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Guest Blog - Some Activities For An Italian Themed Day

In the 'Activity Club' we used to have a whole day devoted to a particular theme. On the Italian themed day we had a whole range of options.

Here is the outline of the day.

Theme: Italy (March 19th is 'St Joseph’s Day' in Italy)

Orientation Session.

Current Affairs & Sports discussion.

Stories of Italy / Reminiscence of Italian travels.

What is St Joseph’s Day?

Armchair Travels to Italy and exercise.

Building the 'Leaning Tower of Pisa'.

'The Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower Challenge' & 'Throwing Coins in the Trevi Fountain'.

Italian Art

Italian Opera and Classical Music Appreciation.

The Venice Masquerade Carnival.

Making Masquerade Masks

Singing and Dancing

Making Mosaics

Learning Some Italian Words Game

Italian Crossword Quiz

Roman Dining Etiquette Quiz

Watching some 'Il Divo' or Italian opera DVD


Mask Making

I downloaded from the internet some templates, or people drew their own masks by free-hand. They coloured them in and embellished them with feathers, stickers etc. We threaded them with their choice of ribbon and people enjoyed wearing them for a photo.

Our Masquerade Ball (I am the gondolier on the right)


I cut up pieces of card and people glued them onto card to make their own picture. I also had a mosaic template in case anyone wanted to colour one in.

Two paper mosaics that people made, and a proper mosaic that had been a previous long term project in our 'Activity Club' that we made with broken ceramic tiles are shown below.

Throwing a Coin in the Trevi Fountain Game

People threw ‘coins’ from a Connect 4 game into cups of (a little) water to see who could score the highest.

The Tower of Pisa Challenge (Leaning or otherwise)

Teams of 2 worked together to see who could build the best/tallest tower using only spaghetti and marshmallows.

I hope these photos give you a few ideas.


I also used to prepare sessions on my laptop computer and connect my laptop to the television with a cable and show 'Youtube' clips or do picture quizzes etc.

Here are my resources for the Italian Activity Plan:

A coin thrown in Trevi Fountain is said to ensure the comeback to Rome; two coins thrown ensure romance with a Roman (either male or female), and three coins thrown ensure the marriage with him or her. The legend says you should stand with your back towards the fountain and coins should be thrown over your left shoulder.

'Three Coins In A Fountain' (Frank Sinatra - with Lyrics) - YouTube

Italian Art Shown to the Group

We discussed the quality and meaning of these great art works, most of which were known to the group.

Leonardo Da Vinci - The Mona Lisa

The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci

The Birth of Venus - Sandro Botticelli

The Creation of Adam - Michelangelo

The Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo

The Statue Of David - Michelangelo

Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan - Giovanni Bellini

Vitruvian Man - Leonardo Da Vinci

Walls Cornetto Ad - YouTube

The UK TV ad for Walls Cornetto (which are still available today) takes the piss out of 'O Sole Mio', which is a well known Neapolitan song, composed in 1898 by Eduardo Di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi (lyrics by Giovanni Cappuro). 'O Sole Mio' translates as 'My Sunshine'.

Italian Opera

'Nessun Dorma' (meaning 'None Shall Sleep') from Puccini's 'Turandot' and sung by 'The Three Tenors' (comprising Spaniards Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, and Italian Luciano Pavarotti)

Italian opera is both the art of opera in Italy and opera in the Italian language. Opera was born in Italy around the year 1600 and Italian opera has continued to play a dominant role in the history of the form until the present day. Many famous operas in Italian were written by foreign composers, including Handel, Gluck and Mozart. Works by native Italian composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, are amongst the most famous operas ever written and today are performed in opera houses across the world.

Venice Carnival Masquerade

A clip of the 'Venice Masquerade Ball 2018'. The event takes place each Spring.

'The Masquerade Ball begins' From 'The Phantom of the Opera'. 2004 film starring Gerard Butler & Emmy Possum.

The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia, Venetian: Carnevàl de Venexia) is an annual festival held in Venice, Veneto, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso or Mardi Gras), which is the day before Ash Wednesday. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.”

Some Italian Folk Songs

Italian Folk Song - 'Tarantella Napoletana' (As a dance and folk music staple of southern Italy, the Tarantella served as an inspiration for numerous composers in the Western classical tradition.)

Folk Dance - Sicilian Tarantella (Italy)

The dance originates with the bite of the Tarantula, Arania or Apulcian Spider. The dance itself was used to cure the poison from the bite of the spider. Town folks would play music and the afflicted person would dance non-stop to avoid succumbing to the poison. Women working in the fields would use frenetic dancing when they were bitten by spiders in order to sweat the venom out through their pores.

St Joseph’s Day

The Roman Catholic feast of Saint Joseph is observed on 19th March in Vatican City and in many other Catholic countries. The day is dedicated to the memory of Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary.

Saint Joseph’s Day gradually began to be celebrated in Ancient and Medieval times, and was well established by the 900’s. However, it was only made official by Pope Pius V in 1570.

Mainly, in Vatican City and throughout Rome and Italy, people celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day by attending special masses, joining in parades, wearing the colour red, carrying priest-blessed fava beans, and setting up an altar to Saint Joseph in their house. Italians in other lands, including the US, also are known to put on major Saint Joseph’s Day parades, but it’s those in Rome and the Vatican who, arguably, are the most enthusiastic about celebrating this holiday.

When In Rome ...

When in Rome, do as the Romans do[1] (often shortened to when in Rome...)] is a proverb attributed to Saint Ambrose, meaning that it is advisable to follow the conventions of the area in which you are residing or visiting.[1]

Saint Monica and her son, Saint Augustine, found out that Saturday was observed as a fasting day in Rome, where they planned to visit. However, it was not a fasting day where they lived in Milan. They consulted Saint Ambrose who said "When I am here (in Milan) I do not fast on Saturday, when in Rome I do fast on Saturday."

That reply is said to have brought about the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”[4][5]


Etiquette of Roman Empire Dining (True or False?)

Romans loved potatoes, tomatoes & chocolate


Some foods which we take for granted today such as potatoes, tomatoes and chocolate, were unknown to the Romans. Likewise, many Roman dishes are unheard of now. The menu at a Roman banquet could include sows' udders and larks' tongues, though most people never ate such extravagant meals.

Poorer Romans and slaves had to live on basic food, such as bread, porridge and stew, but wealthier people had a more varied diet. For breakfast, they ate a snack of bread or wheat biscuits with honey, and lunch was a simple meal of eggs, cheese, cold meat and fruit.

Most Romans ate 3 hearty meals a day


Many people hardly ate at all during the day, waiting instead for the evening meal. For average Romans, this was roast poultry or fish, but the wealthy often enjoyed lavish dinner parties.

The Romans diluted their wine to drink it, drinking it undiluted wasn’t considered respectable


The Romans drank lots of wine, and people in Rome could choose from around 200 types which were made all over the Empire. Wine was often spiced, or sweetened with honey, and it was usually diluted with water -- drinking it undiluted wasn't considered respectable.

Women were forbidden to drink wine

Depends if it was before the rule was dropped

In the early days of the Republic, women were forbidden to drink wine, but during the Empire this rule was dropped. Other popular drinks included grape juice and goat's milk, and people could also drink water from public fountains.

Saucepans, cheese graters & strainers were usually made from bronze, which made for taste strange, so some were coated with silver


A Roman kitchen was equipped with many of the same utensils that we use today; saucepans, cheese graters, and strainers to drain water away. These items were usually made of bronze, which could make food taste strange, so some pans were coated with silver.

Romans preserved their food in the freezer


Food was boiled, fried, grilled, stewed, or roasted on a spit. With no freezers or cans to keep food fresh, it had to be smoked, pickled or salted to preserve it. Rich Romans loved spicy food, and most of their meals were highly seasoned or eaten with a strong sauce. One of the most popular sauces was a thick, salty concoction called liquamen, made from pickled fish.

In town it was forbidden to light cooking fires indoor their apartment block so most Romans bought ready-prepared food from snack bars in the street


In town, very few people did their own cooking. Most people lived in apartment blocks with wooden beams and floors, and it was forbidden to light cooking fires inside, in case the building burned down. Instead of cooking at home, people usually bought hot foods, such as pie, sausages and stews, from snack bars in the street.

Important Romans used to invite guests to a simple dinner party


Wealthy Romans loved to eat extravagant and fancy foods. They threw lavish dinner parties to show off their great power and wealth. Important Romans tried to outdo each other by making their banquets more and more extravagant.

A dinner party would start with the host washing the feet of his guests


A dinner party would usually begin in the early evening. The guests would remove their sandals at the door and have their feet washed by a slave. They were then announced by an usher and shown to their places. Their hands were then washed with perfumed water.

Romans usually ate with a fork


Washing their hands was an important ritual as Romans usually ate with their fingers.

Wealthy Romans reclined on a couch while dining


Wealthy Romans reclined on three cushioned couches, or a triclinium, while dining. In the Roman Empire, only slaves and children sat on chairs while eating. Women and men ate together, with up to nine people lounging around a table. Romans didn't have forks, but were known to sometimes use knives and spoons. People ate straight from serving dishes as opposed to using plates, and between courses slaves washed the guests' hands with more perfumed water.

A full Roman Banquet was made up of 7 course and could last as long as 10 hours


A full Roman banquet was made up of seven courses and could last as long as ten hours. Starting with a couple of cold courses, such as sardines, mushrooms, and eggs, they then moved on to more exciting dishes. They could include flamingoes' tongues, doormice in honey, or even elephants' trunks. How the food looked was just as important as how it tasted and chefs took great enjoyment in disguising one type of food to make it look like another. The writer Petronius boasted that his chef could make a pig's belly look exactly like a fish.

Between courses the guests were entertained by performers and afterwards there would often be games


Between courses, guests were entertained by poets, conjurers, clowns, or musicians. After dinner, there would often be games. For example the host would pick a number and everyone would have to swallow that number of drinks.

To show they had enjoyed the meal guests would pass wind loudly from their bottoms


To show that they had enjoyed the meal, guests would belch loudly. If they were too full to finish their food, they could wrap the leftovers in a napkin to take home.

Very greedy guests would tickle their throats with a feather until they became sick and then would start eating all over again.


The writer Seneca was disgusted by guests who indulged in this habit, and wrote scornfully, "They vomit to eat and eat to vomit."

Emperor's spies were everywhere, so guests had to be careful about what they talked about at dinner parties. If someone was heard criticizing the Emperor, they might suddenly be tied up in chains and dragged away.


This activity ideas article was collated by Heather Manktelow

Occupational Therapist

Activities for Health



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