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Blooming Vocabulary for springtime Learning

La primavera (spring) is, by definition, the season of hope, life, and good vibes. In the northern hemisphere, la primavera starts on March 21 and ends on June 21. The word primavera comes from the Latin, where primo means beginning. Ver, in turn, comes from the Sanskrit vas, meaning to shine. Springtime symbolizes, indeed, the beginning of everything and the promise to shine.


The Language of Flowers

I fiori (flowers), or better, la fioritura (blossoming) are the very emblem of spring. After the first foglioline verdi (green leaflets) timidly popping up from bare branches, here come boccioli (buds), and then wonderful fiori with their magical array of colors and fragrances. Flowers in Italy, as pretty much everywhere else, have their own “language,” la lingua dei fiori. There are no strict rules, of course, but a few things to keep in mind, especially when picking flowers for someone else. Bringing flowers to someone who invites you over for dinner, who had a baby, was promoted, or just graduated, is always considered kind and delicate, at any age. Just remember to pick an odd number of flowers; an even number would bring bad luck (and no 13 or 17, just to be on the safe side). La rosa (rose) is a classic when giving flowers: rossa for your romantic love, rosa for a friend, bianca, gialla, blu just because you like it (although someone who is very into the language of flowers might consider a rosa gialla a little suspicious, yellow being the symbol of betrayal). No one will bat an eye if you switch colors, of course. The only real faux pas you should avoid is showing up at someone’s door with a bunch of crisantemi (chrysanthemum), since they symbolize death and are therefore used for funerals and on graves only.


Spring in (Popular) Culture

La primavera is probably the most famous of Vivaldi’s concerts Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons). Vivaldi’s Primavera is divided into three movements that describe three moments of the season itself: il canto degli uccelli (singing birds), il riposo del pastore con il suo cane che abbaia (a shepherd resting together with his barking dog), and la danza finale (final dance).

There are numerous poems dedicated to spring. Gianni Rodari’s La primavera for instance, or Ada Merini’s Sono nata il ventuno a primavera.  A classic twentieth-century author like Cesare Pavese goes in its Marzo:

Io sono Marzo che vengo col vento

col sole e l’acqua e nessuno contento;

vo’ pellegrino in digiuno e preghiera

cercando invano la Primavera.

Di grandi Santi m’adorno e mi glorio:

Tommaso il sette e poi il grande Gregorio;

con Benedetto la rondin tornata

saluta e canta la Santa Annunziata.


Sarà un volto chiaro.

S’apriranno le strade

sui colli di pini

e di pietra…

I fiori spruzzati

di colore alle fontane

occhieggeranno come

donne divertite: Le scale

le terrazze le rondini

canteranno nel sole[1].


Spring-themed songs are also abundant, from Fabrizio De André’s Un chimicoPrimavera non bussa / lei entra sicura come il fumo (spring doesn’t knock, she enters as confident as smoke)—to Luca Carboni’s PrimaveraÈ primavera e mi prende un bisogno di leggerezza e di pesanti passioni (It’s spring and I feel the urge of lightness and heavy passions)—there’s no shortage of examples. The most iconic spring song, however, comes straight from the 1980s and is Loretta Goggi’s Maledetta Primavera: Se per innamorarmi ancora, tornerai, maledetta primavera, che imbroglio se per innamorarmi basta un’ora, che fretta c’era maledetta primavera? (If you come back to make me fall in love again, darn spring, what a scam if an hour is enough to fall in love, what a rush there was, darn spring).


Finally, there’s a whole plethora of proverbs related to spring. Most of them are warnings from a time, even before global warming, in which an early spring was not good news. Consider Guardati dalla primavera di gennaio (Watch out for a spring in January) or La primavera di gennaio porta guai (spring in January brings troubles). The most famous saying about spring, however, is una rondine non fa primavera (one swallow does not make a spring, though the English version mentions the summer).


Primavera is definitely the perfect time to explore Italy: the weather is sunny and warm almost everywhere; cities are populated by happy and loud schoolchildren on school trips, but are not (yet) overcrowded. In general, spring is the perfect time to stare all’aria aperta—unless you suffer from allergia, in which case you’ll be terrified by the snow-like piumini (incorrect, yet popular name of poplar flakes). Be careful though—the weather might be particularly unpredictable, and you may get scattered rain. As the old saying goes, Marzo pazzerello guarda il sole e prendi l’ombrello (March is crazy; look at the sun and grab your umbrella).



[1] I am March who comes with the wind / with sun and water and no one happy; / I go as a pilgrim fasting and praying / looking in vain for spring. / I adorn myself and glory in great Saints: Tommaso the Seven and then the great Gregorio; / with Benedetto the swallow returned / greets and sings the Santa Annunziata. / spring / It will be a clear face. / The roads will open / on the pine hills / and stone (hills)… / The flowers, sprayed / of color at the fountains / will peep up like / amused women: The stairs / the terraces the swallows / they will sing in the sun.


By Claudia Quesito


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