What the heck is a coatto, anyways?

23 Jul

To be followed soon by my pièce de résistance which I have been dreaming up for the last five years, more or less, about the cazzaro romano. But I’m still doing personal research on that one, unfortunately for me. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile I bring you a SPECIAL REQUEST from a Twitter friend, a Roman in London (go on and follow @terespol). Pretty damn cool when your readers start making special requests for you to explain Roman cultural concepts in English. I’m starting to feel like a bit of an expert which makes me OH SO HAPPY.

Ah, yes, today we shall dive into the stinking, rotting dumpster where the concept of “coatto” makes its home. Just like in any disgusting mess, you can sometimes find a rare treasure, and such is the paradox of the coatto. My Twitter pal is so right when mentioning that the English word “tacky” or the British English word “chav”  just doesn’t quite do justice to the Italian word coatto. As with many Italian words, their richness exceeds any sort of precise translation and begs an entire story be told.

And now the story can be told. Oh, yes, it can.

Let’s do a quick primer, in any case, on our ideas surrounding the English concepts of “tacky” or “chav” (although I admit my schooling comes from the American shores). Our friends over at the Urban Dictionary define “tacky” thus:

1) In bad taste. This usage, as opposed to the physical description, originated in the rural South but has since been adopted for use nationwide and in urban settings. Wearing a translucent blouse and a black bra is downright tacky. 2) gaudy, flamboyant, and flashy in apparel;
wearing lots of gold jewelry; pimp-like appearance; 3) Someone that is overdressed/overdone and is just a show off; see: Kim Kardashian; anyone from the cast of Jersey Shore.

Yes, that’s all fine and good, and of course it gives you a good jumping-off point to put your listener in the right general context. However, is there a special species of tacky chav that only grows on Italian trees? I’ll take the lead from my dear reader and go out on a limb (pun intended!) and say: why, yes.

Yes, there is.

First, allow me to gather some photographic evidence to assist us in our investigation.

Here we find a treasure trove of coatto-ness (ie, coattezza, perhaps?) just brimming over with greasy love for adoring fans. Allow me to unpack them for you:

1) Sleazy smile
2) Cigarette hanging out of sleazy smiling mouth with inimitable nonchalance: i.e., “I was born with this cigarette in my mouth, bitch!”
3) Willingness to lift shirt for cameraman
4) Inherent belief that lifting shirt for cameraman is somehow pleasing to viewers
5) Hip region in plain view with underwear band hovering above jeans
6) Stating the obvious: random shitty tattoos on his chest
7) Stating the not-so-obvious: random shitty tattoo in the middle of his chest is the name of his shitty paparazzi company which he aptly and oh-so-coatto-ly named “I Corona’s”
8) Do I really need to note for my astute readers the coatto inherent in the totally gramatically incorrect use of the apostrophe in his COMPANY’S NAME?
9) Answer: no.
10) Mysterious cocktail with random orange floaty crap that vaguely resembles an orange. This is coatto because it reminds me of a concoction that people used to brew up at college parties in old 5-gallon pickle buckets, a whole mess load of grain alcohol and fruit that was called “jungle juice.” And if you want the recipe, who am I to turn you away? I mean, holy shit, someone actually purchased a domain name called “” AND put a TUTORIAL VIDEO on it. Please note the specific use of “Boone’s Strawberry Hill” which I cannot even bring myself to dignify with the term wine (synonym: Two Buck Chuck). Do not interpret my knowledge of this terminology to mean that I myself am coatta. I am merely the reporter of such phenomena. This concoction, in any case, my friends, would be coatto if it was in Italian. Are you beginning to see the cross-cultural applications ?

But, as usual, I digress.

Lest I bore you to tears by arriving at #3,249 of Corona’s sheer abudance of coatto-ness, let’s move on to the female species:

I give you the holy grail of coatta (trumpets sound): Valeria Marini.

This is what Italians cutely refer to as the “lato B” or B-side. Oops. Because truly folks, the front is my favorite:

Awww, Vale… you’re so cute with your random little teddy bear with a weird green thing on its face I have no idea what that is wtf? And is that some kind of cubic zirconium heart dangling from your ridiculously sparkly ring that you might have purchased at Accessorize?

But wait! There’s more! How about this article where she is quoted as saying “Berlusconi has done a lot for Italy.”

Don’t worry, honey, we won’t tell anyone that you’re ridiculous. It will be our little secret.

But while we’re on the topic, who’s this chick?

Article says “After Antonio Manfredonia, I’m Single and Happy.” Coatta alert! One, because anyone who has to justify being single by saying they’re happy is clearly lying. Two, because who the hell is this Antonio Manfredonia of which she speaks? Oh, dear Google, can you be of service?

I knew you wouldn’t disappoint us, Antonio! Lovely you, coatto you! You were only 28 years old, you’d been with this 50-year old coatta for THREE WHOLE MONTHS and you said, ANDIQUOTE  “I asked her to marry me.

Sure you did, sport! Any of us would, clearly.

Oh, people, I could go on and on and on, and yet—why? The land of the coatti is truly a never-ending source of ridicule and catty delight.

And, just for kicks, how about some non-famous coatto looks for your viewing enjoyment. The typical coatto romano:

OMGOMGOMG! That comes from a web post in which there is actually a COATTO CONTEST … and I learned a new word for coatto! Tamarro! This is so exciting I can hardly stand it. Look at this dude’s elegant definition:

– Il tamarro, o meglio il coatto (in romano), è una persona che riesce a fare tutto, adattarsi a ogni situazione, anche a indossando un vestito elegante.

“The tamarro, or better the coatto (in Roman dialect), is a person who can do everything, adapting themselves to any situation, even while wearing an elegant suit.”

Ok, that my friends is the definition of a coatto AS SEEN THROUGH HIS VERY OWN EYES. The psychological implications of this are huge. I just might enroll at La Sapienza in psicologia so I can write my thesis based on that statement alone.

Wikipedia does a better job than this dude, in my opinion. Objectivity is always best.

But leave it to (06 is the Rome telephone prefix) to bring us the priceless example that went viral a couple summers back. Every damn single time my son wants to buy a Calippo popsicle I think of this video.

Poor kids. It’s not their fault they’re coatti. Not their fault they can “adapt to any situation–even if it requires wearing a fancy elegant suit!” They just are, and they just can.

And so, I leave you with this parting gift. These two poor girls on Ostia Beach, just being themselves, and yet being such incredible examples of “coatte romane” that the YouTube video comes out with SUBTITLES IN ITALIAN. Yes, my friends, this is coattezza at its artistic height.



19 Responses to “What the heck is a coatto, anyways?”

  1. spacedlaw July 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Ahoo.C’è di peggio.

  2. Un'americana a Roma July 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    E FACCE VEDE’!!!

  3. codecables July 24, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    m’illumino d’immenso – this is hysterically hilarious

  4. petuletta July 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Sorry, but I don’t think you can explain coatto without mentioning historical figures such as Carlo Verdone in Troppo Forte and more recently, Super Cafone by Er Piotta…additionally, coatto is not necessarily stupid, it’s just someone convinced of the beauty of his/her style. This style is loud, tacky and yes, comparable to chavs in the UK. Unfortunately many of the celebrities you mentions are not just tasteless representatives of my country, but also idiots that many people take as idols.

  5. Tiffany Parks July 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    This is so good. That is all.

  6. catherine July 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    You have really opened my eyes! Not that I hadn’t seen VM’s arse/lips and Corona’s shade of orange (LOVED that apostrophe, thanks!). But here in Veneto I am so used to being surrounded by tamarri – now I know I am surrounded by coatti as well!!

  7. Un'americana a Roma July 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    No need to apologize. I don’t think I said that they were necessarily stupid, although that might be implied through my sarcasm. But viewing a “coatto” as ignorant or not is totally subjective. I think it’s more than just being convinced of their style though. Sure that’s part of it, but truly it embodies an entire subculture of ways of behaving, dressing, and speaking. Carlo Verdone of course, Troppo Forte is classic, here’s an old clip from RAI, and also more recently Grande Grosso e Verdone then the Resto a Roma this summer where he reprises Enzo from Un Sacco Bello:

  8. Un'americana a Roma July 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    You should do a post on the differences between a tamarro and coatto. The whole “tamarro” thing was a new word for me. 😉 I’m sure there are subtleties…

  9. Un'americana a Roma July 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks T! Glad you enjoyed.

  10. Un'americana a Roma July 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Glad you had a laugh. All in good fun.

  11. Un'americana a Roma July 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Also regarding celebrities, don’t you think that they are the ones who help to set the style?

  12. Francesca August 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    The ability to be a complete asshole whilst wearing an elegant suit? Auguri!
    Love your site by the way, nice to know that I share opinions with someone in this city!

  13. onceinalifetimetravel August 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I love your blog, so glad I stumbled on it! I how you don’t mind but I shared it with my readers. They need something more spicy and real than the average I love Italy blog 🙂

  14. Un'americana a Roma August 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    That is so sweet! I am totally honored. Grazie!

  15. RCeleste April 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    The word that popped into my mind as I was reading your description of coatti was “douchebag”. That seems like a pretty good translation, since “tacky” doesn’t quite paint the whole picture of…well, douchiness that the coatti display.
    Thanks for sharing your observations…love your blog!!

  16. RomaDocet November 3, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    p.s. it is not “coattezza” but “coattanza” FWIK


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