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Spelling Italian places

Spelling is important and maybe more so when dealing in a foreign language. In Italy, you cannot find a train unless you know the actual Italian name of your destination. Those commonly anglicized:

Venezia

Firenze

Roma

Torino

And people, it is Le (The) Cinque Terre not "Cinque Terra." It means The Five Lands so the definite article is important and so is the "e" on the end versus an "a."

Rant over.

Posted by
2609 posts

I feel your pain, Laurel! Just this morning I was at the hair salon (in USA) and overheard two older women customers discussing travel in Italy. They pronounced Cinque Terre "Chinky Terra." My wonderful 3rd-grade teacher used to tell us, if you don't pronounce it right, you won't be able to spell it right.

Posted by
8889 posts

I so agree. Too many people garble spellings and then wonder why they are having difficulty looking up places on the internet. Recent examples: Saltzberg for Salzburg. Lilly for Lille.

Perhaps some travellers do not know that places have different names in different languages. They have heard of Venice, Munich, Vienna, Prague in school geography and on the news, and don't realise that in reality there are no places with those names.

And then they shorten names:
"Aix" so you ask which one, and the answer comes back "Aix, France" Aaargh, there are 12 Aix's in France (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIX_(disambiguation) ). Use the full name.
Again: Frankfort - That's in the USA - Answer: Frankfurt, Germany - which one - Frankfurt am Main or Frankfurt an der Oder?
And the all time classic: Stratford - that's a district in east London. Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire.

I suggest these people try looking up flights from "Nuova York" to "Los", and complain when they can't find any.

Posted by
12024 posts

Laurel, we should also add:

NAPOLI (Naples)
MILANO (Milan)
SIENA (Sienna)
PADOVA (Padua)
MANTOVA (Mantua)
LIVORNO (Leghorn)

and last but not least
BOLOGNA (Baloney)

Posted by
11852 posts

And ordering expresso will get you a funny look.

Posted by
9477 posts

Yes, Roberto, the list could be extended. I have to say I have not heard of Leghorn,

Kathy, LOL, that one kills me too. Along with “proshoot” for prosciutto

Posted by
3437 posts

Baloney is lunch meat. I have never seen or heard anyone confuse that with Bologna, the place in Italy.

I use the local rendering of names where ever I am. If I am looking for a train ticket, or even a plane ticket on many airlines, I use the name as spelled in that location. If I am chatting with a coworker, friend, or family member, I use the common US English version of the names. Otherwise one of two things happens: they don't understand what I am referring to, or they think I am some obnoxious snob.

Posted by
1602 posts

When I lived on Maui, I worked in the tourist industry selling the activities on the island.
Many of them could not say the Hawaiian names correctly. Lahaina, was Lahina, Haiku was Hakoo, Kealakeua etc. I always laughed ( behind their backs, of course)!

Posted by
12024 posts

My wife worked in logistics dealing with container shipping companies, and, believe it or not, the port of Leghorn is used a lot.

I know Baloney is meat, but in case someone wanted to visit the city where Baloney was first made.

I also forgot Plaisance (Piacenza). Some poster in this forum asked a question about Plaisance and had no idea what she was referring to.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/malpensa-to-ottone

Posted by
8889 posts

We all forgot GENOVA (Genoa), not to be confused with GENÈVE (Geneva).

Before they built the Channel Tunnel, when to get from Paris to London required train+ferry+boat, the boat trains were listed on the departure board at Gare du Nord as going to "Londres". Now it says "London".

Trains to Milan from Switzerland are listed on the displays and on the side of the train as going to "Milano", but the station and on-train announcements are first in German, listing the destination as "Mailand", followed by the same in Italian to "Milano", then, sometimes, if you are lucky, English to Milan.

Posted by
1579 posts

@diveloonie
growing up on the big island, working retail and tourist industry, i'm gonna add a few to your list:
likelike hiway - like like hiway
hilo - high low
anaehoomalu bay - A bay
mauna kea -mana keeya
like you and the italians here, snicker at a few and others can't help but laugh hard, trying to figure where they going. thanks for the laugh
aloha

Posted by
3562 posts

We don’t even need to cross the ocean for USA names that are mispronounced repeatedly, besides several in Hawaii. I grew up in Iowa and have lived in Washington State for 30 years, Oregon for 10 years previously.

Des Moines - does not end in an “s” sound.
Illinois - also does not end in an “s” sound.
And, Laurel, I’m sure you have cringed at a few pronunciations of your state of Oregon! ; )

Posted by
7737 posts

Roberto, I for one got a big kick out of your Baloney joke.

Posted by
12024 posts

The reason why I know everything in virtually any subject is because I have a B.S. from the University of Baloney.

Posted by
9477 posts

While this can descend into every mispronounced place in your favorite state or country, my hope is some of our new forum participants and travelers will heed the importance of knowing local place names in the native language. Even if you cannot pronounce a place name, you should know and use the local spelling. Makes it easier to get around and less likely to become lost like the couple who wanted to drive to Capri and ended up in Carpi (Toscana). Typed it wrong in the GPS. True story and they were not even Americans, LOL.

Posted by
1359 posts

Laurel, I don't disagree with you at all about the importance of knowing the spellings of place names in the local language if you want to find your way there.

I have to take issue with your comment about Cinque Terre. The "Le" or "The" is not required.

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/826

http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/Eindex.php

You'll see it rendered both ways on these sites. In the Italian version (http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/) the "Le" is pretty much always included, but I think that's because it is common to use articles with nouns in romance languages. For example, l'Europa, l'Italia, la Toscana, la Sicilia. In French, la France, le Portugal, etc.

Cinque Terre, unlike many other Italian place names, doesn't get translated when we're speaking English. We might say, "I'm going to Rome, Florence, and the Cinque Terre" (with or without the "the"). But we'd never say we're going to The Five Lands. And I think it would feel odd to say "I'm going to le Cinque Terre." (Note also that in Italian the article is not capitalized before the place name.)

It may be nitpicking, but it can be fun, don't you think?

Posted by
9477 posts

Yup, Lane, it is nitpicking. Rick Steves calls it the Cinque Terre in his book, BTW. And it just sounds better. "I'm going to the Cinque Terre" versus "I'm going to Cinque Terre." Mostly, though, it is the "a" on the end of Terre that bothers me. And it is just an example of asking people to get more familiar with where they are going. As I have said before, there is no substitute for reading a guidebook.

Posted by
173 posts

I don't think that learning minor details will help you much around the EU...train stations will help though...I would rather learn about fun little tidbits

Posted by
1579 posts

@ roberto LMAO
roberto was a racehorse and like a fellow poster here, his dad said he was full of BS. your dad is so happy you received your degree from UofB. thanks for the laugh

Posted by
6802 posts

No. My major is in Raviology. I work in a hospital as a Raviologist.

Fancy way to say you are a cook in a hospital kitchen?

Umm, has this topic wandered a bit?

Been fun as well as a learning experience

Posted by
3437 posts

Laurel,

Yes, the pronunciation of Italian food items in the New York area makes me cringe. Always leaving off a syllable or otherwise butchering the words. But I guess they are free to pronounce things however they want. Not sure where that comes from since I have not heard the words pronounced like that anywhere I have been in Italy. Not that I have been everywhere in Italy, but have covered most of the major parts.

Example: Getting a sandwich at a deli. Guy asks me if I want "gabba ghoul" on it. I say "What?" and he asks again. Turns out he wanted to know if I wanted any capicola.

Posted by
31140 posts

As long as we're on the topic of "spelling", perhaps one of our learned Italian members can clarify the spelling of "Porto Venere". I vaguely recall reading something several years ago that the local officials decided that the "official" spelling would be two separate words. That would seem to be reflected in their official website - http://www.comune.portovenere.sp.it/c011022/hh/index.php . Can anyone clarify that?

Posted by
416 posts

Well, here's my pet peeve: the pronunciation of "bruschetta". It is not "brooshetta", it is "broosketta". Drives me nuts when I hear it (well, not really), particularly from professional chefs on tv, who should know better.

Posted by
114 posts

There’s an Italian Market near us that makes great hoagies. They have different names for the different versions: Milano, Roma, Capri, etc. I always get the Capri. People pronounce it ca-PREE. When I ordered it one day, I (correctly) said CA-pree and the counter guy replied “Ah, so you’ve been there!”

Posted by
5374 posts

I blame the British. Who the heck decided to call it Florence? Firenze sounds so much cooler.

Posted by
1188 posts

"Who the heck decided to call it Florence?"

The Romans (well nearly), then centuries later the Italians got confused and changed it for some reason.

Posted by
8889 posts

"I blame the British." - no, blame the French.

Up until the late 20th century, the "lingua Franca" of international travel was French. Diplomacy and international treaties were (and often still are) in French. Passports are in French. And you had to learned French if you wanted to travel in order to communicate with the local guides, hotelkeepers etc.
So if you asked somebody in French what a place was called, they told you the French name, and that is what went in to the guidebooks.

Hence we have:
Rome (same in French), Milan (=French), Florence (=French), Venice (French "Venise"), Munich, Cologne, Prague (all French)
Austria (French "Autriche", nothing like the actual name in German "Österreich"), Vienna (French "Vienne", German "Wien").
Lucerne (French, German: "Luzern").

And in Belgium, at the time of WW1, the only official language was French, so all maps were in French, and the famous battle site went down in history as "Ypres", but if you try to go there today you will find a town called "Ieper".

Posted by
6061 posts

Try finding your flight to Milan in Frankfort airport and it is spelled Maitland at the gate! After that short moment of panic, I have always looked up places not only in their country’s language but in any airport where another language is used.
And in the NY metro area we do call it proshoot as lots of Italian immigrants to the area brought their regional dialects along with them.

Posted by
5374 posts

OK, I blame the British for adopting the French, and passing it on to the US. The Romans are excused on account of extinction.

Posted by
12024 posts

Florence comes from the French (although they pu the emphasis on the last syllable as usual).

When the Romans founded the city they called it FLORENTIA or city of flowers.

Flower being Fiore in Italian, in the Middle Ages the name of the city became FIORENZA and its inhabitants became FIORENTINI.

The current name Firenze developed from a mangling of the medieval name Fiorenza, however its inhabitants are still called FIORENTINI not Firenzini or Firenzesi.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you, Suki. The old Italians I knew growing up called it "proshoot" too.

Posted by
11852 posts

I always get the Capri. People pronounce it ca-PREE.

I think that pronunciation gets all messed up with a style of ladies cropped britches (thank you, Audrey Hepburn)? I've never heard them called CA-prees but maybe the mispronunciation happened so early on that it just stuck? There's also a brand of cigarette pronounced the same way.

Posted by
1126 posts

Ken, as we wrote about Portovenere, the port of Venus, I researched the name and the answer is - It's Italy.
Portovenere or Porto Venere, it's your choice. The Romans then and the Comune now use the two word version. Most sources, including most Italian government entities use the one word version.

Posted by
1126 posts

Spelling and name specificity indeed, one time we were lost near Bologna and I asked another driver stopped at a traffic light how to get to the town of Sant Agata - which was about 5 km away. He replies, "You mean Sant Agata Bolognese?". Now it's true that there are multiple Sant Agatas in Italy, but from Bologna the nearest other one is hundreds of kilometers away.

Posted by
390 posts

It took me 1.5 months of living in southern Italy before I realized that Florence=Firenze....I was literally talking about a trip that we were taking at the end of the next week, and I looked at a map in a bar and I was like "we're going to Florence, and I KNOW it is in this area where Fie-reenze is".....and then I got it.....it was not a good night for me hahahaha

But also....I came back to the US in the middle of the living there, and we went to Panera, and my friend walked up to the counter to order a caprese sandwich, and she said it the correct way, and the cashier said "oh, you want the Capreece?" and we all DIED.....

But speaking of train station names, I kinda wish there was a way on the trenitalia site to note the MAIN station for a city (beyond Centrale haha)....I know its just me being lazy, but my town, Salerno, has 7 different stations.....I have literally only used 2 of them in a 2 year span.....and I have never had a need to use any of the others (and maybe couldn't even find them), and I know they are not used as frequent as the main one, but somebody wanting to get to Salerno (if they saw that a smaller station was close to their accommodation) might get a little frustrated that they couldn't find a train that would pass more than a few times a day. But that is just me being picky haha

Posted by
8889 posts

I kinda wish there was a way on the trenitalia site to note the MAIN station for a city

There is sort of an option. Some cities have an option "xxxx ( Tutte Le Stazioni )" (= any station). This is however more for cases where there are alternatives (some trains go to one station, some others). If you select this it shows trains to all stations in that city.

The DB site has similar option where you put the place name IN CAPITALS.

For places like Salerno, look at a city map, or just put in your nearest station (or guess). If it shows a lot of trips changing at "Salerno yyyy", that must be the main station, so you can change your query to "Salerno yyyy".

I have seen posts on this site where people are trying to look up trains to Cinque Terre, and asking why it says no trains. You have to explain Cinque Terre = 5 lands and they have to choose one of the 5 and enter its name.