Monday, July 6, 2020

Bergamo – Street Language Lesson XXXII – Dogs and Virus

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During the coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t get out much to go sign hunting, so this series went to the dogs. Now, with restrictions lessened, we can go out more and read signs about dogs! In this episode: please be a good dog owner, don’t touch my flowers, we won’t give up to this virus, and other signs about living with the virus. Keep reading.

Note: Reading through these signs, we are reminded how much Italians like to write in all caps. We discussed this before in the post Lo Stampatello: How Italians Write.

Sign - alla vostra salute

Alla Vostra Salute – È disponible spray alcolico igienizzante senza risciacquo per la pulizia dei manici dei carrelli e dei cestini.
For your health, no-rinse, alcohol spray disinfectant is available for cleaning the handles of shopping carts and baskets.

We really don’t spend that much time in PAM supermarket, and we spend – by far – much more money at our local fruttivendolo. But PAM does have interesting signs like this one.

An interesting note on the name PAM. It is an acronym for più a meno or “more for less”. The company was founded in 1958 in the Veneto.

Sign - obbligatorio indossare la mascherina

È obbligatorio indossare la mascherina.
It is compulsory to wear a mask. (Masks are required.)

There are three characteristic borghi of Bergamo we spend time in: Borgo Pignolo, Borgo Palazzo and Borgo San Caterina. The later, Borgo San Caterina runs northeast and contains a series of mom and pop stores with next to no “chain” store brands. In one of those stores along Borgo San Caterina, we saw this sign. The word in this sign that caught our eye is indossare, a perfectly fine word except people rarely use it when speaking. When talking about “wearing” something the verb portare is often used or the sentence is written in another way, frequently using the verb “to have” avere.

Sign - raccolta tappi sospesa

La sede rimarrà chiusa fino a data da destinarsi. Raccolta tappi sospesa, non lasciateli fuori! This office will remain closed until further notice. Collection of caps has been suspended, do not leave them outside.

Here’s another sign from a store front along Borgo San Caterina. What caught our eye in this sign is the tappi. Tappi are plastic bottle tops. Okay, so why are people collecting them?

That question takes us back to the very first day we landed in Bergamo. The owners of our B&B talked saving plastic caps and then they would be donated. We weren’t clear on where they went or for what cause and we are never organized enough to save we didn’t. Seeing this sign brought on a twinge of guilt that led to a few hours of research.

This was we found out:
  • There are many sites talking about collecting caps, such as GreenMe and MalattieDelSangue. It is a way for organizations to raise money through the sale of the plastic for a good cause. The plastic caps are of a different plastic grade that gets more money per unit weight and therefore making it an easy way to raise money. The idea of collecting caps as a for a good cause almost always come up first searching on the subject of bottle caps so it’s no wonder people would think this is what must be done.
  • We found this fascinating recycling video about the Montello company just outside of Bergamo. In the video, you can see that caps are on bottles! That intrigued us.
  • Moving on, we consulted the guide to recycling in Bergamo and we could not find that it was forbidden to keep caps on plastic bottles. (We also learned that we could put toothpaste tubes in plastic recycle and store receipts do not go in paper recycle. Oops on both counts.)
  • Finally, we found this article from InaBottle magazine suggesting that at one time, the inability of the technologies to deal with caps along with the idea of beging a “good citizen” led to the collection of caps, that is, not letting caps go into the plastic recycle. The article continued on to say that with current technology, caps on bottles was fine. In fact, in the video referenced above, the different types of plastic (caps versus the bottles) sink or float easily in one of the processing steps leading to efficient separation of plastic types. Further, the InaBottle article references a PlasticsNews article that says keeping the caps on helps bottles keep their form through the number of processes they undergo thus helping bottles stay recognizable as such, which aids in better separation of different plastic types.

After all that, our ruling is that you should collect the caps and donate them to a cause if you want. But you should not – and we will not – feel guilty about keeping our caps on when putting plastic bottles in the recycle! (At least here in Bergamo.)

Sign - Mola Mia

#MOLA MIA Never give up!
Non mollare or non cedere would be others way to say this, but mola mia has a ring to it. It is also the name of a campaign to raise awareness of community, urging people to never give up. Funds collected from the campaign will be donated to the hospital Papa Giovanni XXIII. This heart sign was seen in the headquarters of CAI Bergamo.

Sign - in sala di attesa

In sala di attesa.
  • Non appena entra in studio, si disinfetti le mani con il gel presente all’ingresso.
  • Parli con il personale rispettando la distanza di sicurezza (almeno 1 mt) o al di là della barriera protettiva posta in zona reception.
  • Le verrà provata la temperatura e qualora fosse superiore a 37 gradi l’appuntamento dovrà essere rimandato.
  • Consegni il modulo di autocertificazione che troverà in allegato (il documento deve essere compilato il giorno stesso dell’appuntamento); qualora non l’avesse fatto, gliene verrà data una copia in studio da copilare.
  • Cerchi, se possibile, di non usare I servizi igienici dello studio.
In the waiting room
  • Upon entering, disinfect your hands with the gel at the entrance.
  • Talk with the staff respecting the safe distance of at least 1 meter or on the other side of the protective barrier in place in reception.
  • You will have your temperature taken and if it is great than 37 degrees, the appointment will be rescheduled.
  • Return the auto-certification module you will find attached (the document must be filled out the same day as the appointment); If it has not been done, you will be given a form to be filled out.
  • If possible, try not to use the bathrooms.

Lots of instructions and all given with formal commands. Parli not parla. Le verrà not ti verrà. Consegni not consegna. Cerchi and not cerca. There is also an interesting use of the conjunction qualora used in conditional sentences. Example: If your temperature is greater than 37 degrees (condition), the appointment will be rescheduled (result). Example: If it (the form) hasn’t been filled out (condition), then you will be given a copy of it to fill out (result). Reference.

Sign - grazie se per educazione

Grazie se per educazone [sic] e igiene farete urinare i vostri cani altrove.
Thanks, for politeness and cleanliness, let your dogs pee somewhere else.

In our humble opinion, this sentence is confusing. It seems like it's missing the word non. Maybe better would have been Grazie se non per educazione e igiene grazie, farete...?  The intent is clear: please make your dogs pee elsewhere. This sign was seen on V. San Lorenzo.

Sign - tu che non vuoi che
Tu che non vuoi che il tuo cane sporchi la tua casa, ricordati che questa porta non è il bagno del tuo animale.
You that don’t want your dog dirtying your house, remember that this door is not your pet’s bathroom.

The only word appearing in lowercase is “è” perhaps because the person didn’t know how to create and upper case È with l’accento grave on the computer? Really, this is the kind of thing we wonder about!

You find in this sign an everyday use of the subjunctive (congiuntivo) mood with the conjugation of the verb sporcare as sporchi and not sporca. Animale here is a bit of a false friend; it should be read as animale domestico or “pet”.

Sign - facciamo bella la citta

Per favore non prendere. Facciamo bella la città.
Please do not take (the flowers). Let’s make our city beautiful.

Fare bella la casa is a phrase often used that means “make a beautiful home”. The use in this sign is similar where facciamo here is used in the sense of “let’s”. When I asked a native Italian speaker about this second sentence, he said rendiamo bella la città would have been better, using the verb rendere.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Translating English Words with the Letter J into Italian – What Happens to the Letter J?

The question

The letter J in Italian, called i lunga, though not part of the Italian alphabet appears frequently enough to make you think it might be. It can appear in:

  • surnames, such as Juliano
  • place names, such as Jesolo (Veneto) and Jesi (Marche)
  • loan words, such as jeans, jujitsu
  • foreign names, such as Johannesburg

The letter J is part of the English alphabet and even if it's not used that often – it’s the fourth least frequently used letter – we would miss its absence. We got to thinking about the letter J when writing or speaking words Italian words like iniezione (injection) or coniugale (conjugal). We wondered how many other English words have a corresponding Italian word have where the letter J is "missing", as well as the state of J in the Italian language.

We started with some commonly used words in English such as project and injection, and checked their Italian equivalents, proggetto and iniezione. But we soon ran out of ideas and turned to the lists you can easily find for words with J, like Scrabbleguru and TheFreeDictionary.

The answer

We are not cunning linguists! Rather, just ordinary folks who like to make lists to help us organize and learn things better, like the Italian language. Our musings here are just that. 

Given that disclaimer, what we found is that there are five translation categories of English words (with J) into Italian, including the “missing” letter J phonetically “substituted” with another letter, “removed” all together or not applicable because the translated word has a different root. Here are the five cases.

Case 1: The Italian word phonetically “replaces” the letter J with the letter I (along with other minor changes). Examples: adjacent => adiacente, conugal => coniugale, injection => iniezione.

Case 2: The Italian word phonetically “replaces” the letter J with the letter G (along with other minor changes). Examples: conjecture => congettura, pajamas => pigiama, project => proggetto.

Case 3: The Italian word has a different word root altogether, they are not cognates. Examples: abject => miserabile, rejection => rifiuta.

Case 4: The word is used as a loan word and there are no changes. Examples: marijuana, ninja, jujistu, and mahjong.

Case 5: The letter J is completely dropped. Example: majestic => maestoso. We could not think of any more examples in this category.

So, what did we learn during this word treasure hunt? Well, we learned a bunch of new words and that’s a good thing. And we learned that while we thought initially case 1 (substitution with letter I) would be common, it really isn’t. In fact, it seems case 2 (transformation of letter J to letter G) is more common. In our admittedly biased and small sample, case 2 is twice as common.

The list

In the list of over 70 words below, keep these points in mind:

  • Each English word includes the letter J at least once.
  • Words are either (n) = noun, (v) = verb, (adj) = adjective or (p) = proper name.
  • We do not list all forms of a word, just one representative example. For example, we have hijack (n), and the other related forms: hijack, hijacked, hijacking, etc. have a similar translation.
  • For Italian translations, we give one of possibly many meanings, selecting the one closest in spelling just for illustration.
  • Just because the Italian word looks like the English word does not mean it has the same etymology; we are just looking at what looks the same.
  • There are many more words falling in case 3 than are shown here, that is, words have a different root and are not cognates.

English word
Italian word
abject (adj)
abjure (v)
adjacent (adj)
adjective (n)
adjust (v)
regolare, aggiustare
bejewel (v)
cajole (v)
conjecture (n)
conjoin (v)
conjugal (adj)
conjunction (n)
conjunctivitis (n)
conjure (v)
far apparire q/c
dejection (n)
ejaculate (v)
eject (v)
enjoin (v)
enjoy (v)
piacere a, divertire a
hijab (n)
hijack (n)
hijinks (n)
injection (n)
injudicious (adj)
sventato, imprudente
injunction (n)
injure (v)
far male
injury (n)
injustice (n)
jaguar (n)
jamb (n)
Japan (p)
jardiniere (n)
jaundice (n)
jazz (n)
jejune (adj)
jewelry (n)
jeopardize (v)
arrischiarare, mettere a rischio
jocose (adj)
giocoso, allegro
jojoba (n)
Joseph (p)
journalist (n)
jubilant (adj)
giubilante, esultante
judicious (adj)
jugular (n)
jujitsu (n)
jujube (n)
junction (m)
mahjong (n)
majestic (adj)
marijuana (n)
majolica (n)
major (n)
maggiore (grado militare)
major (adv)
marjoram (n)
ninja (n)
object (n)
objurgation (n)
duro rimprovero
overjoyed (adj)
pieno di gioia, felicissimo
pajamas (n)
pejorative (adj)
perjury (n)
falso giuramento
prejudice (n)
project (n)
project (v)
projectile (n)
rejection (n)
rejoin (v)
riunire, rispondere
rejuvenate (v)
sojourn (n)
subject (n)
subjective (adj)
subjugate (v)
trajectory (n)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Hike Around the Cinque Laghi above Valgoglio, Italy

Overlooking Lago Sucotto.Lago Nero above Vagoglio, Italy.
Cinque Laghi trail stats and profile.Center of Valgoglio.A patch of snow left above Lago Nero on the way to Lago di Aviasco.
Top Left: Overlooking Lago Sucotto. Upper Left: Lago Nero above Vagoglio, Italy.
Bottom Left: Cinque Laghi trail stats and profile. Bottom Center: Center of Valgoglio. Center Right: A patch of snow left above Lago Nero on the way to Lago di Aviasco.


Length: 12.4 km (7.7 mi)
Duration: 6.0 hours total, with 45-minute lunch break at north end of Lago Nero
Elevation: 1,177 m (3,862 ft) @ start/end of hike at Parcheggio Località Becc; max elevation 2,081 m (6,827 ft) between Lago di Aviasco and Lago Campelli Alto; elevation gain 1,321 m (4,334 ft) reported by viewranger
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Bergamo, Alta Val Seriana, Valgoglio


The name Valgoglio comes from the Bergamasque dialect for the term “goi”, meaning a deep river pool. The Goglio river and the town of Valgolgio are similarly derived from the term. In terms of hikes, it’s one of the rare hikes we have repeated! Our friends messaged us on Saturday about hiking to Lago Cernello and we didn’t think to check this blog to see we had already done part of this hike.

The post A Short Hike to Cinque Laghi, Above Valgoglio documents our first experience just about two years ago today. Back then, the day was grey and cool, and we were part of slower moving group, so we did not do a tour of the lakes. This time, the weather was perfect, and we did make it around to visit all five of the principal lakes.

Hiking up to the lake and visiting the five principle lakes will involve these trails: CAI 228, CAI 229, CAI 268. The trail is very well signed and worn, so you will not get lost. The biggest choice you have is whether to do the tour of the lakes clockwise or counterclockwise. We chose the former. There were a few parts of the trail – heading to Sucotto – where the trail was steep and had cables for grips (visible in one of the photos in this post).

You will notice in photos of this post that we are hiking with masks, which are still required here in Lombardy – on the date of this hike. We usually wore them under our chins or took them off when not near other hikers, but put them back on when approaching others within six or so feet. There you go, hiking during the coronavirus pandemic.

Very visible along the trail is the green condotta forzata (pipeline) that carries water from the lakes down to the Centrale di Aviasco (station) at 984 m, for a drop of about 1,000 m. The Aviasco station can supply the energy needs of about 10,000 families. The station was built in 1925, and the Lago Nero dam was constructed in the 1920s by Azienda Elettrica Crespi, placing the dam projects somewhere in the early 1920s. What’s interesting is that these dams seem to be connected to Crespi d’Adda. The Crespi family was behind hydroelectric projects on the Adda river, like the Taccani Hydroelectrical Power Station. We couldn’t find any easy resource talking about what Crespi was doing in the mountains of the upper Val Seriana.

Going clockwise from the “ENEL Village”, you will arrive at the five principle lakes:

  • Lago Nero (2,014 m) – artificial
  • Lago di Aviasco (2,070 m) – artificial
  • Lago Campelli Alta (2,037 m) – artificial
  • Lago Cernello (1,958 m) – natural
  • Lago Sucotto (1,854 m) – natural

After the grind of the first part of the trail, you end up on a sort of plateau called Villaggio Enel. As with all names, we wonder, why was it named like that?

Names: It pains us to no end not to know about all the lake names on this hike. Lago di Aviasco is called that after the nearby pass of the same name. Lago Nero is named so because of its dark waters or so we read. However, the origin of the names of Cernello, Campelli and Sucotto eluded us.

So, what is ENEL? Enel S.p.A., or the Enel Group, is an Italian multinational energy company that is active in the sectors of electricity generation and distribution. ENEL is an acronym that stands for National Entity for Electricity (Ente Nazionale per l’energia Elettrica). It was formed in 1962 when Italy nationalized the production and distribution of electric power. ENEL, we are guessing took over the hydroelectric production of these lakes, modernized, and created this villaggio as a place for workers to stay.


Valgoglio is also the gateway to the Val Sanguigno, a spot known for its biodiversity. From the trail today, we could see into the beginning of the Val Sanguigno dotted in the yellow of Laburnum anagyroides or Common Laburnum (Maggiociondolo in Italian) – in the pea family (Fabaceae).

Today, one of the plants we noted latest time Daphne striata, was again in abundance, and this time got down on our knees to breath in the wonderful scent it produces.

We saw many of the same plants as we did last time – being the same time of year – only with with better lighting.

As usual, check out our flora resources page Resources for Identifying Plants around Bergamo and our Pinterest page.

Key: [Family] Genus species – Common name in English (Common name in Italian)

[Asteraceae] Cirsium sp.

[Boraginaceae] Myosotis – Forget Me Not (Nontiscordardimè)

[Campanulaceae] Phyteuma sp. – Globe Headed Rampion (Raponzolo alpino)
  • A Phyteuma definitely, but which one is a kind of hard to know. P. hemispheericum is more common and is found at slightly lower elevations. For these reasons, we went with P. hemisphaericum.

[Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso)

[Fabaceae] Cytisus scoparius – Scotch Broom (Ginestra dei carbonai)

[Gentinanaceae] Gentiana clusii – Trumpet Gentian (Genziana di Clusius) - not pictured here

[Lamiaceae] Ajuga pyramidalis – Pyramidal Bugle (Iva piramidale)

[Lentibulariaceae] Pinguicula vulgaris – Common Butterwort (Erba unta comune)

[Liliaceae] Paradisea liliastrum – St Bruno’s Lily (Giglio di monte)

[Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata – Spotted Heath Orchid (Orchide macchiata)

[Papaveraceae] Corydalis lutea – Rock Fumewort, Yellow Corydalis (Colombina gialla)

[Plantaginaceae] Linaria alpina – Alpine Toadflax (Linajola alpina)

[Polygalaceae] Polygala chamaebuxus – Shrubby Milkwort (Poligala falso bosso)

[Ranuculaceae] Anemone narcissiflora –  Narcissus Anemone (Anemone a fiore di narciso)

[Rosaceae] Potentilla reptans – Creeping Cinquefoil (Cinquefoglia comune)

[Primulaceae] Primula daonensis – (Primula della Valle di Daone)

[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune)

[Scrophulariaceae] Verbascum alpinum – Mullein (Verbasco alpino)

[Thymelaeaceae] Daphne striata – Striped Daphne (Dafne striata)

[Violaceae] Viola biflora – Yellow Violet (Viola con due fiori)


Some references consulted in preparing this post.

[Asteraceae] Cirsium sp.[Campanulaceae] Phyteuma sp.[Lamiaceae] Ajuga pyramidalis – Pyramidal Bugle (Iva piramidale).
Left: [Asteraceae] Cirsium sp. Center: [Campanulaceae] Phyteuma sp. Left: [Lamiaceae] Ajuga pyramidalis – Pyramidal Bugle (Iva piramidale).

[Boraginaceae] Myosotis – Forget Me Not (Nontiscordardimè).[Lentibulariaceae] Pinguicula vulgaris – Common Butterwort (Erba unta comune).
Left: [Boraginaceae] Myosotis – Forget Me Not (Nontiscordardimè). Right: [Lentibulariaceae] Pinguicula vulgaris – Common Butterwort (Erba unta comune).

[Liliaceae] Paradisea liliastrum – St Bruno’s Lily (Giglio di monte).[Ranuculaceae] Anemone narcissiflora –  Narcissus Anemone (Anemone a fiore di narciso).[Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso).
Left: [Liliaceae] Paradisea liliastrum – St Bruno’s Lily (Giglio di monte). Center: [Ranuculaceae] Anemone narcissiflora –  Narcissus Anemone (Anemone a fiore di narciso). Right: [Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso).

[Fabacease] Cytisus scoparius – Scotch Broom (Ginestra dei carbonai).[Papaveraceae] Corydalis lutea – Rock Fumewort, Yellow Corydalis (Colombina gialla).[Rosaceae] Potentilla reptans – Creeping Cinquefoil (Cinquefoglia comune).
Left: [Fabaceae] Cytisus scoparius – Scotch Broom (Ginestra dei carbonai). Center: [Papaveraceae] Corydalis lutea – Rock Fumewort, Yellow Corydalis (Colombina gialla). Right: [Rosaceae] Potentilla reptans – Creeping Cinquefoil (Cinquefoglia comune).

[Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata – Spotted Heath Orchid (Orchide macchiata). [Plantaginaceae] Linaria alpina – Alpine Toadflax (Linajola alpina).[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune).
Left: [Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata – Spotted Heath Orchid (Orchide macchiata). Center: [Plantaginaceae] Linaria alpina – Alpine Toadflax (Linajola alpina). Right: [Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune).

[Primulaceae] Primula daonensis – (Primula della Valle di Daone).[Primulaceae] Primula daonensis – (Primula della Valle di Daone).[Thymelaeaceae] Daphne striata – Striped Daphne (Dafne striata).
Left and Center: [Primulaceae] Primula daonensis – (Primula della Valle di Daone). Right: [Thymelaeaceae] Daphne striata – Striped Daphne (Dafne striata).

[Polygalaceae] Polygala chamaebuxus – Shrubby Milkwort (Poligala falso bosso). [Scrophulariaceae] Verbascum alpinum – Mullein (Verbasco alpino). [Violaceae] Viola biflora – Yellow Violet (Viola con due fiori).
Left: [Polygalaceae] Polygala chamaebuxus – Shrubby Milkwort (Poligala falso bosso). Center: [Scrophulariaceae] Verbascum alpinum – Mullein (Verbasco alpino). Right: [Violaceae] Viola biflora – Yellow Violet (Viola con due fiori).

At the beginning of the trial and a view of Val Sanguigno with the yellow of Laburnum visible. The trail above Villaggio ENEL.
Left: At the beginning of the trial and a view of Val Sanguigno with the yellow of Laburnum visible. Right: The trail above Villaggio ENEL.

A patch snow on the trial between Lago Nero and Lago di Aviasco.A patch snow on the trial between Lago Nero and Lago di Aviasco.
Left and right: A patch snow on the trial between Lago Nero and Lago di Aviasco.

From the trail, a view of Lago Cernello. The dam on Lago Cernello
Left: From the trail, a view of Lago Cernello. Right: The dam on Lago Cernello.

The dam at Lago di Aviasco with trail indicators. Walking around the north end of Lago Nero.
Left: The dam at Lago di Aviasco with trail indicators. Right: Walking around the north end of Lago Nero.

The dam at Lago Sucotto. View from the trail looking south down the Alta Val Seriana.
Left: The dam at Lago Sucotto. Right: View from the trail looking south down the Alta Val Seriana.

Lago di Aviasco with Passo Aviasco in the distance. Peek-a-boo with a camoscio - Rupicapra rupicapra.
Left: Lago di Aviasco with Passo Aviasco in the distance. Right: Peek-a-boo with a camoscio - Rupicapra rupicapra.

Sign describing the Parco delle Orobie Bergamasche.Sign describing the Valle del Goglio River.
Left: Sign describing the Parco delle Orobie Bergamasche. Right: Sign describing the Valle del Goglio River.