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Avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca

Posted in Italian languages and grammar on Oct 18, 2018

An italian proverb: “Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca”. Literally “You cannot have a drunk wife and a full barrel”.

It’s the same of “you cannot eat the cake and have it too”. The meaning is of course you can’t have two desirable but contradictory options, you have to choose. It’s a proverb that exist in any language in different versions but the Italian one is particularly interesting because the proverb is nothing else but a line from the novel (1894)”I viceré” (The viceroys) by Federico de Roberto. The novel is about a noble Spanish family living in Siclily after the unification of Italy.

One of the character uses this metaphor to describe the unrealistic pledges of the local politicians looking for votes around the island. However why is it desirable to have a drunk wife? I guess because a drunk wife cannot check too much the husband’s fidelity!! The usual naughty Italians!!!


I am a 42 years old certified Italian teacher with a degree in politics and a PhD in modern history.