Carmela’s Italian Footwear Obsession – Part 1

Posted on 02. Oct, 2015 by in Italian Language

Carmela boarded the 07:21 train bound for Modena. Wearing a Bonnie Parker style beret, an old faded red hoodie and worn out jeans, she blended in like a chameleon with the early morning workers on their way to just another day on the production line.

But Carmela’s was a different line of work. It had its risks of course, but it paid well and the hours were short. Which gave her plenty of time for her real passion: her extensive collection of Italian footwear.


She glanced down at her latest acquisition, a gorgeous pair of black ankle boots that she’d managed to pick up for only 260 Euro. Smiling furtively, she shuffled her feet back under her seat. It wouldn’t do to have any of these factory workers noticing the incongruity between her generally shabby appearance and the extravagant footwear.

She looked up suddenly, and found herself staring directly into the eyes of a young vigile urbano. The local policeman, also on his way to another day at work, glanced down at her feet, saying “Permesso”, reached forward as if to grab her ankles and drag the exotic boot out into the light of day where he could get a better look at them.


Carmela started and gave a small gasp. “Non si preoccupi signora” said the vigile, “E’ solo che avevo notato che le è caduto questo libretto dal suo zaino … eccolo!”

Swallowing back the huh sigh of relief that welled up in her chest, Carmela gave him her most radiant smile. “Grazie infinite signore, lei è troppo gentile” she said, as she recovered the small black leather bound notebook from his outstretched hand.

“Al suo servizio signora” he replied, with an equally radiant smile.

“Hmmmm, questo vigile non è mica brutto” thought Carmela, “però, avere un poliziotto intorno non è il massimo nel mio mestiere … sì, meglio lasciar perdere … peccato però!”

The vigile maintained his smile for just long enough to make his interests in Carmela quite clear, then turned to look out of the window as the mist shrouded landscape of the pianura slipped by.


Later, the squealing and hissing of brakes combined with the usual indecipherable announcement over the PA foretold their imminent arrival at La Stazione di Modena. The young policeman arose from his seat and grabbed his heavy bag from the rack above their heads. He gave Carmela another of his charming smiles. “Ma com’è alto e prestante questo … proprio bello!” thought Carmela, “però ….”
“Non scende qui a Modena signora?”
he asked her. Carmela hesitated, she had to make a decision, and quickly. “Uh, sì, no, no io … vado a visitare la mia vecchia zia che sta male. Abita a Mantova, sa ….” stammered Carmela.

“Allora, le auguro una buonissima giornata, e arrivederci” said the vigile. “Grazie, grazie altrettanto …. la ringrazio di nuovo per avermi recuperato il libretto che per me è una cosina molto preziosa!” Replied Carmela with a slightly lost look in her eyes that seemed to say …… “magari ………”

Dear Readers, what is Carmela’s mestiere, and what is written in her precious libretto nero? Well, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait for part 2 of ‘Carmela’s Italian Footwear Obsession’ to find out.

Vi auguro un buon fine settimana.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to read In A Shoe shop In Italy

In a Shoe Shop in Italy

Posted on 30. Sep, 2015 by in Vocabulary

The setting: It’s the end of the summer, shops are advertising very attractive saldi di fine stagione (end of season sales).
A young lady is browsing the windows of a very expensive negozio di calzature (shoe shop), obviously tempted by l’occasionissima (the fantastic bargains).


ma dai!!!!

She enters the shop …….

Commessa: “Desidera signora?”
Shop assistant: “Can I help you Ma’am?”

Ragazza: “Volevo vedere quel paio di stivaletti neri che avete lì in vetrina”
Young lady: “I’d like to see that pair of black ankle boots that you’ve got in the window”

Commessa: “Quali, signora? Mi fa vedere?”
Shop assistant: “Which ones, Ma’am? Can you show me?”

Ragazza, indicando un paio di stivaletti fuori in vetrina: “Ecco, quelli lì”
Young lady, pointing at a pair of ankle boots in the window: “There, those ones there”

Commessa: “Che numero porta?”
Shop assistant: “What size are you?”

Ragazza: “Il 38”
Young lady: “Size 38” (= US 7.5, UK 5)

Commessa: “Un momento che vado a vedere”
Shop assistant: “Just a moment that I’ll go and check”

ma ragazzi, qui siamo proprio fuori!!!

ma ragazzi, qui siamo proprio fuori!!!

La commessa scompare nel retrobottega e ricompare dopo pochi minuti con un paio scatole.
The shop assistant disappears into the back of the shop and reappears a few minutes later carrying a couple of boxes.

Commessa: “Mi dispiace, il 38 in nero non ce l’abbiamo. C’è in beige, se lo vuole provare, oppure abbiamo quest’altro modello molto simile, ma col tacco più alto”, dice la commessa mostrando un paio di stivaletti bellissimi e dall’aspetto molto costoso: “E’ un modellino molto elegante, tutto in vera pelle, morbidissima …”
Shop assistant: “I’m sorry, we haven’t got any 38’s in black. There are beige ones, if you’d like to try them on, otherwise we have this other model, very similar but with a higher heel”, says the shop assistant showing a pair of really beautiful and very expensive looking ankle boots: “It’s a very elegant model, all in real leather, really supple …”

Ragazza, immediatamente sedotta dai nuovi stivaletti: “Va bene, li provo”
Young lady, immediately seduced by the new ankle boots: “OK, I’ll try them on”

Commessa: “Come calzano?”
Shop assistant: “How do they fit?”

Ragazza: “Sono un pochino grandi. Ha un numero più piccolo?”
Young lady: “They are a little bit big. Do you have a smaller size?”

Commessa: “Vado a vedere”
Shop assistant: “I’ll go and check”

Ragazza: “Intanto provo quelli beige”
Young Lady: “In the mean time I’ll try the beige ones”

questi invece sono molto elegante!!!

… questi però sono molto eleganti!!!

Commessa: “Sì, certo”. Poi, tornando dal magazzino a mani vuote: “Mi dispiace, il 37 l’abbiamo terminato. Quelli beige come vanno?”
Shop assistant: “Yes, certainly”. Then coming back from the storeroom empty handed: “I’m sorry, there are no 37’s. How do the beige ones feel?”

Ragazza: “Calzano alla perfezione, ma quelli neri mi piacciono di più … li riprovo un attimo”
Young lady: “They fit perfectly, but I like the black ones better … I’ll try them on again”

Commessa: “Stiamo andando incontro all’inverno, per cui anche se sono un po’ grandi è meglio … ci può mettere dentro una soletta o indossare un paio di calze di lana che la tengono più calda. E poi il nero è più adatto per l’inverno, il beige è più estivo”
Shop assistant: “We are getting towards the winter season, so it’s better if they are slightly big … you can put an innersole or wear a pair of wool socks which will keep you warmer. And what’s more black is more appropriate for winter, beige is more of a summer colour”

Ragazza, facendosi convincere velocemente: “Sì, ha ragione … posso metterci un paio di calze di lana. Quanto vengono?”
Young lady, allowing herself to be convinced easily: “ Yes, you’re right … I can wear a pair of wool socks. How much are they?”

Commessa: “Duecentosettanta euro
Shop assistant: “Two hundred and seventy Euro”

Ragazza, un po’ delusa: “Mamma mia, è più di quanto volevo spendere!”
Young lady, a little disappointed: “Mama mia, it’s more than I wanted to spend!”

Commessa: “Sono tutti in vera pelle, fatti benissimo. Le posso fare un po’ di sconto …. diciamo duecentosessanta!”
Shop assistant: “They are made completely of real leather, very well made. I can give you a little discount …. let’s say two hundred and sixty!”

Ragazza, dopo qualche istante di esitazione: “Va bene, li prendo”
Young lady, after a moment’s hesitation: “OK, I’ll have them”

Commessa: “Vedrà che non si pentirà. Sono stupendi!”
Shop assistant: “You won’t regret it. They are wonderful!”

Ragazza: “Ecco a lei duecentosessanta euro. Grazie e arrivederci”
Young lady: “Here’s two hundred and sixty Euro. Thank you and goodbye”

The young lady leaves the shoe shop: “Okay, let’s go and withdraw some cash!” she says.
She disappears down a dark side alley and re-emerges a few minutes later dressed completely in black, and wearing the expensive ankle boots.
In her right hand she expertly carries a pistol.
She enters the bank next door to the shoe shop ………


“I Like You!”

Posted on 28. Sep, 2015 by in Grammar, Humour, Music

A reader recently left a comment on my article I Would Have Liked asking for more “curly conjugations”. I was particularly taken by that phrase, and immediately decided to adopt it as a blog theme.
So, where better to begin than with one of the curliest of all Italian constructions: piacere. And to keep things nice and light, a song by the Italian cantautore (singer songwriter) Alex Britti.

Now, we all know that the Italians have got the whole ‘I like’ thing completely back to front … but that’s just the way it is and there’s no way around it! So we gradually adjust to the idea of ‘mi piace‘ (it pleases me) being the equivalent of ‘I like it’, and ‘mi piacciono’ (they please me) meaning ‘I like them’. But these ‘curly conjugations’ still keep tripping us up. How about if we want to say ‘I like you’ to a friend?

The answer lies in the following romantic and amusing tale by Britti. (English translation by yours truly)

Update 29/09/15, several readers have advised me that the original video is not available in their country. If the above link doesn’t work for you then please try this one instead:

Cosa vorresti per regalo
da trovare sotto il letto
qualche fiore eccezionale
o qualche frase che ho già detto
come quella volta in treno
che guardavi dal finestrino
t’ho vista e avvicinandomi
cominciai a fare il cretino.
Che ore sono, quanti anni hai,
davvero sei di Milano.
Ho una zia che vive a Brescia
certe volte il mondo è strano.

What present would you like
to find under the bed
an amazing flower
or some phrase that I’ve already said
like that time in the train
when you were looking out of the window
I saw you, and coming closer
I started being a cretin.
What time is it, how old are you
are you really from Milan
I’ve got an aunt that lives in Brescia
sometimes it’s a strange world.

Cosa vorresti che dicessi
adesso che ci frequentiamo
t’accontenti di “ti voglio bene”
oppure vuoi proprio “ti amo”.
T’ho comprato un cagnolino
che abbaiava raramente
ma da quando sta con te
si è già mangiato tanta gente.
Lo sapevo che eri strana però
non capivo quanto
e da quando stiamo insieme,
due, tre, quattro volte ho pianto.

What would you want me to say
now that we’re going out together
are you okay with ‘I really care for you’
or do you want ‘I love you’ instead.
I bought you a little dog
that hardly ever barked
but since it’s been with you
it’s already eaten a lot of people.
I knew that you were strange but
I didn’t realise how much
and since we’ve been together
I’ve cried two, three, or four times.

Cosa vorresti da mangiare
siamo andati al ristorante
sembra non ti piaccia niente
eppure di cose ne hanno tante
allora siamo andati al mare
così almeno ti rilassi
e invece è troppo caldo, così anche lì mi stressi.
Andiamo via ti prego
andiamo a casa ti farò impazzire
ma poi sei troppo stanca
hai mal di testa e vuoi dormire.

What would you like to eat
we went to the restaurant
It seems like you don’t like anything
yet they’ve got a lot of choice
then we went to the sea
so at least you could relax
but it turns out that it’s too hot, so even there you stress me out.
Let’s go away I beg you
let’s go home and I’ll make you crazy
but then you’re too tired
you’ve got a headache and you want to sleep.

Però mi piaci … mi piaci …
che ci posso fare … mi piaci.

But I like you … I like you …
what can I do about it … I like you.

E siamo usciti con gli amici tuoi
almeno sei contenta
siamo andati in birreria
quattro chiacchiere e una pinta
e anche lì neanche a farlo apposta
hai avuto da ridire perché la musica era troppo alta,
hai chiamato il cameriere, questo posto mi fa schifo
guarda un po’ che serataccia
lui ovviamente si è incazzato
e ha dato a me un cazzotto in faccia.

And we went out with your friends
at least you’re happy
we went to a pub
for a chat and a pint
and even there, by sheer coincidence
you complained because the music was too loud,
you called the waiter, this place is disgusting
huh, what a terrible night out
obviously he got pissed off
and gave me a punch in the face

Però mi piaci … mi piaci …
che ci posso fare … mi piaci.

Mi hai convinto che tua madre
si sentiva troppo sola
viene a stare un po’ da noi
che una settimana vola
e così son due anni che mi stressa ogni mattina
dice che lo fa per noi e alle 5 è già in cucina
che prepara non so cosa gli dirà quella sua testa.
Son due anni di tortura,
dice “vado” e invece resta.

You convinced me that your mother
felt too alone
she’s coming to stay with us for a bit
a week flies by
so I’ve been stressed every morning for two years
she says she’s doing it for us and at 5 a.m. she’s already in the kitchen
and cooks who knows whatever her head tells her to.
It’s been two years of torture
she says “I’m going” but she stays

Però mi piaci … mi piaci …
che ci posso fare … mi piaci.

Cosa vuoi che ti dica c’ho creduto veramente
eri bella come il sole,
il resto non contava niente
però adesso hai esagerato ci ho pensato di nascosto
anche il sole a volte brucia
e accanto a me non c’è più posto.
Ma perché quel giorno che t’ho vista
fui così cretino
se potessi tornare indietro
ti butterei dal finestrino …

What can I tell you, I really believed in us
you were as beautiful as the sun,
nothing else mattered
but now you’ve gone over the top, I thought about it secretly
even the sun burns sometimes
and by my side there’s no place (for you) any more.
But why, that day that I saw you,
was I such a cretin
if I could go back in time
I’d throw you out of the window

Però mi piaci … mi piaci …
che ci posso fare … mi piaci