Italian Word of the Day: Pera (pear)

When I was young, our backyard was home to a massive pear tree, so every summer, I’d clamber to the top to collect the juiciest pears, which my parents would then use to make pear pie and wine. Those were the days!

The Italian word for pear is, unsurprisingly, pera (feminine, plural: pere). The origin of both words can ultimately be traced back to the Latin pirum. It shouldn’t be confused with the masculine form pero which is the name given to the pear tree.


Here are some useful adjectives you can use to describe a pera in Italian:

  • pera matura = ripe pear
  • pera acerba = unripe pear
  • pera croccante = crunchy pear
  • pera succosa = juicy pear
  • pera cruda = raw pear
  • pera marcia = rotten pear

Mi piace raccogliere le pere dall’albero insieme ai miei fratelli.

I like to pick pears from the tree with my brothers.

Green pears on a wooden table
Pere verdi = Green pears

It’s long been debated as to whether or not pineapple, and sweet fruit in general, belongs on pizza. Well, it turns out pear is an exception to the rule in Italy. You’ll often see gorgonzola and pear pizza (gorgonzola e pere) on the menu, sometimes accompanied by honey (miele) or walnuts (noci). It’s actually one of my absolute favourites, along with the classic napoletana!

pizza gorgonzola e pere
Una pizza con pere e gorgonzola = A pizza with pears and gorgonzola

Pears are a common addition to many other Italian dishes too, but few are as popular as the pera cotta (poached / stewed pear). Some enjoy it with a simple sprinkling of cannella (cinnamon) and zucchero (sugar), while others prefer to cook it in vino rosso (red wine). Because of its popularity, it has given rise to a couple of expressions:

Cadere / cascare come una pera cotta

Literal translation: to fall like a poached pear
English meaning – there are three possible meanings: to fall asleep suddenly due to great fatigue, to fall head over heels in love, or to easily be fooled

Essere / sembrare una pera cotta

Literal translation: to be / seem like a poached pear
English meaning: to be weak, feeble, to be lacking energy

poached pears in white wine served in glass bowls with syrup and lemon zest over gray texture table
Tre pere cotte = Three poached pears

And if you thought that’s where the pear metaphors ended, think again!

The idiom farsi una pera (lit: to do oneself a pear) means to inject oneself with heroin. It is an allusion to the shape of a person’s fist while holding the syringe.

Pera is also a humorous way of referring to a person’s head. Grattarsi la pera, for example, means to scratch one’s head.

The expression a pera literally means pear-shaped but used figuratively, it can also denote a poorly executed or illogical speech, talk, conversation or explanation (e.g. un discorso a pera = an illogical conversation).

A pear idiom that isn’t used very much, but is amusing nonetheless, is lasciar le pere in guardia all’orso (lit. to leave the bear in charge of the pears). It is used when someone naively puts their trust in an unreliable person.

Autumn nature concept. Fall pears on wood. Thanksgiving dinner
Abbiamo fatto un bel raccolto! = We made a good harvest.

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