i nostri siti | our sites:
Parola del Giorno | ILGUR | Italy in Literature

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last Post for 2010 and Recap

Ciao a tutti!  I hope that 2010 has been a great year for all of you who read this blog and use (or at least try to use) some of the sites and resources that I mention.  While this blog is the least trafficked and visited of any of the blogs that I maintain, I still enjoy updating this site when I can and help you to find excellent resources that are not only educational but entertaining, too!

I know how hard to it is when you're first learning Italian to find resources that aren't too difficult to use, but keep plugging away at your listening skills.  You will be surprised at how much better they become the more you practice.  For the more advanced speakers and listeners, always try to find time in your day for a little Italian listening to keep your ear used to the language and its pace.

I'll be back in 2011 with more interesting sites to review and profile as well as some new ideas for learning Italian.  Below is a list of some of my favorite tools, apps, and sites for learning Italian that I profiled in 2010! I hope that you will continue your Italian language learning odyssey in year(s) to come!

Enjoy and Buone Feste a tutti!
  1. I have to say, hands down, that my favorite discovery in 2010 has been Podcaster!  This is an app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad that allows users to download and store podcasts on their phone without having to sync up to Itunes.  It's a great app for your phone or iPod and is very versatile because it allows you to pull together dozens of podcasts into one location.  So if you like sports, news, current events, or history, there are tons of podcasts that you could pull into the app and listen to at your leisure.  The app is easy to use, and the developer is very responsive to feedback, too!  Recent updates allow users to download podcasts in the background as well as put the app "to sleep" (especially useful if you enjoy listening to podcasts at bedtime like me!)
  2. is another one of my favorite sites that is always doing something new.  They have a series of podcasts and a learning center for all levels as well as podcast courses for intermediate and advanced levels, too.  I love this site for beginners because they have a course for those of you who may want to learn Italian but do not know where to begin.  Pay them a visit, download their podcasts, and subscribe to their learning center!  You will not be disappointed!
  3. is a superb site geared to intermediate/advanced learners.  It is so hard to find materials for intermediate and advanced users.  Subscribe to their audio newsletter which comes with a pdf transcript that you can follow along as well as exercises and helpful vocabulary.  This is a very well developed online product that is a must for your Italian language learning arsenal!  They also have free short podcasts that you can download as well.
  4. L'Italiano in Famiglia is an online course developed by the "Ufficio Scolastico Provinciale di Brescia" and has been specifically developed for those who seek to learn Italian as their second language or for those who do not have access to Italian courses in their area.  This features videos that profile a family, following them around as they do and take part in various activities.  What I like is that no only is there an audio component, but there's a visual one, too!  Seeing and hearing together can most often aid in understanding or at least help to provide a context to the situation -- this can make learning new words and expressions much easier.  While the dialogs and acting can be a bit "odd" at times, it is a well done course with accompanying materials.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Screenshot of ziePOD on my Desktop
While not strictly an "Italian resource," I always like to identify programs and applications that can be helpful in aggregating your podcasts.  One such program is called ziePod (  This easy to use resource is a great way to organize your podcasts -- it downloads them automatically if you want or you can set it up so that it alerts you to new podcasts.  Don't want to clutter your PC with podcast files?  You can also stream them and listen to them on your laptop, desktop or netbook!

I have a small netbook as my primary PC, and this little program doesn't use a lot of resources nor does it slow down my computer.  Another nifty feature -- the program is "smart" in that all you have to do is copy the podcast feed address, and when you go to activate the subscription, it grabs the feed "automatically" from the clipboard.

ziePOD also has support for Ipods, too.

Remember how important it is to practice not only your Italian grammar (conjugating verbs, using pronouns, etc.) but also your listening comprehension!  A great thing about ziePOD is that it provides a summary of the podcast (when provided by the person/people who produced the podcast) and displays it prominently (unlike iTunes which makes it more complicated to read/find).  Reading the summary first can provide with valuable context clues about what you will be listening to and make understanding new words easier.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Short videos for short attention spans

Ciao a tutti!

I want to use this post to put you onto the idea of learning with short videos. Today, while I was on my break at work, I listened to some short videos about nutrition. These informative videos not only were interesting and full of great information, but they were also short enough so that I could watch them in the small amount of time I had.

A comment that I hear a lot from people is that videos and podcasts are just too long.  How many of us have an hour or two a day to just sit and listen, especially when the listening requires so much concentration.  Attention spans are shorter now for a variety of reasons, many of them no fault of our own.  So what better way to practice your Italian than with these short five minute videos from Corriere TV.

I think one of the most difficult parts of learning Italian is listening comprehension, especially when you want to comprehend what is being said at native level speeds.  I think it's important to remember that people you meet in shops, on the streets, etc. won't necessarily take it down a notch, especially if they are pressed for time.  In other words, these short films are just long enough to capture our attentions while helping us improve our listening at the same time.

As always, do not be discouraged by words that you don't know -- with the videos, you also have visual clues, too.  Make use of all your senses as you practice your listening comprehension -- context really helps!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There's no better way to learn Italian than when you do it with food, and good at that!  Check out this site which features tons of videos (all in Italian) about Italian cooking, wine, and food preparation.  There are also videos about specific Italian regional cuisines as well as videos about non-Italian dishes and more.  Many of the videos appear to be done in the kitchens of restaurants in various regions of Italy, and it's interesting to listen to the different Italian accents in the videos.  That is also something that is difficult to practice.

I think that many of the video recipes are pretty easy to follow even if you don't know any Italian.  Or if you get stumped and do not know what something means, just watch the person as they cook, and it should be easy enough to deduce what they are doing.

Lately, I've been a bit obsessed with "la cucina pugliese" so I've embedded a video that shows you how to make a typical Puglian dish! Buon appetito!

(just hover over the video and click on the "play" button to watch)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Screenshot of the Iphone app
Doing a program about technology and technology trends is difficult to produce and maintain because it is an environment that is constantly changing.  There have been many programs that have come and gone over the past few years, but this program has lasted and is well produced.  Digitalia is a project that was realized by Franco Solerio, with the help of Carlo Becchi and Massimo De Santo, that focuses on technology and those who love learning about and using technology.  What I enjoy most about the show is that it is not just a dry summation of the technology out there:  the show also explores how technology impacts and affects our everyday lives which makes the program more appealing.

This program is one of the most popular Italian podcasts and has been one of the Itunes/Apple staff favorites for months.  The show has built up quite a following of listeners who call themselves digitaliani.  This community not only supports the program financially but also in a participatory fashion using Twitter (#digitalia), where users discuss, debate and share their opinions and feedback on the various puntate.

New episodes are live every Tuesday evening from 9:30pm to 11:00pm (Italian time) with the podcast following soon after -- so if you can't catch the live show, you can download the podcast of the show at your leisure.  On the web site, there are always links to topics discussed in the podcasts as well as links to emerging technology and gadgets that might be of interest to you.

The sound quality of the podcast is excellent, and it is a great way to improve your Italian listening skills, learn new words related to technology as well as learn about trends in the world of technology and the web.

Apps for both iOS and Android operating systems are also available so that you can listen to Digitalia on the go -- you can find the links to the apps below.  I can't speak for the Android app, but the iPhone app works great (and is free!), and I always enjoy listening to their podcasts while I work:

Their RSS feed:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finestre Sull'Arte -- The First Italian Podcast For Art History

One of the things that has made Italy famous over the centuries has been its art, and it would be difficult to find a person who does not know about Michelangelo or the Sistine Chapel or even the Renaissance.

The art of Italy spans centuries: from the Etruscans, Greeks, Ancient Romans, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque...the list goes on and on.  Now you can learn about the various artists and their production from this podcast, Finestre Sull'Arte: il primo podcast per la storia dell'arte.

Currently, there are currently about thirty-nine podcasts, and each podcasts talks about a different Italian artist, some of their most important works as well as other historical information about them.  These podcasts are very informative, entertaining and thought-provoking.  If you're a student of art history, these podcasts can certainly help you improve your art related vocabulary.  Accompanying many of the podcasts are shorts essays/notes (le note) which discuss the artists in greater detail. Reading the nota before you listen can also aid in your understanding in the podcast, especially if listening is still difficult for you.

If you click on the podcast, there are often links to images of the works discussed in the podcasts, and this can be helpful to view as you listen along with the commentary.  There are also links to books on the artists profiled as well as information on exhibitions or places where these works can be seen (NB: a lot of  Italian art resides not in museums but in situ, such as churches, basilicas, cathedrals, chapels, palazzi, or even outdoors in piazzas).

There is also a newsletter, too, which you can subscribe to on their web site.

In 2009, their site/podcasts received second place in the category of "eCulture and Heritage" at the 2009 eContent Award Italy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Radio24 on your Ipod Touch/Iphone

In June, Radio24 released an Ipod Touch/Iphone App for listening to their radio station. If you like to listen to Italian radio "on-the-go" like I do, then you'll probably find this app useful. Some people prefer radio apps where you can listen to more than just one radio station, and, sure, I can get that. But you can't go wrong when the app is free!

I listen to a lot of podcasts at work, but doing so through my computer is problematic, especially when so much of the resources on my computer at work are needed for work-related tasks. With this app, you just turn it on and listen.

Great points about this app:
  1. It's easy to use (see below, because it's also one of the downsides).
  2. It has never crashed on me.
  3. It has volume controls in the app.
  4. If you click the link to their homepage, it launches Safari.
Downsides to this app:
  1. Features? Yes, there are none (unless you count the in app volume controls).
  2. The app doesn't multi-task -- if you leave the app, it stops playing.
  3. You can't view the schedule (palinsesto) within the app.
  4. No access to their podcasts.
I still like the app, I'm just saying...

I do hope that they provide some more functionality in the future. If you're looking for a simple app that provides quality programming and need something to listen to that you don't have to fidget with while you're listening (like when you're at the gym, at work or driving), this is a great app.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Radio24 and L'Altra Europa

I know it's been a while since I updated, but I have some new listening resources that I want to talk about so look for some new posts in the coming weeks!

Many radio programs in Italy take the summer off -- some end in June or July while others stop for Ferragosto. But this program continued through much of August, and it was a fun program to listen to while I traveled around for my own summer vacations.

The program in question is called L'Altra Europa which is produced by Radio24. Radio24 is one of my favorite radio station because a majority of the programs are talk so not only do you get a lot of listening practice you also have the opportunity to learn about what is going on in Italy from a source of news that I would consider to be very balanced.

L'Altra Europa is a program that is hosted by Federico Taddia (he's also co-authored several books, you can see them here) that focuses on what's going on in Europe in the sphere of politics, culture and economics. Recently, Taddia interviewed the author, Claudia Cucchiarato, about her book (I'll be reviewing it on my blog, Italy in Literature, very soon!) on the new wave of Italian emigration. There have also been interviews with Italians living in and around Europe, most recently in Russia, to talk about the fires and heat wave.

The show discusses not only larger issues (such as the deportation of gypsies in France) but also smaller local ones (such as a local Serbian music festival), as well as highlighting and promoting all aspects of European culture. It's a fun show to listen to because of the wide range of guests and the variety of topics discussed.

If you like learning about Europe and European issues, you'll certainly enjoy listening to this show.

Listen to it online or as a podcast!

Friday, June 25, 2010

RAI Radio App for Ipod Touch/Iphone

It's about time that RAI finally came up with an app for their radio content!

I found it in the App Store last night while I was winding down from my long day. The app works pretty well for the most part, and you can listen live to many of RAI's stations (although, I find that live listening works better on ooTunes). The great thing about this app is that is keys you into all the podcasts, allowing you to listen to many of the podcasts on RAI 1, 2 or 3. I'm really impressed with the app (although there is room for improvement!).

Listening to the radio, while it's challenging and difficult for many, is a great way to learn new words and to practice your listening comprehension. The fast pace of speaking takes time to understand, but the more that you practice listening, the better you will be at it.

If you're interested in downloading the app (it's free, by the way), click here.

RAI's smartphone page is here ("Tutta la radio in tasca!").

I wrote a short review of the app on Appolicious -- you can read that by clicking here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Learning about history and improving your Italian with historycast

historycast is a cool podcast that explores various topics in history, from the Black Plague to the Etruscans to the injustices committed against Sacco and Vanzetti. The podcasts are beautifully and expertly done, and you are not only bound to improve your Italian but learn about historical topics on Italy as well as around the world. Some of the best podcasts are those that not only teach you new words and helps with your listening comprehension but also helps you to learn about history all at the same time. Read about them "Presentazione" to learn what they are all about -- it shows you the quality of the podcast that they have put together!

They have a popular blog, too, and the podcasts can be downloaded from their web site, via RSS feed or through the Itunes store. Simply search for "historycast" in the Itunes store to download their history lessons for free!

Check out their active and popular Facebook group, too!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ad alta voce

One of my favorite Italian programs is Ad Alta Voce, a radio program on Rai Radio 3 in which you can listen to some of great works of literature read aloud. Recently, I found a recording of Leonardo Sciascia's Il giorno della civetta, and I was able to listen to the book and read it while it was being read to me. Listening while reading is a great way to hone your listening skills while at the same time enjoying some of the many jewels of Italian literature.

There are dozens of others titles, too, and you can listen to them directly from the web page for Ad Alta Voce (this link has the complete listing) or via (I find that works best in IE, but that's just my own opinion/experience). If reading and listening to Italian literature is daunting, there are several titles that are translated from English into Italian that might help to provide some context to what you are reading. It shouldn't be too difficult to decipher which of the titles are English ones.

Below is a partial list of some Italian classics that are my favorites -- I find listening with the book makes for a better experience. I've linked the titles of the books to the Internet Bookshop Italia:

Il deserto della Libia
Il cavaliere inesistente
Le sorelle Materassi
L'isola di Arturo
La luna e i falò
Una storia semplice
Il giorno della civetta
Diceria dell'untore
Il giornalino di Giamburrasca
Amore e ginnastica
Il barone rampante
Il giardino dei Finzi Contini
Il mare non bagna Napoli

Monday, May 24, 2010

Repubblica Domani

A comment that I hear often from readers of my blog is that it is difficult for them to listen to a sixty-minute podcast or to watch 45-60 minutes of Italian television. I "feel" their pain -- it's difficult to find the time in the day. It can also be frustrating to listen to something and not understand much and become easily discouraged.

And I present to you Repubblica Domani. This is a short video that is done by the staff of La Repubblica which is a meeting between various correspondents, reporters and journalists that run the newsroom. They do their best to go over the main important news points of the day, covering not only events happening outside Italy but also domestic news, political affairs, the economy, sport and culture. The program is on the short side and varies between 5 to 10 minutes. At the start of each video, there's a summary of what will be discussed with photos so it helps to give you some context of what you will be hearing.

La Repubblica is also one of the few "independent" news outlets in Italy which generally does a good job providing balanced and fair coverage.

Below I've embedded the episode from Monday, May 24, 2010. To see the latest episode as well as the current list of episodes, click here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

L'Italiano in famiglia

L'Italiano in famiglia

Today, I learned about this Italian resource from the blog, The Smiling Eggplant -- a TV show centered around a family living in Brescia that helps you to learn Italian. It is called "L'Italiano in famiglia," and it follows the daily life of the Frappani family. It was designed to help Italians living in South Africa retain their Italian and most probably was designed for young children or young adults who might lose some of their language skills living in a country where Italian is not the official language.

I listened and watched the latest episode and was pleasantly surprised and impressed. After watching the video, there are exercises, grammar explanations, a listing of some important vocabulary in which you can click the pictures and hear them pronounced (again), games to play to practice the language, as well as a recap of lessons learned from the two teachers, Manuel and Patrizia, which not only will help you learn new words and understand the language better but also understand the key points of the episode watched.

You can also download the episodes as podcasts as well as get a print out of the dialogue.

One of the things that I like most about the site is how well it works. It's a Flash driven site that has pop-ups which contain pdf's and games and other useful tools. Currently, there are 20 episodes! Hopefully, they will be producing more of them!

My own criticism is that sometimes the dialog seemed odd and a bit forced, but if you can get past that little bit of "corniness" of the dialog, it really can be useful in improving your listening comprehension. The actors speak at a fairly slow pace by Italian standards, and even I thought that they spoke slower than normal.

If you use the program, leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Emons Audiolibri

In a previous post, I wrote how useful audiobooks can be for learning Italian because, if you have the book handy, you can follow along with the book while you listen to the person reading it to you. This is a great way to hear the language while reading along and allows you to hear the correct pronunciation of the words while at the same time enjoying some great literature. You can also easily re-listen to sections that you miss or even practice listening without the book. There are many ways that these books can be helpful in improving your listening and listening comprehension.

Today, I stumbled across Emons Audiolibri, an audiobook publisher in Italy. You can purchase their audiobooks online through Internet Bookshop Italia or through select bookstores that they have listed on their web site. If you're curious to hear the quality, you can listen to short excerpts of various books on their web site. I listened to a dozen selections and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and the fact that many of the authors who wrote the books (at least the more contemporary and recently published ones) read their own books. And I think that that can be an experience itself.

If you're worried about understanding or enjoying it because of your level of Italian, they also have a section for Children's/Young Adults, too. They also read Italian translation of some English classics as well as some Italian children's books. You can find out more about this from their web site.

If you want to learn more about them, check out their YouTube page that shows some of the "Behind the Scenes" action that goes on in producing the book along with interviews with some of the readers/authors.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Laterza's Podcasts on Italian history and more

If you enjoy history as much as I do or are simply looking for some podcasts in Italian that involve more than just learning grammar, then check out the podcast page from the Italian publishing house, Laterza. They have a wide variety of podcasts about Italian history with many podcasts about the history of Rome, all of which are given by important Italian scholars. The lessons can also be found on Itunes, too.

One of my favorite lessons is on the Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero! With all the different subjects and focuses, you're bound to find something that you like. If ancient Roman history doesn't appeal to you, there are also lessons on more modern topics.

The podcasts are about an hour, some longer, some shorter, and they probably require a fair bit of Italian comprehension to understand them. I advise listening to them in short parts, perhaps 10 minutes at a time and doing your best to understand the gist of what is being said. Try to understand what is being said and do not translate what you're hearing word for word. Focus on understanding, not on translating! If you hear a word you don't know, try writing it down and looking it up later. Stopping and starting the recording to find words will take the fun out of listening.

They also have a range of audiobooks, but they don't allow American customers to purchase at this time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aldo Moro

Aldo Moro was an important Italian politician who was kidnapped on the 16th of March in 1976 and held for 55 days before his body was recovered, having been apparently kidnapped and executed by the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades), a violent anarchist group bent on bringing down the Italian government. Mystery and suspicion still surround the death and kidnapping of Aldo Moro, one of Italy's most successful and popular prime ministers.

If you want to practice your Italian and learn something about this dark time in Italy history, then head to Rai and watch the program, Aldo Moro: Il Mistero -- a series of eight episodes about not only Moro but the people involved in his kidnapping, the aftermath, things that took place before and much more. While this definitely requires being able to listen and understand Italian at an intermediate or high level, with a little patience, you can probably learn a lot from these videos. I find them highly informative, and I think that it's important to learn about Italy's difficult and often complex postwar history.

Moro's kidnapping and subsequent execution is one of those stories that delights conspiracy enthusiasts. Even today there is some doubt as to who kidnapped and murdered him and why, but watching these videos will certainly give you a good grounding in the events that took place over a quarter of a century ago.

image credit: According to Wikipedia, image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Sorry to beat to death the topic of the Ipod Touch and Iphones -- I know that they are not the "be all and end all" of mobile devices, but I know that a lot of people have them so it's why the focus is on that (also, I have an Ipod Touch). So, if you know of other mobile devices that use some cool apps that you think might be useful for improving and learning Italian, let me know so that we can let others know.

With that being said...

I want to bring everyone's attention to one of my favorite apps, ooTunes. ooTunes is a great app that contain over 15,000 radio stations from all over the world. The great thing about this app is that it's reliable, and it works! So many apps in the Itunes store have disappointed, at least in the area of transmitting Italian radio station reliably. You know much of a fan I am of practicing your listening and listening comprehensions skills in Italian. Radio is a great way to do this for many reasons, the most important being is that the Italian spoken will introduce you to a lot of words and expressions as well as get you used to hearing how Italian sounds outside the classroom. Using apps like ooTunes is a great way to connect with Italian content that is current and contemporary.

In a classroom setting, the Italian spoken is not often spontaneous. Listening to the radio with ooTunes (or your favorite radio/listening app) can help your ear process Italian as you might encounter it on the street or while meeting with friends. It's real, it's live, and it's a great way to train yourself. Remember, the point is not to translate every word that is being said but to understand what is being said. It's okay that you don't know every word or every other word. As you listen, pick out the words and phrases you know, and you will see over time that as you practice listening, the words you already know will register immediately allowing you to focus on the words you don't know which will help you understand what is being said. The best part is that there are radio programs and stations for all tastes, from sports to politics to cooking and current events.

ooTunes has a huge list of Italian radio stations! The Rai family of stations, Radio 24, Radio Italia and a host of others are listed, and I'm sure that you'll find many more that you weren't even aware of. You can also search and sort geographically, too, which helps in sorting through the stations. If you enjoy radio, then you can even listen to stations in your home country and around the world, too! There's also a great "buffer bar" that shows you the strength of the connection, and how well the signal is buffering. You can also save your favorite stations, use the app as an alarm clock, record your steam for playback later and a host of other options.

If you see a station that is not listed, send them an email and let them know. They have great customer service and respond pretty quickly to questions.

At only $4.99, you can't really go wrong with this app!

All opinions expressed in this post and about this app are my own.
I was not paid or compensated for my opinions by any party.
Any and all views and opinions that are expressed are my own and
are based on my own experiences.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Improve Your Italian With "Stitcher"

The past two weeks, I've been on vacation, so I've had a lot of free time on my hands to surf the net and fiddle with my Ipod Touch. The other day I looked at it and realized that I didn't have many applications on it - since I use it basically for checking email and listening to music and podcasts. While browsing through the App Store on Itunes, I stumbled across "Stitcher".

I was immediately intrigued and struck by usefulness and potential of the application. I became even more excited about the app when I saw that they also had a desktop version that you can play straight through your browser that syncs up with your app, so as you favorite items in the app, they appear in the desktop browser version, and vice versa.

If you're a frequent reader to my blog(s), you know how much I rate podcasts in learning Italian. For many of us who don't have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Italy, podcasts can be the next best thing. While at work, doing household chores, shopping, driving around in you car, heading to work in the morning...there's always time to listen to a podcast or two, and listening to the language is important in understanding other, making yourself understood, understanding the grammar and building your vocabulary.

So what does Stitcher do? Stitcher is a very clever podcast aggregator. String together a dozen or so of your favorite podcasts, and you've got yourself you're very own custom made radio station. Each day, the content is refreshed so you don't have to remember to download anything -- it's always "on", either using your Ipod Touch, Iphone, Computer or other portable device (they support many others). As the FAQ on Stitcher says:
Stitcher is your source for portable and personalized news and talk internet radio. From business to tech news, from politics to comedy, we “stitch” the content you want into personalized, always-current stations that you can easily listen to on your iPhone or computer. Each day, the latest segments stream to you automatically, without you having to manually refresh anything. Stitcher lets you hear your world anywhere, anytime, on the go.
I searched for about a dozen podcasts and found all but one that I regularly listen to. I sent them an email and asked them to add it, and the next afternoon, they emailed me back and told me that it was now there! Wow!

One drawback that I haven't been able to work around is for podcasts that update more than once per day, for example Repubblica TV Audio Podcast -- the only podcast that ever displays is the Newsroom podcast. Perhaps they will address this in future updates. Apart from that, I think that it has exciting possibilities, and it's a great way to keep current with Italian news and programs but also with your language listening skills.