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Happy Friday everyone!  I love Fridays where I have some language to listen to and share.

My guest today is Claudia Soria, who runs a facebook page and a blog about linguistic diversity, and is a native speaker of Standard Italian.  Claudia was born and raised in Pisa, which is in the Tuscany region of Italy.  When Italy was united as a nation, only 150 years ago, the Tuscan dialect was chosen as the official language of the country, so the language Claudia grew up speaking varies little from what we would call the “standard.”  But what we think of as Standard Italian actually co-exists with some 40 different languages, and Claudia is very concerned about the status of the 31 languages that UNESCO classifies as endangered.  “Unfortunately, Italy is lagging behind other states concerning protection of minority languages and encouragement towards multilingualism,” she says.

Map of the linguistic diversity of Italy

Claudia says that she loves her language, and especially loves “the subtle differences in meaning of verbs, nouns and adjectives. It pairs beautifully with the culture and beauty that are our national heritage.”  She adds, “Italian is spoken loud. I am not aware of scientific studies about this fact, but I am convinced that it’s more than perception. We don’t realize it as long as we are immersed in the Italian language, but if we happen to be in a multilingual context, Italian speakers stand out for being louder than other speakers, even when they whisper… This might also the reason why foreign speakers always add an exclamation mark when they mimic Italian: ‘Mamma mia!’, ‘Cappuccino!'”  (I also picture a lot of hand gesturing when saying these words too…is it just me?  Or is that something that Italians really do?)

The sample Claudia is sharing with us today is a description of an “amazing celebration taking place in Pisa every year, on the 16th of June,” called the Luminara.

La Luminara è una parte bellissima ed importante dei festeggiamenti per San Ranieri, e si svolge il 16 giugno, alla vigilia della festa del santo patrono. L’altra parte grande della festa è la Regata di San Ranieri che si svolge nel tardo pomeriggio nel giorno della festa vera e propria, il 17 giugno.
La tradizione di illuminare la città con le candele risale al 1688. In quell’anno, l’urna contenente le spoglie di San Ranieri fu collocata nella Cappella dell’Incoronata nella cattedrale, che ora è a lui dedicata. Cosimo III dei Medici voleva che l’urna antica che conteneva le spoglie del santo fosse sostituita con una urna più sontuosa e moderna. Il cambiamento fu l’occasione per la città di una festa memorabile e così secondo la tradizione è nata la Luminara,  o “illuminazione”. Da allora L’evento si svolge ogni anno, tranne qualche interruzione.
Oggi la celebrazione ha assunto una forma specifica: i dettagli architettonici dei palazzi, chiese, torri e ponti lungo l’Arno (finestre, cornicioni, balconi) sono ricreati con cornici in legno bianco. Questi telai sono montati sulle facciate degli edifici e supportano delle candele, che vengono accese dopo il tramonto. Oltre 70.000 “lumini” (come le candele vengono chiamati in lingua italiana quando sono all’interno di un contenitore di vetro, in questo caso) bruciano e riflettono la loro luce sul fiume. Alcune candele sono messe a galleggiare sulle acque dell’Arno. Tutta la città intorno al lungarno semplicemente risplende e si trasforma in un ambiente da fiaba.

English translation:
An important part of the festivities for San Ranieri in Pisa is the beautiful Luminara which takes place on the evening of June 16, the eve of the patron saint’s feast day. The other big part of the celebration is the Regatta of San Ranieri which takes place in the late afternoon on the actual feast day, the 17th of June.

The tradition of lighting the city with candles dates back to 1688. In that year, the urn containing the remains of Saint Ranieri was placed in the Cappella dell’Incoronata in the cathedral, which is now dedicated to him. Cosimo III of the Medici wanted the antique urn that contained the saint’s remains to be substituted with a more sumptuous and modern urn. The change was occassion for a memorable city feast and according to tradition, the Luminara, or “illumination” as it was called back then, was born. The event has been held every year since then except for a few interruptions.
Today the celebration has taken a specific form: the architectural details of the palaces, churches, towers and bridges along the Arno (windows, cornices, balconies) are recreated with white wooden frames. These frames are fitted onto the buildings and on these frames candles are attached and lit after sunset. Over 70,000 “lumini” (how candles are called in Italian when they are inside a container, glass in this case) burn and reflect on the river. Some candles are also floated on the waters of the Arno. The city along the lungarno simply glows and transforms into a phantasmagoric fairy-tale setting.

Oh, I really hope I get to go to Pisa to see this some day.  Thank you, Claudia, for sharing a bit of your beautiful language and your beautiful country with us!