Word of the Day


~ Le Parole del Giorno ~

~ The Words of the Day ~

I have done “The Word of the Day” posts in the past, but today I thought I would do “Words” of the day—“Su” e “Giù” —“Up” and “Down.”

When I lived with the Stefanis in Viterbo (*), we were forever telling each other whether we were going “su” (pronounced like the name “Sue”)—upstairs to the sleeping quarters on the second and third floors, or “giù” (pronounced like the word “Jew”)—down to the kitchen and the rest of the public rooms of the main floor.

“Un momento, vado su”—“One moment, I’m going upstairs”—I would say to Nonna as I sprinted upstairs to the third floor to grab my umbrella before we headed out to run errands.

“Tequilla, giù, giù”—“Tequilla, down, down”—I would insist to the Stefani’s dog, Tequilla, to keep moving ahead of me down the stairs as we headed to the kitchen for a treat. I feared he would stop short on the railing-less stair, looking behind himself to make sure I was following him, and trip us both, causing un disastro as we fell “giù!”

The words “su” e “giù” make me think of spiral staircases, especially those in old structures throughout Italy. When I was growing up a spiral staircase seemed very contemporary, having been created in the space age-inspired 1960s. It was an exotically stylish way to get from one shag-carpeted floor to the next in a hip bachelor pad. Can you tell I watched a lot of TV in my youth?

However, spiral staircases are ancient in concept. In many turrets and towers it is the quickest way to go up or down, while restricting the stairway to as little square footage as possible where space is tight. Pictured above is the view looking down through the center of a spiral staircase (a private not public staircase) in the Villa Medici, Rome. The view down reminds me of an ammonite fossil. Maybe this shape inspired ancient architects to design the first spiral staircases?


“Su e giù” also reminds me of Puck’s famous lines in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Up and down, up and down,

I will lead them up and down:

I am fear’d in field and town:

Goblin, lead them up and down.

Whether a mischievous fairy or a 100-pound white Great Pyrenees has you going su e giù in hot pursuit, here are two of my favorite Italian spiral staircases that you may use for your escape!

Buona giornata~


Villa Medici, Rome

"Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"


"Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"



Palazzo Barberini, Rome

"Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"


"Mark Leslie" "Beyond the Pasta"


*My book Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family is now available in paperback, as well as e-reader and hardcover editions.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.