There’s one country in Europe which has particularly distinctive border shapes – il Bel Paese. Looked at from above it looks like a boot. Actually, that’s the reason why Mainland Italy (or the Apennine Peninsula) is sometimes nicknamed as lo Stivale (or the Boot). Three other smaller peninsulas, as a matter of fact, shape it like a boot. If we look at the geographic map of Europe, we shall see that Calabria forms the “toe”, Salento (southeastern part of Puglia) is the “heel” and the “spur” is Gargano Promontory (in Apulia again).
B E L P A E S E
Apart from the extraordinarily shaped borders as a boot, Italy is an exceptionally sunny and inviting country. No matter whether you’re to the south or north, at the eastern or western coasts, Italia will always welcome you with its mild climate (with some exceptions) – extremely warm summers and spring-like winters. That’s why when Italy is mentioned, people associate it with il sole (sun).
The other major element of the country is il mare (sea). And it’s natural because il Bel Paese lies on 4 big seas (the Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas), all of them being part of the Mediterranean basin.
Principally, sea has a magic power over people and it transforms them since it gives them the feeling of immensity, freedom and amore. Sì, amore (love) …. amore grande (big love) …
This is the third “component” of the structure of Italy. It’s a result of the two above-mentioned elements. What do I mean? When sun goes hand in hand with sea, this combination is amazing because it results in the existence of la gente di mare (“sea people”). For me these are the most open-minded, the warmest, the most loving and the most affectionate people ever. They fall in love easily and when they love, l’amore (love) is true and forever. They are too passionate and are always dedicated to the ladies of their hearts.
Some say the Italians are grandi amanti (great lovers). Yes, it’s true … It’s absolutely true and it applies especially to those from Southern Italy (Puglia, Sicily, Campania mainly). But there’s one other truth about them – they are really extremely romantici (romantic). They will never ask you to be theirs unless they have brought you to a romantic dinner near the sea and unless you both have already had a romantic stroll under the shiny stars. Mmmmm …. and then they will fare l’amore (make love) unlike some other nations, that would probably prefer only the physical “activity”. In other words said, the Italians simply know how to trattare una donna (to treat a representative from the opposite gender) and make her feel a real woman. But … despite this, I would humbly advise you to be a little bit more careful with the Italians from the South who are supposed to be more hot-blooded than these from the North. 😉
Being on the topic of love, I cannot avoid mentioning that even their language is la lingua d’amore (the language of love). The Italian language is so sing-songy and it sounds so melodically that every word is like an “opera aria”. However, there are too many dialetti (dialects) like it is in all other languages. So, if you travel from the south to the north you will stumble upon too many unknown words that will confuse you and finally, you will get lost. This is due to the long and very often separate history of the Italian city-states from the past. I won’t dig deeper in this topic too much as I am not an expert of the Italian history and dialects. The only thing I will do is to “teach” you some words and phrases which I know from my friends from the different regions of Italy.
Puccia, for instance, is a type of (rustic) bread typical for Puglia (Lecce in particular). Being accustomed to good rustic cuisine, men from the region use the word as a pet name for the ladies of their hearts. Thus Southern Italian men’s love goes through their stomachs (like every men’s love, actually 😀 ). Bedda (bella, beautiful) and picciotta (ragazza, young girl) are typically Sicilian. As to Campania, you will find too many examples if you watch Benvenuti al Sud (Welcome to the South). Here I will just try to give you only this humble instance: “Non fare progetti.” (”Don’t make plans”. So far, so good. It’s easy to translate.) … 😀 The funny part is starting nooow … “E cos bell succern all’improvis” (yeap, letters are “eaten up”, some of them look strange … and the translation is as follows: “Beautiful things happen all of a sudden”) …. 😀
Now let us move to the North. As far as the Venetian dialect is concerned, let me give you the following few examples: “dòlse” (dolce, sweet), ”dòna” (donna, woman), ”fìa” (ragazza, young girl) e ”fìo” (ragazzo, young boy).
Being in Rome, at a time you might be “awarded” with the typical Roman greeting mortacci tua by local drivers. I am not sure, you will want to know what it means … But why not? Let me open a bracket here and tell you what that “greeting” (sometimes a swear and curse) means. So, as I said it is an expression typical for Rome and Lazio. It is widely used and spread on the road while you are stuck in the traffic jam or you watch a football match at stadiums (it is used mainly against referees and their ancestors) or even in daily life as a polite greeting (e.g. if you get married you might get one mortacci tua). However, the English translation of this expression is not good at all because literally it means: “may your dead ancestors and their souls burn in hell forever and ever”. And just imagine having a birthday and your Roman friends congratulate you on it like this: “Mortacci tua. Auguriiiiiiiii” (May your ancestors and their souls burn in hell forever and ever. Many, many happy returns of the day.). Strange politeness, a? :). The bracket closed.
Having mentioned the language-and-dialect element, I am moving to another one – il patrimonio storico e artistico (the historic and artistic heritage) of Italy. Wooow .. Jesus, it’s huge (like that of Hellas). That’s why I adore both countries. Italy possesses about 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites and it ranks it as an absolute leader in terms of the number of UNESCO sites in the world. Campania Felix has the greatest numbers of UNESCO monuments in Italy followed by other regions. It’s a fact that wherever you go in the country, you take journeys through history. And here is il perché (why).
You get the kisses of Venus. You shout lasciatemi qui (leave me here). You meet the white-blue-green queen of Puglia. All roads lead you to the sea (Tutte le strade portano al mare). You realize that the Amalfi Coast is beautiful beyond any belief. The Itria Valley turns your fantasy in stone. The Island of Emperors awaits you. Caput Mundi embraces you. You see Naples and then die (vedi Napoli e poi muori). What else? You get assured that Tuscany is beautiful from above. You indulge in eating a Tiramisù and watch il Palio like a true Medici. But your trip won’t stop here as you ought to meet the Colossus of the Apennines or spend a night in Venice. Having arrived in la Serenissima, you take an entertaining ride in a Venetian gondola, while the sun is going to sleep. Last but not least, you visit the moral capital of Italy and make sure that your trip doesn’t end here and that you will be closer to the sky than the sea very soon again.
Finally, I should mention la cucina italiana (Italian cuisine) which is part of the culture of the Italians. Let us start with pasta and spaghetti that are sacred to the them. They are even often nicknamed as “Spaghetti Men” because they consume them (and pasta in general) once or sometimes even twice a day. Another meal alla italiana is la pizza prepared by the famous pizzaiolo (pizza maker) from Naples whose name was Raffaele Esposito. Mr Panzerotto is the small version of the stuffed, folded pizza (calzone) with a filling of pomodori and mozzarella. The Italians also have too many dolci (sweets) and temptations but for sure my favourite ones are Babbà napoletano, cannoli sicliani and the “greenly delicious” cassata siciliana.