Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Italian slang:”Avere la coda di paglia”

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(Delia Ciccarelli – La volpe dalla coda mozza)

It’s a funny colloquial expression, used in Italian to indicate someone with a guilty conscience in a friendly and light way. Its origin can be found in a popular novel: a young fox was caught by a trap. She could get away, but without her wonderful tail. Now, everyone knows that foxes beauty is represented by the tail,  so the poor fox was really ashamed of her ugly stump. To make her happy, the animals of the wood created for her a  fake tail made of  straw.
None of the animal told this secret but an evil cock, which revealed everything to the farmer.
So the farmer, to keep the fox away from the hen-house decided to light some fire around it…and the fox couldn’t do nothing else than staying away from her beloved chikens.

When someone has a “coda di paglia”, means that he did something wrong and is afraid of being discovered…!

Learn all the Italian slang you want with the Institute Galilei one-to-one courses!

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Recipes from Florence: Rice Fritters

During winter times it is really easy to see in Florence’s bakeries and pastry shops these sweet “little balls” covered with sugar: they are called “Frittelle di riso”, and are actually rice fritters.
The recipe belongs to late middle ages and Tuscan peolple were used to bake them in occasion of Saint Joseph’s celebrations (19 March). Try to cook them!


  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) rice — cheap rice that gives off starch as it cooks will be fine
  • 1 quart (1 l) whole milk
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • A walnut-sized chunk of unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 jigger rum or vinsanto
  • 1 cup (100 g) flour
  • 1 packet active live yeast
  • Oil for frying


Begin by cooking the rice until it’s thoroughly cooked in the milk, together with the sugar, lemon zest, and butter. Let the mixture cool, and stir in the three yolks. Stir in the rum or vinsanto. Whip the whites and fold them in, then fold in the flour and the yeast.

Heat oil in a fairly deep pot and fry the mixture, a teaspoon at a time, removing the balls from the pot when they become golden. Drain them on absorbent paper, dust them with granulated sugar, and serve.

Good tip: when you cook them, do A LOT of them, because people always want more!

Cooking is your passion? Then try the Institute Galilei’s cooking courses!

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Art history in Florence: The Brancacci Chapel

Located in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, the Brancacci Chapel (the “Cappella Brancacci”) it’s a richely-decorated Chapel, also known as the “Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance” for its painting cycle, which follows a precise narrative line.

Mostly decorated by Felice Brancacci, Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippo Lippi, the Chapel features famous mural paintings like the Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden” and “Payment of the Tribute money”. This last painting is the most famous of the Chapel, also because of its innovative representation of Jesus as a human, with the same height of the disciples.

Masaccio’s technique, with its scientific perspective, unified lighting, use of  “chiaroscuro” and natural figures, was one of the most important influence for the new Renaissance style.

A visit to the Santa Maria del Carmine church and Cappella Brancacci can be included in the Art History course at Institute Galilei, or in our guided visits of Florence.

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

People from Florence: Galileo Galilei

galileo galilei
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use”

Galileo Galilei, Letter to Christina of Tuscany

As the most important character of the 17th Centurys science revolution, we owe to Galileo Galilei some of the major discoveries in physics and astronomy. He’s considered the father of the modern science and had a fundamental role in promoting the Copernican theory, which made him suffer more than just a trial with the Roman Church.

Within his many discoveries we find of course the Telescope, with which he was the first to observe Jupiter’s moons and the Moon’s mountains, and the calculation of the law of free fall. He was always working on his theories on the basis of experiment: Galileo was, in fact, the first “real” experimental scientist.

He’s the perfect example of the modern man: despite his problems with the Catholic Inquisition, he went on with his studies and  ideas, saying that if God endowed the humanity with intellect, people should have use it. These were really important admission for a 17th Century Italian, who was the son of a court musician and left the University of Pisa wihtout a degree.

All the informations on his life and theories can be found here.

Galileo Galilei was recently selected as a main motif for a high value collectors’ coin: the €25 International Year of Astronomy commemorative coin, minted in 2009. This coin also commemorates the 400th anniversary of the invention of  Galileo’s telescope. The obverse shows a portion of his portrait and his telescope. The background shows one of his first drawings of the surface of the moon. In the silver ring other telescopes are depicted: the Isaac Newton Telescope, the observatory in Kremsmünster Abbey, a modern telescope, a radio telescope and a space telescope (source: Wikipedia).

Galileos finger
Galileo’s finger

For this occasion, from the 13th March to the 30th August, a special exhibition of 250 of his works, objects  and instruments will be open to the public at Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence. There you will also have the possibility to see Galileo’s finger, which has been taken from his dead body by Anton Francesco Gori in 1737.

To have more informations, click here.

The Institute Galilei devoted its name to this illuminated scientist, who could change the vision of the world also in a period of strong restrictions.

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Italian slang: “In bocca al lupo!”

The Italian language is full of typical words and expression that foreigner people usually do not understand. Let’s try to learn some of them!


Coming to Italy, you will hear for sure this common expression. Literally translated as “in the mouth of the wolf”, it’s the common Italian way to wish good luck. It’s a scaramantic term: to go “into the wolf’s mouth” means, in fact, to go directly into troubles. As answer, the Italians usually say “Crepi il lupo!” (wish that the wolfs dies!).

The origin of this funny expression is not clear; it probably came out from the rural world, where farmers used to consider the wolf as a big danger, because wolves eats the other animals. Another possible origin can be found in the Romolo and Remo story, who were saved by a she-wolf which take them into her mouth.

So, when someone tells you “In bocca al lupo” don’t be scared! He’s just wishing you good luck 🙂

In our personalized programs at Institute Galilei in Italian language courses all the aspects of the Italian language can be axplored, according to the students’ interests and needs.

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Italian modern painters: Valentino Monticello

Nowadays, everyone’s personal expression can be free with Art: drawings, paintings, sculptures created with all kinds of material.

Developing a personal style is something that can make an artist’s name last for the ethernity: that’s what the Maestros from Renaissance teached to our era with their masterpieces and what contemporary and modern artists keep in mind to make of their artworks always something special.

Not just a particular way of painting or drawing, but also the used materials can become a logo of the artist: that’s exactly what we can see in the colourful and original works of Valentino Monticello.

The Italian-native artist grew up literally into his profession – his family run a hotel where he was brought up between food and wine – Valentino worked for many years as sommelier in prestigious London’s restaurants. He was continuoulsy exposed to wines from all over the world and at the highest levels (like Bordeaux and Burgundy) and was working all night long to his other biggest passion: Art. Since the beginning, his work has been always prestigious.

His personal unique style came out when he obtained his first commission as artist: he should have done a common mural painting but – surprise – he ended up doing a wonderful collage using the most obvious tool of his trade: wine labels. By cutting out and an arranging the labels in incredible detail he created a fascinating scene which brightened up the lives of all the residents. It also got Valentino thinking that perhaps his talents could best be employed on this type of art form rather than painting or drawing.

We can easily recognize his particular works: a serie of collages showing detailed scenes, with people, flowers, where drawing and painting are not involved at all; wine labels are the absolute starrings.

In his collages you can often find also a strong symbolism coming from the world of Opera, his third passion. Valentino carefully looked through many different Opera scores to find references relating to wine. Once he found a specific scene, he would illustrate it using wine labels from the country where the Opera was set. For example “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini uses only French wine labels. Other Operas are specific to wine regions for example Il viaggio a Reims by Gioachino Rossini features only Burgundy Wine Labels.

Thanks to his original style, he had the chance to expose in some of the most important art galleries like Ergon and National Gallery in London.

(source: )

Art as a passion and life-style, where developing personal features will let you express your soul. The Institute Galilei offers drawing & painting courses held by experienced and innovative artists.

The Institute Galilei also offers Wine Tasting individual and small group programs, held directly in a famous restaurant of Florence by a professional sommelier. To have more informations, please send and e-mail to

Italian slang:"Avere la coda di paglia" | Senza categoria

Traditional recipes from Florence: the “Ribollita”!

The Italian Cuisine is famous all over the world for its full tastes and unforgettable dishes: how could someone forget the taste of Lasagne, Pizza or Pesto?
With hundreds of different recipes, which can be different from region to region, lovely smells and genuine
ingredients, coming to the “Belpaese” will be a wonderful experience for your palates!

But why not learn how to prepare something by yourself? It’s easier than it seems! Let’s start with a special recipe coming directly from Tuscany, the heart of Italy: ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you the “Ribollita”.
Well, the name could sound quite strange and actually means “re-boiled”, beacuse during the poor periods the Italian farmers used to cook it on Friday and to reheat it on Saturday in order to have something to eat until Sunday. It’s a simple stale bread and vegetable soup.

500 g stale Tuscan bread (not salty, really important)
300 g dried white beans
250 g ripe tomatoes
3 carrot
1 Tuscan black cabbage
3 potato
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of celery
a few springs of parseley
extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
chilli powder

There are many versions of this traditional Tuscan dish, depending on the season and the availability of the ingredients. Start by preparing a good bean soup. Leave the dried beans tio steep for at least 12 hours, then drain them. Cover with fresh water and cook over a low heat in a covered pot. Meanwhile in a pan cook the diced onion, carrot and celery in a little oil. Add the crushed garlic, the skinned and chopped tomatoes, the red chilli and the thyme and after about 5 minutes add the potatoes cut into small cubes and the thinly sliced cabbage. Cook over a low heat, adding a little water. Pass the beans and their liquid through a food mill and add this mixture to the vegetables. Check the seasoning just before removing from the heat, after about 20 minutes. meanwhile, in a large ovenproof dish arrange two thin layers of bread and pour the soup over them. Make another two layers of bread and cover with more soup. The ribollita is obtained by reheating the soup over a very low heat. Make a dent in the centre, add some olive oil and boil very slowly, protecting the pot with a heat-diffuser plate.

Try it and you will be surprised – absolutely delicious!

This recipe is included in the Italian cooking courses offered by Institute Galilei.