Here comes a new post to help you learn some useful Italian words and phrases.
It’s been a while since I last wrote an Italian Vocabulary series post, that kind of posts where I tell you about Italian culture and way of life and list you some Italian vocabulary as well, and I thought it was time for a new one. The topic I decided to focus on today is one of my favorite Italian habits: merenda.
“What is merenda?”, you may ask. Well, that’s a good question because merenda is something very Italian, quite unique and not so easy to translate. To put things is a very simple way, it is just an afternoon snack. But it is actually much more than this.
If you have been following my blog for a while now, you may remember that I have already written a post about merenda. In that post, which was quite a nostalgic one, I focused on describing the habit and tried to explain to you what lies behind such a ritual, the memories it carries with it, the hidden emotional feeling.
The Italian Vocabulary posts are more practical ones and focus mainly on the language we use to communicate in a certain situation. This is why you’ll find lots of Italian words and fewer memories in here. I hope you don’t mind.
As we just said, merenda is an afternoon snack, usually eaten sometime between four and five pm. If you are a kid, your mother or grandmother would probably tell you, in the middle of the afternoon: “È ora di merenda!” (It’s time for merenda). Or maybe, they’d ask you: “Hai voglia di merenda?” (Do you fancy some merenda?) or “Cosa vuoi mangiare per merenda?” (What would you like to have for merenda?).
If it is summer and you are at the beach, your mom would shout at you, as you probably are in the water: “Vieni fuori, è ora di merenda!” (Come out, it’s time for merenda), while in the 80s, when we used to play in the streets all summer long, moms would come out of the window and shout: “Vieni a casa, è pronta la merenda!” (Come home, merenda is ready).
That’s why, as I have written in the post I mentioned before, the question “Facciamo merenda?” (Shall we have merenda?) always conveys a nostalgic feeling, related to your childhood, to when afternoons were long and you had all the time in the world and you could sit down and have some proper snack, rather than a granola bar on the go.
As usual – we are Italians after all – food is really important and since merenda is basically focused on kids, the food you have for merenda is even more important. If it’s winter, it is quite common to have una fetta di torta (a slice of cake), maybe un ciambellone (I have shared my mother’s recipe for ciambellone a while ago) or una torta di mele (an apple cake) or maybe una crostata con la marmellata (a crostata with jam).
These are all very tasty – and quite healthy – snacks, but if you are a kid you want something different: my absolute favorite was pane e Nutella (bread and Nutella), which basically consisted in two slices of bread with a gigantic Nutella spread on top. I grew up in the 80s and people were not so conscious about healthy food, so another option for merenda was merendine (prepackaged sweet snacks): there were a thousand of them, different types, different flavors, we loved them all.
If it is summer, you’ll most likely find yourself quite often at the beach – if you are a kid, obviously – so merenda means un gelato (an ice cream), or un bombolone (a doughnut), una fetta di cocco (a slice of coconut) or maybe, if you live in Liguria, un pezzo di focaccia (a slice of focaccia, a thin, salty bread typical of Liguria). Un panino is also another common option for merenda if you are not at home.
When it comes to drinks, I’d say you can have un succo di frutta (a fruit juice), una bibita (a soda) or maybe, if it’s winter and you are cold, una tazza di tè (a cup of tea). Unlike other countries, here in Italy there is no habit of drinking un bicchiere di latte (a glass of milk) when you are having a snack: we drink milk only at breakfast, that’s it.
As I said before, having merenda is one of my favorite habits and I do it whenever I can. Luckily, I work from home, so I take the time to mettere su il tè (to put the tea on) and mangiare qualcosa di dolce (to eat something sweet). My favorite foods for merenda are: muffins, biscotti (cookies) or maybe un dolcino (a little sweet) that I prepare in advance.
Fare merenda (having merenda) is also an opportunity to fare una pausa (to take a break). When you are a kid and you spend some of your afternoons facendo i compiti (doing homework), merenda is a chance to do something fun: guardare un cartone animato (to watch a cartoon on TV), leggere un fumetto (to read a comic) or un libro (a book), giocare (to play) or non fare nulla (to do nothing).
Now I’d like to hear from you: do you like having merenda? Is it one of your habits? Let me know!
I hope you’ll find this post useful for your Italian vocabulary building purposes. If you like this kind of vocabulary posts, here below you’ll find the other ones.
If you have specific requests regarding topics and themes, just leave a comment here below or send me an email at cinzia@instantlyitaly.
I have prepared a pdf file with all the words and phrases we learned in this post. You can find it in Your Italian Toolbox, a section of Instantly Italy where you’ll find Italian learning materials. You can get access to it by subscribing here.
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