer’, or football sweepstake), known as Totocalcio for short.

Totonomi then translates as something like ‘name sweepstake’. It’s an adaptation of toto-nomine (‘nomination sweep’) – which at election time is used for speculation about the most widely-tipped candidates for various offices.

You’ll also see toto- in totopoltrone (‘parliamentary seat sweep’), or totoministri (‘minister sweep’, referring to who will make the cabinet in a newly elected government).

A variation on this is fantapolitica, which similarly comes from fantacalcio, or Italian fantasy football. This word is used to talk about hypothetical election results, government coalitions, and future cabinet members, whether these are realistic or improbable: fantasy politics, if you will.

Former Prime Minister Matteo in parliament. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Ipotesi

An ipotesi is, as you might guess, a hypothesis or theory. When used in newspaper headlines, it fulfils a similar role to toto~, allowing journalists to speculate as to what may have happened or be about to happen.

In the context of election news, you’ll usually see ipotesi followed by the last name of a potential nominee, e.g. ‘l’ipotesi Melonii‘ or ‘l’ipotesi Conte‘, along with discussion of the likely success of that person’s policy or candidacy.

Trasformismo

A time-honoured Italian tradition, this is the act of switching your political allegiance depending on how the wind blows.

Gattopardismo

Un gattopardo is a leopard, so what is ‘gattopardismo‘? Not too distant from trasformismo, it’s a word used to describe the act of adapting your attitudes to the changing political climate in order to maintain a position of power and influence – something political figures in Italy are regularly accused of doing.

The concept was described in the book Il gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the most frequently-quoted line of which is: “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi” (If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change).

Poltrone

Why would a power-hungry politician be keen to deny that he is “hunting for armchairs”? In this case, such a statement has nothing to do with furniture shopping. Una poltrona does of course mean “armchair” or “seat” and it can be used to talk about a job or position within a company, or in this case, a government. 

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered on how Italy’s elections work

In a political context, a politician on the hunt for poltrone is attempting to gain important ‘seats’ or positions for his party members within the government. Expect to see this word in news reports following the election.

Political nicknames

Some politicians and political parties in Italy have well-known nicknames.

For example, the League is sometimes referred to as ‘Il Carroccio’, the name for a medieval ox-drawn altar used for pre-battle church services. This was used as a symbol by the party back when it was called the Northern League.

And League leader Matteo Salvini is often referred to by his supporters as ‘Il Capitano’, or ‘The Captain’, which seems to be a reference to his preferred policy of leaving migrant rescue ships stranded at sea.

Meanwhile, Italia Viva leader and former PM Matteo Renzi is known as “il rottomatore” (“the scrapper”, or “the wrecker”) due to his unpopular habit of destabilising coalition governments.

Silvio Berlusconi meanwhile is often referred to in media reports as “l’immortale” (the immortal) because of his long political career, which continues today despite numerous sex scandals, a tax fraud conviction, regular health scares, and his advancing age.

There are of course plenty of other, more insulting nicknames used in Italian politics, which we won’t list here.

Is there another word or phrase you think we should add to the list? Please get in touch by email and let us know.

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