5 Italian Words We Wish Were Translatable (But Aren’t)

Italian culture is probably one of the most admired in the world. After all, who doesn’t love a country with incredible food, gorgeous sights, and a lovely language? A lot of people learn Italian for the sheer beauty of it. This language sounds like music to the ears and the attraction factor of anyone speaking it automatically doubles. Like any language, Italian features several unique words and phrases for which, unfortunately for us poor English speakers, there are no adequate translations. There’s something charming (and maybe a little romantic) about these words, so read on to discover five of
them and maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up this delightful tongue!

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1. Gattara/o = an elderly person who cares for stray cats.

Italy is big on cat love, even if those cats are strays. In fact, the term gatti liberi refers to “free cats” or cats that live on the streets in what are known as cat colonies. But just because these kitties are out roaming the streets it doesn’t mean they’re left to scrounging for scraps from the trash or subject to abuse as strays. Nope. In Italy local law enforcement usually protects cats and an elderly man or woman will take over the responsibility of feeding them on a daily basis. These feeders are called gattaras (for females) or gattaros (for males). Can I hear a collective “Awwwwww!”?

2. Abbiocco = the drowsiness that follows a big meal.

In Italy meals are often prolonged affairs and can last for upward of two hours. Since they are social events, you’re expected to take time to chat while you work your way through plenty of delicious food and wine. Without a doubt hearty meals are king in Italy which means you’ll probably experience abbiocco on a daily basis if you visit. Back home you can reserve that feeling of abbiocco for big holiday or family dinners!

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3. Apericena = pre-dinner food and drinks.

Italians love their food so much that they can’t help but indulge in pre-meal food! Apericena is a combination of the words aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) and cena (dinner) and usually involves drinks such as cocktails, beers, and sparkling wines along with small snacks. The best part of ordering apericena? The food is free! That’s right, you order your beverage and are given complimentary snacks to go along with it. Who wouldn’t want to indulge in this fun Italian tradition?

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4. Culaccino = a mark left on a table by a chilled glass.

Speaking of beverages, have you ever wondered what you would call that moist ring left behind on the table after taking away your beer mug? Probably not, but no matter Italian still has a word for it. You probably never knew you needed a term just to describe it, but culaccino does have a sort of whimsical, romantic vibe to it. Definitely much better than “wet ring” or whatever the English equivalent would be!

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5. Meriggiare = to get away from the heat by resting in the shade.

One of my absolute favourite things about Italy is that the concept of siesta is really important. In fact, many shops and attractions close down between the hours of 1PM to 4PM just so people can take their afternoon rest! It’s a myth that Italians spend these hours napping, in fact most return home for a nice afternoon meal and short rest before heading back to work. Since 1PM-4PM is considered one of the hottest parts of the day, you can probably understand why people take a break during that time. This also explains the concept behind meriggiare which, let’s face it, is just another term for siesta!

It’s hard not to fall in amore with the wonderful Italian language, is it? All these little idiosyncrasies, special phrases, and unique words definitely make learning Italian worth the effort – whether you’re doing it for business purposes or just for fun. Knowing words like these will also set you apart from the Italian learning pack and help you to sound more like a local!

Perhaps you know some great untranslatable Italian words and phrases of your own! Share your favourites and tell us why you love them!