How to say 'Florence' in Italian?

A surprisingly large number of English-speaking tourists have a problem when they arrive to Florence. They just can’t seem to find enough souvenirs that have the city’s name. You know, the usual, fridge magnets, coasters, t=shirts and other trinkets. The crux of the matter is, of course, that these tourists don’t know that the name of the city looks and sounds rather different than the familiar English version of it. Even if you are clever enough to imagine that because many English words that end in “ence” can be safely assumed to end in a “nzia” you should except to see “Florenzia” you would be wrong.  Florence in Italian is Firenze. This is not uncommon for large Italian cities to have variants in the English language. Precisely because these cities have been known outside of Italy for a long time, the pronunciation of their names has been retained for centuries, reflecting how they used to be called in other parts of Europe. In the case of Florence, this has a lot to do with the fact that the pronunciation of the city’s name in Italy also changed. It used to be indeed pronounced in Latin as Florentia (“flowering”). Phonetic changes through the years had the name assume its modern form (by the way, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, there are around 2,000 words that came to English from Italy).

In this list of twenty most important Italian cities (along with the regions in which they are located), close to half of names sound and look quite different in English, compared what one would use in Italian. You might as well learn the differences in order to avoid uncomfortable situations. In general, smaller cities and villages in Italy will not display a similar problem.

Italian violin makers

The making of different musical instruments has attained their highest peak in different countries at different times. It just so happens that the art of creating violins reached its perfection in Italy in the 16th-18th centuries. Instruments created during this span of time are among most precious objects in the world. Extremely valuable and utterly irreplaceable. Their age, most ages, contributes to the acoustic characteristics (although there are some indicators that there is some loss of sound quality over time). Despite fully qualifying to be museum pieces, locked up in temperature controlled cases, old violins remain in active use by famous musicians. Such is their purpose! The general public usually does not know much about the provenance of the instruments they hear and see on stage, but for performing artists having the right violin is a matter of life and death. In this article we will discuss some aspects of violin making that are only known to professionals.

The schools

The violin, as it is known today, first appeared in Northern Italy in the beginning of the 16th century. From there, the craft and art of violin making spread to Germany, France and England. There are different ways to categorize Italian luthiers (a somewhat rare term meaning the makers of stringed instruments), but usually this is done by schools (not in the traditional sense).

  • The Brescian School, (1520-1620), began on the foundations that Gaspard Duiffopruggar had laid, and represented most famously by Gaspard da Salo, whose direct pupil was Maggini, and more distantly Mariani, Venturino, Budiani, Matteo Bente, Peregrino Zanetto etc.
  • Perhaps the most important school was that of Cremona, (1550-1766), with the Amatis, Stradivari, Guarneri, Bergonzi, Guadagnini etc.
  • The Neapolitan School, (1680-1800), represented through the Milanese and Neapolitan masters. The families were those of Grancino, Testore, Gagliano, Landolfi, etc
  • The Florentine School, (1680-1760), also including masters from Rome and Bologna, was represented by the names of Gabrielli, Anselmo, Florentus, Techler, and Tononi.
  • The Venetian School, (1690-1764), whose prominent masters are Domenicus, Montagnana, and Sanctus Seraphin. The first might also be associated with the Cremona school, since he spent his time of apprenticeship at Cremona, and his works are also esteemed by those prefer that school.

Italian car brands: essential guide to domestic manufacturers in Italy

Prior to the 2020 Covid-19 crisis, Italy was one of the top five car manufacturing nations on Earth. At the time of writing it still remains to be seen how automobile industries world-wide and in the hard-hit Italy recover from this catastrophic event. However, the breakdown of Italian car brands should remain more or less the same for a number of years. We have some charts here representing the registrations of domestic cars in Italy at the end of 2019. It needs to be noted that Jeep has to be included in this chart because after the Chrysler-Fiat merger (or an acquisition of Chrysler by Fiat, really) this popular brand with production facilities in Italy technically became a domestic Italian brand.

One will immediately notice that there are only four brands that are responsible for the vast majority of domestic brand sales in Italy: Fiat, Jeep, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. All of these brands are actually part of FCA (the Fiat-Chrysler mega-corporation). Ferrari was also a part of this group until being spun off in 2006. There are strong indicators that another merger is looming, as FCA seeks to merge with the French automakers Groupe PSA. The only remaining major brand on the list, Lamborghini, barely escaped being under the FCA umbrella, because Chrysler owned this sports car outfit for about half a decade, starting in 1987.

Italian car brands - domestic sales numbers

Let’s briefly discuss each one of the Italian car brands, omitting Jeep which only got swept into the list as a result of corporate games. We will do so in a historic order.

Italian chair designs

Even for a country known for high end innovating design ideas, Italy has produced a great amount of popular chairs. Here we have complied the most prominent ones.

Curule chair

It would be unfair to neglect to mention the curule seat or “sella curulis” in Latin. This folding chair had ceremonial significance in Ancient Rome. The curule chair was known for being rather uncomfortable which went well with its use as an official chair or even throne. There always had to be an understanding that no government position is cushy and you will not be able to stay in it for two long Just like the famous Greek klismos chair, sella curulis inspired furniture designers for centuries. In the twentieth centuries it served as one of the prototypes for the Barcelona chair created by Mies van der Rohe.


The Chiavari chair, affectionately known as Chiavarina, was designed by Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi (1767 – 1855) in 1807. At that time, Italy was under full control of the Napoleonic France and the Chiavari chair (named for the town where it was made) was a product of the ensuing cultural exchange.

Swiss watch firm owned by an Italian family: the story of Eberhard & Co.

Geographical proximity is only one of the reasons why there has always been a great deal of exchange between the watch industries in Italy and Switzerland. The two cultures historically displayed deep care for innovations in design and craftsmanship. In modern days it is more common to see Italian watch makers transfer their manufacturing to Switzerland (Anonimo Firenze, Bulgari and Carlo Ferrara, to name a few), there is one prominent brand that started as a Swiss company in the later 1800s and after closely cooperating with Italian businesses was eventually purchased by an Italian family: Eberhard & Co.

Italian cheese types, words and flavors

Italy has many  local varieties of cheese that can originate from entire regions or small towns and villages. Some of these products have become internationally known, while some remain relatively obscure. Not all Italian cheeses made this list.

Asiago – hard, sharp, crumby and aged cheese made from cow’s milk. Originally produced in the town of Asiago in Northern Italy.

Bel Paese – literally, beautiful country. A rather modern invention (1906), this semi-soft cheese was originally produced in a village near Milan. The taste is mild and buttery. This cheese goes well with fruity wines.

Bocconcini – small balls of mozzarella cheese.

Brös (also Bros, Bross, Brus or Bruss) – a Piedmontese cheese made with grappa. The flavor is notoriously pungent.

Burrata – fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Usually served fresh.

Italian drinking game passatella – how to play

Italian drinking game

This strange game has its beginnings in Ancient Rome. Originally called Rex vini (the King of wine) or Regnum vini (the Kingdom of wine), it holds a dubious distinction of being a drinking game which can leave one or many player utterly sober. However, the amount of alcohol to be consumed during a round of play always remains the same. This results in a very explosive situation. The sober ones are upset and belligerent. The drunks are, well, drunk and potentially also belligerent. How can all this happen?

There are many ways in which passatella can be played, but it always begins with the purchase of wine or other alcoholic drinks (every participant chips in). Then the players are divided into three types: Padrone (Boss), Sotto-padrone (Sub-boss) and Uguali (Equals). This can be decided by drawing lots or by playing a different game (bocce or morra). The padrone drinks a cup of wine in a single gulp and offers another cup to his lieutenant who also consumes it at once. Then the boss offers a drink to one of the other players. However, the uguali can only accept the wine if the sub-boss allows for that. At this point three scenarios are possible:

  • All players receive approximately the same amount of wine
  • One or two participants are not permitted to drink at all
  • Nobody except the two bosses drink. Since all of the purchased alcohol must be somehow consumed it seems as if the padrone. ends up drinking whenever any participant chosen by him is not allowed to touch. It means that the boss will likely become extremely drunk.

Italian quote about sports (but not only)

Julio Velasco, an Argentine-born Italian professional volleyball coach and Athletic administrator supposedly provided us with this gem of athletic wisdom. It can be applied to almost anything in life that requires competition and ends up in the success of one and the defeat of many. As you can see, the phrase rhymes in Italian. Chi vince festeggia, chi perde spiega. The winner celebrates, the loser explains. If you have any serious interest in sports you have seen this happen every time.

Filippo Loreti watches. What’s the deal with them?

If you follow the world of watch making you may have noticed a prominent newcomer in this overloaded market: Filippo Loreti. This company claims to deliver Italian luxury watches at a very competitive price by stepping outside of the traditional model of selling timepieces through dealers and retailers. It’s hard to argue with the prices, because they are more attractive than regularly priced items from typical luxury watch makers. What remains questionable is whether these watches are indeed luxury products and whether or not they are Italian.

Italian door handles – holding on to style

Enrico Cassina door handleAs I was preparing to create a roundup of Italian luxury furniture brands one curious fact suddenly stood out. There is a small, but important niche in the furniture market which is dominated by Italian companies. Door handles! There are literally dozens of manufacturers that specialize in designing and manufacturing a wide variety of absolutely exquisite door handles and knobs. Most of these products will never make an appearance at your local hardware store, but if you ever decide that you want to add a unique Italian touch to your home or office you should definitely explore these options. Keep in mind that this list only explores the companies that almost exclusively operate in the door handle business. There will be little or no mention of excellent Italian firms that produce a wide variety of products (such as Meroni Serrature). You will only learn about the brands that have shown their passion for those things that make doors possible and usable. If the phrase “dumb as a door knob” does not translate well into Italian, blame these people. Their products have a unique look and they are designed with ease and convenience in mind.

Colombo Design

Colombo Design Grande Slider “Green made” handles with the focus on design, function and durability.  The company’s stated commitment is to create masterpieces that will serve as inspiration to all who use them in their daily lives.

DND by Martinelli

Stunning handles and knobs for any application.