Meet the Italophile – interview with Zane

Late November, shorter days and colder weather, but when I and Zane chat about Italy, we can feel Italian summer in the air!  Zane is a painter and there’s a lot of Italy into her work, which I really love. She has decided recently to make Italy her home and I am really happy that she agreed to share her expat story with us!

Signore & signori, please welcome Zane

a girl who paints Italy!

  • Do you remember the moment when you fell in love with Italy?

I remember that I loved Italy from early age of my childhood and always wanted to live here 🙂

  • What is your first Italian word you have learnt?

It was at the age of 9 or 10 when I read a lot of children books, including some translated from Italian language where I found and learned my first Italian words – “piccolo bambino”.

  • When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

All my life I wanted to move to Italy because I was fascinated about every little thing that was related to Italy. After my first vacation trip to Italy in 2008, I started to study Italian in Dante Alighieri language school in Riga. I always kept in my heart the dream of living in Italy. I was only waiting for the right moment and the opportunity to move to Italy came this year in the middle of summer.

  • Does the fact that you live in Italy help you with your work as a painter? Are your paintings inspired by Italy?

Italy and painting are two of my biggest passions in life. It’s been like this for all of my life, it comes from my soul, from deep inside of me… As a result of a natural interaction between these two parts of me – I started to express my passion for Italy in my artworks. I do it with pure love and dedication, painting Italy inspires me a lot and I’ve noticed that other people feel this positive energy that shines through my paintings. And what is more important – it makes me truly happy 🙂

Now when I am also physically here, in this beautiful country, I started to create my artworks with new energy. I get a lot of inspiration from every corner of an Italian town, from every sound of campanella, from each shade of sunshine in the fontana of the central piazza, from the vibrant chiacchierate in Italian , from a lazy cat sleeping in front of an old pozzo, from il dolce profumo della pasticeria that wakes me up at 6.30 am each morning and il tramonto that colours the village roofs just like in the fairy tales….  All these things seen with my own eyes and felt in my Italian heart become a poem painted on canvas.

When you create your artworks do you use reference photos or sketch from life?

I love plein air painting – painting outdoors, in nature. I am interested in catching the moment, how the sunlight is changing, how the lights and shadows are playing…It’s an amazing feeling. This is something I have experienced and learnt during a landscape painting courses in Pigna village in Liguria. When the weather is not so good, I keep painting in my studio. For inspiration, I use my own pictures that I’ve taken during travelling around the world and especially during my Italian trips.

Where and how to find an inspiration? What advice would you give to other artists?

In my case the inspiration is around me, especially when I am visiting new, beautiful places. In my opinion artists need to travel as often as they can. They need to meet another artists, collaborate, explore the world  – all these things are creating a great energy and provide you with a plenty of inspiration.

How can people find your artworks?

You can find my paintings available for sale on my new website:

We will do live artshow on my Instagram page very soon. You will be able to meet me and participate in my presentation. 🙂 Please stay tuned and follow me @zanezeltina_art for more information.

  • What is your secret of speaking Italian so well?

Studiare e parlare con gli italiani. 😊 ( You need to study a lot and speak with locals as much as you can!)

  • Do you think it’s important to speak the local language?

I speak Italian language and I learned it before moving here, I wanted to be well prepared for life and work in Italy. I think it is very important to speak the local language if you want to live in this country. I even think it is nice to learn local language even for travelling, so for living in another country – it is a must. 😊

  • How would you describe living in Italy in 3 words?

Più bella cosa!

Sopia Loren book review

Ieri, oggi, domani

Sopia Loren book review

Se penso alla mia vita, mi sorprendo che sia tutto vero. Una mattina mi sveglierò e capirò di aver solo sognato. Intendiamoci, non è stato facile. Di certo è stato bello, è stato duro, ne è valsa la pena. Il successo ha un peso, che bisogna imparare a gestire. Nessuno te lo insegna; la risposta come sempre, sta dentro di te”

Yes, it really is a Cinderella story from rags to riches but there is no doubt that she worked very hard for the transformation in her life.  

In Loren’s own words, this is a collection of “unpublished memories, curious anecdotes, tiny secrets told, all of which spring from a box found by chance, a precious treasure trove filled with emotions, experiences, adventures.”

Loren’s stories are unfailingly sweet, modest, patient.   

This is a discreet autobiography, you won’t find  any details about her relationship with Carlo Ponti or Cary Grant. She is a naturally reserved person and I will excuse her for not pouring every last bloody thing onto the page  – she is interesting enough on the surface.  Instead, Loren gives us insight on her  encounters with major celebrities, focusing on what made them wonderful or special as a person rather than as a celebrity figure.  She talks about the major transitions and decisions in her life, the importance of the strong family. 
Personally, I can’t thank her enough for all of the hours of entertainment she has given me.  It was like sitting next to her on the sunny piazza and listening to all she wanted to tell me.  

Here are my 3 favourite parts of the book

1. It explains why Sophia Loren called her mother “mammina” and never “mamma”.

2. sophia Loren and cary grant


Meet the Italophile – interview with Teresa

We might come from all around the world, but we are all Italians at heart – this is my tribe:)

 “Meet the Italophile” is all about expat stories who live or lived in Italy; their motivations, challenges, and unique experiences in the new place they have decided to call home.

This is a series of interviews with lovers of Italy and all things Italian and I am really delighted to open this new series with a lovely Teresa! Join us on virtual, sunny piazza, order your drink on us and read about Teresa experience in Florence. She reveals her favourite Italian author, gives us useful advice on how to learn Italian and much more.

Signore & signori, please welcome Teresa!

What is your first Italian word you have learnt?

I think the first things in Italian I heard were “Vieni qua” and “Sei scema” haha, because I grew up with many Italian neighbours.

What is your favourite Italian author/book? Why?

It’s definitely Elena Ferrante and her 4 books of “l’amica geniale”. Each volume is written so detailed that you can imagine every gesture of the protagonists and the appearance of every scenery. I also love that we get to know the life of two Italian girls from their early childhood on till they are like 60. Through their personal stories you get an insight of what life in Italy was like the last 5 decades.

What is your favourite Italian song? Why?

I don’t have THE favourite Italian song, but one of those I like the most is definitely “Laura non c’è” by Nek. My mum often sang it along when I was little.

Do you speak Italian, and do you think it’s important to speak the local language?

Yes, I speak Italian. I think it’s very important to know at least the basics of the language if you want to live in Italy. But – you don’t have to be perfect: Italians themselves often don’t know well another language than their own and they appreciate it if you try to speak Italian, even if you’re not that good 🙂

What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn Italian?

In my opinion it’s important to first learn the grammatical basics in a course or by yourself with a book. When you’re able to build short sentences about daily topics, you should throw yourself in everything that has to do with the Italian language; music, books, films, series, writing diary in Italian, maybe find a tandem partner to practise talking. But you won’t ever get to the point of speaking fluently if you never go to live in Italy, even just for a few months.

5 things you love about Italy?

The food, the architecture, that the people mostly are very kind and that they make decisions based on their heart more than on their mind (that’s at least what I noticed), that the cities and the whole country seem more filled with warmth and life than they do in Germany.

5 things you hate about Italy?

The often confusing bureaucracy, the exam situation at the universities (oral exams in front of all the other students), that you never know when the bus/train etc. will really arrive, that many young people don’t know English and that the restaurants don’t open before 7 p.m. haha

Was it difficult for you to move to Italy? What surprised you the most?

I lived in Florence for half a year and life there wasn’t that different from mine in Germany. I think what surprised me most was that you can adapt to e v e r y situation; whether it’s the condition of the house/apartment you live in, the different perception of time and distance or that it costs you time to find the food / cosmetic products that you’re used to from home.

When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

I came up with the idea of spending a semester in Italy about one year before. Studying Italian and French at my university provided a semester abroad, but it was not mandatory.

How living in Italy has changed you? Have you become more “Italian”?

I became more independent and I feel more secure in many situations. If you once had to solve problems with Italian professors, craftsmen or office workers, afterwards every problem you have in your home country seems ridiculous 🙂 Back in Germany I noticed quite a few things that are typical German and that I now sometimes make fun of (for example eating dinner at 6 p.m. or putting the sauce on top of the pasta, when the pasta is already served on the plate).

It is time to take your Italian placement test.

It is time to take your Italian placement test. 

As a teacher I need to evaluate my students and to be able to place them in an appropriate learning environment.  Placement tests are meant to determine a student’s language skill level so that with the test results in hand, an adviser and student can sit down and determine a course that would best suit the student. A class below the student’s ability would not benefit their education, and a class far above their ability could prove frustrating.   

I believe that placement tests are also a good starting point after taking a long break.  

Perhaps you’ve taken time off over the summer and are now going back to school, college or work.  I am sure that the placement test will help you to understand what is your language level and what you need to revise.   

Relax, take your test by clicking the link below, review your answers, and write down your mistakes. Indeed, making mistakes is important. Knowing what works, and what needs our attention is essential. They say that success in any domain is simply a result of making a large amount of tiny mistakes over time 🙂 

If you have any questions please let me know, I will be happy to help you to improve your Italian. 


  1. Fuori ufficio means out of office. When you send the email to your Italian colleagues and you receive 100000 out of office replies, you know that it’s August. Here are some “sono fuori ufficio” emails I have received this year:

2. Chiuso per ferie – closures of stores, bars and bureaucratic offices can be frustrating. 

You just need to accept that completing certain tasks will be impossible until September!

Don’t worry while many businesses in the larger cities may be closed, museums and tourist shops will be open and bustling.

3. Ferragosto – is a key word! Ferragosto is a true celebration of summer! It is an Italian national holiday and holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church celebrated on 15 August in all of Italy. Ferragosto is, next to Christmas, Easter and New Years, the most important holiday in Italy.

4. Fa caldo. (It’s hot.)

August is typically Italy’s hottest month, and that’s coupled with high humidity in many parts of the country. This is one of the main reasons August is the vacation month for most Italians.

5. Dove si trova la spiaggia? ( Where is a beach?)

Where’s everybody gone?

Many Italians take their summer vacation in August, that is why the cities are emptying and the beaches are filling up. If you want to meet locals, go to the beach:)

False friends in Italian – the words that seem friendly because they’re so close to English but then turn around and trick you.  
Here is the list of 30 false friends that even today I found a little bit confusing and need to think twice before using them:) 

1.      Conveniente

means good value
Convenient is translated as comodo, adatto, opportuno

2.      Delusione

means disappointment
Delusion is translated as illusione

3.      Duomo

means cathedral
Dome is translated as cupola

4.      Educazione

doesn’t mean education but good manners
Education actually means cultura, istruzione

5.      Estate

means summer
Estate is translated as proprietà

6.      Fabbrica

means factory
Fabric is translated as tessuto

7.      Fattoria

doesn’t mean factory but farm
Factory is translated as fabbrica

8.      Libreria

means bookshop, bookcase
Library is translated as biblioteca

9.      Magazzino

means warehouse
Magazine is translated as periodico, rotocalco

10.   Novella

means tale, short story
Novel is translated as romanzo

11.   Pace

means peace
Pace is translated as andatura, passo

12.   Partire

means to leave
(to) part is translated as separare, dividere

13.   Patente

means licence
Patent is translated as brevetto

14.   Pavimento

doesn’t mean pavement but floor
Pavement is translated as marciapiede

15.   Preservativo

means contraceptive, condom
Preservative is translated as conservante

16.   Pretendere

doesn’t mean pretend but to claim
(to) pretend is translated as far finta

17.   Rata

means installment
Rate is translated as velocità, tasso, livello

18.   Ricoverare

doesn’t mean recover but to admit, to be hospitalised
(to) recover is instead translated as guarire

19.   Ritenere

means to think, to believe
(to) retain is translated as conservare, trattenere

20.   Riversare

means to pour
(to) reverse is translated as invertire, far marcia indietro

21.   Simpatico

means nice, likeable, pleasant
Sympathetic is translated as comprensivo, compassionevole

22.   Sopportare

means to bear, to stand, support
(to) support is translated as sostenere, mantenere

23.   Stanza

doesn’t mean stanza but room
Camera is translated as macchina fotografica

24.   Straniero

means foreigner
Stranger is translated as sconosciuto, estraneo

25.   Testo

means text
Test is translated as prova, esame, saggio

26.   Vacanza

means holiday
Vacancy is translated as posto di lavoro disponibile

27.   Società

doesn’t always mean society but normally company, firm
Society is normally used to mean alta società, associazione, confraternita

28.   Rumore

means noise
Rumour (UK) is translated as voce diffusa, gossip

29.   Confrontare

means to compare
(to) confront is translated as far fronte a, affrontare

30.   Candido

means pure, innocent
Candid is translated as schietto

10 Italian words that Mr Fellini will teach you

  1. Il capolavoro – Opera di grande eccellenza; propr., la migliore in una serie di opere (di un artista, di un periodo, di una scuola ( eng. masterpiece) Masterpieces La dolce vita (1960) and 8½ (1963). It’s in these two films that Fellini really pushed his creativity to the limit, embarking on huge, ambitious canvasses that redefined what cinema was capable of.

2. Le donne. The women who both attracted and frightened him.

3. Il regista – La persona che ha la responsabilità artistica e operativa di una rappresentazione (cinematografica, teatrale, televisiva) o di una trasmissione radiofonica (eng. director). Fellini was voted the 10th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. First Italian to have been nominated for for the Best Director Oscar!

4. Il Maestro – Persona particolarmente abile, che eccelle in uno o in più campi di attività, tanto da poter costituire un modello. There is no doubt, that Federico Fellini is Italy’s maestro of cinema!

5. Sognare – Immaginare che qualcosa possa accadere; prevedere (eng. to dream). “Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something as in a dream.”

6. La sua amante – chi ha una relazione amorosa extraconiugale o segreta (eng. his lover)  He adored his wife and was flagrantly unfaithful. Fellini once said that it’s easier to be faithful to a restaurant than it is to a woman. When he cast Sandra Milo in 8 1/2 (1963), to play a part based on a long-time mistress named Anna Giovannini, he promptly began sleeping with Milo as well.

7. Paparazzi. The term “paparazzi” comes from a character named Paparazzo in his film, La Dolce Vita (1960), who is a journalist photographing celebrities.

8. Autobiografico – Di scritto o atteggiamento letterario fondato sul carattere o le vicende personali dell’autore stesso (eng. autobiographic)  Much of the time Fellini’s life resembled a Fellini movie, he used to put his deepest desires and anxieties before the lens. His most celebrated alter ego was Marcello Mastroianni, in “La Dolce Vita,” “8 1/2” and “City of Women.”

9. Stacanovista – chi dimostra un esagerato attaccamento al lavoro, o chi lavora con un’intensità esasperata (eng. workaholic) Mr. Fellini wrote all his scripts and supervised every creative detail, including the final editing. He was a perfectionist who repeatedly reshot many scenes in a process that usually took two years.

10. Controverso – Che è oggetto di controversia: opinioni c.; d’interpretazione incerta e dibattuta (eng. controversial). Fellini was devoted to Movies, Not to Commerce. Very often his films were controversial. Even “La Dolce Vita” shocked many Italians and was proscribed by the Roman Catholic Church, but it became a huge success in Italy and around the world.

A gesture is worth a thousand words...

Italian gestures

A gesture is worth a thousand words…

Love. Fury. Passion. Italians are well known for expressing themselves through body language and hand gestures, as if the feelings inside them can’t be expressed in words, but require an accusing finger, an appeal to the heavens, a shake of the fist.

 I higly recommend you this lovely book, first published in 1958 by Milanese artist and graphic designer Bruno Munari. Charming black-and-white photos and wry captions evoke an Italy of days gone by…

Munari’s pocket-sized version features frugally descriptive text and ample, elegant black-and-white photographs of hand-gestures for everything from mundane activities like reading and writing to emotive expressions of praise and criticism.

Let’s have a quick look inside together:






Speak Italian – The fine art of the gesture – can be found on Amazon.

If you are interested to see some more basic Italian gestures, please see highlighted stories —> our Instagram account – @espressoitalianoonline

Un abbraccio,


Ci facciamo l’orecchio – puntata quattro

Oh dolce far niente…

Lets talk today about art of doing nothing or literally “the sweetness of doing nothing”.

Have you ever wondered how is it possible that the country that for ages is famous for having a creative superpower is also famous for doing nothing?

Nowadays doing nothing is seen as a waste of time. Many go on to seek constant stimulation. It’s as if there is a new commandment: never be bored!

But even if it appears nothing is happening, the brain is hard at work. The reason people create when they’re bored is because when the brain is under-stimulated a particular network, known as the default mode, is activated. Every single artistic leap or bright idea is born into this amazing network!

Creation emerges out of nothingness!

Read the following text and try to guess what are the missing words. Listen to the text and check your answers. Do you know the meaning of all the missing words?

Don’t forget to write in the comments what do you think of the idea of dolce far niente!

Comments in Italian are the best 🙂

un abbraccio,