I have been struggling with the  Italian language for over 26 years now. At first I found nearly everything difficult to pronounce but now I have become quite good at most words. The great thing about Italian is that, if you know how to pronounce the letters, you can say the whole word – unlike in English! So, the way to go about reading a long and complicated Italian word is to go very slowly and enunciate each letter. Easy, isn’t it?

Recently I had a delightful visit from a couple of friends who live near Rome. I adore Romans as they do not mind so much when I forget to use double letters in a word. They are notorious for making the same mistake, so I can relax a bit. With Tuscans I sometimes get so uptight about doubles that I end up making it sound as if there are 3 or 4 of the tricky little things. Beer, for example, is birra. Easy, really easy, unless I am trying too hard and end up saying birrrra, which makes me seem like a drunken Scot or as if I have already imbibed too much!

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Guido and the Romans on the Roman Bridge in Loro Chiuffenna

As to place names, well it is harder to know how to pronounce most English village names unless you were born there. With Italian you just have to slow down and have a go.

So, one of my favourite places to visit and take my guests is Loro Chiuffenna. The ch in Italian is pronounced as a hard sound, like key. So our surname Parronchi is parronkey. However, if followed by an i it gets tricky again and is pronounced like ch in chips. Have I lost you yet?  Fortunately us locals cut the village name short by removing the River Chiuffenna and it is realy VERY easy to say Loro:)

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Beautiful Loro C

Another wonderful place, nestling in the Apennine mountains above Loro C, is the hamlet of Chiassaia – ready? A hard ch like key, ass as in you are an …, ai as in i and a final a!!!

Told you it was easy.

Anyway, once you find “the hamlet that should not be named”, you can relax and devour the best picnic ever. I have been going up there for lunch ever since I met Guido and he has been going there for over 50 years. I have photos from every summer taken up there with the children as they were growing up. I tried to find at least one photo as proof but they were evasive and all I ended up with were very grimy fingers and a new resolution to dust better.

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Latest of the Chiassais photos – the only one that wasn’t hiding!

However, the little bottega has not changed at all over the years. The tables seem like the same old uncomfortable ones and have certainly seen much better days.

Unchanged for at least 50 years – Chiassaia

The food cannot be faulted though. The sciacchiata bread (go on, have a go – you know the rules now!!) is made on site and the cheeses and cold meats are all local.

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Wash it all down with enough of the fantastic local wine or birrra and you will have no more problems pronouncing anything!