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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Nasone’

Have a little sip from our fount of knowledge with today's word.

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

Give in to the temptation to dip a toe in one of Rome’s historic fountains in the sweltering August heat, and you can expect to be hit with an eye-watering fine.

But there’s one form of relief that the city offers up to all without asking for a cent in return: its cold drinking water fontanelle (fountains) – informally and affectionately known as nasoni (nah-ZOH-nee).

The word’s origins are simple: a naso is a nose, and the suffix -one (pronounced ‘OH-neh’), makes a noun or adjective into a bigger version of itself.

mangione, for example, is a glutton, a mammone is an adult mama’s boy, and buffone – a buffoon or fool – comes from buffo, the medieval Latin word for ‘clown’ and the modern Italian word for ‘funny/silly/odd’.

nasone (nah-ZOH-neh), then, is a big nose. Had it ever occurred to you that the spouts on Rome’s fontanelle look a bit like oddly shaped noses? It will now.

Sneer Aardvark GIF by Comms Creatives
Cyril Sneer
Tourists fill their bottles from a 'nasone'.
A Roman ‘nasone’. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Un minuto che riempio la mia bottiglia dal nasone.
One minute while I fill my bottle from the fountain.

Nasone is a regular noun, which means the plural is nasoni. Aside from fountains, the word can also be applied to people with big noses – nasone for a man endowed with a large snout, nasona for a woman.

The water from nasoni is supplied by the utilities company Acea and is the same as that which is pumped into Roman’s homes, meaning it’s regularly tested and perfectly safe to drink.

There are more than 2,500 across the city, and the Nasoni a Roma app – despite being a little janky at times according to user reviews – is one of the most comprehensive when it comes to mapping out their locations.

The fountains were introduced to Rome shortly after Italian unification in the 1870s by mayor Luigi Pianciani, who decided to provide free drinking water to all the city’s residents.

The nasoni were shut off for several months when Rome experienced a severe drought in the summer of 2017, but the move was met with heavy criticism by the Italian Water Movements Forum (truly) who said it didn’t do much to help and unfairly penalised the homeless who were reliant on the fountains.

Since then, despite a dry spell in 2019 and Italy experiencing its worst drought in 70 years in 2022, the noses have – so far – stayed running.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Ragazzi’

Guys, seriously. You have to know this word.

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

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: you’ll never fit in among Italians if you don’t start using the word ragazzi.

Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find a simple enough definition: un ragazzo is a boy, una ragazza is a girl, i ragazzi are boys and le ragazze are girls.

All valid uses, but trust me, they’re not the whole picture. Ragazzi (if you’re talking to an all-male or mixed group), ragazze (if you’re talking to women), or the shortened version raga’ (good for both) are terms you’ll hear all the time in Italy, with no kids in sight.

They mean, roughly, ‘guys’, ‘folks’, ‘lads’, ‘ladies’, ‘you lot’ – anything you’d use to address a group of people at once.

Ciao raga’!
Hi guys!

OK ragazze, cosa facciamo stasera?
OK ladies, what are we doing tonight?

Forte, eh ragazzi?
Cool, right lads?

It helps that Italians’ definition of what constitutes a ragazzo/a is extremely broad.

To illustrate: when movers started carrying boxes into the empty apartment next to mine, I was informed that my new neighbour was “un ragazzo”. Upon meeting him, I discovered that he was over 50. With grey hair. And yet, because he’s unmarried and lives alone, in Rome (by the standards of my building at least) he’s considered a lad.

Ragazzo/a/i/e can be a casual way to refer to people of (almost) any age, even when you’re not talking directly to them.

È venuto il ragazzo di Napoli.
The guy from Naples came.

Lei vive con due ragazzi.
She lives with two guys.


‘Girls in Beverly Hills’, better known in English as Clueless.

That said, ragazzi still implies a certain youth – and above all, familiarity – so it’s advisable to choose another term when you’re speaking to people to whom you need to show respect, such as bosses or new in-laws. Basically, if they’re part of your gang, they’re ragazzi; if not, best call them something else.

And there’s one more reason to be careful: if you call someone your ragazzo, you’ve just implied that you’re romantically involved.

La mia ragazza mi ha lasciato.
My girlfriend left me.


‘Her boyfriend calls her fat and she decides to change her life. Here’s how’ (headline on clicknotizie.it) – hint, it involves a diet.

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