The first botti I came to know as a child had lived their file as wine containers and were located in the cave my father and her sister had in their native village. I know this sounds strange, but that is how it was: not far from the house in Poggio Catino, inside the village, a massive door opened to reveal a high-ceilinged, dark and cool corridor carved into the rock. For many years that was our refrigerator and also our long-term storage area for staples like fruit, wine and olive oil, and also for the wood my aunt used during the winter to fuel her stove and fireplace. I was afraid of going there by myself, but loved visiting it with one of the adults, because of the earthy smell and the cool temperature.
Botti smell good: of wood, wine and work. One of my uncles was a bottaio, a maker of botti.
I have always been small, short if you wish: I am 5'1" and usually have no problems with it. Have you ever seen a Fiat 500 car? One of the advantages of being small is that I could fit in that car. From third through fifth grade I had a teacher who was a tall man. He was the first one to tell me that nelle botti piccole sta il vino buono (literally, good wine is found in small barrels, meaning: good things come in small packages).
There are other sayings involving botti. The first one of this selection is quite funny:
- volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (to want to have your cake and eat it too; I know, the English saying is slightly different: I adjusted it to the Italian construction, which literally means to want to have the barrel full and the wife drunk);
- dare un colpo al cerchio e uno alla botte (to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, which is a British expression and means to try to be on good terms with both sides in a conflict or a dispute; in Italian is also used to describe trying to answer conflicting needs);
- essere in una botte di ferro (to be on sure ground, literally, to be in an iron barrel).
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the botte audio file [mp3].
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