Hidden treasures

Eat ‘a ufo’.

Figures of speech
mangiare a ufo

Eat ‘a ufo’.

If you are in Tuscany you might happen to eat a ufo. Do you know what that means? Don't worry, little green men and extraterrestrials in general have nothing to do with it! Indeed, rather than travel forward in time towards imaginary alien landings, we need to travel a long way backward. Exactly to when the great Italian cathedrals were built such as the Duomo in Milan, St Peter and, obviously, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

Back then the materials used for the construction of these wonderful buildings were transported on carts or even on barges along the rivers. Because of their particular intended use, they had the privilege of being exempted from duties and taxes. These materials were marked with the acronym A.U.F (in Latin Ad usum fabricae). From this abbreviation and from the idea that taxes were not paid for them, the expression ‘a ufo’ was born. In Tuscany it is used mainly in relation to eating and means ‘free of charge’.

There is also another theory: on the letters of the Florentine government offices the ‘Ex uffo’ stamp was affixed which made them exempt from postal fees. In this case again the idea of something free comes into play. So, whatever the origin of the term, there is no doubt that a ufo means free of charge.

More generally, but more rarely, it can also mean: for nothing, to no avail. A little quirky fact: the expression ‘a ufo’, in this more general meaning, was used by Collodi in ‘Pinocchio’. Precisely when the rabbits arrive with the coffin to put the puppet in it as he does not want to take the medicine. When he gets convinced and takes it, they utter: ‘Never mind, this time we have travelled a ufo’.

Now, we cannot guarantee that in Tuscany you can really eat a ufo, Tuscans are down to earth but not bischeri! If you book one of our food and wine tours you can be sure that the price will include many delicacies and excellent wine!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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