Category Archives: Italy

Mimma Meets an Atheist

I have never been much of a housekeeper, nor cared to be. I grew up in times and places where many people (not just wealthy ones) had live-in servants. My parents both had jobs, and someone else was paid to take care of cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc. When we lived in the US during my Read More…

I have never been much of a housekeeper, nor cared to be. I grew up in times and places where many people (not just wealthy ones) had live-in servants. My parents both had jobs, and someone else was paid to take care of cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc.

When we lived in the US during my late childhood/early adolescence, I learned how to wash dishes and clean a home – tasks that I was perfectly happy to relinquish to someone else when we later moved back to Asia. In college, again, I did for myself, and as a young wife and mother while my husband was in graduate school and then became a university professor, I continued to do most of the household tasks, with “help” from him. Help which I tried, unsuccessfully but unceasingly, to reframe in his mind as “doing his share”.

A few years after we moved to Milan, my own career got busy and I began traveling for work. Enrico did the cooking, childcare, and some cleaning during the times I was out of town, but my struggle for housework equality continued to cause stress in our marriage.

Eventually I was earning enough that I could take the solution that seemed obvious to me: hire someone else to do the housework, someone whose hourly wage was less than either of us could earn in an hour (as a contractor for a US tech company during the dot com boom, I was also paid by the hour – highly).

We had a succession of Sri Lankan immigrants to clean our place in Milan. Perhaps it seemed absurd to hire in someone to clean a three-room apartment (one that I was in all day, too – I worked from home when not traveling), but we ended up with a cleaner home, and one less thing to argue about.

Then we moved to a much bigger apartment in Lecco. I wasn’t working as much around the time that we moved (not by my choice!), but I hoped to return to full-time work, and had no desire to increase the hours I spent on cleaning.

We asked colleagues of Enrico’s and other acquaintances in Lecco for leads on cleaning help. Immigrants were far fewer than in Milan, but there weren’t many Italians willing to clean other people’s houses, either. Eventually, someone introduced us to Mimma.

Mimma (short for Domenica) and her husband Domenico were part of the south-to-north migration that had taken place in Italy in the 1970s. With just elementary schooling, they moved from Sicily to Lecco, where he worked all his career in a paper mill, and she cleaned and ironed for a living. Their children grew up in the north, but, like all Italians, the family kept close ties to its roots, returning to visit the extended family in Sicily every summer.

By the time we met, Domenico had retired from decades of physically gruelling work, and Mimma also wanted to slow down: rather than cleaning houses, she wanted only to do ironing (which she considered relaxing!). But she agreed to do a deep clean of the new rented apartment we were moving into – it had stood vacant for some time and was grimy.

I helped out a bit with that, but, as Mimma was horrified to learn, I really don’t know much about cleaning.

“Didn’t your mother teach you how to clean a house?” she asked indignantly.

I explained that, when I was small, we had servants in Thailand, then I hadn’t lived with my mother anymore, then I was in India… so, no, I had not had much opportunity to learn cleaning techniques, not up to Mimma’s standards. I didn’t mind her telling me (and said so), but I was never likely to be an enthusiastic house cleaner. After that first big clean was done, I begged Mimma to help me find someone who could come in and clean once or twice a week. She agreed that, until such a person could be found, she would do it.

After a few weeks of this, Mimma came in one day and said, in tones of mingled affection and exasperation: “I can’t find anyone else, so I’ve decided that – only for you – I will clean as well as iron.”

I was flattered, and pleased. Mimma was a fantastic housekeeper, but I also enjoyed talking with her, and she with me.

Which may have been unusual in Mimma’s experience of employers in Lecco. Although the factories of northern Italy had needed the labor of the southern migrants back in the 70’s, the northerners never liked the southerners, calling them terroni (“people of the earth” – peasants). Mimma told me that some of her employers over the years had been downright rude. I treated her as an equal, with respect and friendship – because I liked her, and because that’s how I treat people. It would not occur to me to be condescending to someone who’s working for me.

So, Mimma came in twice a week to clean and iron, and each day when she was ready for a break from cleaning, we’d have coffee and chat. Over the years to come, she invited us to coffees and meals at her own spotlessly clean home (she is a fantastic cook), and she and Domenico joined us at family gatherings such as this one (you can see them in the video).

I was open with her as I am with most people, and she felt free to ask personal questions about my life, America, and other places I had lived in. Although we were profoundly different in character and experience, we shared values in being honest, kind, and caring, about working hard and doing good things.

But there was one difference between us that Mimma didn’t expect.

One day early in our relationship, as we sat in the kitchen over coffee, Mimma said casually: “You’re Protestant, right?” As opposed to Catholic. Italians have little experience or knowledge of the variety of non-Catholic Christianity.

“I was baptized Catholic, to please my grandmother, but I’m atheist,” I said simply.

Mimma looked stunned. Clearly, it had never occurred to her that a white, western person could be non-Christian, let alone a non-believer. She was briefly silent, then left the kitchen to get on with cleaning.

After a few minutes, she popped her head back in the door.

“So you don’t believe in God? Any god?”

“No. I never have.”

She disappeared again.

She came back.

“But if you’re invited to a christening or a wedding in a church, would you go?”

“Yes, of course. Those are happy occasions that I want to celebrate with my friends.”

“Oh, ok.” She left again.

I was wryly amused. I’m not sure Mimma herself was a regular churchgoer, but, like many Italians, she considered being Catholic a fundamental part of her identity. She knew that others might have other brands of religion – Italy was seeing enough immigration by then to have daily exposure to many cultures and belief systems – but being completely without a religion was harder for her to fathom.

She soon got over the shock, and I’m not sure we ever discussed it again one way or another, but I never will forget that look of revelation on her face. Yes, there are people in the world who don’t believe in any god at all – and we’re just fine.

Beach Memories

When I was growing up in Bangkok in the late 60’s, Thailand’s beaches were not yet much of a tourist destination. Even Pattaya Beach was unspoiled and seemed barely used (I know that will be beyond the imagining of anyone who first saw it from the late 70’s on). We used to drive down there Read More…

When I was growing up in Bangkok in the late 60’s, Thailand’s beaches were not yet much of a tourist destination. Even Pattaya Beach was unspoiled and seemed barely used (I know that will be beyond the imagining of anyone who first saw it from the late 70’s on). We used to drive down there for weekends. I’d spend hours creating tide-based water systems: it was a never-ending battle to keep the water moving just so, whether the tide was going out or coming in, but I found that more interesting than building sand castles.

You could also pay for horse rides on the beach, something I felt marvelously privileged to do once per trip. Clinging proudly to the horse’s mane, trotting along the beach as the horse man jogged alongside, I was in heaven – in spite of the insides of my bare knees being rubbed raw from riding on a sweaty old saddle in my shorts or bathing suit.

Once, when my parents wanted to get far away from it all, they and a group of friends hired a fishing boat to take us out to one of the little islands off the coast. This was minimally equipped for visitors: three-sided palm-thatched shacks built a few few feet above the ground where the beach met the sparse jungle, food supplied by the villagers who lived the other side of the island. I hunted for shells, played in sparkling sand, and swam in crystal blue waters – once right around the point to the inhabited side of the island!

Back in Bangkok, I was in the pool just about every day and for hours on weekends, playing “Marco Polo” with the swarm of American kids who lived in our apartment compound, and diving for coins even at the deep end.

Deirdré in the pool at Red Rose Court, Bangkok, ~1969

I was a decent swimmer and loved water in any form, though I was afraid of big waves. This was a handicap when my father and I stopped over in Hawaii on our way back to the US when we left Thailand (1971) – I was only 9, and all the waves there looked big to me. My dad’s idea to “cure” this fear was to throw me into the surf. A particularly large wave promptly threw me back, tumbling me end over end, blinding me with foam and filling my ears and nose with sand. After that, I was afraid of anything larger than a one-foot swell.

Then we moved to Pittsburgh, where there are no beaches and I rarely even got near a swimming pool, though I did have a few opportunities to play in creeks at a friend’s farm in western Pennsylvania. I didn’t really see a beach again until we moved to Connecticut – whose beaches were better than no beaches, but far from my memories of Thailand.

In the following years I got still further from sea level, attending high school up in the Indian Himalayas. Coincidentally, my dad and stepmother moved back to Thailand during this time, even living for a year or so in the same apartment complex, Red Rose Court, where I had lived with my dad and mother 10 years earlier. The pool was still there, but not the swarm of kids. I never went in it.

But I did have one significant ocean experience. During a long winter vacation from school, my father and I did a scuba diving course together. That’s a story unto itself, but the final qualifier was a weekend of open-water dives from a boat off Pattaya. By this time my eyesight was so poor that I had to have a dive mask with prescription lenses – which, fortunately, optometrists in Bangkok were well able to make. This made it possible for me to see the wonders under water, which I enjoyed far more than waves and sand.

In early 1980, I took part in the Winter Tour, a six-week trip around India run by Woodstock School to keep students busy during the long vacation, especially those who were in India on a one-year “package program” and would not be returning to their families at Christmas.

We visited several beaches around India – Goa, Kovalam, Trivandrum. By this time I was not enthusiastic about sea swimming: I couldn’t see without my glasses, but was afraid to wear them into the water and risk losing them in rough surf. One afternoon at the beach some friends persuaded me to swim with them, leaving my glasses in care of other friends on the sand. When we finally came out, dusk was falling and our friends had returned to the hotel, carefully taking all our stuff with them – including my glasses. The route back to the hotel was a steep, narrow path, ever less visible in the dimming light. I had to walk with one friend before and one behind, each holding my hand. That walk was terrifying for me; I still occasionally have nightmares about fumbling, near-blind, without glasses.

This consolidated my fear of swimming in any sort of open water, and I’m no longer very keen on pools, either.

Then came twenty years of Italy, with Enrico. On our first visit there together in the summer of 1988, we were traveling around northern Italy, and stopped off to meet some friends of his at a beach in Liguria. I was deeply disappointed: this particular beach had no sand at all, just a scree of smooth stones. People were lounging under regimented rows of umbrellas, with little tables attached to hold drinks and snacks. The water was chilly and uninviting, so they seemed to be there mostly to lie in the sun and chatter with friends.

To my horror, it turned out that many Italian beaches – certainly the most-frequented ones in central and northern Italy – are set up like this with “lidos”: rows and rows of umbrellas and lounge chairs, meticulously maintained and rented by the day, week, or month. Families return to the same beach and even the same umbrellas year after year – the front row, closest to the water, being the most expensive. On the more popular beaches such as Rimini, there may be 10 to 15 rows of umbrellas; those furthest back have effectively no view of the water.

During peak vacation periods, all of these umbrellas are rented: it’s as if every Italian family moves itself into a very small living room, elbow to elbow with other families doing the same. Some bring radios. All have cellphones. The lido owners also take it upon themselves to entertain their guests with pop music from speakers on poles along the beach. Cars cruise along the lungomare (beachfront road), blaring advertisements for local events and businesses from huge loudspeakers mounted on their roofs. An Italian beach vacation is anything but peaceful and relaxing.

beach, Roseto degli Abruzzi

Like many Italian families, Enrico’s parents had a seconda casa: a second (vacation) home, which they had already owned for decades. Theirs was in Roseto degli Abruzzi, a small town on Italy’s central Adriatic coast which has not much reason for being, that I can see, except as a holiday destination. It was a two-bedroom apartment at the top of a four-story building, overlooking the beachfront road and then the beach (the view above is from the balcony). This particular patch of beach was less developed when we first started going there in 1990, with just five or six rows of blue and white umbrellas and chairs rented out by a neighbor in the building, whose main profession was plumbing. Over the years he expanded his lido concession with more rows of ombrelloni, a snack bar, changing rooms and showers – which brought him up to par with the competition.

The beach at this point was wide by Italian standards, protected by breakwaters and periodically replenished with sand trucked in from elsewhere. Its gentle slope with shallow water for a long way out made it ideal for little kids, so it was a great place for our daughter Rossella to spend vacations with her parents and doting grandparents.

Rossella and Nonna Graziella, Roseto

Cramming us plus the parents plus Enrico’s brother and his girlfriend into the tiny apartment for weeks was not ideal, nor was spending the colder Easter and Christmas seasons in Roseto when Enrico’s parents eventually retired there for health reasons… but that’s another story.

There were practically no waves on this part of the Adriatic coast, so I felt safe to go in the water a bit (wearing my glasses), but it was murky and uninteresting compared with the crystal waters of my childhood in Thailand. I built in the sand with Ross a bit, but there wasn’t enough tidal variance in water level to make hydraulic engineering interesting. And I grew very tired of being trapped at our rented ombrellone, overhearing the conversations of randomly-chosen neighbors for days on end.

There are unpopulated, unspoiled, natural beaches in Italy – we saw a few, passing in the train from Milan to Abruzzi. I’m told there are far more in the south, but we never got to any of them. Italians are creatures of habit: Stessa Spiaggia, Stesso Mare.

During the dot com boom, when we seemed to have money to burn, and I needed desperately to take a vacation that I actually found relaxing, we made a few trips to the Caribbean: Martinique, St. Maarten, and St. Barth’s. The most beautiful beach we saw among this (admittedly limited) selection of islands was the nudist L’Orient Bay on St. Maarten. In Martinique, I had brought my old dive mask along, so was able to go on a brief, guided dive. The underwater scenery was more rock than coral, overall more gloomy than my bright blue and gold memories of Pattaya Bay. The water was certainly colder – we needed wetsuits.

Ross in a wetsuit, Martinique

 

All these memories are coming up now because I’m on vacation in Australia, which has an apparently endless supply of probably the best beaches I’ve seen anywhere. I’m still not likely to swim – the surf at most beaches I’ve seen here is far rougher than I could safely handle.  But these beaches are endlessly interesting to watch, and walk, and observe, both close up and from a distance. I’ll have lots more photos and videos to share! (The photos at the top and bottom of this page are start.)

Some Australian beaches I captured on video here.

Dudley Beach, NSW

Learn Italian in Song: Solo una volta (o tutta la vita)

Perhaps Only Once, or for All Our Lives Alex Britti C’era la luna, c’erano le stelle There was the moon, there were stars c’era una nuova emozione sulla pelle there was a new emotion on the skin c’era la notte, c’erano i fiori there was the night, there were flowers anche al buio si vedevano Read More…

Perhaps Only Once, or for All Our Lives

Alex Britti

C’era la luna, c’erano le stelle There was the moon, there were stars
c’era una nuova emozione sulla pelle there was a new emotion on the skin
c’era la notte, c’erano i fiori there was the night, there were flowers
anche al buio si vedevano i colori even in the dark you could see the colors
c’era la voglia di stare ancora insieme there was a desire to stay together still
forse per gioco comunque ci viene perhaps as a game or however it comes
andare in giro mano nella mano to go around hand in hand
e raccontarci che per noi il mondo è strano and tell each other that for us the world is strange
C’era una volta o forse erano due Once upon a time, or maybe twice
c’era una mucca un asinello e un bue there was a cow, an ass, and an ox
c’era una notte con una sola stella there was a night with one single star
però era grande luminosa e bella but it was huge, luminous, and beautiful
e se ci va magari andiamo al mare and if we wish we can go to the sea
così nell’acqua potremo sguazzare so that we can splash in the water
e poi nuotare, fare il morto a galla and swim, and do the dead man’s float
controlleremo se la luna è ancora gialla we’ll check whether the moon is still yellow
e mentre gli altri ancora dormono and while the others are still sleeping
magari sognano di noi perhaps dreaming of us
e mentre il cielo si schiarisce and while the sky becomes lighter
noi guarderemo stanotte che finisce we’ll watch this night end
Il tempo va, passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
e finalmente faremo l’amore and finally we will make love
solo una volta o tutta la vita only once, or perhaps for all our lives
speriamo prima che l’estate sia finita let’s hope before the summer ends
Il tempo va, passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
vorrei poter non lavare l’odore I wish I could not wash off the scent
di questa notte ancora da capire of this night still to understand
però peccato che dovrà finire a pity, however, that it must end
che dovrà finire it must end
Se tutto passa tutto è già passato If everything passes, everything has already passed
peccato che non l’ho ancora capito pity that I still haven’t understood
anche se non sei più tra le mie dita that even if you are no longer between my fingers
stanotte la ricorderò tutta la vita I’ll remember tonight all my life
e se domani sentirò la tua mancanza and if tomorrow I feel the lack of you
sarà perchè non ho più cielo nella stanza it will be because I no longer have the sky in my room
avrò una foto per ricordare I’ll have a photo to remember
di quando quella notte ti potevo dire of when that night I could say
Il tempo va passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
e finalmente faremo l’amore and finally we will make love
solo una volta o tutta la vita only once, or perhaps for all our lives
speriamo prima che l’estate sia finita let’s hope before the summer ends
Il tempo va, passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
vorrei poter non lavare l’odore I wish I could not wash off the scent
di questa notte ancora da capire of this night still to understand
però peccato che dovrà finire a pity, however, that it must end
che dovrà finire it must end
Se non ho più parole nel cassetto If I have no more words in the drawer
una poesia che non ho mai letto a poem that I have never read
un’avventura da raccontare an adventure to tell
quando non avrò più niente da dire when I have nothing more to say
quando andrò a piedi nudi per strada when I’ll go barefoot in the street
comunque sia, comunque vada however it is, however it goes
ogni volta che tornerò al mare every time that I return to the sea
avrò qualcosa da ricordare. I’ll have something to remember
Il tempo va passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
e finalmente faremo l’amore and finally we will make love
solo una volta o tutta la vita only once, or perhaps for all our lives
speriamo prima che l’estate sia finita let’s hope before the summer ends
Il tempo va passano le ore time flies, the hours pass
vorrei poter non lavare l’odore I wish I could not wash off the scent
di questa notte ancora da capire of this night still to understand
però peccato che dovrà finire a pity, however, that it must end

Everyday Italian: Newspaper Headlines

The local newspapers in Italy’s smaller cities and towns advertise with eye-catching headline boards, designed to be as sensational as possible. Usually one board reports two headlines of the day or week, and sometimes the juxtaposition is unintentionally funny. The headline above says: “Struck by a toilet seat thrown from the train – Priest collapses Read More…

The local newspapers in Italy’s smaller cities and towns advertise with eye-catching headline boards, designed to be as sensational as possible. Usually one board reports two headlines of the day or week, and sometimes the juxtaposition is unintentionally funny.

The headline above says: “Struck by a toilet seat thrown from the train – Priest collapses at mass!” (Okay, I cheated a bit – colpita is in the feminine form, so we know the victim of the flying toilet seat was female.)

07 03 11 032

Above:

  • Too lively: the janitoress insults and threatens the children – Writings and drawings defame the principal of Grassi high school
  • Mystery of the millionaire inheritance – Goodbye to a Lecchese pharmacist – Dies at 34 years, leaving four children
  • Shootout at the cemetery and in Pescarenico: one wounded – From today and for six months the Post Office is at the former Piccola

2006 09 17 001

Above:

  • At the wedding lunch, [he] betrays his wife with his [male] friend.
  • Fell in acid, Lecchese dies after three months.
  • Terrible accident: a woman run over and killed in the crosswalk.
  • Alarm on the Grigna (a local mountain) – six hikers lost.

2006 12 008

  • Alarm in the Business Piazza*
  • Father dies while wrapping Christmas presents
  • 30,000 Lecchesi (people of Lecco) forced to junk their cars (a new environmental law will forbid use of cars older than 1993, i.e. pre-catalytic).
  • Investigation: ‘Ndrangheta and business – treasure hunt for the [riches] of the [crime] bosses
  • In the car with a pistol – young person in handcuffs.

* As reader Marco Andreis points out, Piazza Affari is a real piazza in Milan, “just off via della Posta, a few blocks from Piazza Cordusio. Palazzo Mezzanotte, in Piazza Affari, was thei headquarters of the Borsa Valori di Milano, the Milan Stock Exchange. Nowadays, after privatisation, the Gruppo Borsa Italiana is located there.

So the name of the square was and is still used as a synonym of the Stock Exchange or, in a more general sense, of the Italian financial and business community. More or less as in the US, where Wall Street means the New York Stock Exchange.”

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  • Vandals raid the Resinelli [a tourist area on the mountain above Lecco]: the shocking photos [note that choc = shock, not chocolate]
  • Tax fraud: troubles for Sergio Longoni
  • Free gift: the volume “In dialect you say it this way”

Learn Italian in Song: I Promessi Sposi in Dieci Minuti

The Betrothed, in 10 Minutes I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), considered the first example of the modern novel in Italian (though the language is a bit antiquated today), is a story every educated Italian knows well, in part because they study it in school. We heard a lot about it in Lecco in particular because Read More…

The Betrothed, in 10 Minutes

I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), considered the first example of the modern novel in Italian (though the language is a bit antiquated today), is a story every educated Italian knows well, in part because they study it in school. We heard a lot about it in Lecco in particular because its author, Alessandro Manzoni, was the town’s most famous native son, and much of the action of the book takes place around Lecco and other parts of the Lake Como region, and in Milan.

This elaborate spoof uses a number of popular songs; the translation has taken me a long time to finish, in part because I needed to translate many of the source songs first. I’ve prefaced each song change with a link to my translation of the original song.

You can see some dramatic clips from an open-air processional production of the book here and here.

Ti amo (Umberto Tozzi)
Sul ramo del lago di Como[1] On that branch of Lake Como
Inizia quel tomo che ti devasta con i suoi 38 capitoli Begins the tome that devastates you with its 38 chapters
Nel primo si legge di un uomo che arriva pian piano In the first we read of a man who arrives slowly
é¨ Don Abbondio[2] che un po’ circospetto ritorna in citta’ It’s Don Abbondio who a bit circumspectly returns to town
Brava (Mina)
Bravi! Bravi! Non te l’aspettavi?! Bravi![3] Bravi! Bravi! You didn’t expect it? Bravi!
Dove te ne andavi? Siamo i bravi, ma siamo cattivi Where were you going? We are the bravi, but we are wicked
Fatti pure il segno della croce, tanto sei da solo qui Go ahead and make the sign of the Cross, in any case you’re here alone
Leggi bene questa nota che si trova nella busta Read well this note which is in the envelope
A proposito di un certo matrimonio che non s’ha da far[4] About a certain marriage which should not be performed
fra [Lucia] Mondella e [Lorenzo] Tramaglin Between Mondella and Tramaglin
E’ un intrigo di Rodrigo, prova a immaginare se li sposi It’s an intrigue of Rodrigo, try to imagine if you marry them
Quante cose ti puA’ far! Pensaci tu a parlar con Gesu’! How many things he could do to you. You take care of talking to Jesus!
PerchÉ lo fai (Marco Masini) [okay, so I didn’t translate this one…]
Perpetua! Son disperato, ragazza mia Perpetua! I’m desperate, my girl
Fa che mi sdrai, che c’ho un attimo di aritmia Let me lie down, I’ve got a bit of [heart] arrythmia
Perpetua! C’a’¨ un pazzo criminale che, ahima’¨, ce l’ha con me Perpetua! There’s an insane criminal who, alas, has it in for me
Ma tu non sai, o domani saranno guai, per me, per te, per noi! But you don’t know [anything about it], or tomorrow there’ll be trouble for me, for you, for us
Un senso (Vasco Rossi)
Sai che cosa penso? Che il povero Renzo domani arrivera’ You know what I think? That poor Renzo will arrive tomorrow
Le nozze chiedera’ lo stesso! He’ll be asking to get married all the same
Non glielo consento, c’a’¨ ancora del tempo! I can’t allow it, there’s still time
Domani a mezzogiorno, arrivera’ ! He’ll come tomorrow at midday
Eeeh! E’ gia’ passato un giorno, ormai a’¨ qua! Uh huh – a day has already passed, now he’s here!
Porta Portese (Claudio Baglioni)
La domenica mattina mi presento dal curato Sunday morning I present myself to the curate
La Perpetua ho salutato, e sono qua I’ve greeted Perpetua, and here I am
Con le borse della spesa su mandato della sposa With the shopping bags as mandated by the bride
Per sapere a quale ora si va in chiesa To know what time we go to church
Porta pazienza! E sii cortese! E a fine mese ne saprai di piu’! Be patient! And be polite. At the end of the month you’ll know more
Io vagabondo (Nomadi)
Io, Don Abbondio, santo Dio! Furibondo che non sono altro I, Don Abbondio, dear God! I’m nothing other than furious
Lui non c’entra, io lo so! He has nothing to do with it, I know it!
Don Rodrigo[5] me l’ha imposto, addio! Don Rodrigo made me, goodbye.
Luci-ah (Battisti)
Lucia! Lucia! L’accolito sposar non ci fa! Oooh, Lucia! Lucia! Lucia, Lucia, the acolyte won’t marry us!
Nel blu dipinto di blu (Domenico Modugno)
Renzo ho un bisogno cosa’¬ di svelarti un tabu’ Renzo, I must reveal to you a taboo
Mi dirigevo stamani attraverso Cantu’ This morning I was going towards Cantu’
Poi d’improvviso vedevo spuntar don Rodrigo Then suddenly I saw Don Rodrigo appear before me
Che incominciava a gridare: Yo a ti, te castigo! Who began to yell: “I punish you!”
Volgare! Oh oh! Maiale! (Sgrunt sgrunt) Vulgar, oh oh, pig! (grunt grunt)
Agnese (Ivan Graziani)
Uscire tutta sola, mi da’ tanti pensieri Going out all alone gives me many worries
L’inferno cittadino, con tutti ‘sti stranieri! The urban hell with all these strangers!
Agnese, dolce Agnese, dammi un po’ di cioccolata Agnese, sweet Agnese, give me some chocolate
Se solo ci ripenso… Mi sento un po’ emaciata! If I only think about it again, I feel a bit emaciated
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Eccoci giunti al capitolo terzo, capitolo che tagliamo perchÉ He we are arrived at the third chapter, a chapter which we will cut because
Tutta la storia dell’Azzeccagarbugli[6] a’¨ lunga e non serve a un granchÉ The whole story of the Azzeccagarbugli is long and isn’t much use
Provano i bravi a rapire Lucia, ma lei in casa non c’a’¨ The bravi try to kidnap Lucia, but she’s not home
Sono dal prete a sposarsi a sorpresa, ma invan! They’ve gone to the priest for a surprise wedding, but in vain
Lucia non perderti d’animo! Lucia, don’t lose heart
Luci a San Siro (Roberto Vecchioni)
Lucia a San Siro sara’ stasera Lucia, I’ll be at San Siro this evening
Fuggite a Monza, che la monaca lo sa Flee to Monza, where the [female] monk knows
E’ il posto giusto, con quella nebbia It’s the right place, with that fog
Ti ci nascondi, e ci ritroveremo la’ ! You can hide, and we’ll meet again there
Scrive Manzoni, per i secchioni, che i sovversivi dan l’assalto al vicerÉ Manzoni writes, for the swots, that the subversives are assaulting the Viceroy
Renzo si esalta nella rivolta; chi se ne frega, c’é una che prega Renzo gets caught up in the revolt, who cares, here’s someone praying
Ma lei chi � But who are you?
La fisarmonica (Gianni Morandi)
Sono la monaca, ma non son suora perché I’m the [female] monk but I’m not a nun because
Mi piace fare l’amore come nessuno lo fa, nella canonica! I like making love like no one else does, in the rectory
Brava (Mina)
Bravi! Bravi! Non te l’aspettavi?! Bravi! Bravi! Bravi! You didn’t expect it? Bravi!
Siamo gli altri bravi! Siamo i bravi, ancora piu’¹ cattivi We are other bravi! We’re the even more wicked bravi
Fatti pure il segno della croce, tanto sei da sola qui Go ahead and make the sign of the Cross, in any case you’re here alone
Ci manda l’Innominato che ci ha chiesto di rapirti The Unnamed sent us to kidnap you
e lasciarti chiusa in gabbia che cosa nessuno puo’ sentir! And leave you closed in a cage where no one can hear you
Proprio come un uccellin! Nel castello, nel castello! Just like the little birds! In the castle, in the castle
State un po’ a sentire quale voto alla Madonna sto per far: Listen up to the vow I’m about to make to the Madonna
Non la do[7] piu’ se mi salva Gesu’! I won’t give it away again if Jesus saves me!
Che cosa c€™a’¨ (Gino Paoli)
Che cosa c’e’? What is it?
C’e’ che io son l’Innominato col te It’s that I’m the Unnamed, with tea
C’e’ che ero uno prepotente It’s that I was a bully
che ha offeso tanta gente Who offended many people
ma il cuore mio si pente se ci sei tu But my heart repents if there’s you
Romeo er mejo del Colosseo[8]
Fra gli arcivescovi di Roma rappresento il top Among the archbishops of Rome I represent the top
e a Milano e’ un pezzo che ci sto And I’ve been in Milan a whire
Persin l’Innominato Even the Unnamed
me lo son cambiato I changed him
Io son Borromeo[9] I’m Borromeo
Er meglio del Giubileo The best of the Jubilee
Aggiungi un posto a tavola
Ma aggiungi peste a favola, e a Don Rodrigo in piu’ But add a plague to the fable, and, more, to Don Rodrigo
gli spunta un po’ una pustola ed arriviamo al clou He gets a little zit and we arrive at the climax
I Watussi
e fra le muffe, i bubboni e i pidocchi And between the mold, the buboes and the lice
e quattro fanti cosi’s lanzechenecchi And four infantry lancers
al Lazaretto vicino a Cantu’ at the plague house near Cantu’
s’incontrano tutti laggiu’ Everyone meets down there
Una lacrima sul viso
Da una lacrima sul Griso From a tear on Griso [his henchman]
ho capito che c’ho un mese I’ve understood that I’ve only got a month
Caro amico ti scrivo
Caro amico ti schivo Dear friend, I avoid you
se no ti contraggo un po’ Otherwise I’ll contract you a bit
e siccome sei molto malsano And since you’re very unhealthy
alfin ti perdonero’ In the end I will forgive you
Renzo! Lucia!
Centro di gravita’ permanente (Franco Battiato)
Ho fatto un voto di castita’ permanente I made a vow of permanent chastity
pero’ purtroppo ho gia’ cambiato idea Although, unfortunately, I’ve already changed my mind
ma non posso farci niente But I can’t do anything
Vorrei incontrarti fra cent€™anni (Ron e Tosca)
Vorrei incontrate Fra Cristoforo I’d like to meet Fra Cristoforo
Sono quaggiu’ dietro al semaforo I’m down here behind the traffic light
il voto sciolgo volentieri I’ll gladly dissolve the vow
grazie ai miei superpoteri Thanks to my superpowers
e’ la fede e i suoi misteri It’s the faith and its mysteries
Gianna (Rino Gaetano)
Ma stavolta la peste e’ finita But this time the plague is over
va giu’ il carovita And the high cost of living goes down
E quel guastafeste di Don Abbondio and that party pooper Don Abbondio
li sposa lo stesso Marries them just the same
ma in fatto di sesso But as far as sex goes
chi vivra’ vedra’ Who lives, will see!
  1. This is the opening line of the book.
  2. Don in this case is the title given to a prelate.
  3. Bravi in this case translates as bravoes, henchmen, hired thugs. But there’s a pun in the next line where bravi – good guys – is contrasted with cattivi – bad guys.
  4. “Questo matrimonio che non s’ha da far”, as the bravi tell Don Abbondio, is another famous line in the book.
  5. In this case, the title Don means lord, perhaps because he’s Spanish.
  6. The Azzeccagarbugli, which could be loosely translated as the “unraveller of knotty problems”, is a lawyer.
  7. “Non la do” = I won’t give it [sex] away.
  8. When the Disney film The Aristocats was dubbed into Italian, O’Malley the alley cat became Romeo, il gatto del Colosseo – the Colosseum in Rome being famous for its population of cats. Naturally, he sings and speaks in Roman dialect.
  9. Federico Borromeo is a historical character.