La Tempesta

Posted on 21. Jul, 2014 by in Music

A dramatic start to the week! At around seven this morning we were awoken by a tremendous tempest that roared and shook its furious fists above our heads. As I lay there in awe … I love a good storm … the though came into my mind: blog!

I had in mind a piece by Vivaldi which I thought might be called La Tempesta, but a quick search on the internet revealed that La Tempesta Del Mare by Antonio Vivaldi was not the powerful cascading music that ran through my head as I contemplated this mornings storm. In fact in the face of what was going on outside, La Tempesta Del Mare sounded positively tame. So where had I heard that incredibly stormy piece by Vivaldi? Then I remembered, the majestic summer storm from Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons).

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Detail from La Tempesta by Giorgione (1508). Find out more about this unusual painting later this week.

Each of Vivaldi’s seasons was originally accompanied by a sonnet. Here’s il sonetto for summer, with an anonymous translation into English. Read through it and then listen to Vivaldi’s ‘Storm’ by clicking  HERE.

Allegro non molto

Sotto dura stagion dal sole accesa
Langue l’huom, langue ‘l gregge, ed arde ‘l pino,
Scioglie il cucco la voce, e tosto intesa
Canta la tortorella e ‘l gardellino.

Zeffiro dolce spira, ma contesa
Muove Borea improvviso al suo vicino;
E piange il Pastorel, perché sospesa
Teme fiera borasca, e ‘l suo destino;

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte

Toglie alle membra lasse il suo riposo
Il timore de’ lampi, e tuoni fieri
E de mosche, e mosconi il stuol furioso:


Ah che pur troppo i suoi timor sono veri
Tuona e fulmina il cielo grandinoso
Tronca il capo alle spiche e a’ grani alteri.


Photo (CC) ‘Weathering the Storm’ by Nomadic Lass

Allegro non molto

Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat
men and flocks are sweltering, pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs
of the turtle dove and finch are heard.

Soft breezes stir the air….
but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,
fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte

His limbs are now awakened from their repose
by fear of lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar,
as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.


Alas, his worst fears were justified,
as the heavens roar and great hailstones
beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

Now you know what woke me up this morning! Find out more about Vivaldi’s Sonnets for Le Quattro Stagioni in THIS BLOG

A Devil of a Blog!

Posted on 17. Jul, 2014 by in Culture, Italian Language

I love discovering interesting expressions. Every language is full of them, and Italian is no exception. Some of these expressions have obvious meanings, some are similar in both Italian and English, and others are just downright obscure. What the Devil can that mean? I ask myself in English, or Che Diavolo vuol dire? in Italian …

Expressions based on the word Devil are pretty numerous, which is probably not surprising in a Country so closely linked to the Catholic church. Here, for your edification, is a small selection:

1. Al Diavolo! = Go to Hell!

2. Mandare qualcuno o qualcosa al Diavolo = to tell someone or something to go to Hell

3. Alla Diavola = a method of cooking chicken on the grill

4. Avere un Diavolo per capello = to be really irritable, as if you had a group of little devils on your head pulling your hair (literally: to have a Devil on each hair), non mi parlare perché c’ho un diavolo per capello stamattina! = Don’t talk to me, I’m really irritable this morning! (direct quote from Serena first thing this morning)


5. Buon Diavolo = the expression ‘Good devil’ describes someone who has a defect, or is a bit simple, but is never the less a good hearted person

6. Come il Diavolo e l’acqua santa = obviously the Devil and holy water are complete opposites, so this expression is equivalent to the English ‘like chalk and cheese’

7. Del Diavolo = ‘as Hell’ (literally: of the Devil) is used to add emphasis to a statement, e.g. ho una fame del diavolo = I’m as hungry as Hell (literally: I’ve got a Devil of a hunger), qua dentro fa un freddo del diavolo! = it’s as cold as Hell in here! (yes, a strange contradiction!)


James Marshall’s illustration ‘Il Trillo del Diavolo’ (The Devil’s Trill), 1868, which shows the composer Tartini having a dream in which the Devil  plays for him in a most diabolic way. Tartini claimed that this dream was the inspiration for his notoriously difficult violin sonata, ‘Il Trillo del Diavolo’, which you can listen to HERE

8. Fare il Diavolo a quattro = To make a lot of noise or confusion, to have a violent rage, or to make a big fuss in order to obtain something. This expression goes back to the Medieval Sacred Representations in which the Devil was one of the main characters alongside the Madonna, God, the Soul, and various Saints. These Sacred Representations were divided into “grandi diavolerie” (big devilries) and “piccole diavolerie” (little devilries), depending on whether there were more or less than 4 devils in them (go figure!).

9. Avere un Diavolo in corpo = to be very vivacious, or hyperactive, e.g. Lucia ha un diavolo in corpo oggi! = Lucia is really hyperactive today

10. Se il Diavolo non ci mette la coda! = if nothing unforeseen happens (literally: if the Devil doesn’t stick his tail in), e.g. sarà pronto per le due, se il diavolo non ci mette la coda = it will be ready by two o’clock, if nothing unforeseen happens

Giorgio Armani and Cinema

Posted on 15. Jul, 2014 by in Culture

Last Friday, the 11th of July, was the 80th birthday of renowned Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. Although Armani known throughout the world for his clean tailored menswear, especially his trademark jacket ‘la giacca destrutturata’, what particularly interests me is the work he has done for cinema.

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Above left: Armani’s trademark jacket La Giacca Destrutturata. He removed the padding and stiff adhesive lining, changed the proportions, and moved the buttons, transforming a traditional formal design into something that is both smart and casual at the same time. Armani’s favourite colours are beige,  grey and greige, a mixture of the two. Photo (CC) by Giorgio Montersino

Armani’s suits have starred in many well know Hollywood movies. Remember the scene from American Gigolo (1980) in which Richard Gere tries on several Armani outfits which sport those distinctive high waisted trousers? Then there was the cult 80’s TV series Miami Vice: who liked Don Johnson’s pastel coloured jackets worn over tight T-shirts?  “Cosa?! la giacca senza neanche la camicia?” (What?! A jacket without even a shirt?)


Above: American Gigolo: Richard Gere being fitted with an Armani suit. (Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection)


Above: Ouch! … well it looked cool at the time! Don Johnson’s pastel coloured jackets worn over tight T-shirts


Above: In the 1987 film The Untouchables by Brian De Palma, Armani revived the classic suit.


Above: More recent films include The Dark Knight (2007), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) in which Armani visits the bat cave to ‘attempt’ to beautify Christian Bale alias Bruce Wayne.

The list of movies goes on and on … here is just a small selection: Gattaca, A Good Year, Ocean’s Thirteen, Inglorious Basterds, The Tree of Life, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and more recently The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo Di Caprio.

But Armani is not only associated with menswear. In the 80’s and 90’s Armani suits were a must for women (especially Italian women) wishing to make a career and get powerful jobs. Here are a coiple of films in which Armani has outfitted powerful career women:


Above: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who plays an attorney in Class Action (1991), seen here wearing an Armani suit in court


Above: In the film Elysium (2013), Jodie Foster plays Secretary Delacourt, a powerful government official in an Armani suit

What’s your favourite Armani outfit? Please share in the comments section.