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Italian: The Most Romantic of the Romance Languages

“It’s easy for the language to betray what the heart wants to hide.”

Sir Walter Scott

The Italian language might be the most romantic language in the world. But what makes it so special compared to another Romance language like, let’s say, French? Perhaps it’s because the language was created by artists. Italy was unified in 1861, much later than many of its European neighbors (France, Spain and England were all unified in the 17th century). While languages like French were developed by governmental administration to provide an official language, understandable by all French, Italian was crafted by artists–writers, poets and playwrights whose priorities were beauty and melody.

Each region in Italy had its own government and its own dialect (and still does today), though it was the Tuscan one that prevailed over the rest, evolving into the Italian we know today. Tuscany, birthplace of the Renaissance, was home to writers like Dante Alighieri (of Divine Comedy fame), Boccaccio (author of The Decameron) and Francesco Petrarca, who wrote a series of poems on love. Venetian Pietro Bembo, secretary to Pope Leo X, declared that Petrarca’s lofty, aristocratic Italian was the most beautiful he’d ever read and in 1525, published “Prose della Volgar Lingua” (“Discussions on the Vernacular”), in which he discussed the composition and melodic meter of the language.

Petrarca’s 14th century Tuscan Italian was his ideal, because many of its words ended in vowels and few contained consonants in a row–the right balance between “light” and “heavy” sounds. Bembo’s writings were used to develop the national language of Italian. Today, the artistic beauty of Italian is still heard in books, movies and songs, and of course, everyday life. Here are some of our favorite nicknames and phrases–best used over a candle-lit dinner in the rolling hills of Tuscany–to express love in the most romantic of the Romance languages.

Words

Cuore mio – My heart
Amore – Love
Tesoro – Treasure
Polpetta – Meatball
Dolcezza – Sweetheart
Anima gemella – Soulmate
Patata – Potato 

Sayings

Occhio non vede, cuore non duole – What you can’t see won’t hurt you
Cuore malato non sente ragione – A sick heart feels no reason
Al cuore non si comanda – The heart can’t be controlled
Se tu vuoi che ti ami, fa’ che ti brami – If you want me to love you, let me crave you
Nella guerra d’amore vince chi fugge – In the war of love, whoever runs away wins
Sfortunato al gioco, fortunato in amore – Unlucky in the game, lucky in love
L’amore non è bello se non è litigarello – Love is not beautiful if it’s not a fight
Prendere un palo (o un due di picche) – Take a pole (or a two of spades) (A euphemism for getting rejected, stood up, turned down, etc.)
Ti amerò per sempre I will always love you

Photography by Werner Bischof