Word of the Day – “Compleanno”

La Maestra Maldestra

Oggi e’ il mio compleanno. Today is my birthday, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to teach you some birthday-related and well-wishing vocabulary.

I am extremely thankful for all the auguri  that have been sent across the pond by my Italian friends (and friends of other nationalities who happen to speak Italian), the wishes for a bon anniversaire (happy birthday) from my Francophone friends and the warm happy birthdays from my English-speaking friends and family.

While in English I would never congratulate someone on their birthday, in Italian it is very common to say auguri  which translates as, all the best, congratulations, or best wishes. You can also say buon compleanno, simply meaning happy birthday, or you can combine the two for the all-encompassing auguri di buon compleanno!  If you really hope that someone’s birthday is over the top, you can wish them the more grandiose buonissimo compleanno, so that they may have a very happy birthday, or you could wish them auguroni, which are even bigger best wishes.

If you’re the lucky birthday boy or girl, you’d be the festeggiato/a. Hopefully you’re having a festa (party)  complete with torta di compleanno (birthday cake), biglietti di compleanno (birthday cards) and regali (presents)!

Two years ago, I celebrated my birthday in Siena. A friend organized a birthday party for me at the Tea Room, a popular, well, tea room, that serves all sorts of drinks, cakes, teas and coffees. I rang in my birthday with a flaming (yes, actually on fire) Bellini drink. (They’re not usually served on fire, FYI) and then proceeded to indulge in some Prosecco. We also had a coconut cake drizzled in chocolate, complete, not with birthday candles (the Bellini took care of the “make a wish” part) but with miniature Italian flags.  All in all, a wonderful Italian compleanno!

Pouring Prosecco

Birthday Bellini

If all this talk of birthdays and well wishes has made you want to do something to help me celebrate my birthday, “like” Not Just Another “Dolce Vita’s” Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to the blog!


Word of the Day – “Aperitivo”

Aperitivo Time

Aperitivo Time

Italy, the country of traditions, has fairly recently adopted a new one. You guessed it – aperitivo! Although it’s more popular in the north than in the south, you can probably find some form of aperitivo pretty much anywhere.

In my last post I had you loading up on cheap drinks in the supermercato to be consumed with your brown-bag traveler’s lunch. In this post, I invite you go the more elegant route and “fare l’aperitivo”  if you’re looking for a relaxing, usually alcoholic introduction to dinner. Or just an elegant, relaxing and alcoholic alternative to dinner. Let me explain.

Bella Italia has kept you busy sightseeing all day, and now the dinner hour has rolled around. Or so you thought… Because in Italy people eat dinner generally quite a bit later than we do over in the “New World.” So at 6 or 7pm  you go sniffing around bars and restaurants hoping to find a morsel or two of food, and voilà! You come across this magical sign advertising an “Aperitivo con Buffet”, meaning before-dinner drinks with a buffet of munchies or appetizers! You thank your lucky stars and head inside. You buy your drink, load up your plate with munchies and sit down to enjoy one of Italy’s favourite times of the day. You observe tables full of Italians coming home from work, meeting friends and family and partaking in exactly the same ritual as you are. Beautiful.

You could say it’s like the North American “Happy Hour”, except it’s not. Whereas during “Happy Hour” drinks are often cheaper, during “l’ora dell’aperitivo” prices are sometimes bumped up by a euro or two to offset the cost of all the munchies. In the end, it’s worth it, and an excellent way to relax, people watch and nibble.

Now, different bars and restaurants do aperitivo differently, so don’t always go expecting the same thing. Some put out a buffet of things like small sandwiches, cheese, potato chips, grilled veggies and mixed nuts for you to help yourself and eat as much as your grumbly stomach desires. Other places bring a plate to your table or to the bar where you’re standing, and it’s a one-time deal, but it can also be more substantial. But no refills, no buffet. Both options are generally pretty good, and as my friends and I have found, your aperitivo can sometimes substitute your cena (dinner) completely. Doing this is what my friend dubbed “aperi-cena” although you won’t find that word in any standard Italian dictionary.

Liberamente Osteria, my absolute favourite haunt here in Siena, puts on an excellent, elegant aperitivo. Do like I do, and drop by around 7, order a glass of Prosecco or white wine, enjoy the best view of Piazza del Campo, listen to the music, chat with the friendly waiters and enjoy a yummy selection of aperitivo snacks. Your stuzzichini  will depend on the imagination of the chef and waiters that day, but it never, ever disappoints. Different times I’ve feasted on meatballs, filled puffed pastry, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, pecorino cheese with marmalade, mini-omlettes, panzanella, shrimp, lamb skewers and more… Take a look at the drink I tried there last night. Cin cin!

Aperitivo on Piazza del Campo

Aperitivo on Piazza del Campo