If you’re fascinated by the Italian culture and language, it's worth learning a couple of key expressions before your trip to Italy. In this way, you will be able to connect more with locals!
We have put together an easy list of words you can add to your vocabulary to use on your trip. Do you need help to get to your hotel? Book a Prontopia local to get more tips on the city!
When learning a foreign language, greetings are among the first things to learn. Anywhere you go, greetings will help you break the ice or simply be polite when entering a shop, a restaurant, or in any other social situation.
In Italy, you can use ‘salve’ (sal-vay) at any time of the day, both in formal and informal situations, although it is perceived as a respectful and extremely polite greeting.
You can use ‘buongiorno’ (bu-on-jor-no), good morning, from morning until lunch time, then ‘buonasera’ (bu-oh-nah-say-ra), good evening, from the afternoon to the night time.
‘Ciao’ (ch-ah-oh) is the most expected to be used by foreigners who don’t speak the language. It’s an informal greeting that you would normally use in a family or friends circle.
When greeting a person, remember that you’re in Italy and hand gestures are a crucial part of communication!
Although thanking is not as important in Italian culture as it is in the Anglo-Saxon world, it’s important to know how to express gratitude. You can simply say ‘grazie!’ (gr-ah-tsee-ay), thank you, or ‘grazie mille!’ (gr-ah-tsee-ay mee-lay), thanks a lot. If someone has thanked you first, you can reply ‘grazie a te!’ (gr-ah-tsee-ay ah lay), thank you.
Do you need to get past people in a crowd, or have you accidentally hit someone when walking? Just say ‘scusi’ (scoo-see) or ‘mi scusi’ (mee scoo-see), a straightforward way to apologize.
You can also use the more informal ‘scusa’ when directly apologizing to someone you know.
How much is it? If you want to indicate a specific item, you can point at an item and say ‘quanto costa questo?’ (kwan-to cos-ta kw-as-to), how much is this?
If you want to apologize and let people understand you can’t speak Italian you can say, ‘sono straniero, non parlo italiano’ (so-noh strah-nee-aero, non par-lo ee-ta-lee-ano).
Italians are very easy going and highly appreciate people who took the time to learn some simple sentences in their language.
Do you need to take a bus or a train and don’t know when to get off? You can ask the conductor or passengers ‘mi scusi, è qui [name of the stop / the destination]?’ (mee scoo-see eh kw-ee…?). For instance, you can ask, ‘mi scusi, è qui Piazza Duomo?’ (literally, excuse me, is Piazza Duomo here?) or ‘mi scusi, scendo qui per Piazza Duomo?’ (mee scoo-see eh kw-ee pee-atsa doo-oh-mo), shall I get off here for Piazza Duomo?.
If you’re looking for a spot, you can ask how to reach it in a variety of ways.
‘Dov’è Piazza Duomo?’, (doh-veh pee-atsa doo-oh-mo) or ‘scusi, dov’è Piazza Duomo?’ (scoo-see doh-veh pee-atsa doo-oh-mo), litterally, excuse me, where is Piazza Duomo?.
‘Sto cercando Piazza Duomo’ (st-oh chair-kan-doh pee-atsa doo-oh-mo), I’m looking for Piazza Duomo, or ‘vorrei andare a Piazza Duomo’ (voh-ray an-dah-ray a pee-atsa doo-oh-mo), I would like to go to Piazza Duomo.
Some easy, short answers for a variety of situations are ‘va bene’ (vah beh-neh), which is both a formal and informal way to say "okay, that’s fine", or even "I see".
‘Non importa’ (non eem-por-tah), it doesn’t matter, never mind.
If you’re at a restaurant or café and want to try a specialty, you can ask the waiter, ‘cosa mi consiglia?’, (coh-zah mee kon-see-lee-ah), "what do you suggest?"
You can also add ‘faccia lei!’(fah-tcha leh-ee), inviting the waiter to pick something for you, if you’re unsure of what to go for and are curious to find out what the waiter thinks is the best option for you.
"The bill, please": "Il conto, per favore!" (eel kon-toh pehr fah-voh-ray)
Of course, being in Italy, you could simply make the international hand gesture to ask the bill. If you have doubts on the correct pronunciation, here is a useful and fun video to watch to clear your mind. Enjoy your trip!
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