Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Bike Ride from Peschiera del Garda to Valeggio sul Mincio

Route between Peschiera del Garda and Valeggio sul Mincio. The route runs alongside the bastions of Peschiera del Garda.
Left: Route between Peschiera del Garda and Valeggio sul Mincio. Right: The route runs alongside the bastions of Peschiera del Garda.

A bike ride to Valeggio sul Mincio makes for a nice day outing if you are coming from Bergamo, Brescia, or Verona. (We arrived from Bergamo by train.) The route from Peschiera to Valeggio is along the Mincio Cycleway (or Peschiera-Mantua Cycleway), named for the Mincio River that the trail follows. The distance between Peschiera del Garda and Valeggio sul Mincio is about 15 km.

The three top attractions of Valeggio sul Mincio are the Parco Giardino Sigurtà, Castello scaligero di Valeggio sul Mincio, and the hamlet of Borghetto. We were primarily interested in the gardens. When you rent your bikes in Peschiera (there are several places, we used the shop at via Venezia 15), ask if you can buy the Sigurtà ticket as well so that when you arrive you avoid the ticket office. Siguratà can be explored on foot, in golf cart, on a bus, or with a bike as we did. It’s a big park, so it was nice to get to different parts of the garden quickly on bike.

From the Peschiera del Garda train station, walk a few minutes north to find bike rentals. To catch the start of the trail, go through the town of Peschiera toward the Campo Sportivo, keeping an eye out for the brown trail signs. The trail starts on a canal, down a small dirt path, southwest of the historic center of Peschiera. The first kilometer of the trail has you riding along the contours of the massive fortifications of the city.

For the first part of the ride, you are on the west side of the Mincio. Then the path switches over to the east side. When you arrive at Valeggio, the trail takes you very close to Borghetto, the little hamlet of Valeggio on the river. You might be tempted to stop there thinking that’s the destination. Instead, climb the hill to reach Valeggio and the Parco Giardino Sigurtà.

After three hours of riding to Valeggio and exploring the gardens – on bike and foot – we headed to a nice lunch at Alla Borsa. Be sure to sample the Nodo d’Amore, delicate tortellini filled with meat. After lunch, we explored the castle and then Borghetto briefly before heading back to Peschiera.

Borghetto and the Visconti bridge/dam.Towers of Castello scaligero di Valeggio sul Mincio.
Left: Borghetto and the Visconti bridge/dam. Right: Towers of Castello scaligero di Valeggio sul Mincio.

A dish of tortellini (Nodo d'Amore) at Alla Borsa restaurant in Valeggio sul Mincio.The love story behind the Nodo d'Amore - it has a happy ending.Another view of the route from Peschiera del Garda to Valeggio sul Mincio. The jumble of lines in the lower part of the image are exploration of Parco Giardino Sigurtà.
Left: A dish of tortellini (Nodo d'Amore) at Alla Borsa restaurant in Valeggio sul Mincio. Center: The love story behind the Nodo d'Amore - it has a happy ending. Right: Another view of the route from Peschiera del Garda to Valeggio sul Mincio. The jumble of lines in the lower part of the image are exploration of Parco Giardino Sigurtà.

 Labyrinth of Parco Gardino Sigurtà.Sundial at Sigurtà.Water Gardens at Sigurtà.
Left: Labyrinth of Parco Gardino Sigurtà. Center: Sundial at Sigurtà. Right: Water Gardens at Sigurtà.

Parco Giardino Sigurtà brochure.Parco Giardino Sigurtà brochure.
Parco Giardino Sigurtà brochure.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Walk from Bergamo Piazza Vecchia to Trattoria all’Alpino

Route from Piazza Vecchia to Trattoria all'Alpino.View along Via Orsarola with Rosa banksiae.
Left: Route from Piazza Vecchia to Trattoria all'Alpino. Right: View along Via Orsarola with Rosa banksiae.


: 3 km one-way
Duration: ~ 45 minutes one-way
Elevation: Minimum 370 m (1,210 ft) Piazza Vecchia, maximum 477 m (1,570 ft)
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Bergamo, Parco dei Colli di Bergamo

The Walk

A walk to Trattoria all’Alpino is a great way to see what’s up and beyond Bergamo Città Alta and up beyond San Vigilio. It’s also a way to enjoy a part of Bergamo that the majority of visitors (and some locals) don’t know about. We did this walk recently when were done with studying in Biblioteca Civica "Angelo Mai" (in Piazza Vecchia) and wanted to get a little walk in before lunch. We’ve done this walk about 4 times.

Trattoria all’Alpino is a simple place to eat. You can get a plate of casoncelli alla bergamasca – one of Bergamo’s signature dishes - or a very basic pasta with red sauce, second dish of meat or polenta, and vegetable or salad for a reasonable price. Around the back of the trattoria is an open air museum dedicated to the Alpini, an elite part of the Italian army specialized in mountain warfare.

Specific instructions for getting to Trattoria all’Alpino from Piazza Vecchia:

  • Head northwest along Via Bartolomeo Colleoni and pass through the Piazza della Cittadella
  • Pass through Porta S. Alessandro to the base of the funicular for San Vigilio.
  • Head up Via S. Vigilio or optionally you can take the funicular.
  • At the top of the funicular, keep taking Via S. Vigilio, heading north by northwest until you reach an intersection of several streets, one of which is Via Monte Bastia.
  • Take Via Monte Bastia until it becomes Via Orsarola.
  • Take Via Ciaregotto, a small path which short-cuts a curve in Via Orsarola.
  • Where Via Ciaregotto rejoins Via Orsarola, the road changes to Via Colle dei Roccoli. You can either follow Via Colle dei Roccoli down to the trattoria, or there is a trail across the road that avoids the road completely to arrive as well at the trattoria.

Another view of the route from Piazza Vecchia to Trattoria all'Alpino. Elevation profile of the walk.
Left: Another view of the route from Piazza Vecchia to Trattoria all'Alpino. Right: Elevation profile of the walk.

Menu at Trattoria all'Alpino.View southwest from Via Orsarola toward the pianura.
Left: Menu at Trattoria all'Alpino. Right: View southwest from Via Orsarola toward the pianura. 

View southeast toward San Vigilio from Via Orsarola. Looking up into a garden with a large beech.
Left: View southeast toward San Vigilio from Via Orsarola. Right: Looking up into a garden with a large beech.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Italian Language Nouns that Differ from Normal Gender Rules


Nouns in the Italian language have a gender, that is, a noun can be male or female, and in a few cases, both. Specifically, Italian, like other Romance languages, has a grammatical gender where nouns must agree with other parts of the language, such as articles, pronouns, and adjectives. And therein lies the problem, you have to know the gender to make the correct agreements. And while there is a rule of thumb based on word ending to help you predict the gender, it's the exceptions that are the subject of this post.

In today's English, except for a few cases (see Gender in English), nouns don't have a gender. Therefore, speakers and writers in English don't worry about a car being feminine as it is in Italian (la macchina) or the sun being masculine (il sole). Sure, we might refer to a car as a “she” or the sun as “he” if we want to, but it's done through pronouns, which is pretty easy. My yellow car and my yellow sun are  both "my yellow". Using the same examples, in Italian there needs to be grammatical agreement, therefore la mia macchina gialla and il mio sole giallo, my yellow car and my yellow sun, respectively.

Rule of Thumb

A rule of thumb for Italian nouns is that singular nouns ending in 'o' are masculine while singular nouns ending in 'a' are feminine. Singular nouns ending in 'o' become plural (usually*) by changing the ending to 'i'. Singular nouns ending in 'a' become plural (usually*) by changing the ending to 'e'. Examples include il palazzo/i palazzi, l'amico/gli amici, la casa/le case, and la ragazza/le ragazze. So, in general, we just need to look at the ending to work out the gender.

* There are exceptions as you would expect like tempio/tempi and giacca/giacche.

The majority of Italian nouns follow the rule of thumb above. But how many? It turns out you can get an estimate by turning to databases and archives of the Italian language. The prestigious Italian language institute Accademia della Crusca maintains a list of such resources. It's a daunting list, but with a little poking around it starts to make sense. For example, the most well-known list of words is the Lessico di frequenza dell'italiano parlato (Corpus LIP). The corpus includes 469 texts originating from transcriptions of spoken word to yield a corpus of approximately 490,000 words. The transcriptions were taken from speakers in four cities (Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples) and  in numerous situations, such as face-to-face conversations or a lecture by a professor.

To use the Corpus LIP data, you can download the data to a CSV file, and import into a spreadsheet. Then, sort by frequency and filter for just nouns. You will find that for the top 500 nouns:

  • Following the rule of thumb:
    • 40% are nouns ending in 'o' that are masculine
    • 31% are nouns ending in 'a' that are feminine
  • Not following the rule of thumb:
    • 11% are nouns ending in 'e' that are masculine
    • 12% are nouns ending in 'e' that are feminine
    • 5% are nouns with other endings, e.g., ending with 'a' that are masculine, or nouns that can be either masculine or feminine

Based on this data, we can say that the rule of thumb for predicting the gender is good for about 70% of Italian nouns.

Next, let's take a look at the work of Scudit, Scuola d'Italiano Roma, which has created a curated list of 333 essential nouns that should absolutely be part of the vocabulary of a beginning Italian student. Scudit starts with the LIP corpus and then adds and removes words from the list to arrive at a vocabulary they feel is representative of what a beginning student should know. Though it's a different end goal than just looking at word frequency, it's interesting to see what their word list reveals about the applicability of the rule of thumb. Answer: the Scudit site states that about 70% are nouns ending in 'o' that are masculine or ending in 'a' that are feminine, comparable to what was calculated above.

The Lists

I started out modestly trying to maintain a list of Italian nouns that end in 'e' and are feminine in gender (e.g., la chiave). I did this as a learning exercise, but soon it expanded to tracking classes of nouns that deviated from the norm in general.

Why is it important to be familiar with Italian nouns that don't follow the norm? As mentioned above, to speak and write correctly, there needs to be agreement between nouns and related articles, pronouns, and adjectives. This leads to better communication and requires less effort from listeners and readers. Many of the nouns that deviate from the rule of thumb appear surprisingly often in everyday conversation and writing. For example, people will understand you just fine if you say (incorrectly) “love is beautiful” as “L'amore è bella” instead of (correctly) as “L'amore è bello”, but the correct form requires less effort by the listener. Think of how many times you've heard someone new to the English language swap “she” for “he” or vice-versa. You know what the intent is and probably the context, but you stop – even if for a fraction of a second – to parse the word and correct it in your mind. It's that kind of extra cognitive work you'd like to avoid in people listening to or reading your Italian.

Along with consulting these lists, it's worthwhile to find your favorite Italian grammar guide and read up on nouns. Or, at least consult the quick overview in Wikipedia: Italian Language, particularly the part on nouns.

How did I come up with these words? About 80% of the words are ones I've encountered, be it in the grocery store or café, or talking or reading  in everyday situations. Admittedly, a few of the words are a little obscure such as rupe (cliff) and isteresi (hysteresis), and are an indication of what catches my eye.

Examples of nouns that are feminine and in the singular end in 'e'

  • Rule of thumb: words ending in 'zione', 'ice', and 'ie' are generally feminine
  • Some examples:
    • l'abbreviazione (le abbreviazioni), l'abitudine (le abitudini), l'abside (le absidi), l'alice (le alici), l'anagrafe (le anagrafi), l'arte (le arti), l'asse (le assi), l'assisse, la base (le basi), la botte (le botti), la brace (le braci), la canzone (le canzoni), la capitale (le capitali), la caprese (le capresi), la carne (le carni), la catastrofe (le catastrofi), la classe (le classi), la chiave (le chiavi), la cimice (le cimici), la colazione (le colazioni), la conversazione (le conversazioni), la cornice (le cornici), la corte (le corti), la costante (le costanti), la cuspide (le cuspidi), la deduzione (le deduzioni), la dose (le dosi), la dote (le doti), l'eclisse (le eclissi), l'ellisse (le ellissi), l'estate (le estati), la fame, la fase (le fasi), la fede (le fedi), la frase (le frasi), la fonte (le fonti), la forbice (le forbice), la fronte (le fronti), la funzione (le funzioni), la gente (le genti), la grandine (le grandini), l'indagine (le indagine), l’informazione (le informazioni), la legge (le leggi), la luce (le luci), la madre (le madri), la maionese (le maionesi), la manifestazione (le manifestazioni), la matrice (le matrici), la mente (le menti), la merce (le merci), la miriade (le miriadi), la moglie (le mogli), la morte (le morti), la mutanda (le mutande), la nave (le navi), la neve (le nevi), la notte (le notti), la nube (le nubi), l'origine (le origini), l'otite (le otiti), l'osservazione (le osservazioni), la pace (le paci), la parete (le pareti), la passione (le passioni), la patente (le patenti), la pelle (le pelli), la penale (le penali), la pernice (le pernici), la pisside (le pissidi), la plebe (le plebi), la polvere (le polveri), la posizione (le posizioni), la prigione (le prigioni), la prole (i proli), la propaggine (le propaggini), la questione (le questioni), la radice (le radici), la ragione (le ragioni), la redine (le redini), la regione (le regioni), la religione (le religioni), la rete (le reti), la rondine (le rondini), la rupe (le rupi), la salute (le saluti), la scrittrice (le scrittrici), la sede (le sedi), la segale, la selce (le selci), la senape (le senape), la serie (le serie), la sete (le seti), la specie (le specie), la stagione (le stagioni), la stirpe (le stirpi), la strage (le stragi), la superficie (le superfici), la tenebra (le tenebre), la tigre (le tigri), la torre (le torri), la tosse (le tossi), la tradizione (le tradizioni), la tranche (le tranche), la trave (le travi), la valle (le valli), la venere (le veneri), la vite (le viti), la voce (le voci)

Examples of nouns that are masculine and in the singular end in 'e'

  • Rule of thumb: words ending in 'ore', 'one', 'ale', 'ile', and 'è' are generally masculine
  • Some examples:
    • l'ambiente (gli ambienti), l'amore (gli amore), l'androne (gli androni), l'animale (gli animali), l'aprile, l'architrave (gli architravi), l'aspirapolvere (gli aspirapolvere), l'astice (gli astice), l'attaccabrighe (gli attaccabrighe), l'attore (gli attori), l'autore (gli autori), il balcone (i balconi), il bancone (i banconi), il barcone (i barconi), il bene (i beni), il bestiame (i bestiami), il bicchiere (i bicchieri), il bisonte (i bisonti), il bottone (i bottoni), il bracciale (i bracciali), il bue (i buoi), il buffone (i buffoni), il cameriere (i camerieri), il caffè (i caffè), il calzone (i calzoni), il campanile (i campanili), il canale (i canali), il cane (i cani), il canile (i canili), il cannocchiale (i cannocchiali), il canone (i canoni), il cantiere (i cantieri), il cappone (i capponi), il carabiniere (i carabinieri), il carattere (i caratteri), il carcere (i carceri), il cardinale (i cardinali), il cartone (i cartoni), il codice (i codici), il cognome (i cognomi), il colore (i colori), il concime (i concimi), il consigliere (i consiglieri), il cortile (i cortili), il cotone (i cotoni), il crescione (i crescioni), il cuore (i cuori), il diamante (i diamanti), il dicembre, il dolore (i dolori), il dottore (i dottori), l'ente (gli enti), l'equatore, l'errore (gli errori), l'esponente (gli esponenti), l'etere (gli eteri), il fante (i fanti), il favore (i favori), il fiore (i fiori), il fiume (i fiumi), il flacone (i flaconi), il focolare (i focolari), il fogliame (i fogliami), il fumatore (i fumatori), il genere (i generi), il genitore (i genitori), il giornale (i giornali), il giudice (i giudici), il glutine (i glutini), il gregge (i greggi), l'idrante (gli idranti), l'inferiore (gli inferiori), l'inglese (gli inglesi), l'interesse (gli interessi), l'istante (gli istanti), il karaoke (i karaoke), il latte, il legame (i legami), il letame (i letami),  il levante (i levanti), il levriero (i levrieri), il limite (i limiti), il liquore (i liquori), il maggiore (i maggiori), il maiale (i maiali), il male (i mali), il maquillage, il mare (i mari), il materiale (i materiali), il melone (i meloni), il mese (i mesi), il mestiere (i mestieri), il miele (i miele), il minestrone (i minestroni), il monsone (i monsoni), il motore (i motori), il natale, il nome (i nomi), l'occidentale (gli occidentali), l'occidente, l'ordine (gli ordini), l'orientale (gli orientale), l'oriente, l'ospedale (gli ospedali), l'oste (gli osti), l'ottobre, l'ottone (gli ottoni), il padre (i padri), il paese (i paesi), il pallone (i palloni), il pane (i pani), il panforte (i panforti), il pantalone (i pantaloni), il pedone (i pedoni), il pepe, il peperone (i peperoni), il pene (i peni), il pepe (i pepi), il pesce (i pesci), il piacere (i piaceri), il piede (i piedi), il piccione (i piccioni), il pollame (i pollami), il pollice (i pollici), il polpettone (i polpettoni), il ponte (i ponti), il portale (i portali), il presepe (i presepi), il presidente (i presidenti), il professore (i professori), il propulsore (i propulsori), il puzzle (le puzzle), il rame, il rappresentante (i rappresentati), il re (i re), il regime (i regimi), il rene (i reni), il rigore (i rigori), il ristorante (i ristoranti), il rognone (i rognoni), il rumore (i rumori), il sacerdote (i sacerdoti), il salame (i salami), il sale (i sali), il salmone (i salmoni), il salone (i saloni), il sangue (i sangue), il sapone (i saponi), il satellite (i satelliti), il scrittore (i scrittori), il segnale (i segnali), il seme (i semi), il serpente (i serpenti), il settembre, il settore (i settori), il signore (i signori), lo spumante (gli spumanti), il sognatore (i sognatori), il sole (i soli), lo splendore (gli splendori), lo stile (gli stili), lo studente (gli studenti), il tè (i tè), il termine (i termini), il timone (i timoni), il tizzone (i tizzoni), il totale (i totali), l'utensile (gli utensili), l'umore (gli umori), l'utente (gli utenti), il valore (i valori), il vapore (i vapori), il vate (i vati), il vertice (i vertici), il vinile  

Examples of nouns that are masculine and in the singular end in 'a'

  • il cinema (i cinema), il clima (i climi), il comunista (i comunisti), il dramma (i drammi), il fantasma (i fantasmi), il giornalista (i giornalisti), il lemma (i lemmi), il miasma (i miasmi), il papà (i papà), il pianeta (i pianeti), il pigiama (i pigiami), il plasma (i plasmi), il poeta (i poeti), il problema (i problemi), il programma (i programmi), il schema (gli schemi), il sisma (i sismi), il sistema (i sistemi), il tema (i temi), il teorema (i teoremi)

Examples of nouns that are feminine and in the singular end in 'i'

  • l'analisi (le analisi), l'antitesi (le antitesi), la crisi (le crisi), l'ipotesi (le ipotesi), l'isteresi (le isteresi), la metastasi (le metastasi), la metamorfosi (le metamorfosi), la metropoli (le metropoli), la paralisi (le paralisi), la protesi (le protesi), la schisi (le schisi), la sintesi (le sintesi), la tesi (le tesi)

Examples of nouns that are masculine and in the singular end in 'i'

  • il lunedì, il martedì, il mercoledì, il giovedì, il taxi, il venerdì

The Scudit 333 essential nouns shows some other categories of nouns that we didn't cover here, including:

  • nouns that can be either masculine or feminine
    • l'abitante, il/la barista, il/la cantante, il/la complice, il/la custode, il/la dentista, il/la dorsale, l'insegnante, il/la nipote, il/la patente, il/la ribelle, il/la regista, il/la turista
  • nouns that end in a consonant and are masculine
    • l'autobus, l'est, il design, il nord, l'ovest, il sud
  • nouns that end in 'o' but are feminine
    • l'auto (le auto), la foto (le foto), la mano (le mani), la moto (le moto)
  • nouns that come from another language
    • il bar (i bar), il CD (i CD), il cinema (i cinema), il computer (i computer), il film (i film), lo sport (gli sport), lo yogurt (gli yogurt)
We should also mention that there are nouns in Italian that are used mainly in the singular or the plural. In English, we have similar nouns, such as crew, audience, clothes, cahoots, and glasses. (See the Cambridge Dictionary for more examples.) In Italian, these types of nouns are called defective. Reasoning: a noun used mainly the plural is defective or missing the singular form, and similarly, a noun used mainly in the singular is defective or missing the plural form. You can get a more complete lists of these types of nouns at Treccani and NihilScio. Here are a few examples:

  • Used mainly in the singular
    • l'amore,  l'aprile, il coraggio, il miele, il nord, la pazienza, la prole, il sud
  • Used mainly in the plural
    • le Ande, gli annali, le Dolomiti, le ferie, le mutande, le nozze, i Pirenei, le tenebre, le viscere
And finally, you can always count on Wiktionary to provide you with hours of entertainment. In this case, you can consult the lists suffixes and words by suffixes maintained in the English-language Wiktionary.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bergamo – Street Sign Language Lesson XIX

Street Sign Language Lesson 18 < Street Sign Language Lesson 19

This issue of Street Sign Language Lesson ™ includes: discrimination against ugly waiters, the plague, gross anti-smoking images, and interesting baby food choices in Italy.

Looking for good-looking staff. Cigarette box: Coughing up blood. Warning to not park motorcycles.
Bergamo signs. Left: Looking for good-looking staff. Center: Coughing up blood. Right: Warning to not park motorcycles.

Cercasi cameriere e barista, esperienza minima di 5 anni, persona seria, di bella presenza – “Wanted: waiter and bartender, with a minimum of 5 years’ experience, a serious person and good-looking”
P40 is a bar/restaurant in Piazza Pontida. It was the very first place we ate at when we arrived in Bergamo. Now, we never go there because it’s like dining in a glass fishbowl filled with smoke. Apparently, if you are ugly, you need not apply for this job.

Il fumo danneggia i tuoi polmoni – “Smoking damages your lungs”
I can’t tell you how many of these discarded cigarette carton have caught my eye. (I scream inside: pollution damages the environment as well!) This box was sitting near an ATM. Cigarette cartons have different eye-catching, and often gross, images to dissuade people from smoking. I wonder how effective these images are for reducing tobacco use (tobagismo)? This cigarette carton features a woman coughing blood into a handkerchief. According to Tobacco Control Laws (European Union), warning messages must take up to 65% of front and 65% of back, and be rotated every so often. Here are some other messages you might see on cigarette packages.

Qui non si parcheggia moto o si è multati – “No motorcycle parking here or you will be fined”
I’ll admit it, impersonal forms in Italian confuse me. Let’s see if I don’t muddle this explanation too badly. In the first part of the sentence, we are dealing with the transitive verb to park (parcheggiare) used passively: a motorcycle (moto) is parked. For this case, technically called si passivante, the best translation would be “motorcycles are not parked here” or simply “no motorcycle parking”.

In the second part of the sentence, we are dealing with an intransitive verb (essere “to be”). This case is called si impersonale and depending on context, the phrase could refer to “one”, “you”, “they/people” or generically “it”. “You” is about right for the tone of the message, which is aimed at the person thinking about parking a motorcycle. Note that multati (plural) and not multato (singular) is used because you always use plural adjectives in si impersonale even for singluar verb (si è).

Il Lazzaretto, Bergamo. Men playing cards. Il Lazzaretto, Bergamo: green space in middle. Il Lazzaretto, Bergamo: Cell 65 video installation.
Il Lazzaretto, Bergamo. Left: Men playing cards. Center: Big green area in the middle of Il Lazzaretto. Right: Sign for Cell 65.

Cella LXV – Video installazione sulla peste del 1630 – "Cell 65 – Video installation on the plague of 1630"
This sign was at Il Lazzaretto of Bergamo. The word lazzaretto in Italian means hospital for lepers and people with infectious diseases like the plague (la peste). The Il Lazzaretto consists of rooms (really cells or celle) arranged a large square porticoed courtyard. Each cell has a door and window, which open on to the courtyard. At the time costruction started in 1504, the building was outside the city walls (Città Alta).  The building was expanded to accommodate the increased number of infected from the plague of 1576. Il Lazzaretto saw increased use again during the plague of 1629-1631.

Today Il Lazzaretto is part of Bergamo Infrastructure, and the cells contain offices for various organizations and groups in Bergamo.

Yet another frustrated clean-up-after-your-dog sign in Bergamo. Bottega del Coltello: one week wait. Barazzoni outlet in Bergamo.
Various signs around Bergamo. Left: Your dog doesn't make you pee. Center: Knife sharpening. Right: Cheap pots and pans.

Il tuo cane non ti farebbe pisciare davanti casa degli altri! – “Your dog wouldn’t make you pee in front of other people’s houses”
I couldn’t let this dog sign go by without a comment. It’s certainly one of the most interesting we’ve seen on the subject of dog waste. The sentence uses the causative fare + verbo as in non ti fa pisciare (“he doesn’t make you pee”) with the addition of the conditional mood to become non ti farebbe pisciare (“he wouldn’t make you pee”).

There is something creepy about the position of the dog and its owner.

Informiamo la gentile clientela che per le affilature e le riparazioni il tempo di attesa è di una settimana – "We inform our clients that for sharpening or repairs there is a one week wait"
This sign was spotted at the Bottega del Coltello in Santa Caterina. It’s a great place to go if you are looking for a high-end knife. The noun affilatura is “sharpening” and the related verb is affilare is “to sharpen”.

Svuotiamo tutto per eccedenze di produzione – “We are getting rid of everything due to production surplus”
This sign was spotted at the Barazzoni Outlet store in Bergamo. We confess to buying a few things there because the Agnelli Outlet store was too far away and a bit pricier. The sign uses the verb svuotare, “to empty or gut”.

Baby food in Italy: beef, prosciutto, and rabbit. Baby food in Italy: horse, rabbit, and lamb. Museum of the 1800s in Bergamo and a silkworm explanation. 
Left: Baby food choices in Italy including horse, rabbit, and lamb. Right: Inside the Museum of the 1800s in Bergamo and a silkworm explanation.

Manzo, prosciutto, coniglio, tacchino, cavallo, pollo, agnello, orata – "Beef, ham, rabbit, turkey, horse, chicken, lamb, gilthead bream"
These are choices for baby food that we saw at a grocery store. I only got mushed carrots and peas when I was a baby.

Trinciafoglie per gelsi, lettiera per bachi – "Mulberry leave cutter, bedding for silkworms"
This sign was seen in the Museo Ottocento, part of the Fondazione Bergamo nella storia museum complex, that deals with the history of the 1800s in Bergamo including bachicoltura or the breeding of silkworms (Bombix mori). The raising of silkworms and production of silk in the Bergamo province, as well as much of northern Italy, was huge. The industry suffered a setback in the second half of the 1800s when the pébrine (pebrina in Italian) parasite struck. Silk production limped along until its final decline in the 1900s, killed off by external competition, the introduction of synthetic materials, and migration of people to the cities.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Walk from Bruntino to Sorisole through the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo

Route from Villa D'Almé/Bruntino to Sorisole through the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo.View of one part of the trail called Giro del Monte.
Left: Route from Villa D'Almé/Bruntino to Sorisole through the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo. Right: View of one part of the trail called Giro del Monte.


Length: 11.5 km
Duration: ~ 3 hours
Elevation: Minimum 296 m (971 ft), maximum 647 m (2122 ft), total elevation gain 522 m (1,710 ft)
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Bergamo, Parco dei Colli di Bergamo

Getting There

You can start this hike in Bruntino or Villa D’Almé. Either way, you can take the #9 city bus from Bergamo. It will take about 20 minutes.

Recently, ATB put ticket machines on the buses so you can buy tickets without worrying about getting them ahead of time. That said, we’ll probably continue to use the handy 10 pack of 3 zone tickets we buy every so often, officially called carnet 10 corse. A 3-zone ticket is what you need to get from Bergamo to the airport as well as Bergamo to Villa D’Almé.

The Walk

This hike takes you around, by, or over several small hills in part of the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo, including Monte Bastia (584 m), Monte Giacoma (587 m), Monte dei Giubilini (596 m), and Monte Pissol (687 m). This relatively easy hike takes you through the foothills at the head of the Val Brembana, hills just north of Villa D’Almé and Sorrisole at the northern parts of the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo. The park founded in 1977 comprises about 4,700 ha (11,600 acres) of forested and agricultural land north of Bergamo, between 244 m (800 ft) and 1146 m (3,760 ft) – Canto Alto. The park includes Bergamo's Città Alta.

We exited the bus in Bruntino and made our way to the start of the Giro del Monte Bastia Trail, which takes you clockwise around Monte Bastia. Via Gaione, a steep paved road, turns into the Giro del Monte. Eventually, you end up at Bruntino Alto, and to be honest, you could skip this part because it was the least interesting section of the hike and instead just start at Bruntino Alto.

From Bruntino Alto, there are two trails you can take. We followed the trail around the north side of Monte Giacoma, which brought us along the "didactic trail for the senses" (percorso didattico sensoriale), where our olfactory senses were awakened by a light garlic scent coming from patches of bear’s garlic (Allium ursinum).

After Monte Giacoma, we climbed over the wooded Monte dei Giubilini to descend into Azzonica and then a hop over to Sorisole.

Lunch was at Trattoria Antichi Sapori, a simple and satisfying lunch spot in Sorisole. We took the #7 bus back to Bergamo because we had an afternoon appointment.


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

[Boraginaceae] Symphytum
[Euphorbiaceae] Euphorbia
[Lamiaceae] Lamium galeobdolon – {Yellow Archangel; False ortica giallo}
[Lamiaceae] Salvia pratensis – {Meadow sage; Salvia dei prati}
[Lilliaceae] Allium ursinum – {Bear’s Garlic, Wild Garlic; Aglio orsino}
[Melanthiaceae] Paris quadrifolia – {Herb-Paris, Oneberry; Uva di volpe}

Bear's Garlic or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the trail.Bear's Garlic or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the trail.
Bear's Garlic or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the trail.

Bear's Garlic or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the trail.View toward Canto Alto from the north side of Monte Bastia.
Left: Bear's Garlic or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the trail. Right: View toward Canto Alto from the north side of Monte Bastia.

EuphorbiaYellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)
Left: Euphorbia. Right:  Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon).

Herb-Paris or Oneberry (Paris quadrifolia).Herb-Paris or Oneberry (Paris quadrifolia).Symphytum
Left and center: Herb-Paris or Oneberry (Paris quadrifolia). Right: Symphytum.

Area included in the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo.Sign showing stops along a trail designed to please the senses.
Left: Area included in the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo. Right: Sign showing stops along a trail designed to please the senses.

View from above Azzonica looking over Sorisole with Bergamo Alta in the background.Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis)
Left: View from above Azzonica looking over Sorisole with Bergamo Alta in the background. Right: Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Italian Words with Tonic Stress on Third-From-Last Syllable

Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.
Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.

I’ve always kept a list of my “troublesome” words in English, words whose pronunciation I stumble over without fail. Now that I’m spending more time speaking and writing the Italian language, I’m doing the same thing. In particular, I track words in which the accent falls on the third-from-last (ante-penultimate) syllable. My list of third-from-last Italian tongue-twisters is toward the end of this post.

When the stress of a word falls on the third to last syllable, it’s called proparoxytone in English. In Italian, it’s proparossitono or parole sdrucciole. Interestingly, sdrucciolo also means a steep slope and the verb sdrucciolare means to fall down sliding. The way I think about it is that you have to put the stress on the third syllable and then slide to the end of the word as effortlessly as possible.


As pointed out on Linguapress, native speakers of a language don’t often make mistakes putting the stress in the correct place, but these same speakers also don’t actually know the rules. Case in point: I didn’t understand the rules and their exceptions until I read the linked page above. I just understood the “music” of the language and over time pronounced the words correctly, or mostly correctly. There are still some English words for which I have to pause to think about their pronunciation. Interestingly, these are also third-from-last-syllable stressed words, where the stress on the root word changes because of a change in the suffix. Examples are (with stressed syllables in CAPS):

  • AN-a-log, a-NAL-o-gous
  • E-po-nym, e-PON-ym-ous
  • pho-TOG-ra-phy, pho-to-GRAPH-ic, PHO-to-graph
  • SYL-la-ble, syl-LAB-ic
  • SYN-o-nym, syn-ON-y-mous
  • su-PER-flu-ous


In Italian, most words have the stress on the second-from-last (penultimate) syllable. Words that have stress on the third-to-last are fewer and trickier for me to remember. A summary of word stress can be found at Zanichelli Aula di Lingue (in Italian) and JakubMarian (in English).

Let’s take the same English words from above and see what they look like in Italian:

  • a-na-LO-gi-co, a-NA-lo-go
  • e-PO-ni-mo, e-po-NI-mi-co
  • fo-TO-gra-fo, fo-to-GRA-fi-co, fo-to-gra-FI-a
  • SIL-la-ba, sil-LA-bi-co
  • si-NO-ni-mo, si-no-NI-mi-co
  • su-PER-flu-o

The words in Italian are similar to their counterparts in English in terms of word stress, and in particular how the stress changes when the suffix changes. For example, when moving from analog (analogico) to analogous (analogo), the stress remains on the third-from-last syllable in both Italian and English.

This suggests to me that perhaps my problem is that I never correctly mastered word stress rules in English and my bad habits followed me into the Italian language. One recent example that comes to mind is elleboro (el-LE-bo-ro) in Italian. In English, you can use the scientific term Helleborus (he-LEB-o-rus), or in the plain English term hellebores (HEL-le-bore). Both have third-from-last syllable stressed. The problem is that I always pronounced Helleborus incorrectly as he-le-BO-rus, stressing the second-from-last syllable, and this is how I first approached elleboro in Italian, which got giggles and a correction.

I work on my pronunciation of third-from-last-syllable-stressed words by maintaining a list; it's a list of words culled from months of reading and writing in Italian. I read the list aloud every so often. I also put the list in text-to-speech applications (e.g., Google Translate) and listen to their pronunciation. The period after each word in the list adds a pause between each word. Here’s the list:

abito. abitudine. abside. acero. acronimo. aereo. aferesi. affittasi. agnostico. alcool. alcoolico. altitudine. ambito. analogico. analogo. anatra. anatroccolo. ancora. angelo. angolo. antibiotico. antipatico. antipode. antropico. anagrafe. analisi. anice. antitesi. apocope. apposito. arabo. architettonico. arcipelago. arista. asparago. aspirapolvere. astice. astronomo. ateo. atletica. atomo. atono. attendibile. basilica. benefico. bifora. bigamo. biologo. bisdrucciola. bonifico. borragine. briciola. bufala. cadavere. cannibale. capitolo. cappero. capsula. carcere. cardiologico. cardiologo. carico. carnivoro. catalogo. catastrofe. cattedra. celiaco. centimetro. centrifuga. ceramica. cercasi. chiacchiera. chimico. chiocciola. cibernetica. coetaneo. compito. coriandolo. cupola. cuspide. debole. democratico. demografo. didattico. dietologo. difficile. digeribile. dinamica. dirigibile. disamina. discepolo. dollaro. dondolo. eccetera. edera. effimero. elicottero. elleboro. enfasi. enfatico. ennesimo. epilogo. epitome. epoca. eponimo. eponimico. eremo. esercito. esplicito. estasi. estero. etere. etica. ettaro. facile. farmaco. fascicolo. favola. fegato. filantropo. filosofo. fisico. fitofago. fotofobico. fotografo. fotografico. garofano. genere. gerarchico. giallognolo. giocattolo. glutine. gocciolo. gondola. gotico. grafico. grammatica. grandine. idillico. igienico. immagine. implicito. indagine. instabile. interprete. ipotesi. ipotetica. isola. isteresi. lampada. larice. legittimo. lessico. libero. liquido. logico. lucertola. marittimo. meccanica. medico. mensola. metafora. metodo. miracolo. mitico. modifica. molecola. monaco. monofora. muscolo. nettare. nocciolo. nobile. nucleo. omografo. omonimo. onomastico. orefice. orfano. organo. origano. origine. ospite. ossido. osteopata. pacifico. paesaggio. Paleocapa. paragrafo. paralisi. parentesi. pellicola. penisola. pentola. perdita. pericolo. periferico. perimetro. periodo. petalo. piacevole. pillola. pirofila. pisside. politico. polittico. polizza. pollice. polvere. popolo. possibile. prezzemolo. principe. probabile. proposito. protesi. pubblico. quaresima. quindicesimo. rabarbaro. rafano. ragionevole. reciproco. redine. retina. ricarica. ricciolo. ridicolo. romanico. rondine. salsedine. sandalo. satellite. scientifica. sdrucciola. sdrucciolevole. sedano. segale. semplice. senape. sesamo. sillaba. sillabico. simbolo. simpatico. sindaco. sinonimo. sinonimico. sintattico. sintesi. sintomo. solito. spettacolo. specifico. speleologico. speleologo. statua. stimolo. stomaco. stupidaggine. subito. suddito. superfluo. superstite. svizzera. tavola. telefono. tendine. teorico. termine. termometro. terzultimo. tessera. tirannico. tonico. toponimo. trascurabile. triangolo. trifora. unico. utile. vedova. veicolo. vendesi. venere. veneto. ventesimo. vergine. verifica. vertigine. vescovo. vittima. vocabolo. vocalico. volatile. vongola. zenzero. zigomo. zingaro. zucchero.

Some guidelines for third-from-last stressed words appear in the two links mentioned above as well as in Grammatica italiana di base by Trifone and Palermo and published by Zanichelli. (This reference is one of my favorites for delving into grammar. It's written in Italian, so reading it is also a good language work-out.) The guidelines are:

  • Nouns with suffixes -agine, -aggine, -igine, -iggine, -edine, -udine
  • Adjectives and nouns with suffixes -abile, -evole, -ibile, -ico, -aceo, -ognolo, -oide
  • Scholarly words with Greek-originating suffixes -cefalo, -crate, -dromo, -fago, -filo, -fobo, -fono, -gamo, -geno, -gono, -grafo, -logo, -mane, -metro, -nomo, -stato, -tesi, -ttero
  • Scholarly words with Latin-originating suffixes -fero, -fugo, -voro

Note that the words in my list above are nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Adding in verbs and their conjugations is another level of complexity we don't cover here. For example, the verb pagare "to pay" has third person plural conjugation of PA-ga-no, with third-from-last syllable stressed.

Also, there can be homographs of the third-from-last words, that is, words that are written the same but have a different meaning and a different stressed syllable. For example, homographs from the Zanichelli reference are:

  • am-BI-to - the past participle of the verb ambire (compare to AM-bi-to)
  • an-CO-ra - the adverb meaning "again" or "still" (compare to AN-co-ra)
  • be-ne-FI-ci - plural of beneficio (compare to be-NE-fi-ci, plural of benefico)
  • com-PI-to - educated (compare to COM-pi-to)
  • net-TA-re - to clean (compare to NET-ta-re)
  • noc-CIO-lo - hazelnut tree (compare to NOC-cio-lo)
  • prin-CI-pi - plural principio (compare to PRIN-ci-pi, plural of principe)
  • re-TI-na - a small net (compare to RE-ti-na)
  • su-BI-to - the past participle of the verb subire)
  • ten-DI-ne - small tents (compare to TEN-di-ne)

I'll close this post with a couple of homographs that in many ways started my obsession with tonic stress in Italian words. The list below show how aware you must be when pronouncing words in Italian. Just a slight change (at least to my ears) in what syllable you stress changes everything.
  • LEG-ge-re - the verb "to read" in its infinitive form
  • leg-GE-re - an adjective meaning light, without much weight as in stoffe leggere
  • leg-GE-ro - same adjective in its singular, masculine form as in  odore leggero
  • leg-ge-RO - reading in the future as in "I will read"