Well, if there is a word Italy feels definitely comfortable with, it must be mozzafiato. Compound of the verb mozzare (to cut) and fiato (breath), it is the equivalent of the English “breathtaking.” Indeed, it delivers the very same image of surprise, wander and mild, yet pleasurable, discomfort.
Mozzafiato can be used literally and in a more hyperbolic way: when you run as fast as an antelope to catch that train, you’ve fatto una corsa mozzafiato, you’ve had a run that left you breathless (and possibly in need of a seat and a bottle of water, of course). If you’re in Florence, and take the afternoon to visit the Giardini di Boboli, you’re going to be rewarded with a vista mozzafiato, a breathtaking view, over the city.
Why is Italy so comfortable with the expression, you say? Well, because it must be one of the most exploited adjectives out there to associate with the country. Think about it: we use it for its art, but also for its natural beauties. And let’s be honest, “mozzafiato” is one of the first words coming to mind when thinking of an Easter Sunday’s food spread at our grandmother’s place, even if just to describe the placid feeling of fullness and content spreading upon us once it’s all over: sitting on that couch, waiting for caffé, so full da avere il fiato mozzo, to be breathless.
And our splendid Monica Bellucci and Sofia Loren, aren’t they bellezze mozzafiato, breathtaking beauties?
So, this is why “mozzafiato” is the quintessential Italian adjective: it just encapsulate what the country in its entirety is!
Hai mai visto le Dolomiti? Sono uno spettacolo mozzafiato!
Have you ever been to the Dolomites? They’re breathtaking!
Recentemente ho letto giallo mozzafiato. Te lo presterò!
That’s s nail-biting thriller I’ve read! I’ll lend it to you.
Monica Bellucci, che diva! È una bellezza mozzafiato.
Monica bellucci, what a diva, and what a breathtaking beauty she is!