Letter “A” :: “Alfresco” or “Al fresco”? Stai fresco!

In these days temperatures range from 28 to 36 degrees Celsius (82 to 96 Fahrenheit) and everybody is looking for some “fresco”, i.e. some cool air/location. No doubt that having lunch or dinner “alfresco” [al-fres-koh] brings some relief from this sultry weather, however, the right way to say it in Italian is “pranzare/cenare all’aperto” or “fuori”.

AlFresco gm DSC_2483_spuma ©GiuseppeMarone
Bibita “fresca” – Cool drink… | photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

“Al fresco” (two words) may convey another meaning, it is an ironic way to say that you’re behind bars. If you take into consideration that jail caterers are not so esteemed, dining “al fresco” sounds a little awkward to Italian ears.

“Fresco” is a tricky word for a learner of Italian. Giotto, Michelangelo and all our masters of painting this time are not involved. “Fresco” in Italian is “affresco” and as an adjective it is used in many and somewhat contradictory ways.

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Imagine you’re sunbathing at your favourite “stabilimento balneare” (beachfront resort), it’s 11 a.m. and suddenly on the PA system you hear this: “Pizze calde fresche, pizze calde fresche!”

Are pizzas hot or cool? They’ve just come out of the oven – freshly baked but they’re as hot as volcano lava, that’s the reason for the oxymoron “hot fresh pizzas”. And even though the thermometer says 30 degrees, a few things are more enjoyable than a lip-scorching pizza under the sun umbrella. One of them is a rich aperitivo – alfresco on the lungomare when the temperature gets cooler (più fresca).

Things get worse – for learners of Italian – when “fresco” is used in the idiom “stai fresco”. As for idioms in every language, it should not be taken literally, and its translation may be “forget about it” or “fat chance”.

Is the word “fresco” convoluted enough?

Letter “V” :: Ventricina

Charles De Gaulle used to wonder how anyone can govern a nation – i.e. France – that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese.

Well, Big Charles would have had a tough nut to crack if he had been born in Italy, where almost every town or village is proud of its own cheese, cake, wine, liquor, pastry or “salume” (not salame, be careful about the spelling!).

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Salume e formaggio :: Ventricina e Pecorino semi-stagionato

Ventricina Vastese is a typical instance of this huge variety of products. It is made just in the small area between the Trigno and Osento rivers and its producers follow a strict production procedure as Accademia della Ventricina clearly stated.

Antipasto all'italiana e ventricina :: Collage n.0838_1 Photo: Matelda Codagnone and Lonza65
Antipasto all’italiana e ventricina :: Collage n.0838_1
Photo: Matelda Codagnone and Lonza65

Ventricina is perfect for an “antipasto all’italiana” or it can be used to make a tasty sugo for pasta. This globe-shaped “salume” is undoubtedly toothsome, especially when it is made in a XII century cloister that has been renovated by the owners and changed into a butcher workshop, an ageing area for the salumi and a tasting room for visitors and food lovers.

Maybe the idea may sound strange, but I am pretty sure that the nuns who lived in the cloister centuries ago would be happy to see that the Benedictine motto “ora et labora” (“pray and work”) is still working these days, in their former house.

Appetibilis would like to thank the staff at “La Genuina” in Carunchio (CH) for their kind cooperation.