Italian Word of the Week: Aquilone

This week, Italy celebrated La Festa della Liberazione on April 25, which celebrates the country’s liberation from fascism thanks to Allied troops at the end of World War II.

On Twitter, I saw via @ABrushWithItaly (artist Penny Ewles-Bergeron) that Naples was planning to do something special for the celebration — flying a bunch of kites. Penny kindly directed me to Bonnie Alberts’ Napoli Unplugged, which has an excellent recap of the events in Naples; you can see one of Bonnie’s gorgeous kite photos at the top of this post.

OK, so “kite” is probably not a word you’ll use a lot in Italy (assuming you also don’t use it all that frequently in English), but it is a fun word to say — and you will impress people if you *are* able to pull it out in the right situation, so why not? It’s the Italian Word of the Week!




Yes, this is the kite that you fly in the sky.

You may have heard of the city of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, particularly after it suffered a devastating earthquake in 2009. The city takes its name from the word for eagle, aquila, so you can see how un aquilone has a lot in common with un aquila — both soar through the air with the greatest of ease. Or something like that.

In English we also have birds called kites — large, soaring raptors that indeed look like eagles to many of us not particularly schooled in featured creatures:

kite / nibbio

In Italian, however, a kite of the animate variety is called un nibbio, so if you happen to see one of these flying overhead, please don’t call out, “Oooh, un aquilone!” You’ll get very strange looks (even though, in my humble opinion, your logic would be sound).

And finally, if you want to tell someone to “go fly a kite” (as in, go away)?

Well that’s “va’ a quel paese,” which is the much more polite way to say something I bet most of you have heard–vaffanculo. I’ve always thought of “va’ a quel paese” as a rather poetic way to tell someone to “go to hell” — in which hell is indeed another country (paese), but that’s neither here nor there. Ha!

Still, it’s not a very nice thing to say, so do refrain yourself from telling anyone to go anywhere out of anger or frustration.

Maybe you should take up kite-flying instead. You know, like they do in Naples.

Until next time!
Alla prossima!

*Top image source: (top) Bonnie Alberts of Napoli Unplugged (with photographer’s permission)
*Second image source: Red Kite by Tony Hisgett on Flickr (CC license)

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