So you’ve managed to grab a great flight deal to Italy and you’re relishing the chance to finally see the Colosseum and throw a few coins in the Trevi fountain in Rome, sip on some great coffee and wine in a laid-back café or bar in Bologna, feast on some authentic pizza in Naples, and be serenaded as you float in a gondola down the canal ways of Venice. Sounds great, but how’s your Italiano?
When traveling to any country, it’s always great to know a few words and phrases that will help you along the way. Plus, locals in any country love the fact that visitors take the trouble to learn a bit of their language, and you’re sure to score some major points with your hosts if you do so.
If you’re thinking about a trip to experience the best that Italy has to offer, it’s important to learn a few words and phrases in the local lingo so that you can communicate with ease and also make some new friends, without appearing like an awkward tourist. So, get ready to strut around with confidence — here are the top 20 must-know Italian phrases if you are traveling to Italy!
Greetings and Pleasantries
There’s nothing like breaking the ice with some pleasant greetings. Knowing your basic “hello” and “goodbye” is something you can learn quite easily, but there may some other phrases that you’ll need to practice to roll off your tongue effortlessly and naturally.
Ciao! — Hello or goodbye
It does the job of both a greeting and a farewell, BUT it’s important to note that this is reserved for very informal settings, especially with people you’re very familiar with or have spent a lot of time with. It might be considered inappropriate for people you’ve just met.
Buongiorno! — Good morning!
Nothing like starting off the day by walking into an Italian café armed with a cheery buongiorno! The locals will love it, and you’ll make some friends in no time!
Come va? — How are you?
Come sta? can also be used. You’ll be asked this a lot so be ready with an appropriate response like molto bene, grazie (I’m fine, thank you).
Piacere di conoscerti — Nice to meet you
You’ll be bumping into a lot of new faces throughout your journey in Italy, so be prepared to remember names and follow it up with this friendly line.
Arrivederci! — Goodbye!
This informal farewell is important because you can’t just exit that restaurant or store without a little smile and this parting line.
Finding Your Way Around
Navigating your way through the labyrinth-like alleyways and narrow streets of some Italian cities can be quite a task, and if you don’t have any internet at your fingertips, you’ll have to go old school — and ask for directions! If you find yourself in a confusing spot, don’t hesitate to use one of the following lines to get help or directions to where you want to go.
Ci siamo persi — We’re lost
A line for the worst case scenario, but a clear and concise one that will immediately be an SOS signal to the locals.
Per favore può darmi alcune indicazioni? — Can you give me some directions, please?
This formal and polite way to ask for directions will be your go-to in any number of situations. Be sure to work on the right pronunciation!
Scusi, sa dov’è la stazione? — Excuse me, do you know where the train station is?
You’ll be using Italy’s train system at some point of your trip, so it’s always good to pull this line out when needed.
Dov’è la banca più vicina? — Where is the nearest bank?
For those moments where you need to get your money matters sorted out, this phrase should come in handy so you can withdraw some cash or attend to any other bank-related tasks.
Ripeta, per favore — Please repeat
Italians are notoriously fast talkers, so in case you can’t catch on to the directions they’re giving you, this will indicate that they’ll have to slow down a bit so you can understand them.
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For Eating Out
How can we talk about Italy and not include food? Eating and drinking are fine arts in Italy, and to feel comfortable in the restaurants and bars you may frequent after your airline flights have landed, it’s important to know the right way to order and how to be polite, which will go a long way in making sure you get excellent service and enjoy a great dining experience.
Dove si mangia bene? — Where is a good restaurant?
When you’re just looking to start your gastronomic adventure in Italy, this phrase can help you get some good tips from the locals.
Posso ordinare _____? — Can I order the [food/drink item]?
Once you’ve found a good eating spot and you’ve had a look at the menu, this will help you place your order.
Un altro, per favore — Another one, please
Another beer or a bottle of vino for your table? This will help your server know what you want more of.
È delizioso! — It’s delicious!
Compliments to the chef are always welcome! Memorize it, because you’ll be using it a lot while eating your way through Italy.
Il conto, per favore — The check, please
Italian servers are trained to not interrupt your meal, even though they’ve noticed you’re done eating. You’ll have to make it a point to ask for the check (politely) once you’re ready.
Cities like Milan, Rome, and Venice offer visitors the opportunity to shop for high-end fashion and other Italian-made goods that can’t be found anywhere else. When you’re shopping, it’s important to know how to carry on with shopkeepers so that you can get the best deals, without ruffling any feathers!
Posso guardare? — May I just look?
As you enter a store, you’ll often be asked the usual “cerca qualcosa?” (what would you like?) or “cosa sta cercando?” (what are you looking for?), and good etiquette here is to not go poking, prodding, and touching the items on display right away, even if you know what you want. Act cool and polite and ask if you can look around. If there is something of interest, just point at it, and the person at the store will give you all the information about it.
Posso provare questi articoli, per favore? — Can I please try these items?
Once you’ve done pointing at the items you want, this line is needed to politely ask if you can physically try them on.
Mi può portare una taglia più grande/piccolo, per favore? — Can you please bring me a bigger/smaller size?
Not a right fit of clothing? Use this line to request for something that will suit you better.
Quanto mi fa pagare? — How much do you want for this?
For items that are open to a bit of haggling, this line will come in handy. Especially useful in markets.
Mi fa uno sconto? — Can you give me a discount?
Once again, be wary of where you pull out this question. It won’t be right to do it in a high-end store but at a market or smaller store it will be fine. You might be met with a disapproving look at first, but it’s normal in the whole price negotiation process!
If you’ve got a Italian adventure ahead of you, make sure to keep these top 20 must-know Italian words and phrases in mind, and you’ll be able to smoothly get through your holiday while even impressing some hard-to-impress Italians!