Being a "ciumachella"; the sweetest compliment in Rome

It is a popular expression with a double meaning. The “ciumachella” is in fact a translation from the Roman dialect of the word “snail”, but it is also the name by which the most beautiful girls of the capital were called. Did you know the word “ciumachella”?

A unique language of its kind

There are many things that make the capital a truly special and one-of-a-kind city. Among these there is also language, a complex array of words that in Rome have their own meaning but which are hardly known elsewhere.

Just think of the word “ciumachella“, which in Italian means “lumachella”. It is an expression with various meanings that belongs to the Roman dialect which has many meanings and definitions, not just ‘snail’. In fact, the Romans also use this term to compliment beautiful girls. They call them “ciumachelle”, to indicate their beauty and often also their young age.

The beautiful “ciumachella of Trastevere”

It is difficult to find anyone outside of Rome who knows the word “ciumachella”. This is a typical expression of the towns within the capital and, consequently, it is probably unknown elsewhere. In the Eternal City, on the other hand, it is a rather famous term, which is also used in theatre and in popular songs.

Ciumachella de Trastevere” is for example a song written by Garinei and Giovannini that was included in the famous comedy “Il Rugantino“. It is a very sweet declaration of love that the lover Rugantino makes to Rosetta to enhance her beauty.

He describes the beautiful and impossible “ciumachella” as the eighth wonder of Rome, as a fantastic gift of nature, as the most beautiful painting of a painter.

With these phrases, the protagonist of the comedy showed that he really fell in love with this young woman. Her beauty had completely conquered him, although in the beginning it must have been the young Rugantino who made the beautiful Rosetta fall in love. He had made a bet with his friends and would have won something if he managed to win Rosetta’s heart. If he failed, he would have had to pay a pledge.

The “ciumachelle” that bring good luck

“Ciumachelle”, however, are not only beautiful and young girls. Even snails, in Roman dialect, are pointed out by this nice expression.

In Rome and its surroundings, they are a real delicacy, which is served in restaurants or at festivals during the summer. They are eaten mainly on the night of San Giovanni, or between the 23rd and 24th of June.

It is a particular moment of the year during which the summer is inaugurated. In Rome, therefore, there is a party, but they also try to avoid luck. Precisely for this reason snails are then eaten.

Their horns are thought to bring discord, which is why they must be buried in a place where the sun does not shine, namely in the stomach. Consequently, on the night of San Giovanni, the Romans love to eat them at will, to ward off bad luck and bring serenity closer.