Tag Archive for: puglia food

Understanding the Hand Gestures of Italians

The Other Italian Language

Sicily is known for its unique culture and traditions, and one aspect of this culture is the use of hand gestures, or “gesture language,” in communication. The Italian language is not only renowned for its melodic words but also for the hand gestures that accompany them. About 250 hand gestures have been identified and are used by Italians on a daily basis. Sicily is known for its unique culture and traditions, and one aspect of this culture is the use of hand gestures, or “gesture language,” in communication. Naturally, the question arises: where does this unique custom come from?

Theories suggest that the iconic hand gestures are a result of a long history of Italy being invaded by many nations that imposed their languages, cultures and mannerisms. From the Ancient Greek colonization along the Mediterranean coast to subsequent invasions by the Carolingians, Normans, Visigoths, Arabs and Germans, these hand gestures developed as a means of communication among people with no common language – and have stuck around ever since.

There is a vast variety of hand gestures, but here are the top 8 recommendations which may come in handy when you want to add emphasis to what you are communicating in Italian. Some of the most commonly used Sicilian hand gestures include:

“THE CORNUTO” (also known as the “malocchio”):It is used to ward off the “evil eye” or as an insult meaning “cuckold.”

ACTION – This gesture involves forming a fist with the thumb sticking out between the index and middle fingers. 

 

NUN SINNI PARRA –  It can not be done

Literally  it translates as ‘don’t even mention it’, something that absolutely can not be considered. When a Sicilian is not quite willing to do something, the issue should not be mentioned in front of him, or the reactions can be unpredictable. It is something that totally upsets the person who is listening.

ACTION – The Sicilian shows this mood by putting the high part of the  hand folded between the chin and the neck and then moving it forward.

 

TANTICCHIA – A BIT 

 Generally the gesture is accompanied by a sad expression, in order to emphasize the contrast between the lack and the desire of abundance.

ACTION – The thumb and middle finger touch each other to express a serious lack of something.

 

SI TI PIGGHIU! – If I catch you!

During your trip to Sicily you will often hear a mother screaming this sentence to his son suggesting dire consequences. Literally it translates as ‘If I catch you’, and it is a sort of reaction to something negative that has been committed by someone and has to be punished somehow.

ACTION – To represent the threat, Sicilians place the entire hand, inside the mouth,  between the teeth, after finishing the sentence.

 

ACCURA –   BEWARE / OCCHIO (“WATCH OUT”)

Literally translated as ‘beware’, in the sense of ‘keep your eyes open’, This is a warning gesture, meaning ‘STAI ATTENTO’, “beware” or “watch out”. It is a real invitation to pay special attention, as an apparently peaceful situation could turn into something bad or because something could turn out to be disadvantageous.

ACTION –  It is performed by lightly placing the index tip on the cheekbone under the eye and pulling slightly to open up the eye a little wider.

 

BONU – APPETIZING

 With this gesture Sicilians indicate that something is appetizing in terms of taste or sight.

ACTION – The index is at the center of the cheek and makes some swinging movements, pushing on the skin.

 

‘NZE/ NONZI – NO

And finally here is one of the most popular features in the world, the way in which the Sicilians raise their heads upwards, producing a sound that may be transcribed with ‘nze’ to say no to something.

 

NON MI INTERESSA (“I DON’T CARE”)

One of the most famous gestures, the so-called “chin flick” means “Non mi interessa!” – I don’t care.

ACTION – This is formed by flicking the back of one’s fingers under the chin.

 

L’OMBRELLO (“ABSOLUTELY NOT!”)

L’ombrello (“the umbrella”) is a common gesture  which mimics hanging an umbrella on a hook. This is a “colourful” (and rather rude) way to tell people to get lost if they ask for huge favours, like borrowing money. Considered uncouth.

 

COSÌ COSÌ (SO AND SO)

This gesture is used to communicate when something hasn’t quite hit the mark. If you are asked whether you like a meal, a movie or anything else, and you are quite unimpressed this is  a great non-verbal way to express it.

ACTION – It is performed by alternatively turning the hand palm up and palm down. 

 

MA VA VA (“GET LOST”)

 It’s commonly used, and once  the irony of the gesture is mastered,  feel free to deploy it at will! But be warned, it can turn nasty – particularly  when the swinging arm looks as if it’s about to turn into a slap.

ACTION – This usually involves an outstretched arm that is chopped up and down, the message is unequivocal: “Get lost.”

SI VABBE’! (“YEAH, RIGHT!”)

This mocking gesture is used to express mistrust in someone who is exaggerating or making up a story.

ACTION – It involves the movement of the forearm in circles accompanied by raised eyebrows and bottom jaw slightly pulled down.

MI STAI QUI (“I CAN’T STAND YOU”)

 It simply means: “I can’t stand you.”

ACTION – While this gesture involves a forearm held horizontally against the stomach, it’s neither a gesture expressing hunger nor an invitation to lunch.

CHE CAPOLAVORO! (“WHAT A MASTERPIECE!”)

Last but not least is the gesture which has become the symbol of Italian-level quality. This is the best way to show appreciation when words aren’t enough. Usually used in relation to food, it can be used in any context expressing appreciation for a true masterpiece, or as the Italians would say – UN VERO CAPOLAVORO!

ACTION -When someone puts their 5 fingertips together and brings them to their mouth for a symbolic kiss you know you have outdone yourself.  

Check out the videos below for more on Italian Hand gestures and their meanings.

Love what you have read and want to experience Sicily? Click here for details of my 14 Day Sicilian Tour travelling in 2024

The Gastronomic Traditions of Puglia

The Gastronomic Tradition of Puglia

The Apulian cuisine is a simple cuisine linked above all to the work of the land, which has been able to elaborate typical dishes with many flavors and aromas. There are four main ingredients in this gastronomy: oil, wheat, vegetables and fish. From the numerous olive groves we obtain that oil which represents about a third of the total Italian production. Durum wheat is also grown in Puglia, which is the origin of innumerable types of pasta and the tasty Apulian bread. Very widespread and of high quality are the fruit and vegetable productions, the basis of very original dishes. In fact, Apulian cuisine boasts a rich variety of vegetables and products grown in the lands overlooking the sea or in those in the interior of the region. Finally, overlooking the waters of the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other one, the region can enjoy freshly caught fish and seafood that is always available.

Rich in flavors and aromas, Apulian cuisine is renowned throughout the world for its special authenticity. It is a cuisine made of love and passion, of tradition and wisdom handed down from mother to daughter. Flavors and colors blend on the table, but a contribution to the flavor and its success is provided by the raw material: from the Polignano carrot to the Torre Guaceto or Lucera tomato, from the Galatina chicory to the white one from Otranto, up to the renowned red onion of Acquaviva, there are several vegetables and fruits characteristic of the cultivations in the region.

Simple dishes coming mostly from the poor and peasant tradition. Each season is characterized by its aromas and its typical recipes. Starting with the beloved orecchiette with turnip tops, or orecchiette with horsemeat sauce. Walking through the narrow streets of some cities such as Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Lecce or Gallipoli, it is possible to meet housewives at work dedicated to the preparation of cavatelli, strascinati, troccoli and orecchiette. In Puglia, handmade pasta is seasoned above all with vegetables: pasta and broccoli florets, pasta and cabbage, macaroni and aubergines, pasta and broad bean purée, spaghetti and chicory. In addition to the delicious first courses, Puglia is renowned throughout Italy for its special products such as bread from Altamura, or the tasty focaccia from Bari, vegetables in batter and many other delicacies with an unforgettable flavour.

Cheeses also play an important role: they have strong flavors such as cacioricotta, canestrato, ricotta, or some typical regional dairy products such as mozzarella, stracciatella or burrata.
And the meat? As in all of southern Italy, beef is scarce, even if the Sunday dish of brasciole with sauce excels; on the other hand, game, poultry, pork, wild rabbit and above all sheep meat are widely used, where the region is in third place in national production, after Sardinia and Lazio.

 

Let’s not forget that fish is very abundant on the entire Apulian, Adriatic and Ionian coast. From Bari octopus, to anchovies that are eaten raw; from seafood to oysters cultivated according to a custom that dates back many centuries; from the mussels of Taranto, which are often cooked “arracanate” (that is, covered with breadcrumbs and parsley, with garlic, oil, oregano and tomato), to the rock mullets of Polignano.

 

Let’s see in particular some of these dishes of the Apulian culinary tradition:

Orecchiette are the typical Apulian dish and symbol of traditional pasta. They are a true icon of Apulian cuisine and are now renowned throughout the world. Made with fresh handmade pasta with flour, water and salt, their small ear shape goes perfectly with any type of sauce. The most famous are orecchiette with turnip greens and anchovies, orecchiette with meat sauce and orecchiette with tomato, ricotta and basil. Orecchiette are typical of Bari, but their historical origins are uncertain: some claim they were introduced during the Middle Ages, others trace them back to the Jewish community residing in the area during the Norman-Swabian domination. The fact is that even today this pasta is among the most appreciated Apulian first courses both by the local population and by visitors and can be found cooked with different seasonings. Of course, the most classic is orecchiette accompanied by turnip tops, oil, salt and anchovy fillets.

Broad beans and chicory is another dish of traditional Apulian cuisine, certainly the most representative dish of Apulian peasant culture. It is    smoothly blended broad beans combined with olive oil and seasoning and chicory, served with croutons. Perfect combination of legumes and wild vegetables, simple but nutritious ingredients, with a really tasty result.
 
Bombette, another Apulian dish, is a meat-based specialty born and widespread throughout the Itria Valley.
Made from thin slices of pork neck which enclose a filling of abundant caciocavallo cheese, bacon and spices. Typically cooked on a skewer / spit in a wood oven, they are eaten in one bite. A unique culinary experience, which can also become cultural if you eat them during the village festivals.

Pancotto is a simple and poor winter dish that arises from the need to use stale bread in a peasant civilization that could not and did not want to waste bread that was no longer fresh. A dish seasoned with a mixture of wild vegetables, called “ammischk”. A dish that is  typically Apulian with small variations from town to town.

Octopus “alla pignata” is also among the specialties of Apulian food.  In Salento, octopus alla pignata is an original dish that has its roots in popular tradition. It is prepared with the addition of potatoes, tomato, onion and celery to enhance the flavor of the octopus. The cooking of the octopus in the pignata, a terracotta container with very thick walls, which makes it ideal for slow cooking, is not accidental.
 

Among the most loved typical Apulian foods there is certainly the Tiella, a sort of Apulian paella that takes its name from the pot in which it is traditionally cooked. It is precisely in the tiella that rice, potatoes and mussels are placed to be mixed with onion, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs and finally baked. It was once enjoyed on holidays while today it is one of the most consumed recipes both hot in the cooler seasons and in summer as a cold and complete dish.

Stuffed aubergines are a dish that the Apulians love madly. They are incredibly tasty, especially when filled with minced meat or pasta and bread.

Brasciole are horsemeat rolls cooked in the sauce, which must be tasted. Widespread especially between the provinces of Bari and Brindisi, brasciole are a preparation considered among the poor but incredibly succulent dishes, from whose slow cooking a thick and delicious sauce is also obtained, perfect for seasoning pasta.

 

For street food lovers, the Panzerotto can be found in the stalls and rotisseries of every alley in Puglia. It is the classic mezzaluna made with pizza dough and generally filled with mozzarella and tomato. It’s fried and crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. This delicious food dates back to the seventeenth century and was also born thanks to the diffusion of tomatoes imported from America.

The Rustico, typically found in the city of Lecce is a round-shaped savory, flakey pastry filled with béchamel sauce, a little bit of tomato sauce, and mozzarella, although the latter does not always make an appearance.

After delicious first courses and very tasty second courses, it is impossible not to mention some of the best traditional Apulian sweets: Cartellate (or “carteddate” in the local dialect) are puff pastry pancakes sprinkled with vincotto, honey, spices and almonds, which are typical of days of celebration and enrich the Apulian tables especially at Christmas. Their particular shape is said to recall the halo of the Child Jesus or the crown of thorns of the Jesus on the cross. 

The Apulian sweets then reserve the same great surprises with dishes of extraordinary goodness including Casatiello, Zeppole, Rosata of almonds, Boconotti, Pasticciotto Leccese, taralli with vincotto and many other delicacies.

Love what you have read and want to experience Gastronomic Puglia?  Click here for details of my Gastronomic Discover Puglia Tour travelling in 2024