For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Insabbiare’

It's up to you to get to the bottom of the meaning of this word...

Italian word of the day insabbiare
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you have a basic knowledge of Italian vocabulary, you might see a word you recognise in insabbiare: sabbia, or sand.

So if you’re thinking that’s connected to the meaning of today’s word, you’d be right: insabbiare is verb literally meaning to bury something in sand, or to run aground or get stuck in it.

You might insabbiare a large pipe for aesthetic purposes, a plastic spade at the beach, or even (hopefully partially and temporarily) a person.

I bambini si sono divertiti a insabbiare il loro zio fino al collo.
The children had fun burying their uncle up to his neck.

Hanno insabbiato il condotto fognario che sbocca sulla spiaggia.
They covered up the sewage pipe that opens out onto the beach.

Il pesce pietra si insabbia per nascondersi dalla preda.
The stonefish covers itself in sand to hide itself from prey.

Funny Hide GIF - Funny Hide Meme GIFs

Or you can use the verb in the intransitive (no sentence object) pronominal (needing a reflexive pronoun) form to describe, for example, a boat or a car getting stuck in sand, or a pier silting up.

Passando di là la nostra macchina quasi sicuramente si sarebbe insabbiata.
Going that way our car would almost certainly have got stuck.

La barca si è insabbiata a 200 metri dalla riva.
The boat ran aground 200 metres from the shore.

Il porto in basso fondale è diventato inagibile perché si è insabbiato.
The shallow-water port became unusable because it got silted up.

Insabbiare, however, also has darker, metaphorical meaning: to cover up, suppress or bury the truth.

Il governo ha approfittato dell’attenzione mediatica data al crollo del ponte per insabbiare le notizie riguardanti l’aumento delle tasse.
The government exploited the media attention given to the bridge collapse to bury the news about raising taxes.

Il magnate ha fatto pressione ai giornali affinché insabbiassero la storia.
The business tycoon put pressure on the newspapers to sink the story.

Hanno usato la relazione per insabbiare tutte le sue malefatte.
They’ve used the report to cover up all the bad stuff he’s done.

A newspaper headline reads: 'I never covered up the WHO study, says (the organisation's deputy director) Ranieri Guerra

A newspaper headline reads: ‘I never covered up the WHO study, says (the organisation’s deputy director) Ranieri Guerra’

In the same vein, it can also mean to shelve (a bill, policy, trial, etc.).

Hanno insabbiato la proposta di legge per motivi non molto chiari.
They shelved the draft law for reasons that aren’t quite clear.

And as you might guess, the noun insabbiamento means a cover up.

Vuole svelare l’insabbiamento tanto quanto te.
She wants to expose this cover up just as much as you do.

Forse non capite la portata di questo insabbiamento.
Perhaps you don’t understand the scale of this cover up.

Next time you stumble across a high-level conspiracy, you’ll know just how to describe it.

Do you have an Italian phrase you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Gita fuori porta’

No Italian summer would be complete without this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Gita fuori porta'

As far as Italian summer traditions go, there’s only one thing more quintessentially Italian than the ‘pennica, the post-lunch nap which people from all corners of the country seem to effortlessly slip into with flawless poise and clockwork timing. That one thing is the ‘gita fuori porta’.

You might have already heard the expression on a couple of occasions, but don’t worry if you haven’t. Now that Ferragosto, Italy’s most deeply felt summer holiday, is only a few days away, listen out for it in your next conversation with Italians.

READ ALSO: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

So before we get into the ins and outs of how the ‘gita fuori porta’ works, what exactly does this phrase mean?

At first glance, the most logical translation might appear to be something like ‘a trip out of the door’. But the word ‘porta’ here has nothing to do with front doors (or houses, for that matter) as it refers instead to a city’s main entry gate.

To this day, the boundaries of most Italian towns are marked by ancient protective walls, generally dating back to Roman or medieval times. Though these walls no longer serve their original purpose, in many cases a town or city centre is still accessed via a number of gates, or ‘porte’.

So, a ‘gita fuori porta’ is a particularly Italian way of describing a trip out of town, whether that be to the seaside, in the countryside or in the mountains. 

Ti va di fare una gita fuori porta questo weekend?

Non troppo, tesoro. Fa troppo caldo.

Do you fancy a trip out of town this weekend?

Not really, honey. It’s too hot.

Marco e Maria stanno organizzando una gita fuori porta. Cosa ne pensi di unirti a loro?

Va bene, a patto che lo scegliamo noi il ristorante questa volta.

Marco and Maria are organising a trip out of town. What do you say we join them?

Okay, as long as we pick the restaurant this time around.

But what’s so special about a trip out of town done the Italian way?

Regardless of whether it’s a family trip or a trip with friends, the gita has a precise set of features that all Italians seem to be aware of from a very young age, almost as though  information on how to execute the proper gita came embedded in their own genetic setup.

Firstly, a gita is intended as a day trip, leaving no later than 10am and returning home by dinner time. Secondly, the journey to the chosen destination is always of short or medium length (i.e. rarely longer than two or two and half hours) and is made by car or motorcycle.  

Last but not least, the gita is always a hugely important social event and the smooth unfolding of the trip is seen as vitally important. As such, a number of rituals precede the days and hours before the momentous getaway.

These include: anxiously looking at weather forecasts and updates starting from over a week before the trip; concocting detailed back-up plans “just in case the weather experts get it wrong”; and finally, meticulously reading the reviews of any bar, restaurant or trattoria in a 50-kilometre radius of the chosen destination.

So, should you be tempted to join a trip all’italiana (Italian-style), make sure you do all of the above.

You might also hear the term ‘scampagnata’ used instead of ‘gita fuori porta’. 

Though the term may suggest otherwise – ‘campagna’ means countryside in Italian – ‘scampagnata’ has exactly the same meaning as ‘gita fuori porta’, thus referring to all possible sorts of day trip, not just those to the countryside.

Faremo una scampagnata ad Asolo per Ferragosto.

Ah, bello. Merita veramente una visita.

We’ll be in Asolo for Ferragosto.

Oh, nice. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.