Let’s chat up the gondolieri carissimi eccellentissimi

English: Taken from the Rialto Bridge, a lone ...

A lone gondolier takes his gondola up Venice’s Grand Canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attenzione prego, signore e signori! Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen!

Today we are going to Italy. Linguistically speaking. It’s a cheap way to travel. Where should we go? Does nestling comfortably in a gondola and having a gondolier serenade you as the sights of Venice drift slowly by appeal to you? It does? Great! And as you are lining up at the quay and pondering which gondolier to pick (you would want to be serenaded by a gallant one, wouldn’t you?) you could do worse than to quote a few lines from Gilbert and Sullivan‘s operetta The Gondoliers

Hail, hail! gallant gondolieri, ben venuti!
Accept our love, our homage, and our duty.

After this, you might like to burst into song just as the chorus of lovelorn girls did when the two most dashing gondoliers, Marco and Giuiseppe, made their entrance on stage:

Gondolieri carissimi!.…. Dearest gondoliers
Siamo contadine   …… We are peasants (you might like to change this line to suit your professional standing)

To which the gondoliers reply:

Servitori umilissimi.…. Your most humble servants 
Per chi questi fiori       For whom are these flowers
Questi fiori bellissimi?  These most beautiful flowers

And then you sing:

Per voi, bei signori… For you, good gentlemen,
O eccellentissimi!.… Oh most excellent!

Keep a bunch of flowers handy, in case the lagoon is a bit smelly that day, so you can sniff the flowers as you go boating. Then when you step off the gondola at the end of the journey you can hand them over to your gallant gondolier.   

If you don’t want to be so dramatic, you could do as the Romans do when in Rome, (quando a Roma vai, fai come vedrai). Florence will have to be on the itinerary, of course, and maybe the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como or the isle of Capri. But really, anywhere will do – Italy is one of the perennial top tourist destinations, and understandably so.

Leichhardt, Italian Forum, Norton Street

Like Venice but without the water: The Italian Forum in Norton Street, Leichhardt, one of the inner-western suburbs of Sydney. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, Italian is spoken outside of Italy, notably in Switzerland, but also in parts of Croatia and Slovenia, San Marino, Monaco, Malta, and in Italy’s former colonies in Africa, such as Eritrea. In Australia, both Sydney and Melbourne have a “Little Italy” – head for the Italian Forum on Norton Street and Lygon Street, respectively. If you can’t get to these places just pop into your local Italian restaurant and practise your Italian on the staff. Just remember, if you see burro on the menu, it’s butter and not donkey! 

Okay, let’s get talking… to talk is parlare and to talk shop is parlare di lavoro or parlare di affari (lavoro being work or labour, and affari being used in the plural to indicate business affairs or matters. The singular is affare and naturually it’s a masculine word.) To chat is chiacchierare and to chat on the internet is chattare.

So, your conversation could go somewhat along these lines…

English: Lygon, Melbourne, Little Italy

A good place for spaghetti … Lygon, Melbourne’s “Little Italy” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buongiorno will do for good morning or good afternoon and then you can use buonasera for good evening. (Buongiorno, like bonjour in French, means good day). Less formally you could say ciao, meaning hi (although, oddly, it also means goodbye), or you can say salve, meaning hello, greetings etc. Then to ask, how are you?, you can use either come stai or, more formally, come sta? To this you could reply, bene, grazie, meaning fine thanks, or benissimo, meaning very well. And if you feel like being really thankful – and why not, people enjoy such exuberance – you could say grazie molto, meaning thanks very much, or if you really want to count your blessings, grazie mille, a thousand thanks, which is one better than 999 thanks. Go the whole hog!

If you are not feeling bene, when people ask you how you are you might say cosi cosi, meaning so-so (it’s like the French comme ci, comme ça)

Don’t forget to ask your companion how they are – say e tu? in an informal context or e Lui? (formal), meaning and you?

Incidentally, the most usual word for morning in Italian is mattina, and if you did want to say good afternoon it would be buon pomeriggio. But that is a bit of a mouthful and you can see why buongiorno is preferred. To say goodnight is buona notte.

Keep following the blog and hopefully in a decade or two your Italian will be eccellente, if not eccellentissimo.

Bye for now, ciao, arrividerci, a presto, Bernardissimo carissimo eccellentissimo 🙂

Styler (r) as Giuseppe in The Gondoliers with ...

♦Next time you get invited to a fancy dress party, why not go dressed as a gondolier? 

Just look at these wonderful outfits in the Gilbert and Sullivan productions down the years. You must have something similar in your wardrobe. Don’t your pyjamas look something like this?

The top picture top right shows Leonard Osborn (left) as Marco and Alan Styler as Giuseppe in a production that must have taken place in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

How could peasant women resist those wonderful socks and headgear!

Rutland Barrington and Courtice Pounds as Gius...

The bottom picture shows Rutland Barrington and Courtice Pounds in a production dating from round about 1889. 

Personally I prefer the 1940s look.

The expressions on Pounds and Barrington’s faces suggests they are thinking “Do I look naff in this?”

Anyway, you can see why Italy sets the trends and is the fashion capital of the world! 🙂

Photo credits: Wikipedia


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