A trip to Italy is always a treat for the senses. Where else could you see the full glory of the magnificent Colosseum in Rome, inhale the aromas of pizza wafting through the streets of Naples, or listen to the romantic swooning of a gondolier as you float down the canal ways of Venice?
Yes indeed, there’s so much that’s enchanting about Italy. But, once you find yourself in the midst of its bustling cities and picturesque villages, do you know enough Italian to get around?
Wherever you travel, it’s always a good idea to do your homework on a few useful words and phrases to help you make inquiries and gain some major brownie points from the locals in the process. Whether your pronunciation is perfect or not, people are likely to appreciate the effort made by visitors to learn some basic phrases in their language.
If you’ve got a trip to Italy lined up, but you’re wondering how you’re going to communicate the right way without causing any misunderstandings or stepping over any etiquette boundaries, then these are the most important phrases you’ll need to know (for various situations) before you go!
When you need to break the ice…
It’s important to start conversations on the right foot, and nothing can contribute to good first impressions better than the right words. Getting your basic Italian phrases for hellos and goodbyes won’t be too hard, although there are other small-talk phrases that may require a bit more practice to roll off the tongue naturally.
Ciao! — Hello or goodbye
While it serves as the quaint greeting/farewell that gets thrown around a lot, it’s important to note that this is reserved for very informal settings. So, it’s okay to use with people you’re familiar with or have spent some time with, but you should probably not use it with people you’ve just met.
Buongiorno! — Good morning!
Nothing announces you as a savvy traveler in Italy better than a cheery “Buongiorno!” in the morning. It’ll make the locals break out a smile and make sure you receive some excellent service.
Come va? — How are you?
You can also say “Come sta?”. You’ll probably be at the receiving end of this question a lot so make sure to know the appropriate response like “molto bene, grazie” (“I’m fine, thank you”).
Piacere di conoscerti — Nice to meet you.
You’ll be shaking hands with a lot of new friendly people, so make sure you remember their names and follow it up with this polite line.
Arrivederci! — Goodbye!
Any Italian simply cannot be brought to an end without this famous goodbye!
When you’re getting around…
You may have grabbed flight deals and cruised into Italy without breaking a sweat. But once you land, you’re dealing with a whole new ballgame. Finding your way through the narrow alleyways of small villages and the web-like network of streets in busy cities can be quite difficult, and if you don’t have the Internet to guide you, this could turn downright challenging. But, by remembering to use the following phrases, you’ll be better equipped to seek help from the locals.
Ci siamo persi — We’re lost
Probably a good way to start if you’re really in a pickle and not sure where you are. This line will make it clear that you need help ASAP, and you’ll find that Italians will be quite happy to help you get back on track.
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?
At some point in your trip, you’ll be hopping on Italy’s train network to get you from point A to point B, so knowing this simple phrase should help you get to where you want to go without any confusion.
Dov’è la banca più vicina? — Where is the nearest bank?
For those moments when you just need to withdraw some cash or attend to any other bank-related tasks in a hurry.
Ripeta, per favore — Please repeat
Italians are famous for being fast talkers, so in case all those directions just flew through one ear and out the other without having time to be processed by your brain, this will indicate that you just need them to slow down a bit so you can understand the information better.
You may also like reading: 7 Incredible Cities in Italy That Are Calling You to Visit
When you’re eating out…
We can’t really talk about Italy and not mention the food! Eating, drinking, and socializing are important aspects of Italian life and you’ll do well to fit in if you know how to politely order and interact with servers, which in turn will help you receive great service and have a more enjoyable culinary experience.
Dove si mangia bene? — Where is a good restaurant?
Ditch the apps on your phone and get restaurant insights straight from those who know the scene best. This will most often end up with you getting some great eye-opening tips from locals.
Posso ordinare _____? — Can I order the [food/drink item]?
After you’ve found an eatery of your liking and had a look at the menu, make sure you use this line to place your order, following it up with a gracious “por favore”.
Un altro, per favore — Another one, please.
Another beer or bottle of vino for your table? This will help your server know what you want more of.
È delizioso! — It’s delicious!
Memorize the line; you’ll be using it a lot while you chomp your way through Italy!
Il conto, per favore — The check, please
Italian servers are trained to not interrupt your dining experience, 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.
When you’re shopping till you drop…
Whether it’s high-end fashion or other Italian-made goods that can’t be found anywhere else, cities like Rome, Milan, and Naples will be sure to please any hardcore shopper. But, when you’re out shopping, it’s important to know a few handy phrases that’ll help you play your part in the intricate dance between shopper and shopkeeper!
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 the right etiquette here is to not go poking, prodding, and touching the items on display right away, even if you know what you want. You need to act cool and just inquire if it’s okay to look around. If there is something that catches your eye, just point at it, and the person at the store will assist you.
Posso provare questi articoli, per favore? — Can I please try these items?
Once you’ve communicated what items interest you, this line will help in requesting 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 the right size? Use this line to request for something that will fit 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’re planning a trip to Italy, make sure to keep these important Italian phrases and words in mind so that you have a memorable adventure with some amazing new friends!
Have any phrases to add to the list? Post them in the comments section!