Posts tagged italian language
Ways to Speed Up Italian Language Learning

I often receive calls from people, telling me they are going to Italy soon, and would like to come and learn Italian. As much as I wish there was, I can honestly say that there is no fast track way or short cut to learning Italian. Learning to parrot phrases is like entering a dead end road with a car, and even if you have memorised how to ask where the bathroom is, when the native speaker answers you with  ‘in fondo, a sinistra e poi e` sulla destra’, you won’t know what he or she has said because you have only learnt a phrase.

I always remind my students they need to bare in mind that it takes us around 2 years to utter our first word when we are totally immersed in the language and culture of where we are born and raised. Speaking is one of the last things we master because we don’t want to be embarrassed by making mistakes, so here are a few tips of things you could do out of the classroom to speed up your learning.


Watch Italian movies with English subtitles

Even if you don’t understand every word, by listening and reading you are sure to pick up bits and pieces and you get to relax and enjoy a movie while you’re learning. You’ll probably also learn a little more about the Italian culture.


Read Italian books

If you are a beginner, choose some Italian short stories online by doing a google search, or buy a short story book for beginners. If you are a little more advanced choose an easy to read novel like ‘Io e Te’ by the amazing (and my favourite!) Italian author Niccolo` Ammaniti. Make sure you have a dictionary handy so you can underline and translate the bits that are new to you. The more times you see a new word and write it, the more likely you will remember it.



Do some free online learning

There are thousands of free resources online. All you have to do is search for the grammar exercises you are covering in your Italian class and you’ll be amazed at all of the extra practice you can get in. Some sites even have drop boxes so you can check your own answers.


Download some apps like Duolingo and do a little bit each day

 Even if you only spend 5 minutes on the app a day, any Italian is good Italian.



Listen to Italian music, free live radio streaming, or podcasts

Sometimes the old classics are good to listen to because the Italian is sung more clearly than some modern day Italian artists. I am sure a lot of you are familiar with the famous old song ‘Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu’ by Domenica Modugno. . Listen to it and learn it by heart, then get a copy of the lyrics and translate them. You’ll pick up a lot just from a song, especially if you are learning the grammar in class.

All of the above can compliment your Italian lessons in the classroom where, in my opinion, you should be learning the mechanics of the language and how it works so you are able to construct sentences. Grammar may seem a little boring while you are learning it but it is an essential part of learning how to speak a language and when you learn the rules, it all falls into place eventually. Time, patience and persistence is the key. Don’t try to run before you walk. The speaking will come, a lot later in the game, but it won’t happen overnight.

Visiting Italy - The Little Italian School
Piazza Gabriele Pepe - Campobasso - Molise

Piazza Gabriele Pepe - Campobasso - Molise

Molise. Where is Molise you ask?  Well, that’s what a lot of people ask. Once upon a time Abruzzo was the name of the region until 1963 when the province of Campobasso was split to form another region known today as Molise. As a little girl I remember hearing my father say he was Abruzzese when people would ask what region he was from, because it was easier than giving a history lesson!

One of the reasons I chose to take my students to Molise was because apart from being close to my heart, it is not a tourist destination, and I wanted to invite them into our other ‘life’ in Italy, where we still have immediate family, our best friends and godchildren, our nieces and nephews. I wanted them to experience the true taste of local Italian living. The visit turned out to be even more wonderful than I could have ever imagined and I am truly looking forward to doing it all again very soon.

Cantalupo del Sannio - Molise

Cantalupo del Sannio - Molise

Our 5 day tour of this delightfully picturesque region situated between the Adriatic Coast and the Sannio and Matese mountains, with the Abruzzo and Puglia regions above and below, I drove the students around in our Fiat 500 and they discovered a winery that was brought back to life, spent a day on a friend’s farm with his family and made pasta, took a trip to one of the highest points in the region to a cheese factory, and visited a Countess at her masseria to taste her extra virgin olive oil, along with some very long lunches of some of the finest typical Molisani dishes served with a whole lot of love and pride. The most important part of the visit was sharing our local Italian life with this very small intimate group. Does it get any better?

Here are a few pictures and a description of how our days went. I will do my best to remember the details because I was too happy living and enjoying the moments to keep a journal and stop too many times to take photos. I am certain I missed a few snaps along the way. I must mention that everything we ate and drank on this journey was either produced by the host, or by a local neighbouring farmer, and our guests could taste it with every single morsal and sip during their stay.


Riccia - Molise

Riccia - Molise

The students arrived a day early, which wasn’t a problem at all, because in true Italian style nothing usually is. One of the best things about this visit was that the group was small and intimate, and the visitors were considered to be our guests rather than tourists. My husband and I were the guides so we could ad lib when we wanted and add in the odd extra aperitivo, or visit somewhere spontaneously that wasn’t on the ‘agenda’. It was very relaxed and as authentically Italian as can be.

The morning after they arrived we were headed to my sister in law’s farmhouse for a visit. She’d asked us if we wanted to go and make jam as the fruit on her prune tree was ready to be picked. We stopped by at one of the towns pizzeria’s, owned and run by a family who has been baking for over 100 years. You’ve never eaten pizza quite like it. We also stopped to get a bit of prosciutto, mozzarella and parmigiano to take to her farmhouse for a little ‘spuntino’ (snack) at lunch time. On arrival we decided against making the marmellata (jam) and instead went for a short hike through the woods to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh Molisano air.

Before our orientation that evening (when the visit officially began) we went for an aperitivo and took a stroll through the historic centre up to the Castello Monforte. Later that evening we ate at a restaurant tucked away in the underground city of Campobasso, boasting ancient stone carvings and paintings. We ate melanzane al forno with ricotta, homemade cavatelli with cinghiale, veal medallions, and then enjoyed some deserts, caffe` and of course amaro.

On day two we headed off to Ripalimosani where we took a 4wd and drove through some hillside vinyards to see how this uncultivated land had been given new life by its owners, and how the wines are produced using no preservatives or pesticides. Back at the hosts home, we tasted all of their delicious wines, from Tintilia rose and red (a typical grape from Molise), to whites including chardonnay.

I’m not sure I’d call them ‘tastes’ as the pours were extremely generous, so it was just as well we were offered platters of bread, capocollo, salsiccia, caciocavallo and other cheeses, all from local neighbouring farmers.

After our visit to the vineyard, we headed off to our friend’s horse riding property where they also have a trattoria and we enjoyed a never ending lunch that was absolutely divine. Rosaria prepared many different local delights and the antipasto was full of variety including cacio e uova (cheese and bread balls), buffalo milk mousse and fiori di zucca. My favourite were her homemade ravioli with ricotta filling and a very light pesto di pistacchio sauce. The cantucci biscotti with cherry and lemon jam she made were so good I took some home for our breakfast the next day. From the pips of the cherries she’d used to make the jam, she also made a heavenly cherry liquor enjoyed by all. Waste nothing!

Day three we took a visit to our friend Pino’s farm who greeted us that morning with an espresso made with the moka (stove top espresso maker) and a few different homemade biscotti and crostate (sweet pies). If our guests had known what his mamma was going to prepare us for lunch I know they would have refused breakfast.

We were invited into Pino’s ‘sala dei lampadari’ (the room where all of the prosciutto is hanging to be cured) where he explained to us the process of how it’s all done (in Italian of course!). We also got a chance to taste it at lunch. Pino’s mamma then took us to milk the cow and use the milk to make some fresh mozzarella, followed by a pasta making class of cavatelli (a pasta shape typical of the Molise region) with flour made from their own grain. We tasted the ricotta she had made earlier that morning and all agreed it was the best ricotta we had ever eaten! After lunch we all had ‘la zoletta’ made especially by Pino, which is a sugar cube soaked in alcohol made from a variety of different herbs found on their farm, and was just what we needed to help us digest the 6 course meal we had just devoured. Then we took off up to the top of this wonderful village to enjoy the most supurb panoramic view of Italy, all the way from East (the Adriatic coast) to West (the mountains of Campania), and while up there we visited some churches and drank fresh ice cold water that was gushing out from the mountain side.

Day four was our cheesemaking day in Agnone. Near one of the highest points of the mountains in Molise (alto Molise) we were guided by the daughter of the producers of the famous Caciocavallo cheese, fresh mozzarella, and cheeses with tartufo and peperoncino (chilli) to name a few. The family have been making cheese since 1662 and we watched as they created the cheeses in their petite factory and then headed off to view the ageing produce in their cellar, along with a tour through their very own museum where we found out about the family’s history and ended with a tasting of some of their cheese. Afterwards we drove a little further up the mountain to enjoy another very long lunch by another gorgeous family, who when we couldn’t decide on which ‘amaro’ we would like at the end of our meal, they brought us out every bottle they had (there were around 6 from memory) with some glasses so we could taste them all. One was made with the ginseng root which is grown on their land, though we were told it is hard to find.

Day 5 and our last day was with the delightfully charming countess Donna Marina at her masseria, walking through her olive grove, seeing how the extra virgin olive oil is produced, bottled and labelled by hand, and ending our day with the most wonderful olive oil tasting imaginable. We enjoyed a beautiful light lunch of olives, crostini, pasta with chickpeas, and ‘la pampanella’ which is a typical slow cooked pork rib dish from San Martino in Pensulis, followed by some biscotti and caffe. On the way home we stopped by the family farmhouse to show our guests my fathers old school, which is pictured in what I use as my logo, and was the inspiration for starting up The Little Italian School.Just as well we had a light lunch because we had our aperitivo and fairwell seafood dinner in a quaint little piazzetta in Campobasso that evening where we enjoyed local wine and the freshest fish from Termoli (a coastal fishing town in Molise) caught that morning. It was a great night but I was feeling a little emotional knowing our guests would be leaving the next day, wishing they could stay just a few days more.


I am so grateful for the way in which the hosts embraced our visitors and treated them like family from beginning to end. It couldn’t have been more perfect and we are looking forward to taking more guests to this undiscovered region of Italy that continues to deliver its local culture and traditions in the most authentic way, with so much pride, love and passion. The locals can never do enough for you. There is a saying in Italy that goes ‘Il Molise non Esiste’ meaning ‘Molise doesn’t exist’. I can tell you that it absolutely does, and it has so much to offer. I believe it’s one of Italy’s best kept secrets and kind of hope it stays that way.

Termoli - Molise

Termoli - Molise



Being an Italian Immigrant -My Nonna Rosaria's Story
Nonna Rosaria 95 years of age

Nonna Rosaria 95 years of age

For an Italian, there isn’t much difference between your mamma and your nonna as they play pretty much the same role in your life. My nonna helped raise my brother and I because my parents had restaurants and worked around the clock. I went to visit nonna the other day to chat with her about leaving Italy to immigrate to Australia. I have always wanted to write a blog about her story which is no doubt very similar for most of the Italian immigrants who took the same journey. Having to leave her mamma and other family members and not knowing if she’d ever see them again must have been heart wrenching.

I’d always heard bits and pieces of the story as a little girl. I used to listen in to the family chit chat in Calabrese dialect when we’d sit to eat family lunch on Sundays. Nonna’s signature dish were her soft and fluffy potato gnocchi with ragu. There were always lots of giggles when nonna & nonno would reminisce and tell us stories about different people in their ‘paese’ (town).

Everyone in the paese had a nickname which was usually related to something they did or some sort of habit they had. Nicknames came in handy because a lot of people named their children after grandparents, parents or other family members, which meant there were a lot of people with exactly the same first name and surname so it was hard to know who people were speaking about.

My nonni had 8 children, 7 girls and 1 boy. Nonna turned 95 today and I know how lucky we are to still have her. She’s been living in the same suburb for 35 years and is well known and respected in the community. She grabs taxi’s and heads to shopping malls to shop all on her own and she enjoys frequent day trips with her friends on the Italian Community bus. She still lives at home,  has such a crazy sense of humour and she’s really quick witted and jokes around all the time. She’s always upbeat and playful and considering the life they had I sometimes think seeing the humour in everything helped them get through the tough times. They worked hard to put food on the table, and there was always enough to feed an army! Our table was that of a typical southern Italian family… full of people, loud voices, food, love and good times.

So here is her story, translated just how it was told, and I am sure a lot of you who had parents immigrate from Italy can relate to it or have heard similar stories. Hold them close to your heart, and remember to tell them to your children and grandchildren, because it’s also a part of who they are.

Nonna Rosaria in her 40's

Nonna Rosaria in her 40's

How old were you when you met nonno and when did you marry?

I was 15 years old. Nonno came to work for my dad on his farm. That’s how we met. He was very tall and handsome. I fell in love when I saw him. We were together for one month before we got married. Nonno was 20 so there was a 5 year age difference.

When did he leave for the war?

He had to leave for war just six months after we married. We married on the 1st of June 1940 and he left on the 4th January 1941. Six months. I was so sad and scared for him. But he was one of the lucky ones. He lived.I had my first baby, Giuseppina, named after nonno, just 13 months after we married. Nonno came back for leave and met the baby. Giuseppina died when she was just three years old from an illness.

When nonno returned from war what work did he do?
He came home for good after 5 years.  He had been sent to Russia. He was so thin we he returned I could barely recognize him. They had no food. Men were dying from the cold and hunger. In Calabria there was nothing after the war ended. No food. Nonno was a farm guard. He watched over the farms. There was very little food so people would steal it. There was no bread. We were only allowed 400 grams of bread a day. The government would give it to us. During the war all of the bridges were blown up by bombs so there was no way to transport it. We had our 3rd baby and when she was 18 months old he left for Australia which was about 7 years after the war had ended.

Nonno Giuseppe receiving his Australian Citizenship

Nonno Giuseppe receiving his Australian Citizenship

Why did you choose to come to Australia? Who did he come with and what did you all know about Australia?

Nonno’s cousin told us about it. Other family members had come and said there was lots of work here. He came alone and the boat took 32 days exactly to arrive. He was 34 years old and he couldn’t speak English. He knew nothing. Nothing. Bush and kangaroos that’s all. But it doesn't matter.

What work did nonno do when he arrived and how long after he arrived did you come?

He first lived in Balcatta. He would go to work in the bush cutting wood and burning to clear for wheat. Then he went to ‘Wes Feely River’ (Westfield River) in Adelaide.  They all got taken by train.
I left 3 years later with our 3 children. I was very nervous and scared but I was happy we would see nonno again.

Nonno Giuseppe settled in Australia with his veggie patch

Nonno Giuseppe settled in Australia with his veggie patch

What was it like travelling with your children alone on a boat all the way to Australia ?

It was a little bit scary. There were about 300 people on the boat. Italian, Polish, Macedonian, Yugoslav & Greek. The ship left from Genova and travelled down to Sicily to pick up the Italians.

How did you pay for the boat trip and what did they give you to eat on the trip?

Nonno sent the money after he had been working in Australia for a while. On the boat we ate soup and sometimes a little bit of meat.

What was it like to leave your mum and your family?

It was very hard, very painful. My mum died 3 years after I left so I never saw her again.

When you got off the boat did nonno pick you up and how did he get to Fremantle?

Yes he came by bus. We didn’t have a car of course. We had to save money to buy a car.

Where did you live first?

We lived in East Perth. It’s very fancy now but East Perth was a very very poor area when we moved. Lots of Italians, other immigrants and Aboriginals lived there. Many husbands would leave to work in the bush so sometimes I would send one of my daughters to sleep at a neighbours house who’s husband had gone away, just to keep them company. They hated it but I made them go. We all looked after each other and helped each other.

Did the Australian Government give you money to help you?

The government gave money towards school books. There was no dole but there was lots of work so our eldest children left school early to go to work and help us with the bills and feeding the family. We did jobs like cleaning, and washing dishes. They weren’t paying well but it was better than what we had come from. There was a lot of opportunity.

Nonna Rosaria visiting her home in Italy at 68 years of age

Nonna Rosaria visiting her home in Italy at 68 years of age

Were the English/Australian people kind?
Not too bad. Yes they were very nice. They mingled with Italians. The people I worked in hospital with when I was cleaning were nice. Nonno used to work at Thompson Steel making railway tracks, and at night he washed dishes in a restaurant. Work was usually where we mixed with other people. At home we had a very big Italian community so we all understood each other. The language, the culture, the feelings. We understood what we were all feeling and that made it easy. We all pulled together, we helped each other. It was very nice. We didn’t have much to share but we shared whatever we had.

Did you always want to go back home to Italy when you first migrated?
I always thought about Italy and wanted to go home but after the 4th baby was born I settled and I liked Australia. When I was 68 years old I went back to visit. I found the ‘paese’ the same as when we left it but I was happy to see some familiar faces.

It doesn’t matter where you are. You have to be happy. You have to be happy you are healthy, you have family, you have friends. Just be happy inside. It doesn’t matter where you are. You have food, you have family, you have friends. Just be happy child.

Learning Italian. Where do you begin?

Learn Some Nouns

You want to learn how to speak Italian but not sure where to begin? Well, a good start would be to learn as many nouns (names of things) as you can. In my Absolute Beginner Classes I also like to expose students to some Italian grammar. Learning grammar gives you a much better understanding of the language and gets you speaking a lot quicker than learning phrases. Exposing students to grammar doesn’t mean they should be memorising and mastering what you teach them in an instance. It just means they have seen the word or the rules and from that point on, each time they are re-exposed to it they may learn and remember a little more. Remembering what is learnt comes with practice by doing exercises, and it takes time.

Essere and Avere Verbs

There are two ‘verbs’ (doing words) in Italian that are taught in the Absolute Beginner course and I am going to write a little explanation on how to learn and use them. While rote learning may be a little old school, it may be a good way to memorise them, but if you have a method that suits you more then you should stick to it.

In Italian, we have verbs just like in English. Only in English, we don’t change the verbs 6 times to suit the person or object doing the action, or the person we are speaking about who is doing the action, like we do in Italian.

To construct a sentence we use lots of words and grammar. A sentence like :

‘The boy is beautiful’. 

‘Il ragazzo e` bello’.

This simple sentence is made by adding a noun + verb + adjective …..or in simple terms subject + doing word + describing word)


So firstly you should learn your ‘subject pronouns’  (the subject of your sentence – who you are speaking about):

Here are the subject pronouns (meaning the person or thing doing the action).

I - io

You - tu

He/She/It - Lui, Lei, esso/a

We - noi

You all - voi

They - loro


Essere (to be) and Avere (to have) are the first two verbs we learn as Absolute Beginners

So the verbs Essere and Avere in English are used like this



io sono -I am

tu sei - you are

tui/lei/it e` - he/she is   (notice the verb has changed 3 times already   am, are, is)

noi siamo - we are

voi siete - you all are

loro sono - they are

example sentences:

I am Italian - Io sono italiano

you are French - tu sei francese

he/she is Australian - lui/lei e` australiano  

we are Italian – noi siamo italiani

you all are Italian – voin siete italiani

they are Italian - loro sono italiani

AVERE – (TO HAVE) works the same way.

I have a child - io ho un figlio  (pronounced fi-li-yoh)

You have a child - tu hai un figlio

He/she/it has a child - lui/lei/esso ha un figlio

We have a child – noi abbiamo un figlio

You all have a child – voi avete un figlio

They have a child – loro hanno un figlio

These are very simple sentences, but if you have a few Italian nouns up your sleeve, then you can already start to make simple sentences.


The problem most students face when learning verbs is they get confused when the ‘subject pronoun’ (the person or thing doing the action), is replaced with a name.

For example:

He is beautiful – Lui e` bello

Gianni is beautiful – Gianni e` bello (He = Gianni)

Or a little more complex is when you are speaking with someone asking them questions and they have to answer changing the verb so it all makes sense.

For example:

Question: Do you have a child? - Hai un figlio?

Answer: Yes I have a child. - Si, ho un figlio.

Question: Does Chiara have a child? – Chiara ha un figlio?

Answer: Yes, Chiara has a child – Si, Chiara ha un figlio.

Note how the verb ‘have’ in the English sentences hasn’t changed , but in the Italian sentences it has because it is agreeing with the person in the sentence who is doing the action.


This is a very basic explanation and joining classes can be very helpful and would be the next step for anyone wanting to learn ‘la dolce lingua’. While phrases may be fun to learn, they are very limiting when trying to have a conversation. I always remind my students that they must walk before they run! So start your learning journey by building your Italian vocabulary and slowly but surely the language will all start to come together.

FREE Pasqua Activity Printout for Kids

Children’s 'Pasqua" (Easter) Activities

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Pasqua in Italy is based heavily on religion. In this FREE 4 page printout I created you can read a simple and easy explanation of Easter in Italy to your children and fill in the activities with them. Building your child's Italian vocabulary is a fantastic start for them if they want to learn Italian, and mixing it with learning about some of the Italian culture and traditions is a perfect combination. Does your little one know that the Easter Bunny doesn't exist in Italy? Italian children still eat chocolate Easter eggs. The egg is a symbol of 'new life', and they usually have a 'sorpresa' (surprise) in them. 

Enjoy this FREE 4 page Easter activity printout and build your child's Italian vocabulary. BUONA PASQUA A TUTTI !

Pasqua in Italia.pdf

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Easter Fiadone Recipe

Fiadone Cake - Easter Ricotta Cake

This morning I woke up really early with the urge to bake a couple of traditional Italian Easter cakes. There's nothing I like more than to rise before the sun and bake while our bambini are still snuggled up in bed asleep. I'm pretty certain they love waking up to the smell of a freshly baked crostata or biscotti too. We love a little 'sweetness' for breakfast in our home. It's one of those 'Italian' things.

Our kids aren't too fussed on 'La Pastiera Napoletana', so I made them a 'Crostata di Nutella' instead. I'll be sure to share the recipe one day soon. But for now lets talk Easter...

Here are the ingredients for a Fiadone cake my beautiful mother in law handed down to me about 20 years ago when we temporarily lived in the in laws home in Italy before getting our own apartment. She would make it every Easter. I don't pretend to be a cookbook writer but I love to share recipes. When it comes to the method, well, I believe that if you practice making something with love enough times you'll work it out.

For the pastry:

10 tbsp of type 00 plain flour

1 egg

2.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp sugar

about half cup water


Knead it well and set aside to let rest while you make the filling. You will need 

5 eggs

5 tablespoons sugar

1 grated lemon zest

about half kilo ricotta ( I use Thats Amore Cheese Ricotta. It's the creamiest and the best and it's already drained and ready to go)

(if you have any fresh cream you can add a dash to the mixture also)

Roll out the dough and place it over an oiled ciambella tin:


Fill with the mixture and flap the edges over to cover the mixture


Here are the 2 Easter Cakes I made plus the Crostata di Nutella. 

The Pastiera (pictured left) was on the top shelf of the oven and overcooked slightly on one side just the way my husband likes it. Perfectly imperfect!

Conservare le Olive
Olive Picking

It’s olive picking season! And like every other year I get asked ‘how do you do your olives’? So this year I thought I’d write a short blog and include the recipe.

This time each year, we usually have an olive picking day with friends. I’ll make a delicious ragù and some fresh pasta so we can sit and enjoy lunch, a glass of wine and a few laughs together after the job is done.

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Our wonderful, kind and very healthy 95 year old neighbour Signor Gangemi, who migrated from Calabria around the same time as my parents, has an olive tree that is over 70 years old, and boasts some enormous and the most wonderfully smelling olives I have ever seen. We also have two olive trees on our verge, much younger than our neighbours, but with equally delicious olives on them.

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It just so happens that our trees fruit on alternative years, so it’s olive harvesting every year for us, because Signor Gangemi has an abundance of them when his tree fruits and he loves to share. Infact we spend a lot of time heading over to each other’s houses to share some sort of produce from our yard. He especially loves our fresh eggs, and when my children run them over, they never return home empty handed. It’s just one of those ‘Italian things’.


Now the olive conserving is my husband’s job. He’s responsible for changing the water each day leading up to the day we jar them, so here is a very rough explanation of how you can make your olives if you happen to be picking some this year. I’d be the worst cookbook writer ever, because I don’t measure ingredients (another one of those ‘Italian things’), but here goes in point form, and you can also email me with any questions



-Pick the olives !
- slit each olive with a knife – or – lightly bash each one with a hammer


-place the olives in a bucket of fresh water (make sure they are covered)
-change the water each day with some fresh water for at least 2 weeks. This may need to be done a little longer depending on the size of your olives. The best way to tell if they have lost their bitterness is to taste them.


-prepare the brine by melting 200gr of salt per 1 litre of water  and bring to boil (you’ll have to work out youself how much brine you may need depending on the quantity of olives you’ve picked. You can always make more if you need it so it’s best to start small and work it out from there.

Once boiling,  and for about 10 litres of water you’ll need to add

-a handful of peppercorns

-4 or 5 bayleaves

-lemon rind

-a clove of garlic (or more if you prefer more)

-a handful of rosemary twigs


-Using your sterilised jars, place the olives in them, poor in some vinegar (we use our own homemade red wine vinegar) maybe to a quarter of the jar, and top up with the brine.

Enjoy your labour of love!    

La Festa della Donna - Women's Day
Pictured : some of the strongest women I know. Family & friends of the heart - location: Farmhouse Italy  L-R Silvana, Adriana, Myself, Fausta, Rachel

Pictured : some of the strongest women I know. Family & friends of the heart - location: Farmhouse Italy

L-R Silvana, Adriana, Myself, Fausta, Rachel

We Italians love a good ‘festa’.

For those of you who have lived in Italy, you'll know that the Festa della Donna (International Women’s Day) is celebrated with blooming mimosa flowers that can be found on almost every street corner ready to gift to a wonderful ‘donna’ (woman) in your life.

La Festa della Donna is celebrated each year on the 8th of March and is a significant day because it reminds us of the importance of women all around the world. Once upon a time women were suppressed and discriminated against, but on the 8th of March in 1917 in San Petersburg, after the 1st World War, women marched the streets to fight for womens rights. 

Pictured: The most important woman, friend & role model in my life: Mamma

Pictured: The most important woman, friend & role model in my life: Mamma

The mimosa is the chosen plant to give women on this special day. There are a few different reasons why it is thought that this bright yellow bloom was chosen.

Some say the flowers of the mimosa are a reflection of what a woman is, being bright, cheerful, delicate and strong all at the same time.

Others say that the flower was chosen just after the war, when there wasn’t much money around, so it was economic and easily found in the fields, blooming every year in March.

Picture Pinterest

Picture Pinterest

Buona Festa della Donna a tutti!

Have fun celebrating all of the strong, beautiful, sensitive, caring, loving women in your lives!

Pictured: the other most important woman in my life - Nonna 95 years old

Pictured: the other most important woman in my life - Nonna 95 years old

Something About Italy - Girl in Florence
Pic credit - Girl in Florence

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

1) How did you end up in Italy ?

I first came to Italy as a study abroad student in 2005, at the time I was living in Los Angeles for university but I am originally from San Antonio, Texas. My program lasted a full calendar year which really helped to give me time to get to know Florence a little better than most study abroad programs that only last for a semester. After finishing my degree in Los Angeles, I returned to Italy in the Fall of 2007 and haven’t really left ever since. Now it’s been over 10 years that I’ve called the city of Florence my home. They can’t get rid of me.

2) How much of the Italian culture were you familiar with before you moved there?

I have to admit, almost nothing! My original plan was to study in London as my degree was in political science at the time. Florence was a happy accident but one that I felt in no way prepared for. In fact, most people in my program were well versed in Italian or held some sort of Italian heritage and I could barely pronounce cappuccino properly. I felt later though, that this worked to my advantage, as I didn’t hold any sort of fantasies on what life might actually be like on the boot. I took everything as it came, the good, the bad and my awkward butchering of the beautiful Italian language.

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

3) What were the biggest cultural differences you experienced ? Are there any you dislike? Which one is your favourite?

I suppose like most people, there were plenty. I had a very American approach to life and efficiency and I had to learn that the phrase “time is money” doesn’t really apply in Italy. The country moves at a slower pace that can be infuriating if you yourself are the one being worked through a bureaucratic game of mind craft. I disliked what I felt to be total apathy by public sector employees and by locals who accepted things or looked the other way for things that I felt were “not ok” like insisting on being paid in cash/al nero, making clear traffic violations or general rudeness/line jumping. Also, the work situation has been always quite tenuous for most people when I first arrived. However, what I have gained from living here is far more important and valuable. Italians value their sit-down mealtime with loved ones and so do I, I know how to whip up any type of dish with relative ease and I don’t stress about the small stuff as much as I used to. I was able to build a career and thrive here by almost not having any other options, I’m not to sure that would have happened if I didn’t live here. I know everything will be ok and that I need to enjoy my life as best I can. I don’t mind living in a small apartment and haven’t cared about owning a dryer or car in 10 years. It’s amazing how life can be totally different from that of your friends where you grew up but how utterly happy you can be with less.

4) Is Italy all roses and as romantic as people like to portray it is?

I might not be the person you want to ask this question haha, because I will tell you that I am a pragmatic person who doesn’t hold stars in her eyes, unless you are waving a pizza or rum babà under my nose! I find the people that tend to idolize Italy are the ones who don’t live here or haven’t really spent time having to jump through life’s many hurdles to get where they are. It’s perfect for me, and I love and appreciate this country like no other, but I have seen many a person arrive with dreams and goals only to slink back home a few years later after becoming isolated, playing the “compare” game and realizing that it takes years and decades to get settled in a place (by the way this applies anywhere, not just Italy).

Pic credit - Girl on Florence

Pic credit - Girl on Florence

5) What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved there?

You name the challenge, I had to deal with it. Honestly everything, getting a visa to stay here, changing that visa to be able to work, finding a stable job, realizing that I had to work multiple jobs, not having opportunities to grow in a career at the same pace as what I felt other people in other places were experiencing, dealing with casual apathy and dismissiveness from locals, finding true and lasting friendships. Luckily things are a lot easier now but we have to keep in mind that it’s been eleven years here. It took me a lot of time to find my way, even with the added help of living with an Italian family for the first 7 years of that time.

6)Would you recommend moving to Italy? And why?

You have to ask yourself why you want to. If it’s because you are missing something in your life back home or think Italy is the best place ever after one vacation, consider making a change that isn’t as dramatic as legally moving to another country first. Try to create that community, embrace learning how to cook, forage, visit farmer’s markets, plan trips and come to Italy every year for a month or two, that might be the better option. If you really want to make a go of it it here, make sure to have your legal game lined up as far as getting a visa and enroll in an Italian language school. You need to learn the language even if you think you don’t. It’s important to try and integrate as much as possible and the key to that is learning the language.

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

7) How does it feel being foreign but wanting to embrace and feel part of a culture that is not yours? Do the Italians treat you like an Italian or do you always feel a little foreign or more like a visitor than a local?

I think I touch on this subject best in one of my blog posts here, but I can say that it can be complicated at times. I’ll give you an example. My husband is French but speaks without an accent in Italian (keep in mind, we both speak fluently) when people meet him they think he is Italian so his “Frenchness” is almost always forgotten. However, the fact that you can tell I’m an American both my accent and physique, kind of puts me in that “place” when someone gets to know me for the first time. Many people come and go in Florence so naturally someone doesn’t know me, they may assume I am a transient too.  Someone might ask me for directions in Italian and as I am describing the route, they are already scanning the street to ask someone they deem “more local.” I’ve tried to rid myself of the accent but alas it is more powerful than me! That being said, despite the fact that Florence is known for being well rather cold to people, I do feel accepted by forcing my way into the conversation and community. YOU have to be the one to make that effort, people are not going to come to you unless they want you to teach their kids English. Once again, I think this applies anywhere, not just Italy. Personally, I feel like what I am, a person who was born in the USA; raised there but who identifies more with the European cultural mindset. Home is here.

8) Is the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ true for you? Do you think of your birthplace often and your family and friends back home?

Yes, but I believe that the concept of “home” is wherever you feel most like you. For me, that’s here, not San Antonio, Texas where I feel more like an alien. I do miss my family and friends back home and I try to visit as much as possible, especially as my parents get older, but the itch to get back to Europe is pretty strong. They know that and appreciate that I am always going to be their “Georgette” who loves Mexican food and snow cones but who has chosen a life elsewhere, inclusive of their visits of course. I wouldn’t be the same person I am without having grown up where I did and making various life choices that were different than the “norm.”

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

9) Do you think you will reside there forever or will you return home one day?

I do believe that my home is here and that also means that I may need to leave one day for my husband’s job for a few years. I do think that we will always come back to Florence and that for us, this is where we see ourselves growing old and raising a family. I have a great support system here and while I love visiting Texas and California, I can’t really see myself living there ever again.

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

Pic credit - Girl in Florence

You can find the beautiful Georgette Jupe 'Girl In Florence' on instagram or click here to read some of her wonderful blogs and tips on travel in Italy.

Italian Christmas Traditions

Italian Christmas Traditions

This week I have been asking my students if they are familiar with some of Italy’s Christmas traditions. Surprisingly the majority said they aren't, so for our last week of Italian language classes we will be reading about Italian Christmas traditions while we enjoy a sip of caffe` or limoncello with a little bit of traditional Italian Christmas cake ‘il Pandoro.’ Excuse the lack of photo's in this’s a little hard to find any when the last Christmas you spent with la famiglia (family) in Italy was in 2004 and photos were taken with a camera that had a roll of film you’d have to get processed. Before the kids came along we used to alternate between my family and my husband’s, so every second Natale (Christmas) was in Italy.

If there’s one season I am not too fond of, it’s winter. The long Italian winter was one of the reasons I swore I’d never be able to live there for good, hence our annual return always being during the summer months. But there is that one thing I miss dearly about Italy during the freezing cold months and that is Christmas with all of it’s traditions, and spending those wonderful moments with our family and friends. There have been many laughs and fun games of tombola on an overly full belly following a Christmas feast. Luckily my nonni (grandparents) continued the traditions when they migrated to Australia like most other Italian families did... but out on the streets & in the shops. there's always that little something missing. 

Christmas in Italy doesn’t show it’s face in the streets, shops or homes until the 8th of December, the day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In Italy the festive season is more about family than it is about consumerism, and you can really ‘feel’ it all around you. I know that sounds so cliche, but it really is like that. Of course this would be different if you were holidaying there, but for those who have family, it really is the best!

What can you do on holiday in Italy during the Christmas Season?

In pretty much every citta` (city) and paese (town), you will be able to lose yourself in the many little markets that take place. You'll no doubt find a religious event here and there, various little concerts, and you’ll also be able to enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations that veil the towns and cities. Italian Christmas traditions are heavily based on religion, so there are many pretty churches to visit where you will be able to see the stunning Nativity Scenes (il presepio). Italians are huge on Nativity Scenes, but take note… you won’t be seeing any sign of ‘bambino Gesu`’ (baby Jesus) in his crib until la Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve)! Some of the most beautiful Nativity Scenes can be found in the stunning city of Naples and are a must see. Some people dedicate a whole room in their home to creating one, and you might even find a live presentation of a Nativity Scene if you are lucky. When it’s freezing cold outside, it’s a great activity to give the kids to do, but I can’t imagine my kids getting out of the pool to stay inside to build a nativity scene!

Picture from Pinterest

Picture from Pinterest

Traditional Christmas ‘cibi’ (meals)

Traditionally on Christmas Eve, Italians get together with the family to indulge in a feast of fish before heading off to midnight mass. No meat is eaten on the day before Christmas.

Instead, on Christmas day the family get together again to enjoy a feast of everything! Each region in Italy has their own traditional dishes. Generally we begin with an antipasto, then onto some sort of pasta dish, a meat dish, a side dishes and then most families all over Italy will enjoy either panettone or pandoro, and perhaps some torrone (noughat), along with some other type of desert.

Dov'e` Babbo Natale? (Where’s Father Christmas?)

In Italy, our Father Christmas is known as La Befana. She is an old kind witch who takes presents to well behaved children during the night and leaves coals in the stockings of those who have been naughty!

La befana is celebrated on the 6th of January, the day of the Epifany, which is the day the 3 wise men arrived at baby Jesus’ crib.

Apparently, 3 wise men were following the star in the sky to find the Son of God and passed her house to ask for directions. La Befana wasn’t sure of how to get there, but took them in for the night so they could rest. The next day they took off and asked La Befana if she’d like to join them but she was too busy, only to find later on she had a change of heart, and went off searching for the 3 wise men to catch up with them to bring baby Jesus a gift. She was not able to find them, so to this day she is still searching and takes presents to all the little children in the world on her way on the the night of the 5th of January.

We have promised our children we will brace the cold and snow for them one year and spend a Christmas in Italy very soon. I know I’ll probably curse the cold weather the whole time, but I also know the novelty of the snow will be a great experience for them and there will be some fond memories made with the only ‘cugini’ (cousins) they have, which is definitely worth shivering for!

Our Befana (bought from the markets in Italy many years ago)

Our Befana (bought from the markets in Italy many years ago)