Saturday, October 28, 2017

Lo Stampatello: How Italians Write

The word stampatello in Italian translates as block letters, but is better interpreted as writing that looks like it was typed. There are two types: stampatello minuscolo (lowercase block letters) and stampatello maiuscolo (uppercase block letters). Stampatello's showy brother is corsivo or cursive lettering.

When I write, I tend to use a combination of lowercase block letters and cursive, as I believe many Americans do. What I find fascinating in Italy is the preference for stampatello maiuscolo or uppercase block letters when writing. I often ask people to write in my little black notebook and almost always they do so using uppercase block lettering. (Yeah, I'm that kind of person who shoves a notebook in front of you and asks you to write something down.)

Here are six examples from the last few months.

Sample 1
Who: Middle-aged man
Where: Udine
Context: We ate at an enoteca called Fred in Udine, and one of the staff wrote the name of a particular garlic we tasted called Aglio di Resia from Tarvisio.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.

Sample 2 
Who: Older woman
Where: Bergamo
Context: One morning, in our local café, Bar Papavero, I was talking with a friend whose family is from Basilicata and she was listing places to see there including: Craco, Tricarico, Venosa, and La Certosa di Padula.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.

Sample 3
Who: Middle-aged woman
Where: Outskirts of Bergamo
Context: After lunch one day at Trattoria all'Alpino (great walk from Bergamo, see here), we were talking to the owners and told them that we would be going to Friuli-Venezia Giulia in a few days. They wrote down a few suggestions that might be of interest to us. They were: Maniago – a city known for its production of steel blades, Vajont – location of the disaster that killed over 1,900 people in 1963, and the Sequals, the home town of the Italian boxer Primo Carnera.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.

Sample 4 (two samples)
Who: Middle-aged woman and a female teenager
Where: Bergamo
Context: In Bar Papavero, I first asked Eleonora for her telephone number, which she wrote down. Next, I asked the granddaughter of one of the café regulars to write down a saying we were talking about. That saying is: prendi l'arte e mettila da parte – basically meaning, learn what you can, because you'll never know when you'll need it.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.

Sample 5
Who: Middle-aged man
Where: Cuneo
Context: Talking with one of our "cousins" we got a suggestion on something to visit while staying in Piedmont. He wrote: Ormea / Alto / Caprauna / [undecipherable] / Cantarana / Upega / Ponte di Nava – all towns in the Cuneo Province of Piedmont, close to the French border.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.

Sample 6 (two samples)
Who: Two different middle-aged women
Where: Bergamo
Context: One sample is during a discussion at Café Bar Papavero when I was talking with a woman about the Italian writer, translator, and journalist Fernanda Pivano. The second sample is from a woman who was on a guided tour of Bergamo's iconic Roccolo di Castagneta (Tavernella).

A roccolo is basically a big bird trap. For more information on roccoli, see A Walk from Albino to Bergamo via Monte Misma. During the visit of the Roccolo di Castagneta, the guide described wooden instruments that were thrown to simulate a bird of prey so that smaller birds would be frightened and hopefully fly into a waiting net. The device is called a spauracchio in Italian. The woman I asked thoughtfully wrote it in Bergamasco dialect as well – sboradur – always in capital letters.
A sample of Italian writing, stampatello.


Besides these samples, we have watch countless times as someone filled out a form (for themselves or for us) and used stampatello maiuscolo. Now, instinctively, when asked to write something official, we write in uppercase block letters, even if we can't get it out of our minds that the only people we know who used all caps are crazy family members sending the latest conspiracy email.

This Italian expert in the study of handwriting and criminology discusses some ideas about why Italians use stampatello. The author suggests wide-ranging reasons including hiding one's tender side (cursive being more vulnerable?), avoiding being judged by other (bad writing?), looking for independence and asserting oneself (by adopting what everyone else does?), or just wanting to be legible (and sort of a conformist?). These may be all valid reasons, I don't know, but I thought one obvious reason – at least to me – the author overlooked is that Italy, a country with many dialects and languages, still struggles to achieve unification in the sense that other European countries have at least in terms of language. Maybe, stampatello is one small way of being unified.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Hike from Clanezzo to Monte Ubione and Back

GPS tracks for round-trip hike from Clanezzo to Monte Ubione and backView from Monte Ubione, northwest into Valle Imagna on a hazy day.
Left: GPS tracks for round-trip hike from Clanezzo to Monte Ubione and back. Right: View from Monte Ubione looking northwest into Valle Imagna on a hazy day.

Overview


Length: 11 km (6.8 mi)
Duration: 3.3 hours, includes 10-minute break on Monte Ubione
Elevation: 258 m (846 ft) @ suspended bridge over the Brembo River , 895 m (2,936 ft) @ Monte Ubione. Total elevation gain of 772 m (2,533 ft).
Location: Italy, Province of Bergamo, Clanezzo

The Hike


To reach the starting and ending point of this hike, take any bus heading to Valle Brembana (B lines, usually signed as San Pellegrino Terme, Zogno, or Piazza Brembana) and get off at the last stop before the bus enters the valley. The stop is here. Warning: it's a bus stop on a busy, ugly road. Fortunately, you only have to walk about 100 m on said road.

Overall, I wouldn't call this the prettiest hike we done or the most serene. First, the woods you pass through are very "disturbed" and not all that pretty. Disturbed here means lots of ivy and weed trees. Second, the sound from the traffic in the valleys (both Brembana and Imagna at one point) is always present. These valleys are like that, limited access and busy roads during the day.

Negative aspects aside, it's a nice little hike for a number of reasons. First, you'll work up a sweat getting up to Monte Ubione. A chance for exercise is always welcome, right? As well, once on top of Ubione, it's a pretty view on a clear day. We had lots of haze (foschia) today so it was a little surreal looking.

The most interesting aspect of this hike though is that it passes by three different historic bridges. Below Clanezzo you find two of them. One is a suspended bridge across the Brembo River dating from 1878. Its called La Passarella or Ponte sospeso, is 74 m long, and dances about as you walk over it. The second bridge, nearby, is an old stone dating from the 10th century that crosses over the Imagna River. This bridge is called the Ponte di Attone and is about 25 meters.

At one time, these two bridges were the only convenient means to get to Bergamo from the Val Brembilla situated north of Clanezzo. Where there is a need, there is someone there to profit from it. At one end of the stone bridge there was a customs point for the Republic of Venice as these bridges were once the border between the Republic of Venice and their rivals the Visconti (Milan).

The Imagna River merges with the Brembo River below Clanezzo, both rivers draining their respective valleys. In fact, Monte Ubione and this hike (Sentiero 571) follows the watershed divide (spartiacque) between the two valleys. Before reaching Monte Ubione, you'll wander on a huge empty reservoir (serbatoio) half-carved in the mountain that was at one time used to store water for hydro-electricity.

After visiting the two bridges, we start climbing toward Monte Ubione, always following indications for Sentiero 571. At Monte Ubione, we rested for a bit and then continued more or less north until we hit the intersection with Sentiero 584, which took us down toward Strozza.

It's at Strozza, that you find the third interesting bridge of this hike, the Ponte del Chitò, built in 1897 and named after the engineer who designed. It's a bridge-canale that at one time brought water from the Imagna River to Clanezzo. Today, there is a modern steel passageway on top of the aqueduct that allows passage across.

From the Ponte del Chitò back to Clanezzo, there is an old canal running more or less level. On top of the canale is a walking-cycling path that we took back to the start of this hike.

Ponte del Chito - Entrance from Strozza side of Imagna River.Ponte del Chito - Cutout for taking photos from the midpoint of the bridge.Ponte del Chito - Modern walkway atop 1897 stone structure.
Views of and from Ponte del Chitò, a bridge-canal near Strozza, Italy. Left: Entrance from Strozza side of Imagna River. Center: Cutout for taking photos from the midpoint of the bridge. Right: Modern walkway atop 1897 stone structure.

View of Ponte del Chitò with flanks of Monte Ubione in the background.Sign describing walking and biking routes of Valle Imagna.
Left: View of Ponte del Chitò with flanks of Monte Ubione in the background. Right: Sign describing walking and biking routes of Valle Imagna. Today's hike is described on the sign.

Suspended bridge over the Brembo River, below Clanezzo. The bridge is just over 74 meters long.Suspended bridge over the Brembo River, below Clanezzo. The bridge is just over 74 meters long.
Suspended bridge over the Brembo River, below Clanezzo. The bridge is just over 74 meters long.

The stone bridge of Clanezzo (Ponte di Attone), at one time a point for collecting customs. The bridge allows passage over the Imagna River. In the background, the Brembo River.The stone bridge of Clanezzo (Ponte di Attone), at one time a point for collecting customs. The bridge allows passage over the Imagna River. In the background, the Brembo River.
The stone bridge of Clanezzo (Ponte di Attone), at one time a point for collecting customs. The bridge allows passage over the Imagna River. In the background, the Brembo River.

The old canal turned walkway near Clanezzo.A roccolo that Sentiero 584 passes through.
Left: The old canal turned walkway near Clanezzo. Right: A roccolo that Sentiero 584 passes through.

Start and end of the hike near state route 470.View of the Brembo River looking toward Bergamo. A sign describing another route on Monte Ubione called the Sentiero della Libertà.
Left: Start and end of the hike near state route 470.  Center: View of the Brembo River looking toward Bergamo. Right: A sign describing another route on Monte Ubione called the Sentiero della Libertà.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Hike in Valle Pesio: Rifugio Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli


Route from Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli.View from Rifugio Garelli looking north into a winter haze.

Left: Route from Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli. Right: View from Rifugio Garelli looking north into a winter haze.


Overview


Length: 10 km (6.2 mi)
Duration: 3:50 hh:mm, includes 20 minute break for lunch, round-trip
Elevation: 1032 m (3,386 ft) @ Pian del Gorre, 1970 m (6,463 ft) @ Rifugio Garelli. Total elevation gain of 938m (3,077 ft).
Location: Italy, Piemonte, Province of Cuneo, Valle Pesio


The Hike


We seem to keep coming back to these mountains in southern part of the Cuneo Province, like we have some unfinished business. This time around we were in the area to attend the Fiera Nazionale del Marrone in Cuneo, a several-day celebration of the chestnut as well as other Piemontese and Ligurian foods and crafts. A marrone is a chestnut (castagna) that is highly prized for its taste particularly when cooked.

Last time we were in these hills, it was December 2015 and we did a hike in the nearby Valle Ellero (see Valle Ellero, Rastello to Cima Pigna Hike) and one hike with the same starting point as today's hike (see Valle Pesio, Pian Gorre to Cascata del Pis del Pesio). Today, we started from Rifugio Pian dell Gorre as before, but head to Rifugio Garelli instead of the waterfall Pis del Pesio.

Like last time, it's also unseasonably warm. We are hiking in short sleeves. An unusual high-pressure system and little rain has led to dry, warm hazy conditions. The haze is due to particulate matter in the air that normally would be removed by precipitation which has been lacking. On this hike, we reach 1970 m (6,463 ft) and it feels like we are above the layer of ick.

We drove up to Rifugio Pian delle Gorre and parked our car to start this hike. We followed the same route to and from Garelli. What would be nicer is to continue beyond Garelli to the Laghetto del Marguareis and make a loop following a different trail back to Gias Sottano and then on down to the starting point. (This is shown in a picture attached to this post.) For more info (in Italian) for hikes in the Valle Pesio, see Alpi Cuneesi Escursioni e Sentieri.

Today's hike is in the what is called the Parco Marguareis, the southwest part of the Maritime Alps, which includes the Valle Pesio and part of the Alta Valle Tanaro. The park comprises five different natural areas spread out in the province of Cuneo.


We have visited all parts of the park except the first (Belbo). If you are into off-the-beaten-track things to do in nature, this would be a good starting list.

On the way to and from Rifugio Pian delle Gorre, you will pass by the Certosa di Pesio. It's worth a stop for at least a few minutes to visit the peculiar spaces. You have to really follow the signs and your nose to discover all the hidden parts of the Certosa.

Unfortunately, there wasn't too much botanical-wise to look at on today's hike, but we did see a botanical research station near Rifugio Garelli that was very much closed for the season. Though the botanical research station as well as Rifugio Garelli were closed, the upside was complete solitude.

The suggested loop hike from Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli and back.Sign at the start of the hike near Pian delle Gorre marking the time to reach Garelli.Signs at Gias soprano di Sestrera, just below Garelli.
Left: The suggested loop hike from Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli and back. Center: Sign at the start of the hike near Pian delle Gorre marking the time to reach Garelli. Right: Signs at Gias soprano di Sestrera, just below Garelli.

Gias sottano di Sestrera and fountain with potabile water.The striking outline of Rifugio Garelli.Sign at the Botanical Station near Rifugio Garelli.
Left: Gias sottano di Sestrera and fountain with potabile water. Center: The striking outline of Rifugio Garelli. Right: Sign at the Botanical Station near Rifugio Garelli.

Only us and the grasshoppers making love at Rifugio Garelli.Rifugio Garelli from Gias sottano di Sestrera.
Left: Only us and the grasshoppers making love at Rifugio Garelli. Right: Rifugio Garelli from Gias sottano di Sestrera.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

People and Place Names in Italian: Correct Pronunciation



RAI DOP: Dizionario Italiano multimediale e multilingue d'ortografia e di pronuncia. Parole e nomi dell'italiano.RAI DOP: Dizionario Italiano multimediale e multilingue d'ortografia e di pronuncia. Parole e nomi dell'italiano.Grande Dizionario Hoepli di Aldo Gabrielli, edizione speciale 150th anniversarioTulio de Maruo grande dizionario Italiano dell'uso
Italian dictionaries consulted for this post: DOP, Hoepli, de Mauro.


Overview

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I'm obsessed with tonic accents. I admit it. I think it stems from having so much trouble with pronouncing Italian words and, in particular, knowing what accent to stress. I've discussed tonic accents in several other posts, including Italian Words with Tonic Stress on Third-From-Last Syllable: Le Parole Sdrucciole and Conjugating Italian Verbs and Knowing Where to Put the Tonic Stress. Basically, the bane of my existence are sdrucciole words, that is, words with an accent on the third-from-last syllable.

In this post, I'll talk about people and place names, which, in my opinion, are not well-documented, at least from the point of view of someone trying to learn the language. It may seem like I'm making a big deal out of this, but after getting chuckled at recently for my pronunciation of Taranto and Cattaneo, I decided to investigate further. For the record, I pronounced Taranto (a city) as Tarànto instead of Tàranto. That got me a chuckle and a quick correction. Then, I pronounced Cattaneo (a surname) as Cattanèo instead of Cattàneo. For that mispronunciation I was laughed at a good bit and called a terrone, or southerner. I was among friends who didn't mean it, but I was still a little annoyed.

What I found interesting in my research for this post is that many of the sources I turned to have no information on how to pronounce people and places names. In the least, after reading this post, you'll walk away with a list of useful Italian dictionary references, with a few that can help you resolve pronunciation.

First, this post lists people and places names with the correct syllable to stress. Then, there is a quick overview of accents and vowels. Finally, the post finishes with a comparison of different references used to find pronunciation information (or not as the case may be). From the analysis of references, I recommend that the best overall site for quickly looking up pronunciation of people and places to be DOP: Dizionario Italiano multimediale e multilingue d'ortografia e di pronuncia.

People and Places List

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Here is a list of just a few of the places names I've stumbled over and eventually looked up during my Italian language odyssey. The RAI: Dizionario italiano multimediale e multilingue d'Ortografia e di Pronunzia is the main reference source in terms of accents shown. Note that accents are almost always not used when you see these names written. They are included here only for clarity. See the next section for more information on accents and vowels.

People
Achìlle, Archimède, Aristòtele, (Alessandro) Barìcco, (Giacomo) Bresàdola, (Michelangelo) Buonarròti, (Primo) Carnèra, (Giacomo) Casanòva, (Andrea) Camillèri, (Carlo) Cattàneo, (Gaio Guilio) Césare, (Marco Tullio) Ciceróne, (Cristoforo) Cólombo, (Niccolò) Copèrnico, (Francesco) Cossìga, Demòcrito, (Luigi) Einàudi, Empèdocle, Epicùro, Èrcole, Èttore, Eurìpide, (Ugo) Fóscolo, (Alcide) de Gàsperi, Artemìsia Gentiléschi, Ippòcrate, (Éttore) Majoràna, (Dacia) Maraìni, Mèdici, (Alberto) Moràvia, (Pietro) Paleòcapa, Pitàgora, Platóne, (Leonardo) Sciàscia, Sòcrate, Zenóne

Places
Abrùzzo, Adamèllo, Alberobèllo, Alghèro, Ancóna, Àquila, Aràbba, Àsolo, Bèrgamo, Bréscia, Brìndisi. Càgliari, Campània, Cervère, Cividàle del Friùli, Catanzàro, Cremóna, Cùneo, Dàlmine, Èboli, Edimbùrgo, Éllero (fiume), Èrice, Firènze, Fossàno, Gallìpoli, Gènova, Ìmola, Itàlia. Lombardìa, Lònguelo, Livórno, Màntova, Matèra, Milàno, Milàzzo, Mòdena, Molìse, Mònaco dei Bavièra, Nàpoli, Nèive, Ostùni, Pàdova, Padùla, Paèstum, Pavìa, Perùgia, Pescàra, Piacènza, Piemónte, Ragùsa, Róma, Rovìgo, Sardégna, Sàssari, Selinùnte, Sicìlia, Siracùsa, Sirmióne, Spoléto, Stupinìgi, Tànaro (fiume), Tàranto, Tèramo, Tévere, Tolomèo, Torìno, Tortóna, Tràpani, Trevìso, Ùdine, Vèneto, Venèzia, Vitèrbo, Voghèra

You might have noticed that many of the people listed are scientists or "ancient" Greeks. The selection indicates what catches my eye. Sorry, no movie stars or soccer players here.

Not included in the lists are people or places that are normally written with an accent, which is easy because it indicates where to put the emphasis. Examples include (Fabrizio) De André, the Italian singer and songwriter, and Carrù, a town in Piedmont. Some other town names with accent marks are: Gambolò, Mondovì, Ortisé, Salò, and Santhià.

On the subject of names, one first name that always trips me up is Niccolò and Nicola. Niccolò is written with the accent mark. Nicola is pronounced with tonic stress on O as Nicòla.

Vowels and Accent Marks

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This is slight digression, but may be of interest if you are wondering why E and O in the people and place names can have two different accents marks, while A, I, and U have just one mark.
  • There are five written vowels (graphemes) in Italian: A, E, I, O, U. In English, we have the same five and sometimes Y.
  • There are seven pronounced vowels (phonemes) in Italian, because E and O can be open or closed. The seven sounds are represented as /a/, /ɛ/, /e/, /i/, /ɔ/, /o/, and /u/. /ɛ/ and /e/ are E open and closed, respectively. /ɔ/ and /o/ are O open and closed, respectively.
  • Each vocal sound has a location in the mouth where it originates as demonstrated in this vocal diagram for Italian. The vocal diagram for Italian is a triangle, while that for English is shaped like trapezoid
  • The five written vowels have the task of representing the seven pronounced vowels. Most of the time there isn't a problem. When there is, graphic symbols are used to clarify. This is particularly important when distinguishing between two words spelled the same (homographs) but with different pronunciations. A good example is the classic confusion between fruit and fish. Pèsca is fruit and pésca is fishing, where è represents the open sound /ɛ/ and é represents the closed sound /e/. Similarly, you might encounter vòlto, the past participle of volgere, and vólto, face, where ó represents the open sound /ɔ/ and ó represents the closed sound /o/.
Okay, after that quick intro to vowels, you need to keep in mind how accents on vowels are used in designating the accented syllable in a word.
  • In the lists above of people and place names, it worth restating again that accent marks would not normally be used to show where the stress goes. They were added to make the discussion here easier.
  • When an A, I, or U are in the stressed syllable of a word, they appear as à, ì, and ù and they are pronounced as they usually are. It doesn't mean they are "closed" like E or O can be.  Rather, it means the accent mark is just shows stress of the syllable.
  • When and E or O are in the stressed syllable of a word, they can appear as è, é, ò, or ó. In this case, the accent mark shows both the stressed syllable and how the vowel is pronounced, i.e., as open or closed according the mark specified.
  • When E or O are not part of the stressed syllable of a word, they are closed, i.e., /e/ and /o/. So the open sound is only possible when E and O are in the stressed syllable.
If you are a little confused and even stressed out by open and closed vocals, my advice is not to worry about them too much. In my experience, most Italians don't grasp them fully. In fact, one of my favorite language references Grammatica italiana di base, says as much noting that much of the rules of the open and closed E and O originate for the most part from Tuscany. Outside of that region the spoken language diverges quite a bit. What I find more important than open and closed vowel sounds are getting the tonic accent correct.


il Ragazzini, dizionario inglese italiano, italiano inglese di Giuseppe Ragazzini, ZanichelliLo Zingarelli 2008, vocabolario della lingua italiana di Nicola Zingarelli, ZanichelliVocabolario della lingua italiana, Treccani l'enciclopediaVocabolario della lingua italiana, Treccani l'enciclopedia
Italian dictionaries consulted for this post: il Ragazzini, lo Zingarelli, Treccani.


Comparison of References

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To test how different dictionary sources might be used to help figure out pronunciation of people and place names, let's use two test words: Taranto, a city in Puglia, and Democrito (Democritus in English), a Greek philosopher. Both words have accent on the third from last syllable, Tàranto and Demòcrito, and were words I looked up to confirm pronunciation. The results of my research reveal that:
  • The RAI DOP reference is the winner by far in terms of being a good source to resolve pronunciation; it's good online and offline (paper copy) for resolving people and place names.
  • An encyclopedia app or web site such as Treccani or Wikipedia, are always a handy backup for resolving people and place names.
  • Pronunciation sites like Forvo are helpful as well.
Key for tables below

listed - Word is listed with pronunciation and accent shown.
listed* - Word is listed but with no indicated pronunciation; there is a sound clip.
not listed - Word doesn't appear at all in the reference.
not listed* - Word doesn't appear, but a derivative or related word is present that could be useful.

Online resources

References I consult most frequently.


Word Word Reference Dizionario Olivetti Corriere della Sera RAI DOP Wiktionary Wikipedia Forvo
Tàranto not listed not listed not listed listed listed* listed* listed*
Demòcrito
listed
not listed not listed listed not listed listed* listed*


Physical books

These are references I found in Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, in Bergamo. I had expected paper sources would give better coverage of people and place names, but that wasn't the case.


WordRAIDOP1Hoepli2LoZing3Treccani
Vocab4
TreccaniEnc5de Mauro6Il Ragazzini7
Tàrantolistednot listednot listednot listednot listednot listedlisted
Demòcritolistednot listednot listednot listedlistednot listed
not listed


RAI DOP: Dizionario Italiano multimediale e multilingue d'ortografia e di pronuncia. Parole e nomi dell'italiano.
Grande Dizionario Hoepli di Aldo Gabrielli, edizione speciale 150o anniversario
Lo Zingarelli 2008, vocabolario della lingua italiana di Nicola Zingarelli, Zanichelli
Il Vocabolario della lingua italiana, Treccani
Vocabolario della lingua italiana, Treccani l'enciclopedia
Tulio de Maruo grande dizionario Italiano dell'uso
il Ragazzini, dizionario inglese italiano, italiano inglese di Giuseppe Ragazzini, Zanichelli

Apps

Here are four apps that I use frequently on my phone.

WordCollins Italiano IngleseDizionario di ItalianoTreccani VocabolarioTreccani l'Enciclopedia
Tàrantonot listednot listednot listedlisted*
Demòcritolistednot listednot listedlisted


Related web pages
  • Accademia della Crusca's list of geographical names and stressed syllable. Not a complete list.
  • Tangentially related, Italian cities whose names come from Latin and etymology of capital cities of provinces.