Food is most likely one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of Italy.
There are art and history and the amazing scenery, obviously, but food plays a very important role in the culture of us Italians. This means that meal times are key moments in our daily life, which can hardly be skipped – unless something really vital happens to force us not to have lunch or dinner.
Therefore, our day is divided into blocks which are separated by some important milestones: lunch and dinner. Well, this might be overly exaggerated, I know, but surely lunch and dinner play their own key role in the day of every Italian. This is why I thought it could be interesting to focus on lunch for a blog post of the Italian Vocabulary series.
Undoubtedly, there is a lot to say about lunch in Italy!
As we just said, unlike breakfast, a meal that many people tend to avoid, lunch is hardly skipped here in Italy. Unless you are working really hard or have something quite dramatic going on in your life, when è ora di pranzo (it is lunchtime), you stop what you do and take the time to enjoy a nice lunch. Usually, lunchtime is somewhere between mezzogiorno (12 o’clock) and le due del pomeriggio (2 pm). Actually, it is super common to have lunch at la mezza (12.30 pm), but the more you move towards the south of the country, the later you have lunch (and dinner as well).
Therefore, if here where I live we most likely have lunch at no later than 1 pm, in the south of Italy I am sure they won’t even start thinking about mangiare pranzo or pranzare (to have lunch) at that time of the day. Needless to say, they have dinner much later than we do!
Habits for lunch can vary a lot depending on your daily life.
If you work from home, like I do, or if you are a housewife, a retired person, or a student maybe, you’ll most likely have lunch at home. When it is 12 pm, you will start to preparare il pranzo (to prepare lunch) and cucinare (to cook), which most likely means mettere su l’acqua (to put the water on) for your pasta and preparare il sugo (to prepare the sauce).
While you wait for the water to boil, you may apparecchiare tavola (to set the table), putting the tovaglia (tablecloth) sul tavolo (on the table) and then tovagliolo (napkin), piatto (dish), bicchiere (glass), forchetta (fork), cucchiaio (spoon), and coltello (knife). You may also add acqua (water), pane (bread) and vino (wine), if you feel like drinking some. When the food is ready, you will sedere a tavola (to sit at the table) and enjoy your meal. If someone is there with you, you may say “Buon appetito!” (Enjoy your meal!).
If you are a student and your mother is preparing lunch for you, she might shout “È pronto!” (it is ready), when the food is ready on the table. If you are late, she might also add “Vieni, che si fredda!” (come here, food is getting cold), or if you are a kid and are playing around with food, she may say: “Mangia, che viene freddo!” (eat your food or it gets cold). If all the family is at home, si mangia pranzo insieme (to eat lunch together) otherwise, si mangia pranzo da soli (to eat alone) and you may accendere la televisione (to turn the tv on) per guardare il telegiornale (to watch the news).
When you are done with lunch, you will surely end up with un caffè (a coffee). If you use the caffettiera (moka pot), you will mettere su la caffettiera (to prepare the moka pot). If you have una macchina del caffè (a coffee machine), the process will definitely be faster but much less romantic. There’s nothing more comforting – and Italian – than the ritual of preparing your moka pot.
But you may not be so lucky as to have lunch at home.
If you work and have no time to come back home for lunch, you have different options. If you work in a big company, you may eat at mensa (canteen) with your colleghi di lavoro (colleagues). Otherwise, if your company does not offer a canteen, you may go to mangiare al bar (to eat at a bar), where you can have un panino (a sandwich), un’insalata (a salad) or un piatto pronto (a ready-made dish).
If you are lucky, you can go to mangiare al ristorante (to eat at a restaurant), maybe for un pranzo di lavoro (a work lunch). Otherwise, you may portare il pranzo da casa (to bring your own food), which is always a great solution – unless you eat it at your desk, in front of your PC. After all, the most important thing is not to saltare il pranzo (to skip lunch).
Then, luckily, there’s the weekend!
Usually, at the weekend we have much more time to take things easy, relax and have a proper lunch. Il pranzo della domenica (Sunday lunch) is a staple in the Italian culture – so much so that I have written a specific blog post about it. Sunday lunch can be un pranzo di famiglia (a family lunch) with your genitori (parents), nonni (grandparents) and even zie (aunts), zii (uncles) and cugini (cousins). You can either have lunch at home or go to a restaurant and spend hours there, with a long lunch made of antipasti (starters), primi piatti (first courses), secondi piatti (main courses) and dolci (desserts). But you can also spend your Sunday at home and mangiare pranzo sul divano (to eat on the couch), isn’t it the most relaxing thing ever?
Now it’s your turn! How’s lunchtime in your country? Let me know in the comments below!
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.
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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