These are the days of il solleone, the period from mid-July to mid-August, when the sun falls under the zodiac sign of Leo (Leone).
At the time of the Roman empire Serius (the dog star) rose and set with the sun, and people thought its red glow contributed to the summer heat. They used the term canicola (from cane for dog) to describe the “dog days” at the height of summer. "Come picchia il sole!" (How the sun beats down), people complain during these long giorni soleggiati (sunny days).
If we're on vacation, I am happy not to have to rise with the sun (alzarsi col sole) or get up at sunrise or first sun (allo spuntar del sole). Sooner or later a ray of sunshine (raggio di sole) creeps through our shutters to wake me. It reminds me of a literary description of being in jail: vedere il sole a scacchi (to see the sun in squares).“Che sole!“ (What a fierce sun!) I think as I blink at the brightness of the sunlight (luce del sole).
Il culto del sole (sun worship) sweeps over Italy every summer. If I want to sunbathe (esporsi al sole), I put on a sunsuit (prendisole) and look for un luogo soleggiato (a sunny spot ) to take the sun (prendere il sole).
Whenever I’m in the sun (al sole), I try to protect my eyes with sunglasses (occhiali da sole). To avoid sunstroke (un colpo di sole) I may duck under a sunshade (parasole). And I always remember sunscreen (crema solare) to prevent a sunburn (una scottatura).
Even when Italians aren’t basking in the sun (crogiolarsi al sole), a gleam of sunshine (il bagliore del sole) brightens their conversations. A striking young woman is bella come il sole (beautiful as the sun). A fact may be chiaro come il sole (as clear as the sun). Someone who acts openly without hiding anything does so alla luce del sole (in the light of the sun). And, of course, nulla di nuovo sotto il sole (there’s nothing new under the sun), including the fact that il sole sorge -- e sorge per tutti (the sun rises -- and rises for everyone).
Giovanni Capurro, a writer in Naples, and Eduardo di Capua, a posteggiatore (Neapolitan for a party or restaurant singer), composed “'O sole mio” (“My Sun”), Italy’s most famous love song, in 1898 and sold all rights to a music publisher for 25 lire. (Click below to hear the three tenors' classic rendition.)
Here is the English translation of the first verse:
“What a beautiful thing is a sunny day.
The air is serene after a storm.
The air is so fresh that it already feels like a celebration.
What a beautiful thing is a sunny day!"
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.
Words and Expressions
il sole è alto -- the sun is up
l’impero del Sol Levante -- the empire of the rising sun (Japan)
sdraiarsi al sole -- to lie in the sun
eclissi solare -- solar eclipse