Let’s Go to Italy

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“You may have the universe if I may have Italy” 
Giuseppe Verdi

Venice Road

Several years ago, I organized a family vacation to a language school in the heart of Italy.  I fell in love with the food, idyllic countryside, the art and architecture.  Yet, it was the people and their la bella lingua that captured my heart.  We spent four hours in class, with 20 other students who came from the far reaches of the globe – Poland to Australia, Canada to Argentina.

It is one thing to holiday in a country, quite another to integrate into a vibrantly diverse society.  Mornings were spent in the classroom and the afternoons were designated cultural lessons. The evenings were engaged in perambulating through the ever busy town centre.   We were not allowed to speak English.  The first week was a scramble to understand simple instructions.  When did classes start? Where could we buy groceries?  It was the most fun I had in years.  It was a new beginning, without any cues upon which to depend.

The words that come from Italy tell colourful stories.  The money-changers of Italy brought us the term, “bankrupt.”  Each money-changer had a bench called a “banca” used to place money reserved for lending.  Woe betide the money-changer who experienced financial failure.  The bench,“banca,” was “rotta” or broken and the money-changer was said to be a “banca rotta,” or “bankrupt.”

“Fiasco,” which signifies a complete failure, comes from Venice, known for finely crafted Venetian glass bottles.  The glassblower will only tolerate perfect creations; if a flaw is detected, the bottle is turned into a common flask, called in Italian, “fiasco.”

Quarantine comes from the Italian “quaranta,” meaning “forty,” representing the number of days a ship, considered to carry an infectious disease, was forced to remain out of port.  The unfortunate Niccolo Machiavelli of Florence, who wrote “The Prince” has come to be associated with “evil’ (Machiavellian) and the “ends justify the means.”  On the other extreme, the “Pope” comes from the Italian “papa,” meaning father.

“The name of Italy has magic in its very syllables.” 
Mary Shelley

 

43 thoughts on “Let’s Go to Italy

  1. Most people wouldn’t think to take a language course while on vacation, but this sounds like a great way to get acquainted with another country.
    When I first moved to Norway (twenty odd years ago) I took a language course and also met a diverse group of people immigrating here… I sat next to a woman from Kathmandu and remember thinking, how cool is this!

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    • How cool is that, indeed! I would have loved to be in the course with you! What fun! Most of us like our creature comforts – we even like to take our world with us when we go on vacation. We expect to have the same toothpaste, the same lodgings and the same spices in our food. Real adventures are rather uncomfortable because they take us out of our comfort zone – something which, I have noticed you have learned to embrace with great enthusiasm! The night we arrived at the school, it was late and I was tired. I sat on the side of the bed and cried! The next day, the sunshine was brilliant, the school was amazing, and everything that happened was a remarkable surprise. “How cool is this.” 🙂

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    • Thank you! Maybe it’s time we head back to the land of Michelangelo!

      Italia è stato amore a prima vista. (Italy was love at first sight)

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    • My Italian hairdresser would agree with you. We just had Italian Days in Vancouver a couple of weekends ago – the flavour of Italy was in everyone of the booths, each highlighting a different province. Many of the students at the Italian language school said their parents were Italian but have immigrated to other parts of the world. They had sent their children back to learn the language. 🙂

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  2. I LOVE that you organised a family vacation to a language school. Genius 🙂 May I be one of your family next time you do something like that?

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    • Oh!!! That would be so much fun. I always wanted to learn Gaelic and Homecoming Scotland 2014 is just a year away…. 🙂

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      • Oh, Gallivanta! What an amazing story. 58 languages! Brilliant man, who used all of his talents for peaceful outcomes. I am going to see if there is any biographies on him. 🙂 What I found so far is his books on Grammar and Russia. I can’t believe that someone didn’t write about him!!!

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      • His story truly astonishes me but what astonishes me more is that his achievements are so little celebrated here.’ Cheerful Giver,’ Williams, Ariadna Tyrkova (1935) ; perhaps no longer available? Does your library have a requesting service? Some libraries for a small fee will search libraries, country wide, for a copy of a requested book.

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      • I went on Amazon.com – this book is currently unavailable, but I have sent a request via the Vancouver Public Library! Will let you know my progress! Thank you so much. By the way, I am enjoying the Christchurch Library blog! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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      • Excellent. I love our libraries. I can sit at home and order books, download their Freegal music, download ebooks if I wish, and read newspapers from their online site. So lucky.

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      • I agree – Libraries available 24/7. If only we had access to the Library of Alexandria… AHHHHH….

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  3. Wonderful photo of the Grand Canal, Rebecca. Yes, I was reading about the “banca rotta” the other day, when I posted my pic of the Ponte Vecchio, and wanted some historical info about it. 🙂

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    • I saw that photo – I loved walking on the Ponte Vecchio. I confess, I had no idea what “banca rotta” meant before I looked it up last night. There is always something to learn and somewhere to travel. Let’s keep on adventuring.

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  4. Great experience to arrive in a country not knowing the language. A person’s “mother tongue” all of a sudden seems very important. But what a learning experience to learn a language fresh in a new country.

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    • I agree! Learning Italian gave me insight into English, especially the grammar side. I feel in love with words all over again. 🙂

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  5. I always feel it’s most fun to go somewhere and live as the locals, eat at the little restaurants, shop at the markets…

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    • I agree – that is the only way to travel. Wherever you go, you can then say you feel “at home.” 🙂

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    • I am so glad that you stopped by! Ah, Italy!!! It was the only place that I ate everything in sight and still lost weight. 🙂

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    • I must confess that my son, who was 13 at the time, said to me: “Mommy, you know that I love you very much if I leave school to go on vacation to another school.” It was an remarkable experience for him. He continued with his Italian language studies throughout high school and is now taking German in University. Diversity, as you have said so often, brings depth and breadth to our lives. 🙂

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  6. In high school I studied two years of french when I was in France I just talked in Spanish it was not as easy as I thought, but when I went to Italy I discovered I could understand what they were saying and I could speak the language it was so easy for me, also they are loud and talk with their hands just like me 😉 also very family oriented.

    Your posts are wonderful so many words that we use and do not notice where they are from, enjoying the post 😉

    you study in Italy what a wonderful thing they say its very different living than just traveling for a couple of weeks,you made me travel with your words and photo thanks ;).

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    • How interesting. My Italian friend said the same thing about Spanish. He was able to understand and converse with those who spoke Spanish. My son and I attended Italian language classes when we returned from Italy. Our dear professore spent several lessons on the Italian language of hand movements and body language. Fascinating!!! I am so glad that you enjoyed this post. I am learning as I go along – always wonderful to be able to share new ideas with friends!! Many hugs! 🙂

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  7. Thank you for this wonderful recount of your holiday.I’m taking my family to Lake Garda in July and will make it across to Venice to soak up the majesty of it’s art and architecture. I have a growing affection in my soul for Italy, it can only grow bigger…

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    • You are going to have so much fun!! 🙂 Travelling seems to connect families with the “greater family.” They say that you should get lost in Venice, which we did! We stayed on Via Garibaldi. It was out of the tourist area and close to a beautiful park where all of the locals went to relax. I loved walking through the long avenue until we came to the water. Fresh fruits and vegetables off boats on the canal. I look forward to hearing about your adventures. Safe travels….

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  8. Your articles are so refreshing, dear Rebecca, and none more so than this series on language. How wonderful to have indulged in Italian life in such a splendid fashion. It amazes me how our lives run in sync with each other. I was on Amazon last night, researching books on Italy and its wonderfully romantic language. I have added several to my wish list, including one called “La Bella Lingua” [Dianne Hales]. Blessings, dear friend.

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    • When I read your comments, I felt goosebumps! I found “la bella lingua” and added to my Amazon wish list. The average rating at the Vancouver public library is almost 5/5. Language is a gift – Gallivanta shared this link that I think you would enjoy. A man who learned 58 languages and used his talents to seek peaceful outcomes. Thank you so much for your visit – you always make my day!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Williams_%28ling

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