Fare le Cose al Volo…

March 17, 2014 / Art & Archaeology

Italy is certainly known for fare le cose con calma (doing things slowly) as they say. Fare le cose al volo however, (literally, doing things on the fly) is just as much a part of the culture.

For example, prendere un caffe’ We’ve already mentioned sitting and watching the world go by vs. standing and drinking it in two seconds flat. The former is for the weekend, while the latter is the norm on any workday. Just as important, mind you… but al volo.

And how about Italian “fast-food”? Supplí, arancini, panelle, pizza al taglio… No less delicious than the “slower” weekend or evening meals fortunately, but pretty much the rule for lunch during the week… al volo as one says.

Now, while it is certainly a stretch to put Madonnelle (the lovely small images of Madonnas ubiquitous throughout the streets of any Italian city) in the same category, might it make sense to think of them in the same way?

Notice how people will briefly slow down to cross themselves while rushing by on foot, or will stop for a minute or two praying sottovoce to their favorite madonnella between errands. With all due affection and respect, you can think of them as less formal, more intimate, ways to ask for intercession and to pray. While no less important than the more austere churches, attended for longer on weekends, maybe here in faith’s case too, you might say that it’s a case of doing things… al volo?

(Thank you, Barbara!)



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

11 Responses to “Fare le Cose al Volo…”

  1. Alex Cicchinelli

    GB, I think I have seen a list of those seemingly omnipresent Madonnas–once your eye gets adjusted to their presence. I think they are protected by some law. They are part of the Roma which I referred to once that the normal tourist must stop and look up to appreciate. My condo has one internal, on the ground floor, near the elevator. I thought it was insignificant until a painter painted over it. The furor from the oldies was terrific. She got cleaned and now continues to protect us who daily have to get a little higher up–in the elevator.

  2. Grazie Sto cercando di imparare l’Italiano e sempre mi piace sapere i detti quotidiani. Non ho conosciuto questo. Lo userò presto.

  3. Colleen Simpson

    GB: How I love this note!! It captures a quintessential reverence for life, even “on the fly”. I have seen cars slow down to a standstill on little country roads when passing these Madonnelle and drivers and passengers make the sign of the Cross. Thanks so much for this great reminder.

  4. Of course being a good Italian fellow I have my own Italian Madonnella outside hanging on a wall for all to see, occasionally I’ve noticed persons making the sign of the cross while walking past my property, something I thought for sure I’d never see here in Leftist Berkeley, California. Thanks for the article GB!

  5. Janet MacLeod

    Enjoyed this article for the information but also for the vocabulary!

  6. Genevieve Decaminada March 23,2014

    I enjoyed the remark from the gentleman from California. I love being able to read the Italian and then translation. One point I must make is I wish I were back there again. We were in Italy last October, Love America but Italy is also very special.

  7. Risiedo in N.Y. dal 1960, ma sono nata in Treviso nel Veneto in Italia, nel Trevisano, percorrendo per le strade si trovano “Capitelli” con la Madonna, ma direi molti di piu’ con vari differenti statue di Santi, questi Capitelli sono di solito piccole “Chiesette” costruite per conto suo e che servono per dividere le stra in un crocevia, ma si trovano anche isolate ai lati delle strade, come piccole chiesette che invitano i passanti a fermarsi e silenziosamente mormorare una preghiera.<3


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