Italian/Introduction/Italian culture

Some information about Italian languageEdit


Italian, a romance language, is spoken mainly in Italy, where it is the main official language. It is also official language in the Republic of San Marino, and the Ticino canton of Switzerland. It is also the second official language of Vatican City, after Latin. It is also spoken by some minorities in Slovenia and coastal Croatia.

Languages and dialectsEdit

Italian language is characterized by its numerous varieties. There is at least one dialect for each region, named after the region or the main town of the region. Even when speaking Italian, most Italians have a regional accent. It is actually normal to hear many different ways of saying the same phrase while merely moving through Italy from region to region.

Italian dialects are actually very different from standard Italian, and hardly understandable even by Italians from other regions of Italy. Many of these dialects are considered to be languages in English but the Italian government recognises only one official Romance language: Italian. An exception is Tuscany, the motherland of Italian. The Tuscan dialect is very similar to Italian, so that all Italians can understand it.

Italian dialects must not be confused with all the recognized minority languages, including Sardo (Sardu) in Sardinia, German in Trentino-Südtirol and Friulano and Slovene in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.


Standard Italian is a literary language, originated as the vulgar written language of Tuscany in XII century. It became a national literary language thanks to the great literary works of Francis of Assisi, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, and others.

For centuries, it was used only for written texts and operas. Even theater plays were in dialect.

When Italy became a united nation, in 1861, Italian was chosen as the official language, but only 4% of the population was able to speak it.

The diffusion of Italian among the population was caused first by the national military conscription, then by internal migrations, and at last by cinema and television. Actually, the most standard Italian is the one used to dub foreign films.

Until World War II, internal migrations were mainly from the countryside to the big towns, and in particular toward Rome. Therefore, in big towns the common language became a mix of the languages of surrounding regions.

After World War II, internal migrations were mainly from the impoverished south to the industrialized north, mainly Turin and Milan. Therefore, Turin and Milan became the Italian towns where the Italian language is spoken more, as it is the only common language among the various people living there, while in other towns and in the countryside dialects were used more than Italian until few years ago.

Nowadays, the fact that young Italians are exposed more to cinema and television than to their parents speeches is causing a fading out of dialects.


Most Italian names come from the singular Latin ablative case; for example, the Italian for "wolf" is "lupo", ablative case of "lupus". Also the names of ancient Romans come from their Latin ablative case; for example, the Italian for emperor "Nero" is "Nerone".

Almost all Italian words longer than three letters end with a letter "a", "e", "i", or "o".

In every Italian word, except the very long ones, exactly one syllable is stressed; it may be the last, the last but one, that is the most common case, the last but two, or, in very rare cases, the last but four. Every time a word with two or more syllables has the last syllable stressed, the last letter is marked by an accent, in written Italian. There are six possible accented letters: "à", "è", "é", "ì", "ò", "ù". Notice that the "e" letter may has two kinds of accents, named "grave" (or "open") and "acute" (or "closed"). Sometimes to disambiguate pronunciation and meaning, accents are used also for inner letters of a word; for example, "légami" (that means "tie me") and "legàmi" (that means "links", "bonds") have different stress and consequently different meaning. Accents on monosyllabic words are used to distinguish words; for example "e" (that means "and") from "è" (that means "is"), or "la" (that means "the" for singular feminine names) from "là" (that means "over there").

Some cities, regions, and countriesEdit

The list below shows just a few places (regions, cities, and countries) whose name differs between English and Italian:

  • Italia: Italy
  • Toscana: Tuscany
  • Piemonte: Piedmont
  • Lombardia: Lombardy
  • Lazio: Latium
  • Puglia: Apulia
  • Sardegna: Sardinia
  • Sicilia: Sicily
  • Roma: Rome
  • Milano: Milan
  • Torino: Turin
  • Firenze: Florence
  • Genova: Genoa
  • Napoli: Naples
  • Siracusa: Syracuse
  • Padova: Padua
  • Venezia: Venice

  • Londra: London
  • Dublino: Dublin
  • Parigi: Paris
  • Mosca: Moscow
  • Praga: Prague
  • Svizzera: Switzerland
  • Stati Uniti d'America: United States of America
  • Gran Bretagna: Great Britain
  • Inghilterra: England
  • Irlanda: Ireland
  • Scozia: Scotland
  • Galles: Wales
  • Germania: Germany
  • Francia: France
  • Monaco (di Baviera): Munich / München

Holidays in ItalyEdit

Date English name Local name Explanation
January 1 New Year's Day Capodanno From "Capo d'anno", meaning "Head of year"
January 6 Epiphany Epifania It is also widely known as "la Befana", after a popular legend about a mythical character, represented as an old woman who brings gifts to kids on this occurrence by traveling aboard her flying broom. This is completely unrelated to the religious, and often ignored, meaning of this holiday.
Varying Easter Pasqua  
Varying Easter's Monday Lunedì dell'Angelo Popularly known as "Pasquetta" (Little Easter).
April 25 Liberation's Day Liberazione It remembers the day of the proclamation of the general insurgency against the Fascist dictatorship and the Nazi occupation, in 1945, which ended WWII in Italy.
May 1 Workers' Day Festa del Lavoro Also known just as "Primo Maggio" (1st of May).
June 2 Republic Day Festa della Repubblica It commemorates the institutional referendum held by universal suffrage in 1946, in which the Italian people voted to abolish the monarchy.
August 15 Assumption Assunzione or Ferragosto The first name recalls the religious meaning of the holiday; the second, much more used by Italians, actually derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti ("Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus") and is widely celebrated on beaches, especially by night.
November 1 All Saints' Day Ognissanti
December 8 Immaculate Conception Immacolata Concezione Widely known as "Immacolata".
December 25 Christmas Natale  
December 26 Boxing Day, St. Stephen's Day Santo Stefano