Lifestyle

COME SI DICE? A TASTE OF ITALIAN PROVERBS

In Italy, the importance of proverbs goes further than countrywide representation.

Proverbs are a powerful way of exploring the histories and cultures of the countries from which they derive. They are a way of using language to bridge a gap with the past and to understand the origins of deep-rooted social traditions. Proverbs give simplified strength to some of the most complex aspects of humanity. Every individual will hold on to specific proverbs which mean the most to them, often they will do so for a lifetime because they provide significant and personal guidance to their own existence. Whilst proverbs tend to be specific to certain countries or languages, they can nonetheless be universally acknowledged in their prevailing pearls of wisdom.

In Italy, the importance of proverbs goes further than countrywide representation. Over time, the different regions have developed their own sayings in their own dialects which are tied to the very distinct histories and cultures of that area. And what better way to explore the varying regional proverbs of Italy than by comparing some of the best that focus on one almighty and uniting aspect: Food.

Here is a shortlist of five of the greatest proverbs on food from five different regions of Italy:


A TAVOLO NON S’INVECCHIA

At the table, one doesn’t grow old – Toscana/Tuscany

At the Tuscan table, meals are drawn out to last for hours: a never-ending flow of food, wine and conversation define the culinary traditions of the region. Sundays are made for long lunches that last all day, never a dull moment or a bland bite. This proverb refers to the luxury, but also the necessity, of slowing down and enjoying the moment without a fear of time running out. The focus must be on the food, the drink and the company.


CU MANCIA FA MUDDICHI

Whoever eats will make crumbs – Sicilia / Sicily

Like so much of Sicilian culture which is as multi-faceted as a perfectly layered parmigiana, this proverb’s wisdom extends beyond the four corners of the dining table. The meaning argues for our duty to dare with the acceptance that failure is a possibility. Those who eat are those who will be left satisfied although they will inevitably spill some crumbs. Those who dare to do are those who will live life to the fullest although they will inevitably make mistakes along the way. This, the Sicilians proclaim, is a fundamental and enriching part of being.

In Italy, the importance of proverbs goes further than countrywide representation. Over time, the different regions have developed their own sayings in their own dialects which are tied to the very distinct histories and cultures of that area. And what better way to explore the varying regional proverbs of Italy than by comparing some of the best that focus on one almighty and uniting aspect: Food.

MAGNA E BEVI CHE LA VITA E’ UN LAMPO

Eat and drink because life goes by in a flash – Veneto

While the Tuscan proverb encourages a philosophy of eating that consciously disregards our mortality, it is this very certainty which motivates the Venetian’s own passion for food and drink. Both proverbs maintain that we ought to spend a great deal of our time at the dining table but the reasons for doing so are entirely opposed. The Venetians declare that since we grow old at lightning speed, life is too short to eat badly. We must therefore dedicate it to the joys and luxuries of excellent dining!


LA VOTTE PICCULE FA LU VI’ BONE

The small barrel makes good wine – Abruzzo

In other words, good things come in small packages. For Abruzzo, as one of the smaller regions of Italy, this proverb rings true. With verdant mountains, glimmering beaches, natural springs, spectacular lakes, skiing slopes, hiking trails and more, there is so much filled into this little pocket of Italy. With wine production as with people, being the biggest or the boldest does not always reap the best rewards.


OMMO ‘E PANZA, OMMO ‘E SOSTANZA

A man with a belly is a man of substance – Campania

In a charmingly evocative and direct fashion which is so typical of Neapolitan expression, this proverb encourages a lust for life! Those who make the most of the world’s joys will visibly show it. In Italian, sostanza can mean something that is physically substantial but it also refers philosophically to a person or thing which brims with character or essence. He who eats well is he who lives well. He who lives well is happy. The moral? Eat and be happy!