Togliersi qualche sfizio, (satisfy a quirky need) or even mangiare qualcosa di sfizioso (eating something tasty and indulgent) are popular expression indeed in the Italian language.
Sfizio is one of those words we use continuously, yet without really knowing anything about its origins. And so, it is surprising to learn it probably has southern roots, possibly Neapolitan, and that its use was attested for the first time at the very end of the 19th century.
Difficult to believe, though, that we Italians never had sfizi to satisfy before then: indeed we would just call them differently, using words like capriccio, which in English is “whim” or “fancy,” the same terms you would use to translate sfizio, too.
As uncertain as its etymology may be, linguists had fun coming out with several theories: to some, sfizio is the deformation of the term uffizio, old fashioned Italian for “duty,” to which an “s” was added to indicate the contrary of what the word meant. So sfizio would mean, quite literally, absence of duties or, well… time for fun. Others, probably more attached to the glorious Latin origins of our language, wants sfizio to derive from the verb satisficere, which is nothing more than “satisfy.”
Whichever version you prefer, the concept behind the word is clear: a sfizio is a pleasure, something you don’t need but want desperately. It is the chocolate dessert after two servings of carbonara, the glass of wine while watching TV in the evening, a new pairs of too-expensive shoes, the latest version of a smartphone.
Lo sfizio, mind, is always something light and carefree, something you can have without hurting anyone. Lo sfizio is pure joy, cheers you up when you’re down and gives you energy when you’re tired. Because yes, it’s true: that chocolate dessert is so unnecessary when your stomach is that full, but oh my! The pleasure it’ll give you is worth alone a chest filled with gold.
Voglio togliermi lo sfizio di mangiare nel ristorante di Cracco a Milano!
I have this fancy idea I want to satisfy: have dinner in Cracco’s restaurant in Milan!
La tua non è fame, hai solo voglia di mangiare qualcosa di sfizioso.
You’re not hungry, you just want something tasty to eat.
Non hai bisogno di un nuovo tablet, vuoi solo toglierti lo sfizio di dire che hai l’ultimo modello!
You don’t need a new tablet, you just want the be able to say to everyone you have the latest model!