Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bergamo – Street Sign Language Lesson XVIII

Street Sign Language Lesson 17 < Street Sign Language Lesson 18

In this episode of street sign language lesson, we will see a number of interesting food choices, final rebates, pesky body-part pluralization, and information about how to keep your hands clean in the hospital. Oh, make it stop.

Package sent in Italy with sender or mittente written.Foiolo - a type of tripe.Cartilage for eating.A sign reminding us to keep the toilet clean.
Words around Bergamo. Left: A package sender. Center left: A type of tripe. Center right: Cartilage. Right: Leave the toilet clean sign.

Alto, fragile, mittente – “Up, fragile, sender”
When we received this package, I realized I had never seen “sender” written in Italian, on a package. So, there you have it: mittente.

Foiolo fresco, nervetti – “Fresh omasum, cartilage”
For these two signs we go back to our favorite butcher (Macelleria Coffetti on via Masone) and favorite cheese shop (Ol Formager on via San Tomaso) to peruse the offerings. Omasum is the third compartment of the stomach of ruminants, in this case cow stomach. It’s a type of tripe. Cartilage would be pig cartilage and it makes a lovely salad…they say. Have yet to try it, but would like to.

Trovare pulito è un piacere; lasciare pulito è un dovere – Finding (it) clean is a pleasure; leaving clean (it) is a must.
This was sign was in the Biblioteca Angela Mai in Città Alta. "It" is the toilet. This library is the best place to study, and the toilet is reasonably clean thanks to this sign.

Papa Giovanni XXIII signs instructing on how to clean your hands.Papa Giovanni XXIII signs instructing on how to clean your hands.
Papa Giovanni XXIII signs instructing on how to clean your hands.

Come frizionare le mani con soluzione alcolica; come lavarsi le mani; l’igiene delle mani salva la vita – “How to rub your hands with alcohol solution; how to wash your hands; hand hygiene saves lives”
Recently we had occasion to be in the main hospital in Bergamo (Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII) for several days in a row. There are a thousand and one signs dealing with how to correctly clean your hands. Hands (la mano, le mani) is one of the body-part nouns that is unusual. Usually, nouns ending in “o” and plural ending in “i” are masculine, but not in this case.
Aside: Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII is like a mini-city. You could spend the day roaming around it. Every time we go there we meet people we know, or later we get a text message that says: ‘hey, saw you in the hospital, what’s up?’

A sign in Bergamo anouncing a recent death.Ol Formager stracchino cheese.Get your eyelashes and eyebrows worked on here.Final rebates.
Signs around Bergamo: Left: mourning. Center left: stracchino cheese. Center right: eyelash and eyebrow work. Right: Final rebates.

Lutto per la morte di…. – “mourning the death of…”
Lutto (mourning) is not to be confused with lotto (game of fortune), though some might see some connection between the two. This sign was posted on via Pignolo outside the apartment of the deceased. Public death notices are much more common in Italy. In many small towns, there are almost always public bulletin boards containing death notices.

Another “interesting” word in this sign is the word for corpse or body, la salma. In this case, the body is at Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII - like I said, everything happens there.

Stracchino – “stracchino”
How’s that for a translation? Lo stracchino is a type of cheese common in Lombardy. The guy at our favorite cheese shop (Ol Formager on via San Tomaso) said that it’s basically taleggio (it’s internationally famous cousin) without all the fancy branding. The word stracchino comes derives from dialect meaning tired (in Italian: stanche) owing to the fact that the cheese is made from cows coming down from the summer high pastures. The cows at that time produce less milk, but milk with particular qualities that make this cheese special.

Sguardo perfetto – “perfect look”
Want the perfect look? Go to this salon on via Pignolo where you can get work done on your eyelashes (ciglia) and eyebrows (sopracciglia). Eyelashes and eyebrows are another body part that doesn’t follow the standard male/female gender rules. These words change gender when plural: eyelash (il ciglio), eyelashes (le ciglia), eyebrow (il sopracciglio), and eyebrows (le sopracciglia). That said, ciglio, when used in its other senses is pluralized as expected. For example, i cigli della strada is the “sides of the road”. And, you will often see sopracciglio pluralized as expected when referring to the eyebrows collectively as in entrambi ai sopraccigli or “between the eyebrows”.

Ultimi ribassi – “final rebates”
Ultimo has a number of senses, here I think it means less “recent” and more “final”.

Sign warning you about slippery stairs.Sign warning you about entering the hospital with a covered face.
Signs warning you about slippery stairs and entering the hospital with your face covered.

Per motivi di sicurezza usufruire delle scale interne – "for security reasons, use the internal stairs"
This sign was at the recently completed University of Bergamo building on via Pignolo. It had just snowed a little and as pretty as the new external stairs were, they were too slippery to walk on. I like the verb usufruire, in its basic sense it means “use” but in its more elegant sense it means “to avail yourself of”.

Per ragioni di sicurezza è vietato l’ingresso con volto coperto – For security reasons, it is forbidden to enter with your face covered.
While motivi di sicurezza was “safety reasons” above, ragioni di sicurezza here becomes “security reasons”. This sign was seen at the entrance to Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bergamo – Street Sign Language Lesson XVII

Street Sign Language Lesson 16 < Street Sign Language Lesson 17 > Street Sign Language Lesson 18

From the 1971 hit Signs: “Signs signs, everywhere there's signs: blockin’ the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don't do that. Can't you read the sign?” In this installment will learn an Italian proverb, a type of Italian hunting, and a lot about bureaucratic speak. Psyched?

Bergamo sign: Tu chiedi e io dipingo!Bergamo sign: Egregio Signore, parking.Bergamo sign: Vietato fumare.
Bergamo shops and signs. Left: Tu chiedi e io dipingo! Center: Egregio Signore. Right: Vietato fumare.

Tu chiedi e io dipingo – “You ask and I paint”
Finally, a sign I can understand without reaching for a dictionary. Chiedere is “to ask” and dipingere to paint. This shop was on via Tomaso and it would seem you could have customize the type of painting you buy, however, the shop has recently gone out of business or moved. Non stavi chiedendo e me ne sono andato – “you weren’t asking and I left”?

Egregio Signore: Lei ha parcheggiato la sua autovettura in zone dove vige il divieto di fermata con rimozione forzata – “You have parked your vehicle in a no-stopping, tow away zone”
My moment of patting my own back with tu chiedi e io dipingo ended abruptly when I found this sign, which had me scratching my head and reaching for a dictionary.

The sentence is formal, addressing the driver with respect, Lei, rather than using a “hey you tone”, which would be tu hai parcheggiato. The verb vigere (vige) is “to be in active or in force”. Autovettura is “vehicle”, though many dictionaries like to translate as automobile or car. I’m guessing that parking violations happen often where this photo was taken in front of the university, and the sign is a template that can be printed out and applied to vehicles of all types. Rimozione forzata is “forced removal”, but given the sense of the sentence it is better thought of as a tow away zone.

Vietato fumare. Esteso alle sigarette elettroniche – "No smoking, including electronic cigarettes"
Electronic cigarettes can be called sigarette electtroniche, dispositive elettronici di somministrazione di nicotina, e-cigarette, or just e-cig. However, you call it, you can’t vape (svapare) where this sign was photographed in the library. In other indoor public locations, you currently can vape.

A person who uses electronic cigarettes is a svapatore. As explained by the Accademia della Crusca, like in English where we use “vape” instead of “smoke”, Italians uses svapare (to vape) instead of fumare (to smoke).

T-shirt shop: commentary on some marriages.Don't stalk animals here.Get your fresh goat here.
Bergamo shops and signs. Left: commentary on some marriages. Center: No hunting. Right: Fresh baby goat.

Alcuni matrimoni finiscono bene, altri durano tutta la vita – "Some marriages end well, others last a life time"
Okay, back to the simple sentences. This was seen in a t-shirt shop in Città Alta. This reminds me of a proverb I heard the other day when a husband and wife (where we bring our dry cleaning) were arguing and a bystander said to me: tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito, literally, don’t put your finger between a wife and husband, or better yet, don’t get involved in their affairs.

Divieto di caccia vagante – "Stalking/tracking hunting prohibited"
I saw this sign on via Baioni, a stone’s throw from Città Alta. First, I wondered why there would be a no hunting sign in the city (or at least what I consider the city). Second, I didn’t know what caccia vagante meant. The nearest I can tell its hunting by roaming or wandering an area, a combination between stalking and tracking targeted prey, with or without dogs assisting. Caccia vagante seems to be one of the most common and enjoyable ways to hunt, according to the site Caccia Passione (Hunting Passion), and they know what they are talking about!

Capretto fresco, per Natale si prenotano: tacchine, capponi, capretti e agnelli freschi e nostrani – “Fresh young goat, for Christmas you can reserve: turkeys, capons, young goats and lambs, fresh and home-grown”
While not exactly on the same level as caccia vagante, I do like wandering into this butcher shop on via Masone because the guy is so friendly can learn a lot about meat. We didn’t end up getting any of the above-mentioned Christmas specials, but I was left wondering why the sign uses tacchine and not tacchini, the normal plural of turkey. Also, nostrano is a word you see a lot when referring to meat and produce.

Sign for removing pigeons.Sign about not removing dog crap.
Left: Anti-pigeon. Right: Anti-forgotten dog crap.

Avviso ai condomini…verrà effettuato l’intervento di allontanamente volatile – “Notice to condominium owners…there will be an intervention to install a pigeon removal system”
While on the subject of hunting and meat, we now move effortlessly to pigeons. This sign appeared in the common area of our palazzo. First, let me say that condominium just doesn’t cut it as a translation. We live in a palazzo! Got it? Condominium sounds like we are in Boca Raton and I’m not liking that image. Second, this is typical bureaucratic speak: the translation given above is the gist of the mesage. The more precise translation would be “there will be carried out a removal of winged animals”. And, there is an error I think: it should be allontanamento volatile. Man, if you are going to use bureaucratic speak on me, at least get the spelling right.

Mancata raccolta deiezioni canine – Failure to pick up dog doo-doo
Continuing on the subject of animals and bureaucratic speak, we have this sign seen in Città Alta. I’ll spare you the whole sign and just work with the title, if translate in Google would be “Failure to collect canine deletions”. Deiezione/i is a pretty obscure word, when esecremento/i would have just been fine.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Flower that Grows on Walls - Cymbalaria muralis, Pennywort

Cymbalaria muralis (Pennywort) on a wall.A wall in the Convento di San Francesco (Bergamo) where pennywort grows.
Left: Cymbalaria muralis (Pennywort) on a wall. Right: A wall in the third cloister of Convento di San Francesco (Bergamo) where pennywort grows. The wall looks north.

To say this plant is ubiquitous is an understatement. It’s one of the first plants I noticed when we landed in Bergamo over a year ago. Today, I'm at the ex-Convento di San Francesco. It's a warm Sunday morning and I'm staring at this plant and its dainty flowers again. It's about time to find out what the plant is called and why it is so ubiquitous.

The plant is called Cymbalaria muralis, and it is native to south and southwest Europe. Some references place C. muralis in the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and others in the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). The little labiate flowers, usually rose to violet colored, add a happy accent to any wall.

C. muralis has a number of suggestive common names as detailed on the U.S. National Plant Germplasm Site: coliseum-ivy, ivy-leaf-toadflax, mother-of-thousands, Oxford-ivy, pennywort, wandering-sailor, and others. I personally like pennywort. In Italian, it is commonly called ciombolino comune.

The success of pennywort, according to Plant Tropisms: And other Growth Movements (J.W. Hart, p. 101), it due to its curious behavior in respect to light, or phototropism. “After fertilization the previously phototropic stalk bends away from the light to the extent that the ripening seed pod becomes buried in some dark crevice…” That goes a ways toward explaining pennywort's ubiquity.

The Convento di San Francesco dates back to the 13th century and is located in Bergamo’s upper city, Città Alta. I wonder what the friars 700 years ago called this plant?

The third cloister at Convento di San Francesco, looking into second cloister called the Chiostro del Pozzo.View of the main cloister, Chiostro dell Arche.
Left: The third cloister at Convento di San Francesco, looking into second cloister called the Chiostro del Pozzo. Right: View of the main cloister, Chiostro dell Arche.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Hike from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre via Monte Torcola

Hiking route from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre.Hiking on snow below Monte Torcola Cabinovia on a day when lifts were not running.
Left: Hiking route from Piazza Brembana to Piazzatorre. Right: Hiking on snow below Monte Torcola Cabinovia on a day when lifts were not running.


Length: 11.5 km (7 miles)
Duration: 6.5 hours total, includes several stops and long lunch break
Elevation: 1277 m elevation gain total, 1745 m max elevation, 538 m min elevation
Location: Italy, Lombardia, Bergamo, Alta Valle Brembana

Getting There

Linea B (Bergamo – Zogno – San Pellegrino – San Giovanni Bianco – Piazza Brembana) will get you to Piazza Brembana, the start of the hike. Linea B50c takes you from Piazzatorre back to Piazza Brembana. It can be a bit tricky to find the right buses. See Walking around Bergamo for tips on working with the site.

The Walk

The routine of the hike is pretty straightforward: we followed Senterio 123 to Sentiero 119 to Sentiero 121.

The hike from Piazza Brembana (123) was steep and not that interesting at first. It starts to get interesting when you reach a saddle at 1200 m between Monte del Sole and il Culmine. From there you get your first glimpse of Monte Torcola.

It was odd to be hiking around deserted ski slopes. Today the slopes were closed. Yesterday, they were open. The barista where we stopped for coffee in Piazza Brembana said that she had hiked the trail the day before and there were very few skiers. The reason we heard: part weather (warm) and part management.

We saw a few other walkers and uphill skiers, and one sunbather who came up on a snowmobile.
Snowshoes would have been nice when we hit snow but not absolutely necessary. All we had were some Kahtoola microspikes, which worked out fine.


Last week’s walk above San Pellegrino Terme was the first time was saw Spring Snowflakes and Snowdrops. On this hike, we saw them again, but this time pushing up through the snow. The common name in Italian for the Snowdrop is bucaneve, which means “snow piercer”.

We also saw (just one) Daphne mezereum. The clusters of violet colored flowers appear on a naked stem.

[Family] Genus species – {Common names in English; Italian}
[Amaryllidaceae] Leucojum vernum – {Spring Snowflake; Campanellino, campenelle comuni}
[Amaryllidaceae] Galanthus nivalis – {Snowdrop; bucaneve
[Asteraceae] Petasites albus {White Butterbur; Farfaraccio bianco}
[Cyperaceae] Carex caryophyllea {Spring Sedge; Carice primaticcia}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus niger – {Christmas Rose; Rosa di natale}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – {Green Hellebore; Elleboro verde
[Thymelaeceae] Daphne mezereum – {Common Mezeron; Fior di stecco}

Before hike coffee at Albergo Piazza Brembana Di Ronzoni.Start of the hike in Piazza Brembana.Finally reaching snow around 1400 m. Walking down the Piste del Bosco of Piazzatore.
Left: Before hike coffee at Albergo Piazza Brembana Di Ronzoni. Center left: Start of the hike in Piazza Brembana. Center right: Finally reaching snow around 1400 m. Right: Walking down the Piste del Bosco of Piazzatore.

Two Helleborus niger blooms with an interesting color combination.Helleborus viridis.
How many times can you take a picture of Helleborus?  Many. They are fascinating.  Left: Two Helleborus niger blooms with an interesting color combination. Right: Helleborus viridis.

Petasites albus. Carex caryophyllea.
Left: Petasites albus. Right: Carex caryophyllea.

Silent ski lift at Monte Torcola (closed for the day). Sentiero 119 view south toward Monte Ortighera.
Left: Silent ski lift at Monte Torcola (closed for the day). Right: Sentiero 119 view south toward Monte Ortighera.

Sign pointing to trail 119, Monte Torcola.Panorama looking west from Monte Torcola.
Left: Sign pointing to trail 119, Monte Torcola. Right: Panorama looking west from Monte Torcola.

Daphne mezereum.Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop or bucaneve.
Left: Daphne mezereum. Right: Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop or bucaneve.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Hike from San Pellegrino Terme to Zogno via Monte Zucco

Path from San Pellegrino to Zogno.Two fellow hikers on Monte Zucco survey San Pellegrino in the Brembana valley.
Left: Path from San Pellegrino Terme to Zogno. Right: Two fellow hikers on Monte Zucco survey San Pellegrino Terme in the Brembana valley.


Length: 17 km (11 miles)
Duration: 7 hours moving time, about 9 hours’ (9:30 to 18:20) total time including ½ hour lunch, talking with other hikers, and many flower pictures.
Elevation: 1200 m total gain
Location: Italy, Lombardia, Bergamo, Val Brembana/Val Brembilla

Getting There

We don’t have a car, and therefore, we reach most of our hikes outside of Bergamo by bus, tram, train, or friends with cars. To find the trailhead this time we took a bus from Bergamo to San Pellegrino Terme (of the water fame), in Valle Brembana. We returned to Bergamo from Zogno, a town just a few miles down river from San Pellegrino Terme.

For a summary of hikes around Bergamo and transportation options, see Walking in Bergamo.

The Walk

Sentiero 506 starts and ends in San Pellegrino Terme, making a loop through the mountains. We followed half of 506, but instead of returning to San Pellegrino Terme, we returned to Zogno via Sentiero 505B. Along the way, we detoured up to Zucco (1232 m) and ate lunch there enjoying the view. We chatted with two ladies out for the day from Milan which were 2 of the dozen people we encountered today.

Our lunch spot was supposed to be Trattoria Pesenti, but when we called the day before the hike, we were told that they had no cook and wouldn’t be serving lunch the next day. Plan B, a sack lunch looking out over San Pellegrino Terme and the Valle Brembana wasn’t so bad in the end.

After Zucco, we continued on 506 south to Rifugio GESP, turning west and following the trail, which stays more on the ridge of the hill until we reached Catremerio. From there we headed south to the frazione of S. Antonio Abbandonato. There we stopped for a coffee at a café next to the church. When we walked in, all the locals turned to look at us as we fumbled with backpacks and walking sticks. We sidled up to the bar and ordered. As we sipped our espressos we really felt “watched.” Looking up, we saw what we thought at first was a stuffed owl but turned out to be a real one. The bartender said the owl occasionally makes a flight around the bar. I could think only of talons on my head: time to continue our hike.

Sentiero 505B passes through what are called the Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) so called because of the unusual and striking rock columns found in the area. 505B also passes over a rock formation in the shape of a “W”. It is a layer of rock from the Triassic period called Calcare di Zu (Zu Limestone).
On the final bit of 505B we came across a large tunnel penetrating into the mountain. We squeezed through the bit of fence barring entry and went for a look. We had a flashlight with us (always in the backpack for hiking), which was necessary as it was pitch dark and had water running through it. The tunnel was large enough to drive a truck through. We descended until we lost sight of the opening and arrived at a huge cavern. We thought it was a quarry but then realized we were in the middle of some kind of transit tunnel piercing through the mountain. We had come in through a service entry. We followed the tunnel to one of its ends (about .5 km). And lucky for us, that’s when we saw the “W” rock formation that we had been walking above earlier. Happy accident.

Turns out the tunnel is a new valley bypass called the “Variante di Zogno”, as it bypasses Zogno center. Due to cost overruns, it seems the project is on hold for now but due to resume soon.


It was pleasant hiking weather today: 55 – 60 F, mostly sunny. It seemed like Spring wasn’t far away. On the ground, we were treated to a riot of Easter colors, purples, yellows, rose pinks, and white. The interesting plants on this hike, only because we had never seen them before, were the Leucojum vernum (Spring snowflake) and Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops). Below is a list of the plants that we saw and that were in significant numbers along the trail.

[Family] Genus species – {Common names in English; Italian}

[Amaryllidaceae] Leucojum vernum – {Spring Snowflake; Campanellino, campenelle comuni}
[Amaryllidaceae] Galanthus nivalis – {Snowdrop; bucaneve}
[Asparagaceae] Scilla bifora – {Alpine squill; Scilla sivestre}
[Asplenianceae] Asplenium scolopendrium – {Hart’s-tongue fern; Scolopendria commune}
[Asteraceae] Tossilago farfara – {Coltsfoot; Tossilaggine comune}
[Boraginaceae] Pulmonaria officinalis – {Common Lungwort; Polmaria maggiore}
[Boraginaceae] Pentaglottis sempervirens – {Evergreen Bugloss; Buglossa ovata}
[Ericaceae] Erica carnea – {Winter Heather; Erica carnicina}
[Ericaceae] Rhododendron peloso – {Hairy Alprenrose; Rhododendro peloso}
[Iridaceae] Crocus spp.
[Liliaceae] Erythronium dens-canis – {Dog’-tooth-violet; “dente di cane”}
[Primulaceae] Primula vulgaris – {Primula comune}
[Ranunculaceae] Anemone nemorosa – {Wood Anemone; Anenome bianca}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus niger – {Christmas Rose; Rosa di natale}
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – {Green Hellebore; Elleboro verde}
[Ranunculaceae] Hepatica nobilis – {Common Hepatica, liverwort; Erba trinità}
[Thymelaeaceae] Daphne laureola – {Spure Laurel; Dafne laurella}

For resources consulted to help identify plants, see the post Resources for Identifying Plants around Bergamo.

Spores of Asplenium scolopendrium.Pulmonaria officinalis.
Left: Spores of Asplenium scolopendrium.  Right: Pulmonaria officinalis.

Erythronium dens-canis.Daphne laureola.Crocus.
Left: Erythronium dens-canis. Center: Daphne laureola. Right: Crocus.

Galanthus nivalisGalanthus nivalisGalanthus nivalis
Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrop.

Green-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.Green-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.Yellow-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.
Green and yellow-tipped Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum.

Different flower colors of Helleborus viridis, Green Hellebore.
Different flower colors of Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose

Helleborus niger flower.Helleborus viridis.
Left: Helleborus niger flower. Right: Helleborus viridis.

Flowers of Hepatica nobilis.Bud of Hepatica nobilis.Leaves of Hepatica nobilis.
Flowers, bud, and leaves of Hepatica nobilis.

White Hepatica nobilis. Scilla bifora.
Left: White Hepatica nobilis. Right: Scilla bifora.

Pentaglottis sempervirens.Rhododendron peloso.
Left: Pentaglottis sempervirens. Right: Rhododendron peloso.

Primula vulgaris.Tossilago farfara.
Left: Primula vulgaris. Right: Tossilago farfara.

Start of the hike and coffee at Hotel Moderno. Piazza S. Francesco D'Assisi, the start of the trail. Trail signs for 506 in San Pellegrino.
Left: Start of the hike and coffee at Hotel Moderno. Center: Piazza S. Francesco D'Assisi, the start of the trail. Right: Trail signs for 506 in San Pellegrino.

 Immediately you start climbing from San Pellegrino.The spur out to Monte Zucco. Trail and beech trees near Catremerio.
Left: Immediately you start climbing from San Pellegrino. Center: The spur out to Monte Zucco. Right: Trail and beech trees near Catremerio.

Heading down to Zogno below S. Antonio Abbondonato.Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) above Zogno.Inside Variante di Zogno.
Left: Heading down to Zogno below S. Antonio Abbondonato. Center: Giardini di pietra (Rock Gardens) above Zogno. Right: Inside Variante di Zogno.