In a country obsessed with eating and drinking well, food and wine have quite a presence in everyday common sayings. Here are a few:
Chiedere all’oste se il vino è buono
You already know the innkeeper’s answer: "of course, my wine is excellent!”. It’s useless to ask the opinion of someone who obviously has a vested interest.
Far le nozze coi fichi secchi
Wanting to do something on a grand scale without having the adequate means. Do something on a shoestring or do something on the cheap and cut back on quality.
Se non è zuppa è pan bagnato!
In Tuscany, soups are often made with bread soaked in vegetables and stock, like the traditional pappa la pomodoro and ribollita. The expression means that the two alternatives are equivalent or very similar and it doesn’t matter which one we choose. Similar to “six of one, half a dozen of the other”.
Legare la vigna con le salsicce
To live extravagantly, in extreme comfort or needlessly squander goods and wealth. It is said in particular of the smug nouveau riche who want to show off their money.
Levare il vino dai fiaschi
The quality of a wine is only appreciated at the time of drinking it.
It means to cut to the action, to finally solve a problem that is outstanding.
Far l’acciuga in barile
A salted anchovy packed in a barrel with many others does not move and is impossible to pick out. The expressions means to pretend not to be there or not compromise oneself by saying anything to set oneself apart: to not “stick one’s neck out”.
Riprender datteri per fichi
Dates are more expensive than figs. It means to make a good deal or benefit greatly from a favour done to someone, or to be paid abundantly for a service rendered.
Aver la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca
This is the Italian catch-22: a situation presenting two equally impossible alternatives since one excludes the other. It means demanding for the impossible. It’s the equivalent of the English "having your cake and eating it" or "you can’t have the best of both worlds."
Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo
The meat of an old hen is the best to make a tasty broth. In short, it is always good to trust those who have experience.
Mangiarsi qualcuno in insalata
To be superior to someone else, and beat him or her in an argument of at something else with the same ease with which you would eat a salad.
Comprare il lardo dal gatto
And why the cat would sell it to you? In short it means you are asking the wrong person for something, or more specifically you are trying to buy something from somebody who will never give to you, since he or she cares too much about it.
Veder cascar le olive nel paniere
Manual olive harvesting is tedious and hard work. It would be much better if the olives fell spontaneously into the basket. It means getting a good deal without having done much work.
Aver poco sale in zucca
Salt is as a symbol of wisdom and pumpkin is a slang word for head. To be silly or foolish and lacking in common sense.
Mangiar l’uovo in corpo alla gallina
Making plans ahead of the times or an an event that has not yet occurred and is not sure. Something similar to “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”.
Non si frigge mica con l’acqua
This means that when we do something, we do it really well, we don’t do things by halves.
Al contadino non far sapere quant’è buono il cacio con le pere
In Italy the combination of cheese and pears is considered a delicacy. You should not let the farmer know how good are these together. Why? The price would double. It means never show someone how much you are interested in something or that giving away a secret might hurt your interests.
Nuotare nel lardo
To be very wealthy. In the past, people had very little meat to eat. Even lard was a luxury.
Fare una frittata
To make a big mess, a disaster.
Come il cacio sui maccheroni
Something that gives the perfect finishing touch. It can refer to a person that arrives or an event that happens at the right time, and brings something to completion or perfection.
Rompere le uova nel paniere
To ruin someone’s carefully laid plans.
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