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A Pronunciation Guide
Nancy Gallt -- 3/6/00
If you know how to pronounce lasagne, spaghetti and gnocchi, you're halfway there, but here are a few rules:
Italian is fairly phonetic except for ch, which is pronounced like k, and ci and ce, which are pronounced as if they were chi and che. Same with gi and ge, which sound like ji and je. As an English speaker, just pronounce it the opposite way your brain tells you to.
Italians tend to accent the penultimate syllable and then buy a vowel. This makes even words derived from the English, like "telephone," sound incomprehensible: "te LEF! oh no."
In the weeks before Bologna, watch RAI-UNO on cable TV and let the vowels wash over you. Picture the announcer answering your question, Dov'e il cabinetto? Or questo l'autobus per il centro?
Memorize the sentence, Parla inglese? Trust me, it's good practice.
And bear in mind: Italians are very polite. Sprinkle your requests with prego, scusi, per favore and grazie and you will be too.
RESTAURANTS: A prenotazione (reservation) is recommended, especially if there are more than in your party and you don't know where the restaurant is. The concierge at your hotel will make a reservation for you, unless you're staying at the Palace, in which case they'll hand you a gettone and a Pagini Gialli.
Bollito misto, tortellini and ragÙ’ Bolognese are specialties of the region, which is tough luck for vegetariani. The only restaurant where they will not try to forcefeed you meat is Cambusa, where they will smother you with shellfish.
The bill is called il conto. The vegetable course is called i contorni. Do not confuse them, unless you want your asparagi as a digestivo.
It is recommended that you ask the maitre'd to call you a cab right after the aperitivo, unless you prefer to linger, and linger, over your doppio decafeinato espresso.
SHOPPING: You can ask for prices by pointing at something and saying "Quanta costa?" but unless you've mastered the number system, duodeci mille lire is not going to mean a lot. Just hand over your credit card.
And remember, although all the extra zeros can be mystifying, a milione of anything, even lire, is a lot of money.
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