Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Cut to the chase

There’s a famous Italian saying "tagliare la testa al toro", which literally means ‘cut off the bull's head’ and is used in times of procrastination to encourage a decision to be made and swiftly overcome the obstacles preventing it.

The saying dates all the way back to 1162, when Venice was a global shipping power. Thirteen men from the nearby town of Aquileia Grado plotted to invade Venice, but when their plan was discovered by the Venetians, they were held on trial and sentenced to death.

An intervention by Pope Adrian IV spared their lives, but in return, Aquileia was ordered to deliver the Venetians one bull and twelve well-fed pigs every year on the anniversary of the pardon, representing the acquitted. They held their side of the bargain, and for a number of years Aquileia was tormented by the Venetians who held a mock trial in the town square, culminating in the beheading of the bull.
So now the phrase “tagliare la testa al toro" is used throughout Italy to illustrate the settling of scores, or getting to the point, without having to sit through a long, arduous trial process.