Lo Scorcio – the Glimpse

October 10, 2014 / Local Interest

Whenever I look down a narrow lane and see a glimpse of a building in the distance or a view of the countryside beyond the city walls (usually hill top towns), I always think of the word that describes this in Italian – uno scorcio.

Scorcio-glimpse from Montefalco, Umbria

I haven’t found a better word in English and my own description is rather long : a sliver of a partial view glimpsed at in the distance through a narrow road or alleyway. Much more precise the simple scorcio. (Above Montefalco and below Monte Santa Maria Tiberina)

Scorcio through the alley way of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

That said, I looked up scorcio in my trusty Garzanti Dizionario Inglese Italiano (English Italian dictionary) (1984), and found the following: to foreshorten something; foreshortening.

Scorcio of the Colosseum, Rome

Curiosity now taken hold, I searched for an Italian dictionary, only locating my husband’s old Zingarelli, Casa Editrice Bietti, 1937, and Zingarelli, Zanichelli Editore, 1949, and there was no mention of glimpse, but instead: a work of pictorial perspective where the figure/object is reduced in it’s dimensions. (Todi below)

Glimpse of the Umbrian countryside around Todi

This would explain why scorciare (or also accorciare) means to shorten something, as in a hemline or a route. Which leads us directly to scorciatoia (shortcut). Which by the way is very much related to scorcio, (and not just etymologically), because it is usually when you see uno scorcio that you know that particular passageway is going to shorten your route (scorciare la via) to the piazza or city wall in no time (Venice not included as seen below).

Scorcio through the canal of a bell tower in Venice

And now my new favorite but older word that I discovered while looking through the dizionario: lo scorciatone, meaning a rather long shortcut.

sarc/ But enough with moldy old books! /sarc. Back in the “modern” world, online scorcio was defined as visuale ristretto di una vista piu’ ampia (narrow view of a larger panorama).

Either way, scorcio is still the simpler “route” to describe some of my favorite Italian glimpses.

The Tuscan valleys seen through a short cut in Pienza

(Below Milan)

Scorcio of Milan

Jean Tori

by Jean Tori

Artist- Art website: www.jeantoriartwork.com Art blog: www.jeantori.com Design company: www.kimonorabbit.com Jean also rents holiday houses in her medieval hamlet in Umbria at www.caiporri7.com.

25 Responses to “Lo Scorcio – the Glimpse”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    This is a particularly heavenly note, and not just for the beautiful images. You take us on a trip through language – something I love.

    • Jean Tori

      Thank you, Penny, what a lovely message. Definitely a linguistic journey with all the twists and turns of meanings, sounds and story! Saluti, Jean

  2. Super column–endearing to an old art historian. On the English side the word “it’s” always and only serves as a contract for “it is” and never indicates the possessive case, which is always and only “its.” A common error.

    • Well corrected. I know the rule, but I wonder why I so often automatically want to insert that apostrophe?! Glad you liked the column, ciao, Jean

  3. Marcia Bailey

    Checked this out while studying for Italian class this morning. What fun to learn a new word and see such beauty at the same time. Thanks,

    • Glad to be of some help! When you go searching for Italian words, the best ones are those that give you lots of variations! Buono studio, saluti, Jean

  4. Michael Kissane

    Nice article Jean – lovely images for a cold Friday morning in Ireland, so thanks for that. The English word for scorcio (glimpsed views) is “vista”, which I have to work hard to inculcate in my students. The definition of vista is “A long, narrow view as between rows of trees or buildings” an invaluable device much used by artists and photographers.

    • I did not know that! Thank you! I think I may have been blindsided in the past by the English vista, because I always think of LA VISTA, alla Italiana, that is view. A beautiful word and I will intersperse it with scorcio! Grazie e saluti, Jean

  5. Christina Pedota Polidore

    Lo Scorcio accurately captures the allure and beauty of Italy. Well done!

  6. Thank you! You helped me expand my Italian vocabulary, and at the same time presented delightful examples of an approach to capturing beautiful images.

    • Happy you enjoyed it, Michele. It took about a year to collect all the photographs and it was fun to search for the vistas that gave good satisfaction! Grazie e ciao, Jean

  7. What fun! Loved your dealing with the word and the lovely pictures that went with it. Brava!

    • Dear Louise, thank you. It was like Italian lesson homework all over again from way back when I was in my 20s! Collecting the photographs was more fun! Ciao, Jean

  8. Onofrio Curatolo

    Excellent description of scorcio. Fantastic research. I still enjoy my Italian and refer many times to Zingarell and Garzanti dizionari. What intellectual exercise and enrichment to my brain!!!! Grazie!!! Onofrio Curatolo

    • Caro Onofrio, so glad you enjoyed the research and glad you have your Zinagarelli and Garzanti dizionari! Uno si puo’ perdere! Grazie a cari saluti, Jean

  9. Some of the best pictures I have taken have been of gli scorci (? spelling)

    • And you probably found them taking a scorciatoia! They are like the cherry on the cake when you’re already in a beautiful place and then you get the added scorci! Grazie, Jean

  10. Richard Floreani

    I loved the explanation of uno scorcio. I now love the word and will incorporate into my English. Because in one word we can now describe what would take a lot of English words to describe.

    • Thank you, Richard and great idea, although, as Michael Kissane wrote above, the word for scorcio in English is vista, however, I still love the idea of mixing and matching between English and Italian when a word seems so much more descriptive. Ciao, Jean

  11. Jean,
    Thanks for giving me the word I can use to describe some of my beautiful photos of Orvieto

  12. Jean,
    I’m a little late in commenting but so enjoying your “glimpses” – as it turns out, I love these slivers when I travel through Italy, too…now I have a name for them!


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