47: Colorful Italian Expressions: The Color White

by | Mar 12, 2021 | Podcast | 0 comments

Andare in bianco | To go white

    This is a false friend, since in English someone who ‘goes white’ is scared of something. In Italian however, it means to fail at something romantic or sexual. Its thought to come from the tradition of hanging the white sheets out the window after the first wedding night, where they would be stained with blood if the marriage was consummated. If they were white though, then the couple, “went in the white” meaning they did not consummate their marriage. Today you can say, “sono andato o sono andata in bianco” to mean you struck out at something romantic.

    Mangiare in bianco | To eat in white

    If you overdid it on the wine and food in Italy and you aren’t feeling great in the digestive area, you will likely be told to “eat in white” , which means sticking to starchy foods such as pasta, bread and rice – but no sauces, or other things allowed until your pain passes. The idea is that such plain foods are easiest for the body to digest, meaning no aggravation for an already upset stomach. You could say, Oggi mangio in bianco – ho un mal di pancia. Today I’m eating bland food, I have a stomach ache.

    Notte in bianco | A sleepless night

    This expression is used to refer to a sleepless night. the expression derives from a medieval ceremony, when prospective knights had to undertake a solemn swearing-in. Before the ceremony in which they were given their weapons, they were expected to spend an entire night fasting and praying in a chapel, in order to reflect on their new responsibilities. The knights wore white as a symbol of purity before taking on the new way of life. So their sleepless night became their “white night.” You can say “ho passato una notte in bianco” I was up all night. 

    Una mosca bianca | A white fly

    A ‘white fly’ is a metaphor meaning that something is rare or unusual. It can be used in either a positive or negative sense – a misfit, or something that stands out. Sei una mosca bianca – you’re unique or one of a kind.

    Una settimana bianca | A white week

    While most phrases using ‘bianco‘ seem to have a slight negative connotation, a ‘settimana bianca‘ is instead something great. It’s the usual Italian way of referring to a skiing or snowsports holiday, usually taken in the first few months of the year. You can use it like this… Dove vai per la tua settimana bianca? Where are you going for your white week? 

Ciao for now ragazzi!


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Ciao, I'm Rachel

I am obsessed with everything Italian! After years living in Italy, being married to an Italian, getting my Italian citezenship through my Pugliese lineage, a BA in Italian language and literature, then a MA in Italian Art History, I have lots of experience with this country! Hang out with me to learn more!