Tag Archives: idiomatic expression

What is rosa (pink).

Rosa is a ribbon hanged on the front door to announce a girl’s birth.

Rosa is a chick book un romanzo rosa or some gossips on a tabloid cronaca rosa.

Rosa is the rose quartz or a learner’s permit il foglio rosa.

Rosa is the traditional Italian female name.

Rosa is part of the Italian idiom which describes the Italian positive approach to life il futuro è rosa.

Rosa is the lovely song by Lucio Battisti Con il Nastro Rosa.

Here in Puglia, rosa is the colour of primavera, announced by the peach trees blooming at their best.

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Learn Italian idiomatic expressions, traditions and colours

Verde (green) is a free telephone number, numero verde.  Verde d’invidia is an envying person but sono al verde when I am broke.

Azzurro is the Italian light blue to describe the sky and the sea and the title of a famous Italian song by Adriano Celentano. Azzurri is our national football team while Principe Azzurro is our Prince charming and finally azzurro is a ribbon hanged on the front door to announce a boy’s birth.

Rosso (red) is the wine at the restaurant. Rosso is used to describe passion and love, rosso fuoco (flame red/ bright red) is also your flashy new car and probably, your bank account will be in rosso after that. But tonight, before going home, buy a lovely pesce rosso (gold fish) for your son.

Giallo (yellow) is a  girasole (sunflower) but also a book (detective story) or a film. Giallo is definitely a story with Inspector Montalbano. Giallo is the colour of mimosa (the acacia flower), a traditional Italian present to women on the Woman’s Day.



Bianco (white) is your wine at the restaurant (always pairing with fish in Italy) but  mangiare in bianco is what you do if you don’t feel well (eat plain food).

Nero (black) is  for una giornata nera, when everything goes wrong and most probably after a gatto nero (black cat) jinxed your day.

by Michela, teacher & director@ lacanto.it in Salento, Puglia

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Starting from the first lessons, it’s funny seeing how many mistakes can be made when we literally translate from English into Italian or viceversa.

The real, everyday language that we use with our friends is quite different from the language we learn in class.  It can be full of idiomatic expressions and aphorisms which we learn and become familiar with the more we practise and improve. Idiomatic expressions are words, phrases or expressions which are commonly used in everyday conversation by native speakers of Italian.

For example, in Italian we say ho freddo/caldowhich is far from translating literally I am cold/ hot because we are using 2 different verbs (to have in Italian, to be in English), but on the other hand ho fretta, which in Italian means ‘I have hurry’, in English would be I am in a hurry.

If you arrive late to the lesson, it’s not tu sei tardi but tu sei in ritardo.  When you say mi dispiace it means you are sorry, but non mi piace means you don’t like something.   I can’t wait becomes non vedo l’ora – I can’t see the hour. And in Italy you are a piece of bread (un pezzo di pane) but in the UK you are a piece of gold. pane And finally, in Italy we don’t tell our friends to break a leg when they have an exam but to be in the wolf’s mouth (in bocca al lupo).  I don’t know what’s better!  Fattoria is a farm but Fabbrica is a factory.

Libreria is a bookshop but on the other hand the biblioteca is a public library, i parenti are the relatives and i genitori are the parents.

Just a suggestion from my friend, Preservative sounds like Preservativo in Italian but it’s not the chemicals that they put in your food, but rather a condom.

The list goes on, and I am sure that as soon as I publish this post I will think of another 10 examples.

Last but not least, if you need my help and want to give me a shout, hit me with the phone (dammi un colpo di telefono).

I hope you enjoyed your Italian lesson today! Antonio


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