Sunday, August 29, 2021

Bergamo to Canto Alto – A Sunday Hike

Overview ~ Notes ~ Flora ~ More Photos

The open space of Canto Basso - Bergamo.View north from Canto Alto - Bergamo.Bergamo to Canto Alto Hike Tracks


Length: 22 km (13.7 miles)
Duration: 7.6 hours (including lunch stop)
Elevation: gain 1075 m (3,527 ft), max elevation at Canto Alto 1,146 m (3,760 ft)
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Bergamo, Parco dei Colli di Bergamo


When friends proposed a hike to Canto Alto, initially we weren't that enthused. We've been there three times, and while the views are beautiful up there it isn't our favorite hike. But, we slapped ourselves and said get with it! You are in Italy and Italian friends asked you to go on a hike. Snap to it! That did the trick to change our attitude as well as reservations at Trattoria del Moro for lunch. Why walk if there isn't some food reward at the end?

A hike to Canto Alto is a rite of passage for anyone living in the area. For visitors with a penchant for long walk/hikes, Canto Alto is reachable from Bergamo (city) but coming in at around 20 km, roundtrip. You could park in Monterosso neighborhood or take a bus there to eliminate a few kilometers of city-walking part. You could even drive up to – gulp – La Maresana, park, and start the hike there.

The trails of interest are Sentiero 507 and Sentiero 533. After Maresana, the trails are fairly well-marked and well-traveled by hikers and bikers for a part. We went to Canto Alto and then Canto Basso, which is one of our favorite spots. If you don't want to do the "scramble" up to Canto Alto, just go to Canto Basso and enjoy a picnic and the views there. Canto Basso is an open grassy ridge, running easy-west. In some ways, it's just as scenic as Canto Alto, less crowded, and easier to reach.

For lunch, we decided on Trattoria del Moro, just a stone's throw off the trail to Canto Alto in Ponteranica. La Maresana is also a good choice for lunch.


[Family] Scientific name - Common name English (Common name Italian)

[Adoxaceae] Viburnum lantana - Wayfaring Tree (Viburno lantana)

[Adoxaceae] Viburnum lantana - Wayfaring Tree (Viburno lantana)

[Asteraceae] Centaurea nigrescens – Tyrol knapwee, Tyrol Thistle (Fiordaliso nerasto)

[Asteraceae] Centaurea nigrescens – Tyrol knapwee, Tyrol Thistle (Fiordaliso nerasto)

[Asteraceae] Cichorium inthybus – Chicory (Cicoria selvatica)

[Asteraceae] Cichorium inthybus – Chicory (Cicoria selvatica)

[Asteraceae] Eupatorium cannabinum – Holy Rope, Hemp-Agrimony (Canapa aquatica)

[Asteraceae] Eupatorium cannabinum – Holy Rope, Hemp-Agrimony (Canapa aquatica)

[Caryophyllaceae] Dianthus superbus – Fringed Pink (Garafano superbo)

[Caryophyllaceae] Dianthus superbus – Fringed Pink (Garafano superbo)[Caryophyllaceae] Dianthus superbus – Fringed Pink (Garafano superbo)

[Lamiaceae] Salvia glutinosa - Sticky Sage (Salvia vischiosa)

[Lamiaceae] Salvia glutinosa - Sticky Sage (Salvia vischiosa)

[Liliaceae] Allium carinatum - Keeled Garlic (Aglio carenato)

[Liliaceae] Allium carinatum - Keeled Garlic (Aglio carenato)

[Primulaceae] Cyclamen purpurascens – Cyclamen (Ciclamino delle Alpi)

[Primulaceae] Cyclamen purpurascens – Cyclamen (Ciclamino delle Alpi)

[Scrophulariaceae] Verbascum sp. – Mullein (Verbasco)

[Scrophulariaceae] Verbascum sp. – Mullein (Verbasco)

More Photos

After a wake-up coffee, starting out in Santa Caterina, BergamoA coffee stop at La MaresanaA small altar under the cross of Canto Alto

A tower in a roccolo in PonteranicaApproaching Canto Alto - last stretch before reaching the peakExample of the trail up to Canto AltoCAI trail marker for sentiero 533

Antipasto - affettati con sott'olio e sott'aceto - Trattoria del MoroFoiade al sugo di lepre - Trattoria del MoroTagliolini e casoncelli - Trattoria del Moro

Canto Basso looking eastCanto Alto Canto Basso hike with elevation and speed metrics

Friday, August 27, 2021

10 English Loan-Words Commonly Used in the Italian Language – Devoto-Oli Dictionary

Devoto-Oli Dictionary - The App in the Apple Store Devoto-Oli Dictionary - English loan words list Devoto-Oli Dictionary - Example of English loan word - background
The Nuovo Devoto-Oli application in the Apple App store and two screenshots from the Per dirlo in italiano section.


We had an Italian monolingual dictionary mobile app, but one day it stopped working. Easy come, easy go. This forced us to start looking around for a new dictionary. We settled on the Devoto-Oli Dictionary. While on the expensive side (17 euros a year), I think if you are serious about learning the Italian language, this purchase is worth it. The app in the IOS/Google Play stores looks free, but we are not sure how much you can do without paying.

So what is this dictionary? Il Devoto-Oli. Vocabolario della lingua italiana is a monolingual dictionary that is sold by Mondadori Education. The Devoto-Oli dictionary first appeared in 1971 with continual updates. This dictionary is interesting because it captures words coming from other languages and technical terminology, as well as all the Italian words you would expect. The dictionary also gives a date to the first appearance of a word in the language, which is interesting.

As you progress in studying the Italian language, eventually you'll end up with a monolingual dictionary and Devoto-Oli is pretty good choice.

Besides Devoto-Oli, here are the other language resources we use often:

  • Treccani – has web site and mobile app. Hand for in depth coverage of a word or concept.
  • Dizionario Italiano Olivetti – only web. Includes sound clips.
  • Word Reference – quick look ups and interesting language forums.
  • ReversoContext – good for jogging your memory on phrasing, though you have to be careful with interpreting too much here.

English loan words

One of the first things we first noticed in the mobile Devoto-Oli app was a section called "Per dirlo in italiano" where loan words from English are discussed. Each loan word (e.g., "business") has a description with date of first use in Italian, how to use it in Italian, and what the gender is, which is kind of important for correct use. And, the audio clips for the loan words give an English pronunciation and an Italian one. Oh yeah, you'd be surprised how many times we are corrected on the Italian pronunciation of an English word by Italians. Also, each loan word gives very serviceable Italian words that can be used instead of the loan word.

Below we cover 10 English loan words we commonly hear in Italian and that are discussed in the Devoto-Oli "Per dirlo" section. This is just a small faction of what they cover. Our goal is not to replace the dictionary but to get you interested enough to buy it! We don't give a complete description of how each loan word is used, but enough to give you a sense. (Our usual disclaimer: we are not language teachers or linguists. We just like sharing our observations.)

In the brackets the following abbreviations are used – following what Devoto-Oli uses: s. (singular), m. (masculine), f. (feminine), o (or), invar. (invariant, doesn't change form), agg. (adjective), avv (adverb).

(1) background [s.m. invar.]

The word "background" entered into Italian in the middle of the 20th century and can be substituted with the Italian words retroterra or sfondo, depending on context.

Examples: Lui ha sempre avuto un ottimo backdround tecnico. L'articolo esplora il background del razzismo in America.

(2) business [s.m. invar., agg.]

"Business" entered into the Italian language at the end of the 19th century with a meaning of "economic activity", legal or otherwise. The Italian word affare and various phrases using it (giro di affari) can usually be substituted where "business" is used as a noun. For the compound word "businessman", you can use uomo d'affari or imprenditore. For "show business", you can use mondo dello spettacolo. In ellipsis uses, such as viaggiare in business, there isn't always a great Italian word to use instead. For example, in the previous example "business" could mean first class as in la prima classe or it could mean something different. In common usage, "business class" is written as la business class, feminine, when it means la prima classe.

When "business" is used as an adjective, substitutes in Italian exist but may be slightly less succinct. For example, contratto business could be contratto di affari or contratto commerciale, without using "business".

Examples: Il business della telefonia mobile è enorme. Questa è ottima posizione per il business e turismo. I parcheggio sono tra i business più redditizi.

(3) e-mail [s.f. o m. invar.]

"E-mail" entered into Italian in the early 1990s. There are good Italian words to use instead of e-mail that are often used, including posta elettronica, indirizzo, indirizzo di posta elettronica, messaggio. Note that a messaggino is a text message. Sometimes"email" is used for "e-mail".

The form "mail" is also used in Italian as an abbreviated form of "e-mail". While "e-mail" is given as masculine or feminine, "mail" is just feminine. The Devoto-Oli description of "mail" says it oscillated between the two genders and finished on feminine.

Examples: Mandami una e-mail. No ho ancora ricevuto tua e-mail. Inviami la mail con allegato il documento Word.

(4) look [s.m. invar.]

"Look" (appearance) translates to aspetto, but somehow the English word seems sexier to use. It's been in the Italian language since 1970.

Examples: Tagliandosi i capelli ha cambiato look. Lei ha un look classico.

(5) meeting [s.m. invar.]

Devoto-Oli says the use of "meeting" dates back to the first half of the 19th century and was used to refer to a leader of a political rally (comizio politico). Late in the 19th century, there was a derivative meetingaio, someone who speaks at a political rally. Today, "meeting" is closer to how we use it in English.

Examples: Mi dispiace, ma devo chiederti di annullare il meeting. Selezionare M per visualizzare i meeting disponibili.

(6) mood [s.m. invar]

The word "mood" entered into Italian in the second half of the 20th century, along with other terms like feeling, relax, and stress. "Mood" can be translated as stato d'animo, umore.

Examples: Non sono nel mood gisuto per uscire. I Mellow Mood sono un gruppo reggae italiano nato a Pordenone nel 2005.

(7) okay [avv., agg. invar, s.m. invar.]

Devoto-Oli says tee word "okay" entered the Italian language in 1931. They give a brief note about the history of "okay" in the English language saying it possibly comes from the the "Vote for OK", a 1840 reelection slogan for Martin Van Buren, whose nickname was Old Kinderhook, abbreviated to O.K. But the Wikipedia page for okay, says the reelection slogan likely used the already existing word.

Another curious fact given in the "okay" entry is that they mention the Lessico di frequenza dell'italiano parlato (1993) – also known as Corpus lip. In this corpus, the word "okay" represents a sixth of all the loan words used in Italian. So it's popular.

Examples: Pensavo di aver sentito l'okay. Ci vediamo più tardi? Okay! Il motore è okay, a posto.

(8) record [s.m. invar., agg. invar.]

"Record" has similar meanings in Italian as it does in English, a (musical) record or registrazione, a min/max result as in a record time, a record of all accomplishments in sports, a record in a database, and the record button. An Italian word that could be used instead or "record" is primato.

Examples: Ha battuto il record mondiale a 150. Un record di 100 persone si è presentato al festa. Una produzione record pari a 1.500 tonnellate è stata registrata.

(9) selfie [s.m. invar.]

The word "selfie" came into Italian in the early 2000s when phones appeared with front cameras. Go figure. Note that "selfie" is not the same as the Italian word autoscatto, which refers to using a self-timer.

Examples: Facciamoci un selfie? Fare troppi selfie nasconde una insicurezza psicologica?

(10) top [s.m. invar. o s.f. invar.]

This short handy English word entered into Italian in the end of the 1950s. In English, we have many uses of "top" as a a noun (for example, "what a pretty top", "reach the top", "the top of the container"), as an adjective ("she's a top journalist"), or as a verb ("he topped the tree", "she topped the previous record"). "Top" in Italian is used just as a noun, with similar senses to English. All of these senses of "top" are used as gender masculine except when "top" is used as an abbreviation for top model.

Good Italian words to use instead "top" when it means figuratively or literally the top could be il culmine, il vertice, l'apice, al massimo. Or when "top" meaning a shirt, camicetta scollata da donna sostenuta da spalline – okay, English wins here! When "top" is used in a compound noun in Italian there are usually good substitutes. For example, top class (prima classe), top manager (alto dirigente), top rate (tasso massimo d'interesse), or top-secret (segretissimo).

Examples: Lui ha voglia di raggiungere il top. È una installazione di ricerca top secret. Quel nuovo top ti sta bennissimo.Sono una top (model), posso entrare in qualsiasi posto.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

A Hike from Valtorta to Rifugio Grassi in Alta Val Brembana

Overview | Arriving | Hike | Cheese | Flora

Approaching the alping pastures of Baita Lavez (1508 m).View of pastures and Baita Lavez with Pizzo San Giovanni in background.Trail 104 marker on a tree with two moss hearts above it.View toward Pizzo San Giovanni.Morning in Valtorta - main street, Via Roma.


Length: 17.5 km (10.9 miles)
Duration: 5 hours 3 minutes moving time. Full time with lunch and drink at Valtorta was close to 8 hours.
Elevation: Min altitude at Valtorta center at 920 m. Max altitude reached at 2015 m, just above Rifugio Grassi at Passo di Camisolo. Elevation gain 1,273 m (4,177 ft).
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Val Stabbina, Valtorta


We arrived by car from Bergamo. The tricky part is not missing the left turn at Olmo al Brembo to enter the Val Stabina.

We saw there was a bus parked in Valtorta near the visitor's center (at the entrance to the town), so it looks like it's possible to arrive by bus. Check the Bergamo Trasporti for Line B50a. It will likely take a few transfers to get there. Or, rent a car.

CAI Bergamo map - Alta Val Brembana with Valtorta hike shown.CAI Bergamo map - Three hikes in Val Taleggio and Alta Val Brembana.Valtorta to Rifugio Grassi - tracks for this hike on Outdoor Active.Sistema Minerario del Camisolo.


Valtorta is the town, located in Val Stabina, a lateral east-west valley in the upper (Alta) Val Brembana. And, about the name: no you won't find a valley with a cake (torta) in it: Val + torta. The town's name comes from the torturous (tortuoso) geography of the valley.

We done a few related hikes in the area, including:

For today's hike, we parked in Valtorta, under the visitor center, a large free lot. To start the hike, you have two choices. Most hikers, walk the road up to the frazione Costa and pick up the trail there. This is what we did going and this is called trail 104. Coming back from the rifugio, we picked up trail 104A which drops you just outside of Valtorta and then followed a local trail back to the town center. We got lost on trail 104A a few times and decided it would have been hard following this trail up to the rifugio. The signage on 104A was not good.

In these hills, cell reception is nonexistent and Maps.Me is a savoir. When we got off trail, Maps.Me was very useful to know what direction to go in to pick up the trail. Maps.Me uses OpenStreetMap and contains both Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) trails as well as local trails. For example, you can see for Valtorta that you can walk out of town center, avoid going to Costa, and meet up with trail 104. Stay west (hydrographical right) of the Torrente Valle Grobbia. The CAI maps for Bergamo don't have these local trails.

Point in frazione Costa where the trail 104 starts.Juncture in the trail, 104 and 104A.Antica via del Ferro - close to Valtorta, these indications take you into town.A trailside altar above Valtorta along the Antica Via del Ferro.

On this hike you cross a number of streams, including:

  • Torrente Valle Grobbio
  • Torrente Valle del Borae
  • Torrente Caravino

We mention these streams because you cross a number of them and they look similar. Second, the presence of water was important for the mining that took place here in the past. In fact, a hill behind Rifugio Grassi has a sign explaining the mining that once occurred. Since ancient times, cuts and pits were dug in the area looking for easy to get to surface deposits with serious exploration starting in 1900. The main mineral was galena (a natural mineral form of lead) and then barite in the last years of activity before concluding in 1924.

On the subject of mining: on the 104A trail, about 3 km before reaching Valtorta, we started seeing signs marked as "Antica Via del Ferro – Tracciato di particolare interesse storico". This means roughly Ancient Iron Road – Route of Historical Interest. These signs refer to the fact that for centuries the Alta Val Brembana was dotted with furnaces and forges to process the minerals found in the hills. The Via del Ferro connected villages involved in mining before there were the main roads we use today in valley floors.

Rounding the last curve in trail 104 before reaching Rifugio Grassi. Zuc di Cam in view.Returning from Rifugio Grassi back down trail 104 with surreal landscapes and Pizzo Tre Signore in view.Below the pastures of Lavez, above Valtorta.Heading to Rifugio Grassi on trail 104 - near baita Caserone (1859 m).

Also, on this hike you pass through some beautiful beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest. These are called faggeto or faggeta. See the photos in the Flora section. These forests are very open, with lots of distance between trees and next to nothing growing in the understory. We don't know for sure, but guess these are maintained forests with the lumber destined for heating and furniture making.

Your midpoint lunch spot on this hike is Rifugio Grassi at 1987 m (6,519 ft), often referred to as La Grassi. The rifugio was one of the best we've eaten at. (Best always goes to Rifugio Gemelli, which borders on gourmet.) We sampled pizzoccheri, a hearty vegetable-based bean soup, and special single dishes (piatto unico) with polenta, local cheeses, and braised meat (brasato).

Rifugio Grassi - plate with pizzoccheri.Rifugio Grassi - vegetable soup.Rifugio Grassi - buckwheat, chocolate, pear cake.Rifugio Grassi - brasato, lentils, cheese, and polenta.

Riguio Grassi (1987m).Beginning the hike in Valtorta main street, Via Roma.Inside the Oratorio di Sant'Antonio Abate alla Torre - Valtorta.Valtorata - ending the hike with a crodino and mint drink.


We stopped for a drink in Valtorta at the end of the hike and bought some cheese at the local cooperative, Latteria Sociale Valtora. Not until we go home did we realize how special the latteria is. They are the only producers of the cheese called Agrì di Valtorta, made from whole raw milk from farms in the valley. Agrì have a distinctive cylindrical shape. This cheese is part of the Presìdi Slow Food.

At the cooperative, we also bought fresh yogurt, Stracchino all'Antica, and Formai de Mut. Buying these local items at the end of along hike is so satisfying. We hiked the pastures where the cows graze and now we can taste that grass literally.

Stracchino, orginally a cheese made in Lombardy, is now found in other regions of Italy. The stracchino we bought at the co-op was certainly made just a few kilometers from where we bought it, if that. "Strach" in lombardo dialect means tired and is said to refer to the state of the cows after returning from the high alpine pastures of summer to their winter homes in lower altitudes. The transhumance tires out the cows and they produce less milk with a particular flavor. Stracchino is the precursor of other cheeses like Strachìtunt and Taleggio.

Formai de Mut is a DOP cheese made only in the the Alta Val Brembana. It's name means "Formaggio di monte" being produced by animals pastured at altitudes between 1400 m and 2300 m. All that alpine grassy goodness lends itself to quality milk which is reflected in this cheese.

Agrì di Valtorta information card - page 1/4.Agrì di Valtorta information card - page 2/4.Agrì di Valtorta information card - page 3/4.Agrì di Valtorta information card - page 4/4.

Stracchino all'antica info card - front.Stracchino all'antica info card - back.

Latteria Sociale Valtorta - Formai de Mut info card - front.Latteria Sociale Valtorta - Formai de Mut info card - back.Latteria Sociale di Valtorta - selection of cheeses.The Latteria Sociale di Valtorta - slice of Formai de Mut.


As usually happens, we think we didn't see many plants and then we look through the pictures and realize we saw a good number. In the list below, there are many plants in common with the hikes to Rifugio Gherardi and Benigni – in the nearby valleys.

Another botanical point: we saw and ate a fair number of raspberries on this hike. (Unfortunately, we didn't take a photo.) This was the first hike we've ever seen this many raspberries (Rubus idaeus).

[Family] Scientific name - Common name English (Common name Italian).

[Asteraceae] unknown - unknown (unknown). A yellow flower that was too pretty to not include.

[Asteraceae] unknown yellow flower.

[Asteraceae] Carlina acaulis – Stemless Carline Thistle (Carlina bianca)

[Asteraceae] Carlina acaulis – Stemless Carline Thistle (Carlina bianca)

[Asteraceae] Schlagintweitia intybacea – Whitish Hawkweed (Sparviere cicoriaceo)

[Asteraceae] Schlagintweitia intybacea – Whitish Hawkweed (Sparviere cicoriaceo)

[Campanulaceae] Campanula sp. – Bellflower (Campanula). This is likely Campanula barbata – Bearded Bellflower.

[Campanulaceae] Campanula sp. – Bellflower (Campanula). This is likely Campanula barbata – Bearded Bellflower.

[Caryophyllaceae] Dianthus superbus – Fringed Pink (Garafano superbo)

[Caryophyllaceae] Dianthus superbus – Fringed Pink (Garafano superbo)

[Celastraceae] Parnassia palustris - Marsh Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia delle paludi)

[Celastraceae] Parnassia palustris - Marsh Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia delle paludi)

[Ericaceae] Calluna vulgaris – Heather (Calluna comune, brugo). Calluna is referred to as Summer (or Autumn) heather to distinguish it from winter or spring flowering species of Erica that looks similar.

[Ericaceae] Calluna vulgaris – Heather (Calluna comune, brugo)

[Fabaceae] Trifolium alpinum – Mountain Clover (Trifoglio montano)

[Fabaceae] Trifolium alpinum – Mountain Clover (Trifoglio montano)

[Fagaceae] Fagus sylvatica – European Beech (Faggio)

[Fagaceae] Fagus sylvatica – European Beech (Faggio)[Fagaceae] Fagus sylvatica – European Beech (Faggio)[Fagaceae] Fagus sylvatica – European Beech (Faggio)

[Gentianaceae] Gentianella sp. – Gentian (Genzianella). Likely, G. campestris. Very common above 1500 m along with Euphrasia.

[Gentianaceae] Gentianella sp. – Gentian (Genzianella)

[Gentianaceae] Gentiana asclepiadea – Willow Gentian (Genzian di Esculapio). We don’t encounter this plant that often. It's striking.

[Gentianaceae] Gentiana asclepiadea – Willow Gentian (Genzian di Esculapio)[Gentianaceae] Gentiana asclepiadea – Willow Gentian (Genzian di Esculapio)

[Lamiaceae] Prunella vulgaris – Selfheal (Prunella comune)

[Lamiaceae] Prunella vulgaris – Selfheal (Prunella comune)

[Orobanchaceae] Euphrasia sp. – Alpine Eyebright (Eufrasia delle alpi). This genus has a number of species that look similar and we haven't taken the time to analyze them closely so can only go to genus with certainty.
[Orobanchaceae] Euphrasia sp. – Alpine Eyebright (Eufrasia delle alpi)

[Orobanchaceae] Rhinanthus sp. – Rattle (Cresta di gallo). Again, this genus has a number of very similar looking species and we could only go to genus identification with certainty.

[Orobanchaceae] Rhinanthus sp. – Rattle (Cresta di gallo)

[Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta)

[Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort

[Ranunculaceae] Aconitum napellus – Monk's Hood (Aconito napello)

[Ranunculaceae] Aconitum napellus – Monk's Hood (Aconito napello)[Ranunculaceae] Aconitum napellus – Monk's Hood (Aconito napello)

[Ranunculaceae] Pulsatilla alpina – Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)

[Ranunculaceae] Pulsatilla alpina – Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)[Ranunculaceae] Pulsatilla alpina – Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)