Can anyone explain what avere la botte piena, la moglie ubriaca e l'uva sulla vigna means?

Also, are there regional variations of that proverb? If so, what are they?

  • regional variations in plain italian or in any of the italian slangs? Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 23:33
  • @Giuseppe, sorry I don't understand your question; can you rewrite it in plain English? Thank you. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 19:01
  • 3
    For the record, I've never heard it including the third part, just the first two.
    – o0'.
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 19:26
  • @KyriakosKyritsis in Italy there are a lot of regional slangs and sometimes you can find variations of a proverb in a specific regional slang. When you ask for "regional variations", are you looking for variations in "official" italian or variations in "regional slang"? Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 9:57
  • A friend of mine used to say "avere la botte piena e la moglie bottana", but I don't think it qualifies as an "official" variant. :-/ Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 14:41

3 Answers 3


It has the same meaning of the expression "have your cake and eat it too", that is, when there's a tradeoff you cannot have both things at the same time.

In this case you have three parts:

botte piena = a full barrel [of wine]
moglie ubriaca = a drunk wife
uva sulla vigna = grapes on the vine, the grapes used to make the wine

The third part is sometimes omitted, and you also have avere la moglie piena e la botte ubriaca.

There are some regional variations, for example, in Ferrara there's an s'pol brisa aver galina, ov e cul cald (non si possono avere gallina, uovo e culo caldo; literally, "you can't have chicken, egg and warm ass," where warm ass means not to have to work).

  • 4
    Maybe it depends on the region, but often "avere la moglie piena e la botte ubriaca" is a funny joke on the phrasing of "avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca". "Moglie piena" commonly means "pregnant wife", and sometimes "botte ubriaca" means that the wood of the barrell is soaked with wine from previous stockings, and it could give a worse taste to new wine.
    – Shu
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 9:32

It means to want something impossible, since it is not possible to have a barrel full of wine if somebody drank the wine, and it is not possible to have grapes on a grapevine, if the grapes have been used to make wine.

The only variant I know is the shortened version of what you wrote: Avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca.


Much simpler: it is pretending or willing to have one's wife already drunk while having the barrel of wine still full for having all desires fulfilled. In (Argy) Spanish: "tener la chancha, los veinte (lechones) y la máquina de hacer chorizos".

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