The search for sex in Italy: 6 Italian slang sayings.

The fantabulous bloggers of COSI’ come to you today, February 13th, in the spirit of amore, love, romance, dating and marriage in this crazy land of Latin Lovers and their starry-eyed expats. So, really, we mean sex.

Due to the popularity of my post on Valentine’s Day two years ago about the etymology of slang sayings associated with the fig fruit, I thought I’d touch on a few more language related discoveries I’ve made over the years. A couple of these might just help you through this weekend!

fare il pomodoro/prezzemolo

Let’s start with a classic, shall we? Think of “il pomodoro” or “il prezzemolo” like dance moves. To “do” (fare) the tomato (il pomodoro) or the parsley (il prezzemolo) is to exhibit one of the most stereotypically hilarious attributes of Italian men – shameless flirting with anyone and anything that moves, regardless of his own marital status or that of his victim. You all know that guy. We’ll call him Sergio. If there is a female within a 10 km radius, Sergio is ON IT, throwing that tomato and parsley in her direction as much as he can.

Why tomato and parsley? Well, clearly everything in Italy relates back to food.

People who don’t know how to cook just put tomato or parsley everywhere as filler. What the dish lacks in quality, it makes up for in quantity. Much like Sergio, and other men who fare il pomodoro, what they lack in appeal, they make up for in persistence.

dare il due di picche

More often then not, Sergio is met with the experienced cold shoulder of an Italian woman who knows quite well how to cook and prefers not to smother her dish with tomato. In these cases, she chooses to give (dare) him the Two of Spades (il due di picche). Yes, like from the card deck.

It’s the lowest of the cards, and receiving it is a blow to Sergio. It’s hard to bounce back from il due di picche, no matter how thick he lays it on.

in periodo carestia, ogni buco è una galleria

At this point, our hero in this adventure is pretty happy to get anything he can. Valentine’s Day is approaching and Sergio’s getting a bit hungry for love. That’s where this next little saying comes in, and it’s where we start to get a little more scandalous with our Italian. Don’t go repeating this one at the dinner table unless you want a pop on the head from your mamma.

In times of famine (in periodo carestia again with the food references, note), any hole is a tunnel (ogni buco è una galleria)I’ll leave the explanation of that to your own interpretation.

reggere il cero

For, you see, Sergio’s biggest fear is to end up as the third wheel, while his friend gets all the action instead.

In Italian, instead of referring to the “third wheel”, they refer to the one who has to hold (reggere) the candle (il cero)… a much more relevant scenario, if you ask me, than a “third wheel”, which instead sounds like he’s just interrupting a day of bicycling.

“andare in camporella”

Sergio’s ultimate goal in this journey of tomatoes, cards, tunnels, and candles, is … well… to get some… right? I mean, a man’s gotta eat.

Here in Emilia, the ultimate goal of all young men, Sergio included, is to use our region’s naturally provided blessings to their advantage. What do we have a lot of in Emilia?

Fields… lots and lots of fields…

Flat fields, hilly fields…

Sunny fields, snowy fields…

Foggy fields, stormy fields …

Fields above the fog, fields after the storm…

Fields in the Bassa, fields in the Appennines…

Fields with castles, fields with €30.000 chunks of Carrara marble in the shape of Parmigiano-Reggiano…

Fields covered in sissoand fields with Gypsy encampments on them….

You see, lots and lots of field options.

Admit it… you liked the photos. Click here to read more posts about Emilia. Then come visit!!

So, when Sergio finally get’s a willing participant, what do they do? They go (andare) to the fields (in camporella). It’s like going “parking” in the US. 

“salto della quaglia”

Ok, so now we are leaving the PG rated portion of today’s post, and we are entering a more … advanced … level of discussion. Ready? Don’t worry it’s not as bad as the fig slang.

If Sergio has done his homework correctly and chosen a field that doesn’t smell too badly, he may get lucky. If he’s really really prepared, he may have even brought a condom. But don’t count on it. More likely than not, Sergio is going to have to do a manoeuvre called “the jump (salto) of the quail (della quaglia)”. 

Any rural Emiliano worth his salt will tell you that a bird like a hawk or a falcon flies when it see you from far away. A quail, on the other hand, is so absorbed in it’s own activities, that it usually doesn’t take flight until a moment before you sneak up on it.

Right as you’re about to fire your gun, the quail manages to “pull out” of the situation and take flight.

Got it?


And so ends Sergio’s journey through Italian slang to find sex this lovely Valentine’s Day weekend. Ok!! So! What are some of your favorite amore-related Italian sayings?!

Remember to check out the other V-day posts on the theme of amore and love in Italy from my fellow COSI bloggers. If you’d like to join the conversation, use our hashtag #COSItaly to publicize it!

(links to be added as their posts are published):


If you liked this post and/or others. Please consider voting for me in the Italy Magazine Blogger Awards!


26 thoughts on “The search for sex in Italy: 6 Italian slang sayings.

  1. Excellent! I’ve been in Le Marche for almost a couple of years and hadn’t heard any of these! Good, imaginative little tutorial – thanks 🙂

    • Thanks Sue! I like to keep my readers apprised of the most useful bits of the Italian language you see… really take it to an elegant, classy level. 🙂

    • Hey, any time. Class is my middle name. I get it from Annie, surely 😉 … I do hope you’re the same Yvonne that would understand that comment.

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  3. “Dare il due di picche“ is hilarious, I’ve never heard that one! I like “fare il lumacone” – act like a giant slug, a.k.a. those slimy guys who just stick to you and won’t take no for an answer 😀

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  6. Love it, this is classic ‘Married to Italy’ gold. I think every Italian language course should have a section dedicated to slang, its the most fun part of the language and also puzzling when you are confronted with it as a foreigner living in Italy. Sei troppo fico!!!!

  7. Good post! Here in Roma we don’t say the first one, in fact I heard it few times and never referred to sexual/sentimental way but to the general attitude.
    About the third one in Roma we say “in tempo di guerra ogni buca è trincea” and have the same meaning.
    About the fourth one we say “reggere il moccolo” and of course have the same meaning; the origins of this way of saying is related to ancient times, in particular to when the wealthy couples gone to take a walk in the city during the evening with the help of a servant that makes light for them with a candle.
    I heard several times “fare il lumacone” but even “fare la gatta morta”, the last one is about a woman that try to seduce a man by acting like a insecure and weak person that need protection and affection, but in reality she is pretending.

    However very nice post!! Ciao!

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