Category Archives: nature

View of Vinci

Walking from  the town of Vinci in Tuscany on the path to Anchiano, following the “Strada Verde”, through olive groves where the trees are still flowering, and the land is on the cusp of summer, you are rewarded with this view . There is an abundance of wildflowers and a redstart is singing from his perch on the top of a post. Through the olive trees we can hear the purring of a turtle dove. At our destination in Anchiano, 3 km from Vinci, is the ‘Casa natale’ of Leonardo Da Vinci, his family home, now a museum.  This walk is the perfect antidote after touring around cities with overheated kids!!

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Ways with trees

On a family hike through the woods today I was admiring the beech trees, which are my favourite kind of tree and I felt like describing them in Italian.
Beech trees are very pleasing as their bark is so grey and smooth, and reminds me of the appearance of elephant skin. I love the way the trunks gleam in the rain. The beech trees with low branches look as though they are wearing skirts, and with their sinuous trunks they seem female to me, whereas oak trees with their crinkly bark would be male.
Another great thing about beech trees is that if they sustain any injury to the trunk they smooth over the edges of the wound,and round it off. You probably would have to look at a beech tree to see what I mean, but it is really awesome.
The Italian for beech tree is il faggio – in Latin they are Fagus sylvatica.
I didn’t know the word for bark, and ended up learning two words for the price of one – la corteccia, or la scorza.
I faggi hanno la corteccia liscia, meaning beech trees have smooth bark.
I spent a while looking at some fabulous roots, Radici, pronounced ra-DI-ci, which I just listened to on Forvo (my absolute favourite language website!!) and realised I have always pronounced wrong – sigh!  I Radici is also a feminine word even though it seems it would be masculine.

 

Ramo is branch and Tronco is trunk, also new words today.

Woods in early springtime and Italian, a happy combination…. And only a couple of weeks to wait for new leaves, Foglie 🙂

the meaning of ‘zagara’ : a book about lemons

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I have a thing about Italian words that start with the letter Z. Who knows why, they are just very pleasing. Here are some favourites. Zaino (backpack), zigomo (cheekbone), zenzero (ginger),  zanzara (mosquito , love that word!), zampa (paw, as in animal’s foot – i remember it by thinking as quattro zampe).

Today I found another Z word – zagara (DZA-ga-ra) which means citrus blossom. It is a Sicilian word derived from Arabic which has subsequently been adopted by the whole of Italy, used to name blossoms of lemons and oranges and a variety of other exotic citrus trees.

hubby came back from a visit to the big city and presented me with this book “the land where lemons grow”. I was very excited to receive a present, especially as it was a book, but I was also slow to realise it was not just a book about lemons –  it was a book about Italy!!

I’ve only had chance so far to read a few chapters but as the author sets the scene for how abundant various types of citrus tree are in Italy, it got me to thinking about wild foraging. In the opening chapter she describes her first visit to Italy, arriving by train and seeing lemon trees growing by the side of the station platform and the impression that this made upon her. Imagine lemons growing the same way apple trees do in the UK! Wild foraging is a fun occupation for our family. Last week hubby and older son came back with a bagful of apples from a tree on our local Common ( They had to climb for them, all the ones within easy reach had been picked already). We also make nettle soup in spring, and eat wild garlic leaves in omelettes when they’re in season. summer is foraging time for bilberries, coming home with hands and knees stained purple. So as I read about the lemons I wondered if it is usual in Italy just to forage outside for a lemon when you need one in your cooking? Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to stay there long enough to find out!!

I’d love to hear what other people forage for. please comment and let me know! Or share your favourite Z words too!

nightingale chat

nightingales are singing when you visit Tuscany in May- this is NIIIICE as they are very hard to hear in England any more. So when feeling quite excited about hearing your nightingale and deciding to chat about it with the locals, firstly try and pick someone that looks interested in birds – ie. not the young lady working in the bird museum in San Gimignano, and secondly – I will get to  the point – make sure you pronounce the word for nightingale with the correct stress on the syllables, so you say ‘usignOlo’ NOT ‘uSIGNolo’ – or something like that. Native speakers please feel free to correct me!