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Advanced Italian Words to Spice Up Your Vocabulary

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So, you’ve passed the intermediate level in Italian. You have all the basics and then some, but you want to go the extra mile and learn more advanced Italian words and sentences. 

Are you applying for an Advanced Italian certificate [CILS], corresponding to the C1 or C2 level? Or are you enrolled in an Italian university? Maybe you just need to write an essay, compose the perfect cover letter, or take part in more formal and complex discussions with your Italian friends and colleagues. 

According to the Common European Framework Reference for Languages (known in Italian as QCER, Quadro Comune Europeo di Riferimento delle Lingue), advanced learners of a language are able to effortlessly understand virtually everything, whether it’s written or oral. They can also use the language effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes, as well as produce well-structured and articulated text on complex topics.

Do you think you’re getting there? 

Here, we’ll present you with a great list of advanced Italian vocabulary words, including verbs, nouns, connectors, and example sentences and phrases. This list will help you sort out any complex linguistic situation for any professional environment you might find yourself in. But, if you still want more by the time you reach the end, check out our wide array of vocabulary lists with audio recordings. 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Advanced Academic Words
  2. Advanced Business Words
  3. Advanced Medical Words
  4. Advanced Legal Words
  5. Advanced Words for Acing Italian Writing/Essays
  6. Conclusion

1. Advanced Academic Words

Let’s start with some vocabulary you’ll need to feel at ease in any academic context.

A Boy Frustrated with His Homework

Are you ready for some serious academic work?

Approccio (n.)Bisogna avere un approccio scientifico.
ApproachYou have to have a scientific approach.

Beneficio (n.)Tutti possono trarne beneficio.
BenefitEveryone can benefit from that.

Concettuale (adj.)Si tratta di arte concettuale.
ConceptualThis is conceptual art.

Ruolo (n.)Il ruolo fondamentale della storia
RoleThe fundamental role of history

Astratto (adj.)Questo è un concetto astratto.
AbstractThis is an abstract concept.

Punto di vista (n.)Devi capire il mio punto di vista.
Point of viewYou have to understand my point of view.

Parere / Opinione (n.)Non è facile cambiare parere.
OpinionIt’s not easy to change your opinion.

Polemica (n.)Agli italiani piace fare polemica.
ControversyItalians like to argue.

Valutare (v.)Bisogna valutare tutte le posizioni.
To evaluateYou have to evaluate all the positions.

Funzione (n.)La funzione della scuola è educare.
Function / RoleSchool’s role is to educate.

Fascicolo (n.)Dove hai messo il fascicolo completo?
Dossier / FileWhere did you put the complete dossier?

Argomentare (v.)Come argomenti la tua tesi?
To argue / To defend / To discussHow do you defend your thesis?

Comportare (v.)Che cosa comporta?
To involve / To implyWhat does it imply?

Verificarsi (v.)Questa situazione si verifica raramente.
To occurThis situation rarely occurs.

Atteggiamento (n.)È un atteggiamento ragionevole.
AttitudeIt is a reasonable attitude.

Implicare (v.)Questa conclusione implica che la premessa era giusta.
To implyThis conclusion implies that the premise was correct.

Interpretazione (n.)È una questione di interpretazione.
InterpretationIt is a question of interpretation.

Fattore (n.)Il fattore più importante è l’ecologia.
FactorThe most important factor is ecology.

Definizione (n.)Troverai la definizione sul dizionario.
DefinitionYou will find the definition in the dictionary.

Fonte (n.)La fonte di questo studio è molto antica.
SourceThe source of this study is very old.

For more words and phrases about school, school subjects, or even life on a school campus, make sure to refer to our free vocabulary lists!

2. Advanced Business Words

Many people travel for business reasons, and there’s no better way to conduct business than through effective communication. The business terms on this advanced Italian vocabulary list will help you avoid any misunderstandings when doing business with Italians. 

Strategia (n.)È una buona strategia di vendita.
StrategyIt is a good sales strategy.

Controproposta (n.)Aspetto la vostra controproposta.
Counter-proposalI’m waiting for your counter-proposal.

Preventivo (n.)Sceglieremo il miglior preventivo.
Price quotationWe will choose the best quote.

Bilancio (n.)Il bilancio aziendale è in attivo.
BudgetThe company’s budget is in the black.

Rimborso (n.)I clienti hanno diritto ad un rimborso.
RefundCustomers are entitled to a refund.

Contabilità (n.)La contabilità è un settore critico.
AccountingAccounting is a critical area.

Fattura (n.)La fattura è arrivata dopo 30 giorni.
InvoiceThe invoice arrived after 30 days.

Bolla di accompagnamento (n.)Senza bolla di accompagnamento, il prodotto non può essere spedito.
Packing slipWithout a packing slip, the product cannot be shipped.

Ricerca di mercato (n.)Abbiamo fatto un’estesa ricerca di mercato.
Market researchWe have done extensive market research.

Consumatore (n.)Dal produttore al consumatore
ConsumerFrom producer to consumer

Dirigente (n.)Il dirigente della mia azienda guadagna troppo!
Manager / DirectorMy company director earns too much!

Capo reparto (n.)Il capo reparto sa sempre tutto.
Department headThe department head always knows everything.

Mercato di nicchia (n.)Il mercato del lusso è un mercato di nicchia.
Niche marketThe luxury market is a niche market.

Filiale / Succursale (n.)Abbiamo tre filiali all’estero.
BranchWe have three branches abroad.

Inventario (n.)Il negozio faceva l’inventario ogni anno.
InventoryThe store made an inventory every year.

Ricavi (n.)Quest’anno i ricavi sono calati.
RevenuesRevenues have dropped this year.

Azionisti (n.)Gli azionisti sono molto soddisfatti dei risultati.
ShareholdersThe shareholders are very satisfied with the results.

Giro/Volume d’affari (n.)Il giro d’affari di questo business è enorme.
TurnoverThe turnover of this business is enormous.

Ufficio acquisti (n.)Ho fatto domanda all’ufficio acquisti.
Purchasing departmentI made a request to the purchasing department.

Estratto conto (n.)L’estratto conto ormai è solo digitale.
Account statementThe bank statement is now only digital.

Raggiungere gli obiettivi (v.)Quest’anno non abbiamo raggiunto gli obiettivi previsti.
To achieve goalsThis year, we didn’t achieve the expected goals.

Assumere (v.)L’azienda assumerà centinaia di giovani lavoratori.
To hireThe company will hire hundreds of young workers.

Licenziare (v.)Purtroppo sono stato licenziato.
To dismiss / To fireUnfortunately, I was fired.

Licenziarsi (v.)Non ne posso più. Mi licenzio!
To quitI have had enough. I quit!

Maternità (n.)La maternità in Italia è obbligatoria per cinque mesi.
Maternity leaveMaternity leave in Italy is compulsory for five months.

Bancarotta (n.)Certe volte la bancarotta è inevitabile.
BankruptcySometimes, bankruptcy is inevitable.

Marchio registrato (n.)Ferrari è un marchio registrato.
Registered trademarkFerrari is a registered trademark.

Stipendio (n.)Lo stipendio è versato il 27 di ogni mese.
SalaryThe salary is paid on the 27th of each month.

Busta paga (n.)Le tasse sono detratte dalla busta paga.
PaycheckTaxes are deducted from the paycheck.

An Elderly Couple Checking Over Their Finances with an Accountant

Are the accounts correct?

→ Want to learn more vocabulary for doing business successfully? You’ll find it here!

3. Advanced Medical Words

Whether you’re planning to study medicine in Italy or you need medical attention while traveling, being able to discuss medical issues requires a somewhat advanced vocabulary. To give you a head start, we’ve compiled this list of several advanced words in Italian related to the medical field. And if you really want a full immersion experience, check out the ten (10!!!) seasons of the historic TV series Un medico in famiglia (A Doctor in the Family) from the Raiplay platform. 

Analisi del sangue (n.)Domani devo fare le analisi del sangue.
Blood testI have a blood test tomorrow.

Anticorpi (n.)Gli anticorpi combattono le malattie.
AntibodiesAntibodies fight diseases.

Chirurgia (n.)La chirurgia plastica è molto invasiva.
SurgeryPlastic surgery is very invasive.

Diagnosi precoce (n.)Una diagnosi precoce diminuisce i rischi.
Early diagnosisEarly diagnosis decreases the risks.

Dosaggio (n.)È necessario controllare il dosaggio delle medicine.
DosageIt is necessary to control the dosage of the medicines.

Ecografia (n.)Dall’ecografia si vede se il bambino è sano.
UltrasoundThe ultrasound shows if the baby is healthy.

Raggi X (n.)Ho fatto i raggi X perché avevo un braccio rotto.
X-rayI did the X-rays because I had a broken arm.

Prurito (n.)Se hai prurito, ti gratti.
ItchIf you itch, you scratch.

Emorragia (n.)Siamo riusciti ad arrestare l’emorragia.
BleedingWe managed to stop the bleeding.

Ricetta (n.)Il medico prescrive le ricette.
PrescriptionThe doctor gives prescriptions.

Sistema immunitario (n.)Il mio sistema immunitario è debole.
Immune systemMy immune system is weak.

Gesso (n.)Per quanto tempo devi tenere il gesso?
PlasterHow long do you have to keep the plaster on?

Frattura (n.)Per fortuna non è una frattura esposta.
FractureThankfully, it’s not an open fracture.

Pressione arteriosa (n.)È bene controllare regolarmente la pressione arteriosa.
Blood pressureIt’s good to check your blood pressure regularly.

Contagio (n.)Chi sta diffondendo il contagio?
InfectionWho is spreading the infection?

Cura (n.)A volte la cura sta nella prevenzione.
CureSometimes the cure lies in prevention.

Tirocinio (n.)Quella dottoressa ha fatto il tirocinio all’ospedale San Paolo.
InternshipThat doctor did her internship at the San Paolo Hospital.

Cancerogeno (adj.)Questo materiale è cancerogeno.
CarcinogenicThis material is carcinogenic.

Two Medical Professionals Looking Over a Chart Together

Does it look okay to you?

→ Check out our vocabulary list to practice talking about medicines and medical treatments.

4. Advanced Legal Words

Are you a fan of detective and crime stories? If so, you might love to watch the entire series of Il commissario Montalbano (Detective Montalbano), set in wonderful Sicily. You’ll need to study and practice a few advanced legal words first, but these words could be useful in many other situations as well. You never know…

Procuratore (n.)Ti presento il procuratore della Repubblica.
Attorney / ProsecutorThis is the public prosecutor.

Avvocato (n.)Alcuni avvocati non hanno una buona fama.
LawyerSome lawyers don’t have a good reputation.

Querela (n.)Ho ricevuto una querela per quello che ho detto.
LawsuitI got a lawsuit for what I said.

Essere passibile di (v.)Il tuo comportamento è passibile di una sanzione pesante.
To be liable toYour behavior is liable for a heavy penalty.

Fare appello / ricorso (v.)Gli avvocati hanno fatto appello immediatamente.
To appealThe lawyers appealed immediately.

Verdetto (n.)Il giudice ha annunciato il verdetto.
VerdictThe judge announced the verdict.

Tribunale (n.)Ci vedremo in tribunale!
CourtWe will see you in court!

Arresti domiciliari (n.)Il politico è stato messo agli arresti domiciliari.
House arrestThe politician was placed under house arrest.

Abrogare (v.)È necessario abrogare questa legge ingiusta.
To repealIt is necessary to repeal this unjust law.

Arresto (n.)L’arresto è stato spettacolare.
Arrest / CaptureThe capture was spectacular.

Calunnia (n.)Quello che dici è solo una calunnia.
SlanderWhat you say is just slander.

Reato (n.)È un reato molto grave.
CrimeIt is a very serious crime.

Diffamare (v.)È molto facile diffamare su internet.
To defameIt is very easy to defame (someone) on the internet.

Indagine (n.)Hai visto l’ultima indagine del commissario Montalbano?
InvestigationHave you seen the latest investigation by Detective Montalbano?

Multa (n.)Se superi il limite di velocità, ricevi una multa.
FineIf you exceed the speed limit, you will be fined.

Precedenti penali (n.)Hai dei precedenti penali?
Criminal recordsDo you have any criminal records?

Sentenza (n.)Questa è una sentenza storica.
RulingThis is a historic ruling.

Testimone (n.)Il testimone apparirà in tribunale.
WitnessThe witness will appear in court.

Patteggiare (v.)I miei avvocati mi hanno convinta a patteggiare.
To settle / To negotiateMy lawyers convinced me to negotiate.

Udienza (n.)Quando è fissata l’udienza?
Court hearingWhen is the hearing scheduled?

Verbale (n.)Il carabiniere ha fatto il verbale dell’accaduto.
MinutesThe carabiniere took the minutes of the incident.

A Detective Looking Up through a Spyglass

I love detective stories!

5. Advanced Words for Acing Italian Writing/Essays

Writing essays, whether for language certification or a student thesis, is definitely an art! But you’ll do well as long as you choose your vocabulary carefully, selecting less common words to deliver key concepts in the best possible way.

Here is a selection of verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions that will immediately increase your score on an essay or paper. 

1 – Alternative Verbs

Sometimes, the trick is to substitute a common verb with a more sophisticated one that has the same meaning. Here are some examples. Note that the first word is the common version, while the second one is the more advanced Italian verb. 

AverePossedereIl mio amico possiede una bella casa.
To haveTo ownMy friend owns a nice house.

DireAffermareCome puoi affermare una cosa del genere?
To sayTo claimHow can you say such a thing?

DareConsegnareHai consegnato la tesi al professore?
To giveTo deliverDid you deliver the thesis to the professor?

ScrivereRedigereDevo redigere il mio curriculum.
To writeTo redactI have to redact my resume.

ComprareAcquistareIl mio sogno è acquistare tutto!
To buyTo acquireMy dream is to buy everything!

VolereDesiderareDesidero un bicchiere d’acqua, per favore.
To wantTo wishI would like a glass of water, please.

PiacereApprezzareApprezzo il vino di qualità.
To likeTo appreciateI appreciate quality wine.

IniziareIntraprendereHo intrapreso una nuova avventura.
To startTo undertake / To embarkI have embarked on a new adventure.

2 – Conjunctions

AffinchéBisogna controllare le grandi aziende affinché non inquinino.
So thatBig companies must be controlled so that they do not pollute.

NonostanteNonostante il freddo, abbiamo fatto il bagno.
DespiteDespite the cold, we went swimming.

A meno cheStasera ci sarà il concerto, a meno che non si metta a piovere.
UnlessThere will be a concert tonight unless it starts raining.

Piuttosto chePiuttosto che guardare questo film, vado a dormire.
Rather thanRather than watching this movie, I’m going to sleep.

Non appenaNon appena arrivo ti telefono.
As soon asAs soon as I arrive, I will call you.

ComunqueComunque è meglio di niente.
In any caseIn any case, it is better than nothing.

PoichéNon siamo usciti, poiché c’era il coprifuoco.
AsWe did not go out, as there was a curfew.

BenchéBenché sia simpatico, non lo inviterò alla mia festa.
AlthoughAlthough he is nice, I will not invite him to my party.

3 – Adverbs

DecisamenteQuesto è decisamente un bell’articolo!
DefinitelyThis is definitely a good article!

FrequentementeMi succede frequentemente di sbagliare.
FrequentlyIt happens frequently to me to make mistakes. / I frequently make mistakes. 

ModeratamenteSiamo moderatamente ottimisti.
ModeratelyWe are moderately optimistic.

AssolutamenteNon ne voglio assolutamente parlare.
AbsolutelyI absolutely don’t want to talk about it.

OstinatamenteContinuava a rifiutare ostinatamente.
StubbornlyHe kept stubbornly refusing.

ImprovvisamenteImprovvisamente tutto è diventato buio.
SuddenlySuddenly, everything went dark.

BruscamenteSe n’è andato bruscamente.
AbruptlyHe left abruptly.

A Man in a Suit Plugging His Ears with His Fingers

He stubbornly refused to listen…

4 – Adjectives

AccattivanteHa un sorriso molto accattivante.
CaptivatingHe has a very captivating smile.

CaoticoIl traffico di Roma è caotico.
ChaoticTraffic in Rome is chaotic.

GradevoleLa temperatura dell’acqua è molto gradevole.
PleasantThe water temperature is very pleasant.

MaliziosoNon mi piace il tuo sorriso malizioso.
MischievousI don’t like your mischievous smile.

ViziatoÈ un bambino troppo viziato.
SpoiledHe is an extremely spoiled child.

ImpeccabileIl suo comportamento è stato impeccabile.
FlawlessHis behavior was flawless.

PacatoParla sempre con un tono molto pacato.
CalmHe always speaks in a very calm tone.

VivaceMi piacciono le conversazioni vivaci.
LivelyI like lively conversations.

RagionevoleMi è sembrata una proposta ragionevole.
ReasonableIt seemed like a reasonable proposition.

InaccettabileLa tua controproposta è inaccettabile.
UnacceptableYour counteroffer is unacceptable.

ImbarazzanteÈ stata una situazione imbarazzante per tutti.
EmbarrassingIt was an embarrassing situation for everyone.

A Bald Man with Glasses Yelling at Someone

You seem like a reasonable person…

6. Conclusion

In this guide, you have learned a large collection of both general and specialized advanced Italian words, from medical vocabulary to legal terms and business phrases. If we forgot any important topic or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below.

Make sure to explore ItalianPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review new words and learn their pronunciation. Not sure where to start? Then we recommend checking out our advanced Italian course

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching. Your own private teacher will help you practice advanced words and phrases, provide you with assignments and personalized exercises, and record audio samples just for you. Your teacher will also review your work and help you improve your pronunciation.

Keep learning and having fun with ItalianPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian

Italian Words for Intermediate-Level Learners

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Mastering Italian is an ongoing process and a wonderful journey, but you’re definitely on the right track! Once you have secured the basics, it’s time to move on and tackle more complex grammar structures and vocabulary words.

The topic of this guide is Italian words for intermediate learners, and you’ll find a great variety of nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, and more! We’ve included everything you need to improve your comprehension and to take part in more advanced conversations, watch movies without subtitles, or read books and magazines without a dictionary.

While this list is by no means complete, we recommend you begin practicing these intermediate Italian words right away. Remember that you can find more lessons and exercises on ItalianPod101.com—create your free lifetime account today to gain full access to our study materials.

Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Let’s Start with the Numbers
  2. Nouns
  3. Pronouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adjectives
  6. Adverbs
  7. Prepositions
  8. Conjunctions
  9. Conclusion

1. Let’s Start with the Numbers

3… 2… 1… Via! (“Go!”) 

The first set of intermediate words we’ll look at are the higher numbers. The first ten are quite easy—you just need to memorize them!


The Numbers 1-5 in Block Form

Diamo i numeri? (“Shall we give the numbers?”)

1 – From 11 to 20

The numbers from 11 to 20 are extremely useful when talking about the ages of your amici adolescenti (“teenage friends”), small prices, or the time.

11Undici
12Dodici
13Tredici
14Quattordici
15Quindici
16Sedici
17Diciassette
18Diciotto
19Diciannove
20Venti

There are a couple of things we should point out regarding the Italian numbers from 11 to 19. 

1. They are formed by combining the word dici (a word meaning “ten”) and the unit number. But, as you probably noticed, dici looks a bit different from dieci (as there’s an “e” missing in there). Furthermore, it’s positioned after the units until the number se-dici (16), but before the units for the numbers 17, 18, and 19.

2. Notice also how we double the consonant in diciassette (17) and diciannove (19).

2 – Counting Up to 100

20Venti
30Trenta
40Quaranta
50Cinquanta
60Sessanta
70Settanta
80Ottanta
90Novanta
100Cento

While the numbers up to twenty can be a bit tricky, counting up to cento (100) in Italian is fairly easy. Just put together the decine (“tens”) and the units: ventuno, ventidue, ventitre, ventiquattro (21, 22, 23, 24), and so on. They all follow the same pattern.

3 – To 1,000 and Beyond

Now, the big numbers—the ones you need to talk about large amounts of money—are really straightforward. You just have to remember that they form one word (no hyphen, no space) and that we use a period (.) rather than a comma (,) to write numbers from 1,000 onward: 1,234 = 1.234.

200Duecento
300Trecento
(…)
900Novecento
1,000Mille
2,000Duemila
10,000Diecimila
100,000Centomila
1,000,000 Un milione

If you want to check out more examples, read our full Italian numbers guide on ItalianPod101.com.

2. Nouns

In Italian, nouns are called sostantivi (that is, “substantive”). 

Nouns have a fundamental function in communication. They allow us to name people, things, places, concepts, actions, feelings, ideas, and anything else we might want to refer to while speaking or writing. In short, nouns define everything that exists or that we can imagine, and therefore constitute an essential element of any sentence. 

In Italian, each noun can be masculine or feminine and singular or plural. And don’t forget that they have to “agree” with other parts of speech in the sentence, such as articles or adjectives.

Let’s now see some intermediate Italian vocabulary words you can use at school, in the workplace, or in your spare time.


1 – Exercise

La corsaRunning
In Italy, you might hear people saying faccio footing, which sounds English—but it’s not! This is one of the many Itanglish words that have been misused over the years.

Attività fisicaExercise
In Italian, there is no single word for general exercise, and we often think of it as andare in palestra (“to go to the gym.”)

What do we call the different kinds of sports in Italian? Let us know in the comments which sport is your favorite (in Italian, of course). 

Note that the verb used for practicing sports could be either giocare (“to play”) or fare (“to do”), depending on the sport in question. But which is which? Here we go:

Calcio
Pallacanestro
Pallavolo
Pallanuoto
Tennis
Soccer
Basketball
Volleyball
Water Polo
Tennis
For all of these sports, we use the verb giocare (“to play”).

Da piccola giocavo a pallacanestro. 
“When I was a kid, I played basketball.”

Nuoto
Ginnastica
Atletica
Ciclismo
Sci
Swimming
Gymnastics
Track and field
Cycling
Skiing
For these sports, on the other hand, we use fare (“to do”).

Ho fatto atletica per tanti anni. 
“I practiced track and field for many years.”

Un giocoA game

Una partitaA match

Il punteggioThe score

La vittoriaThe victory

Un infortunioAn injury

A Man being Lazy and Flipping through Channels on the TV

E tu, che sport fai oggi? (“And you, what sport are you doing today?”)

2 – The Workplace

Un lavoroA job

La pausa caffèThe coffee break
Are you wondering why this is the second item on the list? Not only because coffee is soooo important for Italians, but also because the coffee break is the perfect moment for a creative, informal meeting among colleghi (“colleagues”).

Un colloquio (di lavoro)An interview

Una riunioneA meeting

La sala riunioniThe meeting room

L’ufficioThe office

La scrivaniaThe desk

La sediaThe chair

La mensaThe cafeteria

3 – At School

La classe / L’aulaThe classroom
Lo zaino / Lo zainettoThe backpack
La pennaThe pen
La matitaThe pencil
Il libro di testoThe textbook
Il quadernoThe notebook
Il bancoThe desk
La cattedraThe teacher’s desk
La lavagnaThe blackboard
Il dizionarioThe dictionary
Il righelloThe ruler
L’astuccioThe pencil case

4 – Arts, Crafts, and Hobbies

Il disegnoThe drawing
Il dipintoThe painting
La sculturaThe sculpture
La composizioneThe composition
L’orchestraThe orchestra
La chitarraThe guitar
Il violinoThe violin
La danzaThe dance
La coreografiaThe choreography
L’artigianatoThe crafts

A Man Chiseling to Make a Sculpture

Mani esperte (“Expert hands”)

5 – At the Doctor’s

Il dottore / La dottoressaThe doctor
Il dentistaThe dentist
L’ospedaleThe hospital
La medicinaThe medicine
La curaThe cure
Il mal di testaThe headache
Il mal di dentiThe toothache
Il mal di stomacoThe stomachache
Le pilloleThe pills
Il cerottoThe band-aid
L’ambulanzaThe ambulance
Il vaccinoThe vaccine

3. Pronouns

Pronouns are fundamental when it comes to advancing your speaking skills and reaching an intermediate level of Italian. They help you avoid repeating the names of things and people over and over again. 

There are many kinds of pronouns. Let’s start with the basics: personal pronouns.

As a beginner, you probably learned the personal subject pronouns (io, tu, lei, etc.). Now, to expand your intermediate Italian vocabulary, you’ll need to tackle the stressed, unstressed, direct, indirect, and reflexive personal pronouns. Here we go.

1 – Stressed Pronouns

Complement pronouns can be used in both stressed (forti) and unstressed (deboli) forms. The form you choose basically depends on how much emphasis you want to place on the pronoun. Let’s see a few examples. 

You need to use the strong form of the complement pronoun when you want to give greater importance to the subject or to the complement. They’re generally placed after the verb. 

For example:

Penso a te. → (stressed: “It is you I am thinking of.”)
Ti penso. → (unstressed: “I think of you.”)

Chiami me? → (stressed: “Is it really me you are calling?”)
Mi chiami? → (unstressed: “Do/can you call me?”)

And you always need a stressed form when you use the pronoun together with a preposition (di, a, da, con, etc.).

Vado con loro. (“I go with them.”)
Non mi ricordo di te… (“I don’t remember you…”)

A Woman Who Is Stressed Out at Work

Are you a stressed or an unstressed…pronoun?

PersonItalian pronounEnglish
1st person sg.meme
2nd person sg.teyou
3rd person sg.lui / leihe / him / she / her
1st person pl.noius
2nd person pl.voiyou
3rd person pl.lorothem

2 – Direct, Indirect, and Reflexive Personal P
ronouns

If you don’t need to put particular emphasis on the person or thing you’re talking about, you’ll use an unstressed personal pronoun. In Italian, unstressed pronouns can be direct or indirect.

Direct pronouns replace direct object complements. In simpler terms, they answer the question “Who?” or “What?”

Chiamo Sara. (“I call Sara.”) → I call who? Sara. → La chiamo. (“I call her.”)
Mangio un gelato. (“I eat an ice cream.”) → I eat what? An ice cream. → Lo mangio. (“I eat it.”)

Indirect pronouns replace indirect object complements, and they answer the question “To whom?” or “To what?”

Telefono a Carlos. (“I make a call to Carlos.”) → To whom? To Carlos. → Gli telefono. (“I make a call to him.”)
Scrivo alla mia amica. (“I write to my friend.”) → To whom? To my friend. → Le scrivo. (“I write to her.”)

Reflexive pronouns are those that go with reflexive verbs [see verb section], and we use them when the object of a sentence is also its subject. It allows the action to fall upon the subject.

Mi alzo e mi lavo la faccia. (“I get [myself] up and I wash my face.”)

There is no equivalent in English, but the same idea is rendered by using “my, myself,” etc.

Notice how all of these pronouns are the same across the three types (direct, indirect, reflexive) except for the third person. This change takes place to distinguish between masculine and feminine forms. 

PersonDirect pronounsIndirect pronounsReflexive pronouns
1st sg. [m, f]mimimi
2nd sg. [m, f]tititi
3rd sg. [m]lo glisi
3rd sg. [f]lalesi
1st pl. [m, f]cicici
2nd pl. [m, f]vivivi
3rd pl. [m]liglisi
3rd pl. [f]leglisi

3 – Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns, like all pronouns, are used to replace the name of someone or something. Generally, they’re used to join sentences that have an element in common. 

Mio fratello viene a trovarmi. + Mio fratello studia a Roma. 
→ Mio fratello, che studia a Roma, viene a trovarmi.

(“My brother comes to visit me.” + “My brother studies in Rome.”)
→ (“My brother, who studies in Rome, comes to visit me.”)

Or:

Ti ho parlato di mio fratello. + Mio fratello studia a Roma. 
→ Mio fratello, di cui ti ho parlato, studia a Roma.

(“I told you about my brother.” + “My brother studies in Rome.”)
→ (“My brother, whom I told you about, studies in Rome.”)

che (“that” / “which” / “who”)This is the easiest relative pronoun, as you can use it for almost anything, provided that there is no preposition.
il quale (“that” / “which” / “who”)Compared to the one above, il quale is a bit more sophisticated and complex. It must be used with the article and agree with other words in the sentence. 

Mio fratello, il quale studia a Roma, arriva domani.
“My brother, who studies in Rome, arrives tomorrow.”
cui  (“that” / “which” / “who” / “where”)This relative pronoun is used together with a preposition:

La città in cui vivo. (“The city where I live.”)
L’amico a cui hai scritto. (The friend you wrote to.”)
Sei la ragione per cui vivo. (“You’re the reason why I live.”)

4 – Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns indicate, in an imprecise and generic way, the quantity of a thing or the identity of a person.

Some of them can also function as indefinite adjectives (if they precede the noun) and indefinite pronouns (if they replace the noun). Others are only used as indefinite pronouns.

Qualcuno (“Someone”)Qualcuno ha capito? (“Did someone understand?”)
Nessuno (“Nobody”)Nessuno ha capito! (“Nobody understood!”)
Ognuno (“Each one” / “Everyone”)Ognuno fa quello che può. (“Everyone does what they can.”)
Niente (“Nothing”)Non ho capito niente… (“I understood nothing…”)
Qualcosa (“Something”)Forse ho capito qualcosa. (“Maybe I understood something.”)
Un tale / Un tizio (“Somebody”)Ieri ho incontrato un tale… (“Yesterday I met somebody…”)
We often use the expression tizio, caio, e sempronio to talk about generic people—those we don’t really know or who don’t mean much to us. For some reason, these three names were chosen in Ancient Rome to represent a Mr. Nobody…


4. Verbs

At the beginner level, you learned a number of basic action words that allowed you to get your point across. These words may have been quite useful at first, but as your speaking and writing skills improve, you should start picking up some intermediate Italian verbs. Knowing these will help you sound more like a native speaker and give you the means to better express yourself. 

1 – Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs indicate that the subject of a sentence performed an action on itself. This type of verb is always used with reflexive pronouns [see previous section]. They’re extremely common in Italian, which means they’ll make an excellent addition to your intermediate Italian vocabulary.

A Guy Looking at Himself in the Mirror

Guardarsi allo specchio (“Look in the mirror”)

AnnoiarsiTo get bored
ArrabbiarsiTo get angry
DivertirsiTo have fun
ImpegnarsiTo engage
InnamorarsiTo fall in love
LamentarsiTo complain
PettinarsiTo comb (one’s hair)
PreoccuparsiTo worry
TruccarsiTo put on makeup
RilassarsiTo chill out
SedersiTo sit
SposarsiTo get married
SvegliarsiTo wake up
VergognarsiTo be ashamed
VestirsiTo get dressed

2 – Verbs and Prepositions

Some verbs use simple and complex prepositions (preposizioni articolate) before the noun or the infinitive that follows them. But which preposition do we use? Di, da, a…? Unfortunately, there is no precise rule, and the only way to learn them is by heart. 

Here’s a list of the most common verb-preposition pairs you’ll need to add to your intermediate vocabulary.

Pensare aTo think to
Minacciare diTo threaten to
Fingere diTo pretend to
Dubitare diTo doubt of
Finire diTo finish to
Evitare diTo avoid to
Cominciare aTo start to
Abituarsi aTo get used to
Aiutare aTo help to
Andare aTo go to
Continuare aTo keep on
Imparare aTo learn to
Mettersi aTo start to
Provare aTo try to

5. Adjectives

Adjectives are the perfect instruments to improve the way you express ideas. The more, the better. Here, we’ll just concentrate on possessive adjectives as well as comparatives and superlatives. 


1 – Possessives

Possessive adjectives in Italian are always preceded by an article, except when they’re followed by terms indicating a singular family member: mio fratello (“my brother”), tua sorella (“your sister”), etc. 

They need to agree in gender and number with the noun, and their form doesn’t change even when they’re turned into pronouns.

A Family Eating a Large Meal Outside

La mia famiglia (“My family”)

Italian PossessivesAdjectivePronoun
il mio / la mia / i miei / le miemymine
il tuo / la tua/ i tuoi / le tueyouryours
il suo / la sua/ i suoi / le suehis / herhis / her
il nostro / la nostra/ i nostri / le nostreourours
il vostro / la vostra/ i vostri / le vostreyouryours
il loro / la loro  / i loro / le lorotheirtheirs

2 – Comparatives & Superlatives

In Italian, comparatives and superlatives are normally formed with più or meno (“more” or “less”) and the adjective. However, there are also some irregular forms that come directly from the Latin model.

MiglioreBetter
OttimoGreat / Best
MaggioreBigger / Greater
MinoreMinor / Less
SuperioreSuperior / Higher
UlterioreFurther
PeggioreWorse
PessimoBad / Worst
InferioreInferior / Lower

6. Adverbs

Like with adjectives, you could get away with very few adverbs as a beginner, but you’ll need to learn some more as you level up. They’re not only great for showing style and sophistication in writing, but also for helping the audience picture how something is done when you’re having a conversation.

1 – When

GiàAlready
A lungoA long time / Long
AdessoNow
AncoraAgain
FinalmenteAt last
AlloraThen

2 – How Often 

A volteSometimes
RaramenteRarely
SolitamenteUsually
GeneralmenteGenerally / Usually
SempreAll the time
MaiNever

3 – Where 

Da nessuna parteNowhere
Da qualche parteSomewhere
AltroveSomewhere else
SuUp / Above
GiùDown / Below
SopraOver / On
SottoUnder / Below
LontanoFar
VicinoClose

A Guy in a Dark Coat being Secretive

Facciamolo…silenziosamente. (“Let’s do it…quietly.”)

4 – How 

SilenziosamenteSoftly / Quietly
Lentamente / PianoSlowly
RapidamenteFast / Quickly / Shortly
Con calma / PianoCalmly / Quietly
FacilmenteEasily
FortunatamenteLuckily
SemplicementeSimply / Just

5 – How Much 

PiuttostoRather
AbbastanzaEnough
SpecialmenteEspecially
QuasiAlmost
QuantoHow much / How many
TalmenteSo / So much / So many
CircaAbout / Approximately

Take note of how many adverbs are formed by the [adjective + mente] pattern (rara-mente, general-mente, lenta-mente). Why don’t you give it a try? You can create a great number of adverbs to build upon your intermediate vocabulary! Or, you can find many more adverbs in our guide to the top 100 most useful Italian adverbs on ItalianPod101.com.

7. Prepositions

You don’t need too many prepositions, but they’re still vital when it comes to articulating your speech and structuring your sentences. They mark the relationships and links between people, objects, places, and moments.

1 – Time

PrimaBefore / Prior

DopoAfter / Then / Once

FraIn / Within
Fra (which also means “between” or “among”) is used to talk about a period of time after which something will occur, as in:

Vado in vacanza fra una settimana. (“I go on holiday in a week.”)

The opposite is expressed with fa (“ago”):

Siamo arrivati una settimana fa. (“We arrived a week ago.”)

DaSince
The preposition da (which also has many other meanings, such as “at,” “from,” etc.) is used to talk about how long (since) something has been happening.

Vivo a Roma dal 2019. (“I’ve been living in Rome since 2019.”)

2 – Space

AccantoNext to / Beside

A destraTo the right

A sinistraTo the left

DaAt
Da is used to mean “at someone’s place or office.” For example:

Dormo da un amico. (“I sleep at my friend’s house.”) 
Vado dal medico. (“I go to the doctor.”)

DavantiIn front of / Ahead

DietroBehind

SottoUnder

SopraOver / On

8. Conjunctions

Conjunctions allow you to connect two (or more) words, clauses, or sentences together. They can also be used to clarify the relationship between one sentence and the next. They’re very cool because, by using conjunctions, you’re able to build more sophisticated phrases. 

You may have learned the most basic conjunctions already (e, o, se, perché, ma), so we’ll just focus on the slightly more advanced ones here. 

A Vegetarian Soup with Bread

Né carne, né pesce… sono vegetariana! (“Neither meat nor fish… I’m a vegetarian!”)

Né…né (“Nor” / “Neither…nor” / “Either…or”)

  • Non mangio né carne né pesce. (“I eat neither meat nor fish.”)

Quindi (“Therefore” / “So”)

  • Sono stanca quindi vado a letto. (“I’m tired, so I’m going to bed.”)

Altrimenti (“Otherwise”)

  • Studia, altrimenti mi arrabbio! (“Study; otherwise, I’ll get angry!”)

Poiché (“Since” / “As”)

  • Poiché insisti, accetto il tuo invito. (“Since you insist, I accept your invitation.”)

Sebbene (“Although”)

  • Sebbene sia stanca, continuo a scrivere. (“Although I am tired, I continue to write.”)

→ Note how some conjunctions (sebbene, a meno che, così che, qualora) need to use the subjunctive.

Invece di (“Instead of”)

  • Invece di uscire, abbiamo visto un film a casa. (“Instead of going out, we saw a movie at home.”)

Mentre (“While”) 

  • Mentre ero al parco, ho incontrato un amico. (“While I was in the park, I met a friend.”)

9. Conclusion

In this guide, you’ve learned many of the best Italian words for intermediate learners. Did we forget any important words or categories you’d like to know about?

If you want more, remember that ItalianPod101 offers a great variety of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and other free resources to help you continue improving! 

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher who can help you practice intermediate words and more. Your teacher can give you assignments and personalized exercises, record audio samples to help with your pronunciation, and review all of your work to help you learn more efficiently.

Keep having fun and learning with ItalianPod101!

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Italian Words for Animals

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Time to study Italian animal words!

Why? 

Animals are beautiful, animals are funny, and animals are useful. In addition, they are a common conversation topic (think of pets, documentaries, and films with animals in them). But do you really need a reason to study animal words in Italian?

Animal words are something that Italian children learn very early on when they first start speaking, and they’re equally essential for language learners to study—no matter their age. And, conveniently enough, many common animal names are similar across languages. Take, for example:

  • Elephant
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Giraffe
  • Panda
  • Koala
  • Kangaroo
  • Panther
  • Gorilla

Do you want to give it a try and say the names of these animals in Italian? In any case, keep reading to find the answers! 

In this article, you’ll learn the names of animals native to Italy as well as those found abroad. We’ll cover wild animals, farm animals, zoo animals, sea animals, bugs, birds, and even different types of pets. You’ll also discover fun expressions related to animals and the Italian terms for animal body parts. Ready?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Pets
  2. Farm Animals
  3. Wild Animals
  4. Marine Animals
  5. Bugs and Insects
  6. Birds
  7. Reptiles & Amphibians
  8. Animal Body Parts
  9. Animal Verbs
  10. Animal Sounds
  11. Animal-Related Idioms and Slang Expressions
  12. Conclusion

1. Pets

There are around 60 million pets in Italy today, equating to almost one pet per Italian! You could definitely say that Italians love their pets.

The most common pet choices here are dogs and cats (no surprise there), with Italians owning a total of seven million of each! Other popular pets among Italians of all ages are birds, fish, little mammals (hamsters and rabbits), as well as reptiles and spiders!

A Kitten and a Dog

Best friends forever!

Pets are not only a source of companionship and stress relief for people, but they’re also good for the economy! It’s calculated that the pet industry moves more than two billion euros per year, and it’s a constantly growing business.

Here are the names of animals in Italian that are most often kept as pets:

(Il) gatto“Cat”
(Il) cane“Dog”
(Il) criceto“Hamster”
(Il) coniglio“Rabbit”
(Il) canarino“Canary”
(Il) porcellino d’India“Guinea pig”
(Il) pesce rosso“Goldfish”

→ Check out our big list of animal names, and practice your pronunciation with the help of recordings from native speakers.

2. Farm Animals

Before fashion, art, and sports cars, Italy was mainly an agricultural economy. As such, farm animals have always played a central role in the lives and culture of Italians. Take a local train out of any Italian city, and you’ll be able to spot beautiful and happy farm animals scattered throughout the Italian landscape.

A Little Piglet

Sono un porcellino. (“I’m a piglet.”)

Granted, they may not be happy all the time, given the general conditions of intensive farming. But numbers do show that the consumption of meat in Italy has decreased over the last decade, especially when it comes to red meat (for health issues) and meat from horses, rabbits, and lambs (due to a growing sensitivity toward these species).

Some breeding animals are more important than others, since they’re vital in the creation of some of the most widely known Italian culinary products: mozzarella di bufala (“buffalo mozzarella”), prosciutto di Parma (made from select pigs), and formaggio pecorino (“sheep milk cheese”).

Here are the names of common farm animals in Italian:

(La) mucca“Cow”
(Il) cavallo“Horse”
(L’)asino“Donkey”
(Il) mulo“Mule”
(La) pecora“Sheep”
(La) capra“Goat”
(La) gallina“Hen”
(Il) gallo“Rooster”
(Il) tacchino“Turkey”
(Il) maiale“Pig”

3. Wild Animals

Italy has the highest biodiversity of any country in Europe, with over 57,000 different animal species (or more than a third of all European fauna). 

This is due to various factors. 

The Italian Peninsula is at the center of the Mediterranean Sea, forming a corridor between Central Europe and North Africa; its coastline is 8,000 kilometers (≈ 4971 miles) long. Animals also tend to arrive in Italy from the Balkans and the Middle East. And finally, the geological structure of Italy is quite varied and its climate differs from North to South. All of this contributes to creating a great habitat diversity.

As a result, Italy is home to many beautiful wild land animals, mostly in the woods and in the mountains. In the recent past, many of these animals were in danger of extinction from Italian territory, mostly due to hunting and the loss of their natural habitat. But lately, thanks to protection laws and information campaigns, they’re starting to increase in number.

Keep reading to discover the names of several different wild animals in Italian! 

A Mama Bear with Her Two Cubs

A happy family

(L’)orso“Bear”
(Il) lupo“Wolf”
(Il) cervo“Deer”
(Lo) stambecco“Steinbock” (Alpine wild goat)
(La) volpe“Fox”
(La) lepre“Hare”
(Il) cinghiale“Wild boar”
(Lo) scoiattolo“Squirrel”
(La) vipera“Viper”

If these aren’t enough, you might want to spend a day in a zoo (check out one of the oldest and largest zoos in Europe, Roma’s Bioparco). Here are the names of wild animals you’ll find there:

(Il) leone“Lion”
(La) tigre“Tiger”
(La) giraffa“Giraffe”
(L’)ippopotamo“Hippopotamus”
(Il) rinoceronte“Rhino”
(Il) gorilla“Gorilla”
(L’)elefante“Elephant”
(Il) canguro“Kangaroo”
(Il) panda“Panda”
(Il) koala“Koala”
(La) pantera“Panther”
(La) scimmia“Monkey”
(Il) bradipo“Sloth”
(Il) pinguino“Penguin”
(L’)orso polare“Polar bear”
(La) foca“Seal”

4. Marine Animals

Italy is a peninsula surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and Italians have always been exploring its waters for adventure and fishing. So, we love fish…and the beach, too!

There are many common species of fish in the Mediterranean, especially of the type pesce azzurro (“oily fish”). These include tonno (“tuna”), sgombro (“mackerel”), pesce spada (“swordfish”), and sardina (“sardine”). We also have plenty of seafood, like ricci (“sea urchins”), vongole (“clams”), and cozze (“mussels”).

Below, you’ll find the names of the most common sea animals in Italian. But if you want to see and practice the names of larger or more exotic aquatic species, you should go to the fantastic Aquarium of Genova.

(Il) pesce“Fish”
(Lo) squalo“Shark”
(Il) delfino“Dolphin”
(La) balena“Whale”
(Il) leone marino“Sealion”
(La) medusa“Jellyfish”
(Il) cavalluccio marino“Seahorse”
(Il) riccio“Urchin”
(La) stella di mare“Starfish”
(La) cozza“Mussel”
(Il) polipo“Octopus”

→ Do you want to take a plunge with more marine animals and fish? Check out our fun vocabulary list!

5. Bugs and Insects

In the countryside, in the cities…the planet is full of insects. And maybe one day they will indeed inherit the world! Until then, let’s review the most common insects and other creepy-crawlies (hoping that no one here suffers from insectophobia!).

Upclose Image of a Housefly

Don’t you like me?

But, on the other hand, if you’re among those who think that insects and bugs will be the food of the future, be advised that Italian law still prohibits the commercialization of edible bugs and derivatives (such as bug flour). So, if you have that particular craving, the only solution would be online stores.

Anyway, on with the list…

(La) mosca“Fly”
(Il) moscerino“Gnat”
(La) zanzara“Mosquito”
(Lo) scarafaggio“Cockroach”
(La) formica“Ant”
(La) farfalla“Butterfly”
(La) libellula“Dragonfly”
(L’)ape“Bee”
(La) vespa“Wasp”
(Il) ragno“Spider”
(Il) grillo“Cricket”
(La) coccinella“Ladybug”

6. Birds 

In Italy, there are more than 500 species of birds. Half of these are nesting birds, while the other half are just passing by.

Birds have traditionally been a favorite target of hunters, and for this reason, they’re in great need of protection by organizations such as the Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli – LIPU (“Italian Bird Protection League”). They do a great job at protecting birds, defending nature, and promoting knowledge of and respect for the environment. 

(La) colomba“Dove”
(Il) piccione“Pigeon”
(Il) passero“Sparrow”
(Il) corvo“Crow”
(Il) gabbiano“Seagull”
(Il) falco“Hawk”
(L’)aquila“Eagle”
(La) civetta“Owl”
(Il) pavone“Peacock”

7. Reptiles & Amphibians

You might never expect to see exotic or dangerous reptiles while traveling through Italy, but there are many varieties of lizards, turtles, and even a few poisonous vipers, so… Attenti dove mettete i piedi! (“Watch your step!”)

If you want to learn more about what to look for and what to avoid, i Carabinieri has published an exhaustive page on the topic.

(La) rana“Frog”
(Il) rospo“Toad”
(La) tartaruga“Turtle”
(Il) serpente“Snake”
(La) lucertola“Lizard”
(La) salamandra“Salamander”
(L’)iguana“Iguana”
(Il) coccodrillo“Crocodile”

8. Animal Body Parts

Even if we all evolved from the same little amphibians millions of years ago, we have different names for the body parts of humans and animals. And you’d better avoid mixing them up!

Learning the following words will help a lot when it comes to describing animals in Italian.

(Il) muso“Muzzle”
(Il) becco“Beak”
(La) zampa“Paw”
(La) coda“Tail”
(Le) corna“Horns”
(Il) pelo“Hair”
(La) pelliccia“Fur”
(Le) zanne“Fangs”
(Gli) artigli“Claws”
(Lo) zoccolo“Hoof”
(La) penna“Feather”
(La) piuma“Plume”
(La) criniera“Mane”
(La) proboscide“Trunk”
(Il) tentacolo“Tentacle”
(L’)antenna“Antenna”
(Le) pinne“Fins”
(Le) scaglie“Scales”
(La) cresta“Comb”

→ Are you getting confused between human and animal body parts? Here’s a link to freshen up your “human” vocabulary.

9. Animal Verbs

Are you having fun yet? We thought so.

To complement your knowledge of animal names and body parts, let’s go over a few essential verbs you’ll need to talk about animal-related actions. 

A Cow

In Italian, I go Muuuuu.

Miagolare“To meow”
Abbaiare“To bark”
Ruggire“To roar”
Ronzare“To buzz”
Ringhiare“To growl”
Fare le fusa“To purr”
Cinguettare“To chirp”
Muggire“To moo”
Galoppare“To gallop”
Nuotare“To swim”
Strisciare“To crawl”
Azzannare“To bite (with teeth)”
Beccare“To peck”
Graffiare“To scratch”
Leccare“To lick”
Accarezzare“To pet”
Addestrare“To tame” / “To train”
Allevare“To breed”
Accoppiare“To mate”

10. Animal Sounds

Animals do not emit generic noises, but calls that have very precise names. Some of these onomatopoeia are commonly used, while others are less well-known. After learning the sounds animals make in Italian, try to see which ones you’re able to imitate! 

AnimalSoundVerb
cane (“dog”)bau bauabbaia (“it barks”)
gatto (“cat”)miaomiagola (“it meows”)
asino (“donkey”)Iho ihoraglia (“it brays”)
cavallo (“horse”)iiihnitrisce (“it neighs”)
elefante (“elephant”)iiiihbarrisce (“it trumpets”)
gallo (“cock”)chicchirichì canta  (“it sings”)
zanzara (“mosquito”)zzzzzzzronza (“it buzzes”)
corvo (“crow”)cra cragracchia (“it croaks”)
topo (“mouse”)squit squitsquittisce (“it squeaks”)
serpente (“snake”)ssssssssibila (“it hisses”)
rana (“frog”)cra cragracida (“it croaks”)
pulcino (“chick”)pio piopigola (“it peeps”)
piccione (“pigeon”)gru grutuba (“it coos”)
pecora (“sheep”)beeeeebela (“it bleats”)
passero (“sparrow”)cip cipcinguetta (“it chirps”)
mucca (“cow”)muuuuumuggisce (“it bellows”)
maiale (“pig”)oink oinkgrugnisce (“it grunts”)
lupo (“wolf”)auuuuhhhulula (“it howls”)
grillo (“cricket”)cri crifrinisce (“it chirps”)

And the crocodile…? What does the crocodile say? Nobody knows. But if you want to have a little fun, here’s one of the most famous Italian children’s songs, named Il coccodrillo come fa? (“How Does the Crocodile Go?”)

11. Animal-Related Idioms and Slang Expressions

Animals are an integral part of our daily lives, so much so that we find them in many common proverbs, expressions, and idioms in the Italian language.

We often use expressions where animals are associated with personal qualities in order to highlight these qualities more effectively, or to metaphorically represent some characteristics or traits of people.

Expressions with animals are so numerous and so pervasive that it would be impossible to make an exhaustive list. But here are the most common ones. What can I say? In bocca al lupo! (You’ll need to get to the end to know what that means…) 😉

A Wolf Snarling

In bocca al lupo – Viva il lupo!

Italian expressionIl lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio.
Literal translation“The wolf loses its fur but not its vice.”
It’s very difficult to eliminate bad habits, though some people struggle with it more than others. This expression is roughly equivalent to the English “A leopard never changes its spots.”

Wolves have a special place in Italian culture, and you can find more than a few expressions mentioning these wonderful wild dogs…such as the next one!

Italian expressionAvere una fame da lupo
Literal translation“To be hungry as a wolf”
The poor wolves have become a symbol of greed and hunger, not to mention arrogance and force. We use this expression to mean that one is starving and could eat a cow… It is similar to the expression “I’m as hungry as a wolf,” in English. 

Italian expressionMettere la pulce nell’orecchio
Literal translation“To put the flea in the ear”
It basically means that you’re giving something to someone (usually a piece of information) in order to instill a doubt or a fear, or to cause some kind of annoyance. Because let’s face it: a flea in your ear would definitely grab your attention. 

This expression can roughly be translated as: “to plant a seed of doubt.”

Italian expressionPrendere qualcuno a pesci in faccia
Literal translation“To throw fish at someone’s face”
This means to treat someone very rudely, with total disrespect. But why would you show disrespect by throwing smelly fish at someone? Apparently, it’s a Nordic habit that was common among the Vikings; it was made famous in Italy not so long ago via the Asterix comic books

A rough English equivalent would be: “to treat someone like dirt.”

Italian expressionNon sapere che pesci pigliare
Literal translation“Not knowing what fish to choose”
This is an expression used to signify that you’re totally undecided about something, and cannot make up your mind over this or that. My guess is that it originates from the great variety of fish available in an Italian pescheria (“fish market”).

In English, you would use the expression: “to not know which way to turn.”

Italian expressionEssere un pesce fuor d’acqua
Literal translation“To be a fish out of water”
This expression indicates the state of being outside of your usual environment, especially if you feel uneasy, shy, or embarrassed.

I would say it’s rather self-explanatory. You try to be a fish out of water…and then you tell me how you feel!

Italian expressionAndare a letto con le galline
Literal translation“To go to bed with the hens”
You don’t need to be living on a farm to know that the hens (and the rooster) are the first to wake up and the first to go to sleep.

An English equivalent might be: “to get up with the chickens.” 

Italian expressionFare la fine del topo
Literal translation“To end up like a mouse”
Mice don’t have it easy in life… Cats try to catch and eat them. Humans try to kill them with poison or traps. At best, they’re thrown in a cage and used for experiments. So, obviously, ending up like a mouse means that you’re trapped with no way out.

Italian expressionEssere un asino
Literal translation“To be an ass”
In English, being an ass means that you’re basically an idiot. But in Italian, to call someone this means to call them ignorant, especially in the sense that they’re a bad student at school.

Do you remember the scene in Pinocchio, where he and his friends were all turned into donkeys because they refused to go to school? Well, there it was taken rather literally.

Italian expressionEssere un cane
Literal translation“To be a dog”
This one has a different meaning than its English equivalent. It means to be really bad at something, especially when acting or performing. This is another case of referring to an animal in order to describe a human characteristic. 

You could use it in a sentence like this: Quell’attore è bello, ma a recitare è un cane. (“That actor is handsome, but as an actor he’s really bad.”)

Italian expressionEssere un’oca
Literal translation“To be a goose”
For some reason, Italians use the goose as a symbol of clumsiness and of disconcerting superficiality, usually in reference to a girl or woman.

Italian expressionEssere testardo come un mulo
Literal translation“To be stubborn as a mule”
The mule is a hybrid animal, crossbred between a donkey and a mare. This animal is known for its resistance to fatigue, thanks to which it has been bred since ancient times in order to help humans with labor and transportation. But another quality mules are known for is their stubbornness; apparently, once a mule decides to stop, there is no way to convince it otherwise.

Italian expressionNon sentire volare una mosca
Literal translation“Not hearing a fly fly”
There is absolute silence. Not a sound, not even that of the wings of a fly. The equivalent concept in English is expressed with “dead silence,” which might be just a bit scarier…

Italian expressionTagliare la testa al toro
Literal translation“To cut the bull’s head”
The expression “to cut the bull’s head” figuratively means “to make a sudden and serious decision,” one that usually involves grave consequences. It’s used when someone takes control in order to solve a particular problem once and for all.

In English, you would say: “Let’s just get this over with!”

Italian expressionPrendere due piccioni con una fava
Literal translation“To catch two pigeons with one fava bean”
This expression refers to obtaining more than one benefit through a single task. 

Fava beans were once used to lure pigeons into traps. The saying alludes to the fact that one bean could catch more than one pigeon. 

It means the same as “to kill two birds with one stone” in English. 

Italian expressionEssere in quattro gatti
Literal translation“To be four cats”
This means to be very small in number, or for there to be few people around.

This expression comes from the fact that wild cats once gathered in quite large groups, probably to protect themselves and hunt better. So if you had a group of only four animals, that was a very small group. 

Italian expressionEssere solo/a come un cane
Literal translation“To be as lonely/alone as a dog”
The phrase derives from the observation that the dog is, like humans, a social animal. If you were to keep it isolated, away from its own kind (as often happens with guard dogs), it would suffer for wanting company.

In English, it can be translated as “lonely as hell.”

Italian expressionIn bocca al lupo!
Literal translation“In the mouth of the wolf!”
We use this expression to wish someone success in something. But an Italian would never simply say buona fortuna (“good luck”), because this actually brings bad luck! (Go figure…) Instead, we say this expression to someone before an important occasion (such as a test or job interview). 

This Italian expression seems to have ancient origins: It used to be a superstitious wish for hunters who went hunting in the woods. Their answer back then, as well as today, was: crepi il lupo (“that the wolf might die”).

Of course, nowadays, wolves are a protected species that is slowly coming back to inhabit Italian woods and mountains, so the preferred reply is now: Viva il lupo! (“Long life to the wolf!”)

12. Conclusion

In this guide, you’ve learned many animal names in Italian, from pets to all kinds of reptiles and marine creatures. You’re now ready to ask your friends about their pets or discuss your favorite animals with them. 

We realize that we only mentioned a small number of animals here. In case we forgot your favorite animal or you want to know more about Italian expressions with animals, make sure to mention it in the comments below!

You can also explore ItalianPod101.com and check out all of our free resources. Our vocabulary lists, in particular, are a great way to review words and practice your pronunciation. We also offer a page on the basics of Italian grammar, which is essential if you’re just starting out! 

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher. This will give you access to personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher, who can help you practice animal words and so much more. Your teacher can also give you assignments and personalized exercises, provide you with recorded audio samples, and review your work to help you make faster progress.

Keep having fun with ItalianPod101!

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Italian Tenses Made Simple

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Verb tenses are absolutely necessary in clearly defining when a given action is taking place. 

If you were to browse through any Italian grammar textbook or study an Italian conjugation table, you would probably find yourself overwhelmed by the number (21!) and apparent complexity of the tenses. And on top of that, each of the Italian tenses has to be conjugated for the six persons (io, tu, lui/lei, noi, voi, loro). This means that—unlike in English—every person of every tense has a different form. 

But don’t worry, I have good news. Two pieces of good news, actually! 

  1. To have a complete and meaningful conversation in Italian, you really just need to know three (3!) tenses: presente (present), passato prossimo (near past), and imperfetto (imperfect). You can also throw in the imperative, if you want, since it has pretty much the same form as the present.

  2. Even though every person of every tense is conjugated and has a different form, the basic forms of the conjugations (the verb endings) follow a very consistent and predictable pattern. Once you’ve memorized that pattern, you’ll be able to easily apply it to whatever verb and tense you need.

Of course, there are other verb tenses in Italian that are used to express more complex thoughts and concepts, but we can worry about those later on. Just keep in mind that you can alw/ays get by knowing just the three basic Italian tenses. Isn’t that wonderful?

A Woman Eating a Slice of Pizza

Mangio una pizza. (“I’m eating a pizza.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Present Tense
  2. Past Tenses
  3. Future
  4. Conditional
  5. Are You in the Mood for Moods…? 😉
  6. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary
  7. Conclusion

1. Present Tense

The present tense in Italian is used to express an action happening right now, as we speak. It’s by far the most common and most frequently used tense in the Italian language.

Mangio una pizza.“I’m eating a pizza.”
Andiamo al cinema?“Let’s go to the movies?”
Non lavoro la domenica.“I don’t work on Sundays.”

In addition to expressing actions happening right now, the Italian present tense is also commonly used to express the near future or the intention of doing something. Of course, there’s a specific tense for future (which we’ll see later on), but keep in mind that it’s extremely common in Italian to use the present tense to express a near-future intention or action.

Domani vado a mangiare una pizza.“Tomorrow I’ll go for pizza.”
L’estate prossima andiamo in vacanza in Sicilia.“Next summer we’ll go to Sicily on vacation.”

2. Past Tenses

When it comes to the past tense in Italian, it gets a bit more complicated. This is because there are actually two main Italian past tenses that we use depending on the situation. Here’s a brief overview with examples to make everything clearer.

A- Passato Prossimo

Passato prossimo (simple past) is the tense that expresses a specific action that happened in the past and ended in the past. The Italian passato prossimo is formed by combining the auxiliary avere (to have) or essere (to be) and the past participle, usually* ending in -ato, -uto, or -ito, respectively for the -are, -ere, and ire conjugations.

A Woman Studying while Snacking on a Pastry

Hai studiato? (“Did you study?”)

InfinitivePast participlePassato prossimo
Mangi-are (To eat)Mangi-atoHo mangiato (I ate)
Cred-ere (To believe)Cred-utoHai creduto (You believed)
Cap-ire (To understand)Cap-itoHa capito (She understood)

That’s not too hard to remember, right? 

Just keep in mind that there’s a great number of verbs that have an irregular past participle, so you’ll have to memorize them. The good news is that some of them are so common that the memorization process will happen naturally. Also, they’re mostly of the -ere conjugation, so you should watch out for those. 

Here’s a quick list of some must-know verbs that have an irregular past participle, along with their passato prossimo forms.

InfinitiveIrregular Passato ProssimoInfinitiveIrregular Passato Prossimo
AccendereHo acceso (I turned on)Perdere Ho perso (I lost)
Aprire Ho aperto (I opened)Prendere Ho preso (I took)
Chiedere Ho chiesto (I asked)Ridere Ho riso (I laughed)
Chiudere Ho chiuso (I closed)Rimanere Sono rimasto/a (I stayed)
Correre Ho corso (I ran)Rispondere Ho risposto (I answered)
Dire Ho detto (I said)Scendere Sono sceso/a (I went down)
Essere Sono stato/a (I was)Scrivere Ho scritto (I wrote)
Fare Ho fatto (I did/made)Spegnere Ho spento (I turned off)
Leggere Ho letto (I read)VedereHo visto (I saw)
Mettere Ho messo (I put)Venire Sono venuto/a (I came)
Morire Sono morto/a (I died)Vivere Sono*/Ho vissuto (I lived)
Nascere Sono nato/a (I was born)

Ieri ho mangiato a casa di mio fratello.“Yesterday, I ate at my brother’s house.”
Durante le vacanze sono andata** al mare tutti i giorni.“During my vacation, I went to the beach every day.”
Hai letto il giornale di ieri?“Did you read yesterday’s newspaper?”
Non abbiamo chiesto l’orario del treno…“We haven’t asked for the train schedule…”

You probably noticed that in the examples, the auxiliary avere (to have) was sometimes used and essere (to be) was used other times. Why? Well, this is rather common in Romance languages. So, if you’re familiar with French or Spanish, for example, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Basically, you always use avere as an auxiliary, except when you have an intransitive verb

What does “intransitive” mean? 

Intransitive verbs cannot have a direct object and must be used with the essere auxiliary. These verbs often indicate movement or a change of state, such as: 

  • Andare (To go) 
  • Rimanere (To stay)
  • Nascere (To be born)
  • Morire (To die)

At the beginning, it might seem complicated—but don’t worry! With a little practice, choosing the right auxiliary will be really easy!

Another thing to remember: If you use the essere auxiliary in any compound tense, you need to make it agree with the subject. It’s easier to show than to explain:

Giovanni è andato a scuola.                    (Giovanni went to school.)
Maria è tornata dalle vacanze.                 (Maria is back from vacation.)
(Noi) Siamo nati in Italia.                        (We were born in Italy.)
Le mie amiche sono venute in treno.       (My friends came by train.)

On the other hand, if you had a verb that uses the avere auxiliary, the ending always stays the same:

Giovanni ha studiato la lezione.                            (Giovanni studied the lesson.)
Maria ha mangiato un panino.                             (Maria ate a sandwich.)
(Noi) Abbiamo visto un bel film.                            (We saw a good movie.)
Le mie amiche hanno organizzato una festa.         (My friends organized a party.)

Passato prossimo is often used with adverbs or phrases indicating time, such as: 

  • ieri (yesterday)
  • l’altro ieri (the day before yesterday)
  • la settimana scorsa (last week)
  • un mese fa (a year ago)
  • l’anno passato (last year)

So far so good? Then let’s get ready for the imperfetto.

B- Imperfetto

Imperfetto (imperfect) is a tense that exists in most Romance languages. It indicates a recurrent or usual action, an action that is still pending or not yet completed, or an ongoing action that occurred while another action happened. Basically, it’s an “imperfect” tense because it does not describe a definite, precise action of the past. It might be a little tricky at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

When and how do we use it, then? The indicative imperfect is used…

  • …to indicate an action not completed, which took place at the same time as another:

    Quando sono entrato, stavi dormendo. (When I came in, you were asleep.)
    Mentre andavo a scuola, ho incontrato una mia amica. (When I was going to school, I met a friend of mine.)
  • …to indicate an action that was habitually repeated in the past:

    Tutte le estati andavamo in Sicilia in treno. (Every summer, we used to go to Sicily by train.)
    Il nonno veniva a trovarci tutti i giorni e ci portava le caramelle. (Grandpa came to visit every day and brought us candies.)
Two Birds Sitting on a Tree Branch with Purple Flowers

C’era il sole e gli uccellini cantavano. (“It was sunny and the birds sang.”)

  • …to describe events, places, and people’s physical characteristics:

    C’era il sole e gli uccellini cantavano. (It was sunny and the birds sang.)
    Le montagne erano tutte coperte di neve. (The mountains were all covered with snow.)
    Maria aveva i capelli neri e gli occhi verdi. (Maria had black hair and green eyes.)

Since we’re talking so much about the past… There’s another past tense that’s so remote people don’t really use it anymore when speaking: the passato remoto. It’s a simple tense, used today mainly in written texts such as history textbooks and Italian literature. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize it.

Giulio Cesare fu un generale romano. (Julius Caesar was a Roman general.)
La ragazza andò via senza voltarsi. (The girl left without looking back.)
Quell’estate andammo al mare solo una volta. (That summer, we only went to the beach once.)

3. Future

As mentioned before, in Italian you can use the present tense when talking about the near future. So, if you’re talking about your plans for later in the day or the following week, you can simply use the present tense and let the temporal adverb communicate that it will happen in the future. For example: 

Domani esco da scuola alle tre del pomeriggio! (Tomorrow I leave school at three in the afternoon!)
Domenica facciamo una gita in montagna. (On Sunday, we are going for a day-trip to the mountains.)
La settimana prossima faccio una festa, vieni? (Next week I am throwing a party, will you come?)

But that doesn’t work all the time. When you’re talking about the distant future or want to be more specific about a future event, you’ll have to use the future tense. 

The future tense in Italian is easy to spot, as it’s formed by adding an ending to the verb’s infinitive stem. 

Infinitive
Futureparl-are (to talk)legg-ere (to read)sent-ire (to hear)
ioparlelegg-eròsent-irò
tuparlerailegg-eraisent-irai
lui/leiparlelegg-eràsent-irà
noiparleremolegg-eremosent-iremo
voiparleretelegg-eretesent-irete
loroparlerannolegg-erannosent-iranno

Easy, right? Just keep in mind that you need to change the a into an e for the first conjugation (the one in -are): 

  • parlare >> parlerò 
  • mangiare >> mangerò 
  • volare >> vole

Also remember that the first (io = “I”) and third (lui/lei = “he/she”) persons have an accent on the ending, which means you need to put the stress on that final vowel.

But you can notice that, apart from the vowel coming from the stem of the infinitive, all endings are the same for each of the three conjugations.

L’anno prossimo faremo un viaggio negli Stati Uniti.      (Next year we will travel to the United States.)
Un giorno questa situazione cambierà.                             (One day this situation will change.)
Prevedo che nel 2021 l’economia crescerà.                      (I predict that in 2021 the economy will grow.)
Domani ci sarà il sole?                                                     (Will it be sunny tomorrow?)

Another common use for the future tense in Italian is to express a supposition or a doubt:

Che ora sarà? (What time can it be?)
Saranno le tre, le tre e mezza. (It is probably three, three and a half.)

Quanti anni avrà Maria? (How old can Maria be?)
Boh, avrà vent’anni. (Dunno, she’s probably twenty.)

And finally, we use the future tense in the main clause when we’re stating a very realistic hypothesis, such as:

Se non piove, uscirò. (If it doesn’t rain, I will go out.)
Se leggi il libro, capirai il film. (If you read the book, you will understand the movie.)

Three People Walking in the Rain with Umbrellas

Se non piove, domani uscirò… (“If it doesn’t rain, I’ll go out tomorrow …”)

4. Conditional

Once you know how to conjugate the future tense, it’s very easy to use the conditional because it’s formed exactly the same way. Just use the stem from the infinitive (changing the a into e for the -are conjugation) and add the appropriate ending for conditional.

Conditional is very important because it’s one of the most common Italian tenses and it’s used to express many situations.

  • A personal opinion:
    Io voterei per l’altro candidato. (I would vote for the other candidate.)

  • A doubt:
    Cosa dovremmo fare? (What should we do?)

  • A possibility:
    Sono così stanca che potrei dormire per due giorni! (I’m so tired that I could sleep for two days!)

  • A desire:
    Mangerei un gelato al cioccolato… (I would love a chocolate ice cream…)
    Oggi andrei al cinema. (Today I would like/love to go to the movies.)
  • A polite demand:
    Potrei avrei un cappuccino? (Could I have a cappuccino?)
    Vorremmo noleggiare un’auto.
    (We would like to rent a car.)
A Red Sports Car

Vorrei noleggiare questa macchina! (“I wish to rent this car!”)

We’ve already talked about hypothetical sentences regarding very realistic situations. Another important use of the conditional is in hypothetical sentences where we’re stating something very unrealistic. Do you remember these examples? Let’s look at them from a different point of view:

Se non piovesse, uscirei. (If it weren’t raining—but it is!—I would go out.)
Se tu leggessi il libro, capiresti il film. (If you read the book—but you refuse to—you would understand the movie.)

Or:

Se fossi ricco, comprerei una casa al mare. (If I were rich—but I’m not!—I would buy a beach house.)
Se tutti andassimo in bici, non ci sarebbe traffico! (If we all rode bikes—very unlikely—there would be no traffic!)

If you’re asking yourself what tense the verbs piovesse, leggessi, fossi, and andassimo, are in, I’ll tell you right away that it’s the past subjunctive (congiuntivo passato). We’ll talk about it in a little bit.

5. Are You in the Mood for Moods…? 😉

We’ve just mentioned condizionale (“conditional”) and congiuntivo (“subjunctive”), but we need to back up a little here. These are not tenses, but rather modi (“moods”). In other words, they indicate the attitude of the speaker relative to the action expressed in the verb.

For example, if the action is real we use the indicative; if it’s possible, we use the subjunctive; if it’s subject to particular conditions, we use the conditional; and if we’re giving orders, we use the imperative. These are the four Italian finite moods, meaning that they’re conjugated for each person. Then there are three infinite moods which are invariable and don’t change with different subjects. 

On the other hand, the tenses only refer to the time of the action (in the present, in the past, or in the future).

Here’s a table that represents all of the moods and tenses in Italian for my favorite verb: studiare (to study).

FINITE MOODS
Indicativo
Presente (studio)
Imperfetto (studiavo)
Passato remoto (studiai)
Futuro (studierò)
Passato prossimo (ho studiato)
Trapassato prossimo (avevo studiato)
Trapassato remoto (ebbi studiato)
Futuro anteriore (avrò studiato)
Condizionale
Presente (studierei)Passato (avrei studiato)
Congiuntivo
Presente (che io studi)
Imperfetto (che io studiassi)
Passato (che io abbia studiato)
Trapassato (che io avessi studiato)
Imperativo
Presente (studia!)

INFINITE MOODS
Infinito
Presente (studiare)Passato(aver studiato)
Participio
Presente (studiante)Passato (studiato)
Gerundio
Presente (studiando)Passato(avendo studiato)

6. Verb Conjugation and Auxiliary Verbs Summary

Now that we’ve taken into consideration the absolutely must-know Italian tenses (and had an overview of all the Italian moods and tenses), it’s time to look at how to form every Italian tense using the help of auxiliaries.

    → We’re not going to go into too much detail about conjugation, because if you want to know more about it, you just need to check out this fantastic article on the ItalianPod101 blog.
One Hand Extending Toward Another to Help

Gli ausiliari sono qui per aiutare. (“Auxiliaries are here to help.”)

Auxiliaries have lots of uses, as the name itself suggests: auxiliary = ausiliare = “to help.” 

We’ve already seen how to choose between essere (to be) and avere (to have) when forming the passato prossimo. Now we can look at other tenses (and other moods) that you’ll need the help of auxiliaries to use. Here we go!

A- Reality [Indicative]

Presente
Studio perché mi piace l’italiano!
(I study because I like Italian!)
Passato Prossimo
Anche tu hai studiato italiano con ItalianPod101?
(Have you also studied Italian with ItalianPod101?)
Imperfetto
Da bambina giocavo con le macchinine.
(As a child, I used to play with toy cars.)
Trapassato Prossimo
Quando sono arrivato, erano partiti da un’ora.
(When I arrived, they had left an hour before.)
Passato Remoto
Il gatto saltò sul divano.
(The cat jumped on the sofa.)
Trapassato Remoto
Dopo che Cesare ebbe conquistato la Gallia, si riposò.
(After Caesar had conquered Gaul, he rested.)
Futuro
Da grande farò l’astronauta.
(When I grow up, I will be an astronaut.)
Futuro Anteriore
Dopo che avrò studiato uscirò con gli amici.
(After I study, I will go out with friends.)

B- Desire [Conditional]

Presente
Mangerei un chilo di gelato al cioccolato…
(I would eat a kilo of chocolate ice cream…)
Passato
Ieri mi sarebbe piaciuto andare al cinema.
(Yesterday, I would have liked to go to the movies.)

C- Doubt, Possibility [Subjunctive]

Presente
Penso che Carlos canti benissimo.
(I think Carlos sings very well.)
Passato
Penso che Carlos ieri abbia cantato meglio.
(I think Carlos sang better yesterday.)
Imperfetto
Pensavo che Carlos oggi cantasse in italiano.
(I thought Carlos was singing in Italian today.)
Trapassato 
Ero convinta che Carlos ieri avesse cantato meglio.
(I was convinced that Carlos had sung better yesterday.)

D- Giving Orders [Imperative]

Presente
Studia se vuoi migliorare!
(Study if you want to improve!)

E- Indefinite Moods

The indefinite moods are verb forms that are only used in subordinate clauses, because they cannot stand alone in a sentence.

Infinitive

It indicates the pure action expressed by the verb. It ends in -are, -ere, ire.

  • Correre è bello! (Running is fun!)
  • Voglio andare al mare… (I want to go to the beach…) 

Present participle

It usually turns the verb into a noun or an adjective (as in, the person or the thing doing the action). It ends in -ante, -ente.

  • Il cantante è bravo. (The singer is good.)

Past participle

We already looked at this mood when talking about the passato prossimo. It’s the one ending in -ato, -uto, -ito that we use together with auxiliaries.

  • Ho cantato tutto la notte. (I sang all night.)

Gerund

It’s used to indicate something that is in the process of occurring, often used with the verb stare. It ends in -ando, -endo.

  • Sto cantando sotto la pioggia. (I’m singing in the rain.)
  • Stai ancora dormendo? (Are you still sleeping?)

7. Conclusion

Verbs are like bricks that you need in order to speak full sentences. In this lesson, you learned enough tenses, moods, and verbal forms to build yourself a beautiful Italian villa!

How confident are you feeling about Italian verb tenses now? Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have any questions, and we’ll get back to you!

Don’t forget to browse through the many vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources available on our website. We make it easy to keep improving your Italian anywhere you are!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your private teacher help you with tenses and conjugation. And that’s not all! With this service, you unlock 220+ hours of audio/video courses, study tools, bonus apps, and more. So you get the best of both worlds: access to a teacher and the ability to learn at your own pace with fast, fun, and easy lessons.

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Time, Love, Wisdom: A Guide to the Top Italian Proverbs

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Proverbs are pearls of wisdom, sometimes coined by famous individuals but more often of anonymous origin. Some proverbs go back to the beginning of humanity itself, and although they sound a bit old sometimes, they always have a practical application in everyday life and can help us deal with complicated situations. 

In general, proverbs tend to transmit popular wisdom in a very concrete way. They often stand out for their irony, their colorful comparisons, and their funny tones and metaphors.

Italian proverbs are an important part of the language, because… 

  • …Italians use them often in conversations.
  • …they belong to a shared body of knowledge.
  • …they typically denote specific cultural traits of the country. 

That last point is especially important, because each culture has its own set of proverbs and idioms. They reflect a particular sense of wisdom, in harmony with the history of each country. Many of these are universal, but there are equally well-known local variations.

In this guide from ItalianPod101.com, you’ll learn about some of the most common Italian proverbs, what they mean, and how to use them.

An Old Book Lying Open with Pages Turning

Proverbs = traditional popular culture.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Proverbs About Time
  2. Proverbs About Food
  3. Proverbs with Animals
  4. Proverbs About Love and Family
  5. Proverbs About Life, Wisdom, and All the Rest…
  6. Conclusion

1. Proverbs About Time

There are a great number of proverbs about time, maybe because our wise ancestors knew how important it is—and how easily we forget about it or even waste it.

#1

ItalianIl mattino ha l’oro in bocca.
Literally“The morning has gold in its mouth.”
EquivalentThe early bird catches the worm.
This is the perfect proverb to begin our guide, since it deals with getting the right start. According to this proverb, if you get up early, you’ll get the most out of your day. This proverb also praises the value of acting immediately, and presents a concept well-known since ancient times and in many different cultures.

Another version of the same proverb is: Chi tardi arriva, male alloggia. (“Who arrives late, settles badly.”)

And you? What part of the day do you prefer?

#2

ItalianChi dorme non piglia pesci.
Literally“Who sleeps does not catch fish.”
EquivalentDon’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.
This well-known Italian proverb of ancient origin is used to warn those lazy ones among us that without work and commitment, it’s impossible to get what you want or need. The proverb is therefore a real exhortation to get busy because nothing is achieved without effort.

#3

ItalianMeglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani.
Equivalent“Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.” 
This Italian proverb seems to express that it’s more convenient to settle for the little certainties of today than to risk losing them.  

In fact, it could have a double interpretation, which is a common characteristic of proverbs. Another meaning could be that of another common proverb: Chi non risica non rosica. (“Who does not take risks doesn’t eat.”) Both talk about the behavior of prudent people, as well as the behavior of those who are willing to risk a little.
As Aristotle used to say… “Virtue lies in the middle, in the balance of the two opposites.”

#4

ItalianLa gatta frettolosa fece i gattini ciechi.
Literally“The hasty cat made the blind kittens.”
EquivalentHaste makes waste.
This proverb emphasizes that everything should be done at the right time and in the best possible way. Haste is always a bad advisor, and even if it gives you the impression of being very productive, it can eventually create some unpleasant situations to solve.

So, beware of multitasking and hyperactivity…!

#5

ItalianSe sono rose, fioriranno.
Literally“If they are roses, they will bloom.”
EquivalentTime will tell.
This old proverb has a second part that’s usually omitted… “if they are thorns, they will sting.” But in any case, the meaning is clear: Keep working on a job or a project with faith, because only at the end will you see the results.

And if you want to keep optimistic about it, you can rely on yet another proverb about time: ll tempo è galantuomo. (“Time is a gentleman.”) It means that in the end, time will solve every problem, even if you can’t see it at the moment.

#6

ItalianIl buongiorno si vede dal mattino.
Literally“Good morning starts in the morning.”
EquivalentA good beginning makes a good ending.
This proverb reminds us of something we already know: If a day or endeavor has a good start, it’s likely to be a success. If it starts well, it will probably end well.

This is also the bottom line of another very common Italian proverb, stating: Chi ben comincia è a metà dell’opera. (“Well begun is half done.”) Both proverbs stress the importance of starting con il piede giusto (“with the right foot”).

#7

ItalianMeglio tardi che mai.
EquivalentBetter late than never.
This is the perfect proverb for the typical Italian… While it may be an oversimplification, it’s partly true that Italians tend to be late. Not all of them, obviously, but arriving a little late to an appointment (especially among friends and family) is accepted—and even almost expected—in Italy. So, if you’ve been waiting on someone or something for some time, you can use this proverb to express your disappointment with a little irony. 

It’s also used in reference to people who finally change a bad behavior or have finally come to understand something:

Finalmente hai lasciato il fidanzato…meglio tardi che mai! (“You finally left your boyfriend…better late than never!”)

#8

ItalianFinché c’è vita, c’è speranza.
EquivalentWhere there’s life, there’s hope.
This proverb comes from a quote by Cicero from more than 2000 years ago. It encourages us not to despair, even in difficult situations. As long as we’re alive, we can still make our dreams come true. How wise and optimistic is that?

Another way of saying it is: La speranza è l’ultima a morire. (“Hope is the last to die.”)

A Little Girl Rubbing Her Eyes While Waking Up in the Morning

A good morning starts in the morning.

2. Proverbs About Food

Italians love to eat. They eat all the time, and when they’re not eating, they’re talking about food! It’s only natural that there are so many popular Italian proverbs about food and wine.

#9

ItalianCome il cacio sui maccheroni.
Literally“Like cheese on macaroni.”
EquivalentTo be just right for the job.
Cacio—a mixed cheese made of sheep’s and cow’s milk—is the perfect combination for macaroni, because its strong flavor completes it. So, you can use this proverb when describing something that makes a situation just perfect

This proverb must date back to the origin of the short and pierced pasta called macaroni, in the early Middle Ages in Sicily. Even today, this combination of pasta and cacio is present in the well-known Roman cuisine dish called “cacio e pepe.”

There’s another Italian saying that means the opposite: come i cavoli a merenda (“like cabbage for snacks”). This refers to a combination that just doesn’t work.

#10

ItalianBuon vino fa buon sangue.
Literally“Good wine makes good blood.”
EquivalentAn apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Nothing goes better with a pasta dish than a good red wine…but in this proverb, we also find the ancient wisdom that a little (especially red) wine every day makes your whole spirit better. 

If wine isn’t your favorite drink, check out our vocabulary list of 20 Drinks to Quench Your Thirst and learn how to say your favorites! 

#11

ItalianO mangiar questa minestra o saltar questa finestra.
Literally“Either eat this soup or jump out of this window.”
EquivalentTake it or leave it.
Whether it’s something we don’t like on our dinner plate or any other unpleasant situation, we’re often presented with things that we have to accept out of necessity, because there’s no alternative.

Interestingly, the Italian term minestra today simply means “soup,” but in Ancient Rome, it referred to any food served at the table. This is because the minister was the person who served food during meals (from which we get the verb “to administer”). 

#12

ItalianNon tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.
Literally“Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.”
EquivalentYou can’t win them all.
Even though this proverb talks about the Italian doughnut ciambella, it’s not really about food. Rather, it’s about the fact that not everything turns out as planned. It also encourages us to be ready for surprises!

#13

ItalianAvere le mani in pasta.
Literally“Having your hands in the dough.”
EquivalentTo have a finger in the pie.
This expression refers to being involved in a situation or project (especially a dubious one), either financially or for personal interests. It has a negative meaning and is normally used to refer to “dirty” business.

It originates from the old times, when several people used to work together with sticky dough while manually making pasta and bread.

A Variety of Donuts

Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.

3. Proverbs with Animals

Why are there so many proverbs with animals? Since the oldest times, animals have helped people, made great companions, and provided food and warmth. For these reasons, it makes sense that they occupy a special place in the long list of Italian proverbs.

#14

ItalianCane che abbaia non morde.
Literally“Dog barking does not bite.”
EquivalentHis bark is worse than his bite.
We’ve all met a grumpy person who yells and maybe even threatens us—but who, in the end, is totally harmless. Just like the dog that protects its home or owner by making lots of noise!

#15

ItalianIl lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio.
Literally“The wolf sheds its hair but not the vice.”
EquivalentA leopard cannot change its spots.
It’s very difficult to get rid of bad habits, right? That’s exactly what this old proverb means. In its original Latin version, it talked about a fox rather than a wolf, but the concept remains: a person can work hard to make changes in their life, but still struggle to overcome certain habits.

Mario ha di nuovo cominciato a bere… il lupo perde il pelo ma non il vizio! (“Mario has started drinking again…a leopard cannot change its spots!”)

#16

ItalianQuando il gatto non c’è, i topi ballano.
EquivalentWhen the cat’s away, the mice will play.
There’s really no need to explain this proverb, which is common in many different cultures. We all remember when we were kids and our parents were away, right?

#17

ItalianA caval donato non si guarda in bocca.
EquivalentLook not a gift horse in the mouth.
This proverb has to do with good manners and graciousness: If you receive a gift, do not make a fuss about its value. 

It comes from not-so-ancient times when, before buying a horse, people would look into the animal’s mouth to determine its age and its health condition from the teeth. But remember not to do that if the horse was a gift, okay?

A Horse Neighing

Gift or no gift…he doesn’t want you to look inside his mouth!

4. Proverbs About Love and Family

Because family and relationships are such fundamental aspects of the Italian lifestyle, there’s no shortage of love and family proverbs in Italian. Here are a few of the most common ones. 

#18

ItalianI panni sporchi si lavano in famiglia.
Literally“Dirty clothes are washed within the family.” 
EquivalentDo not wash your dirty linen in public.
Dirty clothes, thanks to this popular proverb, have become synonymous with delicate and private matters. 

It’s better to solve delicate matters inside the circle of those who are directly concerned. Only those who are close, like members of the same family, can understand the facts and situations that those on the outside may misinterpret.

#19

ItalianMoglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi.
Literally“Wives and oxen of your country.” 
This is a really dated proverb—way before globalization, Erasmus, and all the traveling we do today. It basically suggests that, like in agriculture, it’s better to stick to local “breed” in relationships and not marry (or breed) foreigners.

Of course, it’s painfully politically incorrect today, especially because it only refers to mogli (“wives”) and it compares them to animals…but oh well, you got the point. After all, it’s just saying that cultural differences in a relationship will come back to haunt you in the long run! 

#20

ItalianChi si assomiglia si piglia.
Literally“Who looks alike chooses each other.”
EquivalentBirds of a feather flock together.
People tend to relate to others who have similar personalities, lifestyles, and tastes as they do. For this reason, we find it easier to establish relationships with people who are similar to us. 

Another related proverb says: Dimmi con chi vai e ti dirò chi sei. (“Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.”)

#21

ItalianTra moglie e marito non ci mettere il dito.
Literally“Between wife and husband don’t put a finger.”
EquivalentDon’t go between the tree and the bark.
You should not get involved in family affairs that are not your own, because the problems of the couple are so intimate that they can be judged only by the husband and wife.

In other words… Fatti gli affari tuoi! (“Mind your own business!”)

#22

ItalianLa mamma dei cretini è sempre incinta.
Literally“The mother of fools is always pregnant.”
EquivalentThere’s one born every minute.
There are many versions of this very old and wise proverb:

La madre dei cretini (“fools”) è sempre incinta. 
La madre degli idioti (“idiots”) è sempre incinta.
La mamma degli stupidi (“stupid people”) è sempre incinta.
La mamma degli imbecilli (“imbeciles”) è sempre incinta. 

So, you can change the word but the concept is the same: There will always be idiots around to make things difficult.

#23

ItalianVolere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca.
Literally“Wanting a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.”
EquivalentHave your cake and eat it too.
Here’s another example of a proverb that’s not very kind to Italian women…but its metaphorical meaning is clear: You cannot have everything in life!

Vuoi dimagrire continuando a mangiare di tutto? Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca! (“Do you want to lose weight while continuing to eat everything? You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”)

5. Proverbs About Life, Wisdom, and All the Rest…

A Lovely Garden in Canada

Why is the neighbor’s grass always nicer???

We could all use a little guidance now and then, which is where these Italian proverbs about life and all of its trappings come in! 

#24

ItalianOcchio non vede, cuore non duole.
Literally“Eye does not see, heart does not hurt.”
EquivalentOut of sight, out of mind.
Ignorance can be a blessing and it sometimes spares us a lot of suffering. Another popular way of saying this is:

Beata ignoranza! (“Blissful ignorance!”)

#25

ItalianChi troppo vuole nulla stringe.
Literally“Those who want too much obtain nothing.”
EquivalentGrasp all, lose all.
Don’t be greedy! This proverb ultimately invites us to not do/want too many things at the same time, because none of those things will be done well in the end.

#26

ItalianA buon intenditor, poche parole.
Literally“To the good connoisseur, a few words.”
EquivalentA word to the wise (is sufficient).
This proverb indicates that if you’re intelligent and aware of things, you don’t need many explanations in order to understand a concept. A few words should be enough.

#27

ItalianL’erba del vicino è sempre più verde.
Literally“The neighbor’s grass is always greener.”
EquivalentThe grass is always greener on the other side.
Envy is one of the most defective traits we can have, but it’s unfortunately a pretty common trait in our society. Often, as this proverb suggests, we prefer to look at the possessions or success of those around us, often thinking they’re better than us.

#28

ItalianRide bene chi ride ultimo.
EquivalentLaughs best who laughs last.
This proverb highlights how one should not celebrate before the end of a situation, even if things seem to be going in the right direction. And this is not only out of superstition! We all know that everything can change at the very last minute.

#29

ItalianFra i due litiganti il terzo gode.
Literally“Between the two litigants the third enjoys.”
This proverb comes from the title of an Italian comedy of errors from the end of the eighteenth century. It means that sometimes, if two people fight about something, a third person might benefit in the end by taking advantage of the distraction and weakness of the two busy fighting.

So, don’t make war, please!

#30

ItalianNon è tutto oro quello che luccica.
EquivalentAll that glitters is not gold.
This metaphorical phrase warns about things, behaviors, or situations that appear fantastic from the outside—but which are far worse when you take a closer look!

Another proverb that warns us not to judge by appearances is: 

L’abito non fa il monaco. (“The dress does not make the priest.”)

A Little Toddler Climbing Up the Stairs

Life is made of stairs…

#31

ItalianIl mondo è fatto a scale, c’è chi scende, e c’è chi sale.
Literally“The world is made of stairs, some go down, and some go up.”
EquivalentEvery dog has his day.
Life, as luck, comes and goes. You never know what direction life will take.

#32

ItalianChi fa da sé, fa per tre.
Literally“He who works by himself does the work of three (people).”
EquivalentIf you want something done right, do it yourself.
It’s true that often, in order to do a good job, you have to do it yourself. But, ironically, you could also say the opposite using another motto: L’unione fa la forza (“Unity is strength”). So, who do you think is right?

#33

ItalianTra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare.
Literally“An ocean lies between what is said and what is done.”
EquivalentActions speak louder than words. 
Talking is easy, but it’s much more difficult to actually do things. This proverb refers to people who have a tendency to speak a lot and make promises they don’t keep.

#34

ItalianA mali estremi, estremi rimedi.
EquivalentDesperate times call for desperate measures.
Sometimes a drastic action is called for—and justified—when you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation.

#35

ItalianSbagliando s’impara.
Literally“Learning by mistakes.”
EquivalentPractice makes perfect.
Don’t worry about making mistakes, as they are life experiences that we can learn from. And if you’re learning Italian, you can be certain that making a few mistakes is paving the road to greater skills. And practice—with ItalianPod101.com—definitely makes perfect! 

6. Conclusion

In this guide, you’ve learned the 35 most common Italian proverbs. Do you know any others? Make sure to share them with our community in the comments below!

And keep up the good work with your Italian studies! We encourage you to take advantage of all the free resources, vocabulary lists, and video and audio podcasts on ItalianPod101.com to boost your studies and keep learning fun!

Make sure you also check out our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching with your own private teacher. He or she will use assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help you improve your Italian like never before! 

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10 Places to Visit in Rome, the Eternal City

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Tutte le strade portano a Roma. (“All roads take you to Rome.”)

If you plan to visit Italy, you might as well start in the nation’s political and cultural capital. Another popular saying—Roma, città eterna (“Rome, the eternal city”)—sums up its unique historical importance and beauty. Rome is a multilayer city with immense artistic treasures and historical architectures that will make you dream of walking through the Ancient Roman Empire, the Baroque and Renaissance periods, and everything in-between.

Before you plan a visit to Rome, though, you’ll have to do your research. And that’s where we come in. In this article, you’ll learn what to expect and where to go for the best experience! 

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy

Rome, Eternal City


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Table of Contents
  1. Before You Go
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Survival Italian Phrases for Travelers
  4. When in Rome… (Common Slang Expressions Used in Rome)
  5. Conclusion

Before You Go

The history of Rome, the one that everybody knows, starts with a bang! At one time, Rome was on top of the known world. At its peak, the Roman Empire spread from North Africa to England, and from Portugal to the Balkans, and lasted around five centuries.

In Latin, you would say: Roma caput mundi. (“Rome top of the world.”) 

The wonderful thing is that you can still get a pretty good feel of Rome’s grandeur just from walking by the imperial ruins. But even with its size and majestic past, Rome is still a very easy-going city. A nice place to take a walk, yet full of mysteries and surprises.

As the capital city of Italy, Rome hosts all of the Italian government organizations such as the Parlamento (“Parliament”) and the Presidenza della Repubblica (“President Headquarters”). Also, the headquarters of Italy’s many political parties are here. So if you see a lot of very serious people, dressed mostly in blue and going around with an escort and many newspapers under their arms, you can guess who they are. In Italy, these locations are often referred to using the name of the building, so be aware of these terms:

  • il Quirinale: where the President is
  • Montecitorio: the Chamber of the Deputies
  • Palazzo Chigi: the house of the Prime Minister
  • Palazzo Madama: where the Senate meets

Rome is a big and vibrant metropolis that incorporates the quintessential aspects of the Italian character and lifestyle: warm, welcoming, easy-going, happy, a bit loud, and a bit chaotic. Finally, let’s not forget that it is here where the concept of La Dolce Vita was born and beautifully eternalized by the great Federico Fellini. And if you want a more recent portrait of this beautiful city, watch the other acclaimed movie La Grande Bellezza (“The Great Beauty”) before visiting.

    → If you’re a fan of Italian cinema, don’t miss a visit to Cinecittà, the largest film studio in Europe. And yes, it’s in Rome!

Even if it’s not the top of the world anymore, you need to keep in mind that Rome is huge! While you can walk and get pleasurably lost in some neighborhoods, you still need some sort of transportation to get from one part of the city to another. Driving is definitely not the easiest thing to do in Rome, as the traffic can be bad and the Roman drivers are…unruly and a bit reckless. 

Our suggestion is to opt for public transport. Or better yet, buy a tour bus ticket and have a guided overview of all the sightseeing attractions in Rome while comfortably sitting on the bus. Later, you can go back on your own to spend more time in the parts of the city you’re more interested in.

Rome is blessed with mild weather, which makes it very pleasant to walk around—and even stay outside—all day. Still, the best time to visit Rome is in the spring or in the autumn. It won’t be as hot as it is in the summer months (July and August), but it’s still warm enough to stay outside all day (and all night).

A Man in a Bright Suit Making Large Soap Bubbles in Rome

La dolce vita… (“Sweet life…”)

In principle, you should find fewer tourists during the off-seasons. But because Rome is visited by around nine million people each year, you have to be ready to endure lines in most places—and you might have to wait to be served your spaghetti carbonara

How much money do you need to travel to Rome? Of course, that depends on your budget and your traveling style. If you’re a backpacker, you can get by with around $50 per day. This takes into account staying at a hostel (check out the Ostelli della Gioventù), eating lots of pizza slices with plain water, getting around by foot and bus, and paying for certain attractions. But if you love traveling luxuriously, then your budget can swell up to $265 per day.

And talking about money, you should carry euros with you or pay with your international debit or credit card. You should be able to easily draw cash from a Bancomat (“cash machine”) or uffici di cambio (“exchange offices”). Whatever you do, don’t assume that you can take out your dollars or pounds to pay for an espresso or your favorite newspaper! Besides, who wants to calculate exchange rates, make conversions, and check to see if anyone has made a mistake (or is trying to be smart…)? 

What else to bring to Rome? Here’s what we recommend: 

  • Sunglasses, because being outside all day under a perfect blue sky can really tire your eyes
  • A small umbrella in case of rain
  • Multiple layers of clothing to be ready for any temperature
  • Your favorite ItalianPod101 app to help you polish your Italian on the go 😉

Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

Even if you have just a few days in Rome, there is still a lot that you can see and experience. The absolute must-see attractions if you’re just passing by for one day are: 

  • The Roman ruins
  • The Colosseum
  • The Roman Forum
  • The beautiful Trevi Fountain
  • The Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona
  • St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City

Plan to visit Rome by night? Then you can enjoy an osteria (“tavern”) in Trastevere.

But really, just one day in Rome is not enough. So here’s a packed (but more enjoyable) three-day itinerary.

Ancient Rome

The best way to start your visit in Rome is by experiencing the ancient ruins and its most famous (and most-visited) monument. Once there, you’ll find yourself in front of a colossal structure that will immediately conjure up images of gladiator fights and exotic wild animals. And then, just a few strolls away, you’ll be immersed in a different time—it will feel as if you were walking around in a toga, going to meet with Julius Caesar!

1 – Colosseum 

The Colosseum is Rome’s most famous monument and one of the most-visited in all of Europe. In addition to being the world’s largest amphitheater, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the entire historic center of Rome).

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Timeless beauty

It was built around 80 AD and could hold an average of 65,000 spectators. There, they observed not only gladiator fights but also impressively hi-tech shows for the time, such as mock sea battles (where the whole theater was entirely filled with water!) and dramas based on Roman mythology.

The Colosseum clearly reflects the architectural and construction concepts of the early Imperial Age. This is particularly evident in its use of curved and enveloping lines offered by the oval plan, and in the structural relationships of arches and vaults.

So, enter this truly colossal structure and let yourself be enveloped by the density of the emotions the spectators of Ancient Rome felt. Also be ready to endure two inevitable—and rather annoying—features around the Colosseum: long ticket lines and fake Roman centurions asking you for money in exchange for a tacky picture. You can avoid the first nuisance by buying the tickets online via this site. As for the second nuisance…sorry, you’re on your own for that!

2 – The Roman Forum and Palatino

The Roman Forum is a lovely sight, and its location right next to the Colosseum makes it very easy to visit both places on the same day. It used to be Rome’s political, juridical, religious, and economic center. It can be defined in all respects as the beating heart of Ancient Rome.

In the early days of the Republic, this was a chaotic place with food stalls, brothels, temples, and the Senate house. The food stalls were eventually replaced by shopping malls and courts, and the Forum became a ceremonial center under the Empire. Here, all the monuments, temples, and basilicas were concentrated. Today, you can even admire what remains of the temple built in honor of Julius Caesar.

The Roman Forum

The beating heart of ancient Rome

Not far from the Forum, you can visit the Palatino (“Palatine Hill”). It’s one of the seven hills of Rome and constitutes the oldest part of the city. It is a real open-air museum! According to Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus, the famous brothers suckled by the she-wolf who became the founders of the city, came to light on the Palatine Hill.

In any case, the Palatine Hill remains one of the most evocative places in the city, as it was the home of the ruling class of Ancient Rome and, later, of the Farnese family gardens. The pleasant green of the rich vegetation envelops the vestiges of the past and accompanies people on this historical journey. And from here, the view is just breathtaking.

3 – Trastevere

After a whole day among stones and ruins, nothing beats a cool night out in Trastevere. Rome can be a great lively city, but Trastevere shows that it has never lost its village atmosphere. It’s a colorful neighborhood along the Tevere, the river that cuts through Rome. 

It used to be a working-class area and today is a funky, bohemian spot. It’s known for traditional and innovative trattorias, craft beer pubs, artisan shops, simple B&Bs, and budget hotels.

Here, you’ll find the intimate side of the capital. It’s a place of pastel red buildings with green ivy that hangs down from the facades of the houses, and squares full of cafes and pizzerias, with “front row” seating to observe the river and the life that flows around it.

Sunset on the Tevere

Sunset on the Tevere

4 – Campo dei Fiori

Another option for spending your night is Campo dei Fiori, probably the oldest market in Rome. Every morning since 1869 (except on Sunday), the square has been filled with colorful stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fresh fish and, as a matter of fact, fiori (“flowers”).

During the day, Campo dei Fiori is really the right place to buy Roman specialties or to stock up for a nice picnic in a park. But at night, the square turns into one of the meeting places for nightlife, the perfect place to enjoy a drink or something to eat in the many outdoor cafes and restaurants.

Vatican City

Vatican City is definitely one of the best things to see in Rome. It’s a town in its own right, and is in fact a different state. When you enter St. Peter’s Square or the Vatican Museums, you cross the state border from Italy to the Vatican. It’s a very little state, considering that, apart from the Pope, it has only another 850 or so citizens, most of them being cardinals, diplomats, and guards.

Despite its small size, the Vatican City is visited every year by thousands of tourists, either for religious reasons or to get a glimpse of its many artistic treasures.

View from the Top of the Basilica

View from the top of the Basilica

5 – Piazza San Pietro e i Musei Vaticani

Once in the Vatican, you cannot miss St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica. The square is huge and from its center, you can see the most famous windows in the world, the ones from which the Pope looks out of every Sunday to give his blessing to thousands of followers. It’s also the window from which the most well-known sentence in Latin is announced after the successful election of a new head of the Catholic Church: “Habemus Papam…” (“We have a new Pope…”).

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and it’s considered one of the most sacred Catholic shrines as, according to tradition, Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly right below the high altar of the basilica. 

If you can, don’t miss the chance to go to the top of the dome, where you’ll have a fantastic view of the whole city, as well as the chance to see the Basilica and the square from above.

To visit the Vatican Museums, it’s best to arrive very early and/or to buy a skip-the-line ticket because it gets very crowded around midday. There is a lot to see and you can easily spend the whole day there, but you can opt to “limit” your visit to the Sistine Chapel and the fabulous Double Helix Staircase. If you have limited time or the lines are too long, keep in mind that you can also try a virtual tour.

    → Word of caution: Shorts, mini-skirts, and tank tops are not allowed in most churches, so think about the right dress code before visiting the Vatican…

6 – Castel Sant’angelo

A nice walk from St. Peter’s Square, the Castel Sant’Angelo was originally built as a mausoleum for the emperor Hadrian and it has overlooked the Tiber River for almost two thousand years. In this time, it has evolved from its initial role as a tomb, becoming a fortress, then a castle, and finally a museum.

Today, it’s open to the public and you can climb to the top for a splendid view of the city. You’ll also be able to admire the construction techniques that have allowed it to survive for two millennia.

Castel Sant’angelo in Rome, Italy

From mausoleum to castle to museum

Central Rome

7 – Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is among the most famous places to visit in Rome, built on commission from the Pamphili family. It is the best example of Roman Baroque style. Like many piazze in Rome, this location boasts a lovely central fountain. This was sculpted by Bernini and is enriched with an Egyptian obelisk made of a unique block of stone where the four largest rivers in the world are represented. 

If you happen to visit Rome during Christmas or the other winter holidays, don’t miss the traditional market and street artists.

8 – Pantheon

The Pantheon is an imposing temple dedicated to all the Roman gods, originally built in 27 BC! It is a unique building due to its shape and dimensions.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

The House of all Roman gods

The Pantheon has a circular shape, in front of which there is a classical colonnade. The dome has the particularity of not being completely closed: there is an opening at the top, called oculus (“eye” in Latin), that functions as a sundial—the sun, passing through the oculus, marks the passing of the hours and seasons. And when it rains? Well, the inside gets wet but, thanks to a series of holes in the floor, the water flows away.

The dome of the Pantheon is considered the biggest in the world, with a diameter of over 43 meters and a weight of 5000 tons. It’s considered among the largest in the world, and it undeniably constitutes a masterpiece of engineering and architecture, especially if we take into account the period in which it was built.

9 – Fontana di Trevi 

From the Pantheon, you can easily get to the Trevi Fountain. Over the years, this fountain underwent many changes and was rebuilt several times, but the final version presents us with another great example of the Roman Baroque style. 

It is one of the symbols of the Eternal City, as well as the largest and most spectacular of the Roman fountains with a width of 20 meters and a height of 26 meters. This extraordinary work celebrates the wonderful and changing world of water. Approaching la piazza, you can already hear the sound of the water, which creates a breathtaking view as it flows from the white stone. 

There are many legends told about the famous Trevi Fountain, but the best known is certainly the one that claims if you throw a coin into the fountain (strictly from over your shoulder), you will surely return to Rome. And a lot of people throw coins in this fountain; an estimated one and a half million euros are collected each year from the fountain. Where does it all go? A part goes to the Caritas and a part to the maintenance of the city’s cultural heritage.

Don’t do this, unless you want to get a fine!

And of course, there’s the cinema, Fellini, Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, and La Dolce Vita. But don’t try to imitate that, or you’ll get a fine! 

10 – Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps)

To wrap up our trip around the ten must-see places in Rome, let’s go to Piazza di Spagna. Another masterpiece of Baroque architecture, it opens at the end of the luxurious Via Condotti and, in the center, the Barcaccia Fountain and the majestic Spanish Steps.

The fountain was built by Bernini and owes its shape to a legend that says a real boat was found there, perhaps brought by a strong flood of the Tiber. Barcaccia, in fact, means “the big ugly boat.”

The monumental 136-step staircase was built in 1725 to connect the church of Trinità dei Monti, located at the top, to the Spanish Embassy in the square. The best time to visit is in the morning, because of the beautiful light, especially on spring days with blue skies when the staircase is covered with azaleas!

The staircase was to be used not only as a passageway, but as a place to stop and sit. However, a new regulation has recently come into force that prohibits sitting (and especially eating) on the ladder, so be careful!

A Crowd of People Near the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

A night out, Italian style

Survival Italian Phrases for Travelers 

Now for the elephant in the room: Can you visit Rome without knowing Italian? 

In Rome, there will be people speaking English at most tourist attractions (though possibly with a thick Roman accent), but don’t expect that everybody on the street or in small venues and stores will be able to understand. This is actually good news, because you will be able to practice your Italian. And ItalianPod101 will be with you all the way! 

Here is a list of essential survival phrases in Italian for your trip:

Buongiorno!
Buonasera!
“Hello!” / “Good morning!”
“Good evening!”
Arrivederci.“Goodbye.”
Grazie (mille).“Thank you (very much).”
Non parlo Italiano.“I don’t speak Italian.”
Per piacere. / Per favore.“Please.”
Scusa. / Mi scusi.“Excuse me.”
Mi dispiace.“(I am) sorry.”
Dov’è il bagno?“Where are the toilets?”
Può ripetere per favore?“Can you repeat (please)?”
Quanto costa?“How much is it?”
Vorrei questo.“I would like this.”
Parla inglese?“Do you speak English?”

These are just some basic phrases to help you get by. For more on this topic, be sure to check out our survival guide on Italian Travel Phrases.

When in Rome… (Common Slang Expressions Used in Rome)

While walking around the Roman Forum or sipping a beer in Trastevere, you might hear some Roman expressions that you don’t understand. This is because people in Rome use a lot of colloquial slang called romanesco. It’s not a dialect, just a collection of common expressions used in Rome

Here are the six most common expressions that you might hear during your visit:

Aò! Ciao!“Hello!”
Ammazza!Addirittura!“Wow!”
Daje! E dai!“Come on!” (irritated)
Anvedi!Guarda!“Check it out!”
Annamo. / ‘Nnamo. Andiamo.“Come on.” / “Let’s go.”
Mortacci tua / ‘tacci tuaA highly offensive, but very common insult. You will hear it a lot, but don’t use it! 😉“Your ancestors” (cursing)

Conclusion

After reading this guide, you’re ready to visit one of the most wonderful cities in the world: Rome! When you go, tell us all about your adventures in the comments below. Did you discover any hidden treasure? Were you able to practice your Italian (or even your romanesco)? 

In any case, make sure to explore ItalianPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and learn new words before you visit Italy. And when you go, don’t forget to bring with you our awesome mobile apps. Our vocabulary lists are another great way to review words and learn their pronunciation.

Happy learning, and enjoy your travels in Rome!

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Itanglish: A Guide to English Words Used in Italian

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Languages are influenced by a variety of factors, and words often travel from one language to another by way of loans, borrowings, translations, and general misuse. Some languages, including English and Italian, have had more of an influence on the world than others and are widely used (and misused) the world over. Italian has been influencing other languages, especially English, for a rather long time. This influence mainly appears in the fields of music, food, and science. 

Today, there are also several English words used in Italian. This English influence on Italian is more recent, resulting from the huge influence that British and North American culture have had on our old continent in the last few centuries. Italians have borrowed many words, but sometimes these borrowed words are endowed with a somewhat different meaning than that of the original.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the different word exchanges between English and Italian. You’ll see that studying these commonly used (and misused) words can give you a head start in your vocabulary-building and help you communicate easily even as a beginner.

Communication Meaning in a Dictionary

English, Italian, or Itanglish…as long as we communicate!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Loanwords
  2. Introduction to Itanglish
  3. Do You Speak Itanglish?
  4. English Words Derived from Italian
  5. Conclusion

Loanwords 

We may not even realize it, but loanwords are everywhere and we use them all the time. But what exactly are they? A loanword is defined as a word that has been borrowed from another language. For example, an English word that becomes incorporated into another language (like Italian) without translation would be considered a loanword.

So, don’t be puzzled if you’re walking around Milan one evening and hear someone say: 

  • Dove butto il chewing gum? (“Where do I throw the chewing gum?”) 

Or:

  • Durante l’happy hour offrono sandwich e cocktail. (“During happy hour, they offer sandwiches and cocktails.”) 

Even though half of the words are English, these are perfectly correct Italian sentences.

Of course, you could have said: Dove butto la gomma da masticare? and Durante l’aperitivo offrono panini e bibite alcoliche, but nobody speaks like that anymore. This is because some words have entered the common vocabulary with such force that using the original Italian word sounds a bit old-fashioned.

A Gumball Machine

Chewing gum o gomme da masticare?

Although Italian has lent a great number of words to every other language, some “purists” hate to see our language “contaminated” by other languages. This feeling is especially strong toward Anglicisms, which they believe there are way too many of these days. But the reality is that languages change constantly and we have to accept the way people talk.

Here are some of the most commonly used English loanwords and their Italian equivalents.

SandwichHai portato i sandwich? (“Did you bring sandwiches?”)
Panino

It is rather funny that we borrow the English word for it, even though we have exported the Italian name for it all over the world…
CocktailVorrei un cocktail esotico. (“I would like an exotic cocktail.”)
Italians have always been more into wine, so maybe that’s why there is no real equivalent for this word unless you make a huge periphrasis: mistura di bevande alcoliche con succhi o frutta e ombrellini (literally: “mixture of alcoholic drinks with juice or fruit and small umbrellas”).
Chewing gumNon ingoiare il chewing gum! (“Don’t swallow the chewing gum!”)
Gomma da masticare

Nobody really says this anymore, but you may hear people call it gomma or cicca in some parts of Italy.
Happy hourA che ora è l’happy hour? (“What time is the happy hour?”)
Aperitivo or Apericena

They also sound happy, right? You can read our blog post on Untranslatable Italian Words if you want to learn more about apericena and other words that cannot be easily translated.
SmartphoneHo comprato uno smartphone nuovo. (“I bought a new smartphone.”)
Telefonino. 

This cute word was actually created as a name for the old-style cell phones, but it is still used today for the smart models.
ChatNe parliamo in chat? (“Should we get on a chat?”)
If you chat in person, it’s chiacchiere, but there is no Italian equivalent for chatting over the internet. That said, you can ‘Italianize’ the word “chat” by conjugating it as a regular verb: chattare (io chatto, tu chatti, lui/lei chatta, ecc.). 
T-shirtChe taglia è questa t-shirt? (“What’s the size of this T-shirt?”)
Maglietta (a maniche corte). 
WeekendCosa fate per il week-end? (“What are you doing for the weekend?”)
Fine settimana.

It’s interesting to note how Italians use these English words with different syntactic rules. For example, we don’t add -s to make them plural (i sandwich, gli smartphone, le t-shirt) and we do assign them the same gender as the Italian equivalent:

  • il panino → il sandwich
  • la maglietta → la t-shirt
  • il fine settimana → il weekend

All of the words above have been used for decades and are part of everybody’s daily vocabulary. But there are other loanwords that have recently entered the jargon of young Italians and professionals of the new economy. 

It’s considered “cool” to use the English equivalents of these words, even though they have perfect Italian equivalents. So be aware: if you’re in an Italian work environment, you might actually end up listening to a lot of English words!

Il marketing del brand del “Made in Italy.” (The marketing of the “Made in Italy” brand.)

MarketingLei è il nuovo direttore marketing? (“Are you the new marketing director?”)
Vendita

Of course, “marketing” refers to everything that has to do with selling strategies and all the communication that goes with it.
BusinessDobbiamo fare crescere il business. (“We need to grow our business.”)
Affari, attività economica. 

This word is also widely used in combination with other words, as in: business class, business school, core business, and show business.
BrandFerrari è il brand più forte al mondo. (“Ferrari is the world’s strongest brand.”)
Marchio

It is not uncommon to hear people talking about il brand del “Made in Italy. Believe it or not, that is a correct Italian sentence!
MeetingIl meeting è alle tre. (“The meeting is at three.”)
Riunione

Besides being used in the workplace, it is also used for some sporting competitions, such as in: il meeting di atletica (“the track and field competition”).
BriefingHai letto il briefing di oggi? (“Did you read today’s briefing?”)
Istruzioni brevi. 

Did you know that the term “briefing” originally derives from the Latin brevis (“short”)? And now it has returned to Italian as a loanword…
Know-howÈ importanto valorizzare il know-how. (“It is important to enhance the know-how.”)
Competenze. 
GapIl gap salariale è troppo alto! (“The retribution gap is too high!”)
Divario, dislivello. 
Coffee breakCi meritiamo un coffee break. (“We deserve a coffee break.”)
Pausa caffè. 

Even if you only need a few seconds to drink an espresso ristretto, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a longer break. 😉

A Cup of Coffee and a Saucer Sitting on a Newspaper

Time for a coffee break (a rather old time…).

Introduction to Itanglish

All of the loanwords we’ve seen so far tend to make sense. They are common, they are universal, and they help us communicate. But some words have taken on a life of their own to form a ‘language’ called Itanglish. This consists of English words that are used in Italian communication on a daily basis, but with a twist. 

This is a rather interesting phenomenon and one that exists in every language. Basically, for some mysterious reason, an English word enters the Italian common use but with a slightly different meaning from the original word. In the end, the word looks and sounds English, but it is not English anymore because its meaning is altogether something else. Now, the origin of the meaning of these words is difficult to trace back, but the fact is that everybody in Italy agrees on the same meaning.

Do You Speak Itanglish? 

These words are a great source of comedy because Italians will use them with the definite conviction that any English speaker will know exactly what they mean. But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that, out of context or without the help of the proverbial Italian gestures, nobody will understand… Here are some examples of English words used in the Italian language that might confuse you at first glance.

ZappingFrom the verb “zap,” meaning to destroy your enemy, it has become “to change channels compulsively with your remote control” in Itanglish.
Smetti di fare zapping! (“Stop changing channels!”)
FootingIn English, this can refer to the action of moving by foot (“she was seen footing across the field”). It is also used to describe the state of one’s feet having a secure grip on something (“I nearly lost my footing”). For some reason, it is used as a synonym for jogging, or correre, in Itanglish.
Faccio footing ogni mattina prima di andare al lavoro. (“I jog every morning before going to work.”)
SmokingHow do you get from “smoke” to dinner jacket or tuxedo? Beats me…but this is the meaning of the Itanglish word!
Mio padre metteva lo smoking per andare a teatro. (“My father wore a tuxedo to go to the theater.”)
FlipperA flipper is a pinball machine. Well, I guess what happened here is that since the little fins you operate to throw the ball back are called ‘flippers,’ the whole machine took that name in Itanglish.
Mi piace giocare a flipper. (“I like playing with the pinball machine.”)
BoxWe all know what a box is, right? Well, not exactly… In Itanglish, box has become a small enclosed space, like a garage for a car or a box doccia (“a shower cabin”).
Questo appartamento è dotato di un box? (“Does this apartment come with a garage?”)
MisterNo, we are not talking about just any man. In Itanglish, the mister is one specific man: the coach (also known as allenatore) of a team. This is normally used for the coach of a soccer team. 
Il mister ci ha fatto i complimenti per la partita. (“The coach praised us for the game.”)
SpiderYou don’t like spiders? I bet you’ll like these, though. In Itanglish, this word refers to a two-seat sports car. So how do you go from a car to a spider? Apparently, in the past, the disproportion between the size of the tires and the small cockpit made them look like spiders…
Il mio sogno è avere una spider rossa. (“My dream is to have a red sports car.”)
ToastWhen you think of toast, a single slice of slightly toasted bread comes to mind. But in fact, if you ask for a toast (pronounced un tost) in Italy, you will receive two slices of toasted bread with ham and cheese between them.
A pranzo ho mangiato solo un toast. (“I just ate a ham and cheese toast for lunch.”)
GolfIf you’re thinking of long afternoons playing on green grass, think again. Because for some strange reason, Italians use un golf to refer to a light woolen pullover. Why? Who knows… And if you hear someone talk about un golfino, it’s just another cute way of saying the same thing.
Porta il golf che stasera farà freddo. (“Bring a pullover because it will be cold tonightl.”)
SlipMaybe because it means “to slide” or “to move quickly” in English, this word means “underwear” in Itanglish. It makes sense, right? And of course, if it is very small or belongs to a little child, it turns into lo slippino.
Ho comprato tre slip per 10 euro. (“I bought three pairs of underwear for 10 euros.”)
FeelingIn Itanglish, this is a very particular emotional state. It is when there’s a spontaneous and immediate emotional bond between people…a special understanding.
Fra di noi c’è del feeling. (“There’s chemistry between us.”)
FictionIn English, fiction refers to any literature in the form of prose, such as novels or short stories, that tell a story not directly based in reality. But in Itanglish, it has taken on the meaning of “TV series.” Once upon a time, they were called sceneggiati.
Non posso perdere l’ultima puntata della mia fiction preferita. (“I can’t miss the last episode of my favorite TV series.”)

A Mother Taking the Remote Control From Her Young Daughter

Basta zapping! (“Stop channel surfing!”…Let go of the remote!)

English Words Derived from Italian

How did you like speaking Itanglish? Well, you should know that there are also many Italian loanwords that are commonly used in English. Most of them belong to the realm of music, arts, food, and science.

Let’s review some of them:

→ From music

  • Fiasco
  • Soprano
  • Opera
  • Diva
  • Piano
  • Prima donna
  • Concerto
  • Finale
  • Ballerina 

→ From the arts

  • Chiaroscuro
  • Scenario
  • Mask (maschera)
  • Studio

→ From science

  • Volcano (vulcano)
  • Lava
  • Influenza
  • Medico
  • Malaria
  • Quarantine (quarantena)
  • Tarantula (actually, from the city of Taranto)

→ From food (of course)

  • Lasagna
  • Spaghetti
  • Pizza
  • Broccoli
  • Mozzarella
  • Panino
  • Pasta
  • Gelato
  • Pesto
  • Granita
  • Gusto
  • and tons of others…

Conclusion

As you’ve seen in this guide, there are plenty of English words in Italian to help you start communicating even as a beginner! You’ve also seen some Itanglish words that will take some getting used to, but which will make your speech that much more natural once you do. Did we forget any important Itanglish word that you’ve heard before? Tell us about it in the comments!

Keep working on and having fun with your Italian studies on ItalianPod101.com, where you can find tons of vocabulary lists, free resources, and even mobile apps

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will guide you so that you always know what to study next, based on your needs and progress. He or she will provide you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples to help boost your progress. There is no faster way to learn Italian than with ItalianPod101!

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An Overview of the Italian Culture

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Culture is a broad concept encompassing all things relevant to a certain group. 

If you’re studying the Italian language or planning to visit Italy, it’s extremely important to understand their habits, traditions, and ways of thinking. This is where our Italian culture overview comes in! We’ll inform you about Italians’ social behaviors, education, beliefs, arts, laws, and everything else that’s considered important in Italy. Essentially, we’re giving you the key to the soul of the Italian people. As you’ll soon see, culture is everything!

But what makes Italian culture unique? Well, Italy has been the heart of the Roman Empire and the seat of the Catholic Church, as well as the meeting point of many Mediterranean civilizations. This has steeped the nation in a wealth of knowledge and layers of historical influence. In addition, Italy has been the heart of many artistic movements, and it’s been considered one of the most flourishing cultural centers of Europe since ancient times.

Italy has a vibrant culture. Old and new coexist side by side, and not only because ruins from ancient times sit alongside metro stations or because you can see a Ferrari parked right next to an Ape Car selling fruits and vegetables. Since the Roman Empire times, tradition and innovation have always been important parts of the Italian culture.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Values and Beliefs
  2. Philosophies and Religions
  3. Family and Work
  4. Art
  5. Food
  6. Traditional Holidays
  7. Conclusion

1. Values and Beliefs

When you think of Italians, I’m sure that a very clear image comes to mind. This is because Italian culture is so widely known around the world that others’ perception of it sometimes ends up being a caricature. But in Italian culture, values and beliefs are the pillars of society. Here are just a few core truths of Italian culture:

→ Family is very, very important and it is at the core of all Italian life.

→  Italy is statistically old-aged and Italians hold elderly people in a position of respect, valuing their history and knowledge. People often rely on elders for help.

→ Sociability is important, and Italian people are sociable and outgoing. They like to form strict groups in which members help each other. Social life in Italy revolves around meals. There are even specific words used to indicate special social eating events with friends, such as aperitivo (an after-work get-together) and spaghettata (a late-night improvised pasta dish with friends). 

→ Italians like to argue. Not necessarily to quarrel and fight, but just to argue for the sake of arguing. They argue about everything, but their favorite topics are of course politics, soccer, and food. It’s not by chance that Italy has hosted many famous philosophers, from Pitagora to Cicero and from Machiavelli to Gramsci—and many others in-between!

→ Work is very important, and Italians have always been a hard-working people. That said, they’re also well-known for their dolce far niente (“pleasant idleness”) and bella vita (“good life”) lifestyle. The importance of work for Italians is best expressed by the first article of the Italian Constitution, which states: L’Italia è una repubblica democratica fondata sul lavoro. (“Italy is a democratic republic founded on work.”)

→ Curiosity and innovation are definite Italian culture characteristics, having driven explorers (Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo) and inventors (Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei) as well as, in more recent times, the fashion and design industries.

A Stained Glass Image of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus

The family and the church: the two main institutions in Italy.

2. Philosophies and Religions

Italy has long been the center of the Catholic world, since the day when Saint Peter settled in Rome and served as the first leader and bishop of the Catholic church. The Vatican is here and the church has always had a direct or indirect influence over Italian life and politics (especially in the past).

Perhaps the most influential person among spiritual leaders has been Saint Francis of Assisi, who is still often referred to as a role model for simple living and harmony with nature. The grandeur and influence of the Catholic church are evident in the beauty and number of churches, cathedrals, and domes that you can see everywhere, from major metropoles to small villages.

Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

A church at every corner!

But even in the past, the church has often originated free thinking and rationalistic thought, both of which have surged to counteract the immense cultural power of the Catholic church. This explains the great number of philosophers and scientists that have populated the peninsula since ancient times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance until today.

Nowadays, this influence is decreasing, especially since there has been a gradual distancing from Catholic rituals among young people. In addition, migration and new social mobility have introduced people of other religions. Recent statistics show that religion in Italy is increasingly diverse, with 80% of Italians being Catholics, 15% having no religion, and 5% belonging to a different religion (many of them Muslim from the migratory waves from North Africa). 

    → Start expanding your Italian vocabulary with our free list of Religion names in Italian!

3. Family and Work

Family is the core of Italian culture and traditions. Food, holidays, day-to-day life…everything revolves around the institution of family. Despite having lost a little of its power as an institution in recent years, it’s still central to the Italian culture and way of life.

Families are tight. Grandparents often take care of their grandkids, and sons and daughters live at home even if they’ve already started their professional careers. After all, living with mamma e papà (“mom and dad”) is sooo comfortable, why leave?

Italian families also argue and fight a lot. For proof of that, you can just check out the immense quantity of dramas and comedies about dysfunctional families, usually gathered around a table at some traditional event.

Arguments are often due to the fact that Italian parents are very protective of their children and they want to take care of their children’s education, work, finances, and feelings. Even as adults, Italians like to ask for their parents’ opinions and to involve them in very personal matters.

At work, Italians tend to recreate a family-type group. Community, gossip, fun, and empathy all go on at once in an Italian workplace. Italians are very hard-working, but they try to carry out their tasks with a smile and by mixing work with pleasure (l’utile e il dilettevole).

The Italian job market is quite unstable and Italians often end up working in the family business or having to look for better opportunities abroad. This is something that Italians have done for centuries, often populating and helping to develop other countries.


4. Art 

Italy is art! 

This is something that Italians can really be proud of, as the country hosts the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (55). Not to mention that half of all the world’s greatest artwork is in Italy! 

It’s no wonder the Stendhal syndrome was born here: the French author/poet was visiting Florence when he experienced a rapid heartbeat, sense of fainting, and confusion due to being exposed to too many beautiful things. Italy is home to more than 100,000 monuments, churches, cathedrals, archaeological sites, houses, and statues, not to mention all of the paintings, frescos, and sculptures in the museums.

In Italian culture, art has always been an essential aspect of life. One of the reasons why Italy has so much art could be traced back, once again, to the presence of the Vatican and to the great power (and money) that the Church had from the Middle Ages on. Often, in fact, Popes and Cardinals were the ones that ordered and paid for artwork intended to celebrate God and the Church itself. This is how many Italian cities, such as Rome, Florence, and Milan became known for big artistic centers where artists gathered in search of fame and commissions.

Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre Pendente di Pisa)

Mmm…something is not quite right here…

Another artistic area that is strongly representative of Italian culture is music. Music is everywhere and Italians like to sing and dance. It’s not by chance that many of the words used to talk about and describe music come from Italian. Also, many of the classical instruments, such as the piano and the violin, were invented in Italy.

Italian music is very melodic and often dramatic. In the 1800s, Italy contributed to the world of music by creating the most memorable of all classical music styles: the Opera! Verdi, Rossini, Puccini…who doesn’t know of them and their music?

If art is your thing, Italy is the place to be.

5. Food 

“Food” and “Italian” are two concepts that just go naturally together. 

Italy is home to both the simplest, traditional home cuisine, and the most sophisticated and starred dishes. It’s the typical yin-and-yang characteristic of Italian life: buono e bello, utile e dilettevole, lavoro e piacere (“good and beautiful, useful and delightful, work and pleasure”).

In Italy, food is at the center of celebrations and family gatherings. In the past, the most important meal was il pranzo (“lunch”). It’s still common for families to get together around a table on Sundays to celebrate il pranzo della domenica (“Sunday’s lunch”) with the typical succession of antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, frutta, dolce e caffè (“appetizer, first course, second course, side dish, fruit, dessert, and coffee”).

Meals on special occasions can go on for hours. Eating is not just about food and nourishment, but rather about pleasure, indulgence, and being with loved ones to share in each other’s joys.

Pizza, Pasta, and Chicken Wings

Pizza, spaghetti, gelato, espresso: Italian culture at its best!

Italians are extremely proud of their gastronomy, and every region, city, and village boasts its unique cuisine. Flavors and traditional preparation methods are very important; Italians try as much as possible to preserve and protect their culinary products. This is what the acronyms DOP, DOC, and DOCG stand for: they certify that the origin of a specific product is protected, checked, and guaranteed. You’ll often find these acronyms on wine and cheese products.

There are probably four things that immediately make people think of Italy: pizza, spaghetti, gelato, and espresso. And what else do you need in life?


6. Traditional Holidays 

Holidays are an important part of Italian culture, and they end up combining all of Italy’s best cultural aspects. 

Holidays are when families gather around special, traditional, and seasonal foods. Most holidays in Italy have a Catholic origin and these traditions are often honored in theatrical religious functions or rituals. 

In Italian culture, holidays are the perfect “excuse” to bring out the best of the Dolce Vita, that particular way Italians enjoy life to its fullest. Italians usually celebrate all major holidays with family, gathered around the table. There’s a popular saying regulating which holiday you should spend with family: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (“Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want”).

Some of the traditional holidays are very typical of Italy, such as la Befana. This is the Epiphany on January sixth, when an old and ugly lady on a flying broom brings candies to children. Another popular holiday is Pasquetta, the Monday following Easter Sunday, when tradition calls for a picnic in the countryside.

Another very Italian holiday is Ferragosto on August 15, which is a celebration of the end of summer. If you’re traveling through Italy on Ferragosto, beware that everything is closed, nobody is around, and the country is practically shut down for the holiday.

The Frecce Tricolori

The Frecce Tricolori during a June 2 celebration

As far as national celebrations go, two very important dates are: 

  • April 25: La festa della liberazione (“Liberation Day”) 
    • On this date, we remember Italy’s liberation from the fascist regime.
  • June 2: La festa della Repubblica (“The Day of the Republic”)
    • On this date, we remember when Italy became a Republic by means of a Referendum in 1946.

7. Conclusion

In this guide, we showed you the most important aspects of Italian culture, from its core values to religion, social life, history, art, food, and holidays. Do you have any questions about something we covered? Are there any other cultural aspects you would like to learn about? If so, leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to elaborate!

And remember: Culture and language go hand in hand, so diving deeper into the Italian culture will help you learn the language (and vice-versa!).

Another sure way to improve your Italian is to explore ItalianPod101.com and take advantage of all our free resources to practice the language and improve at your own pace. You can learn with a great variety of vocabulary lists and even with apps for your phone.

And if you want a more personalized teaching approach, check out our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher. You’ll get personal one-on-one coaching with your private teacher who will help you practice with personalized exercises. He or she can also record audio samples for you to help with pronunciation, and review your own recordings.

Happy Italian learning!

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The 25 Most Well-Known Italian Quotes

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Quotes are the perfect way to go deeper into the cultural wealth of a language. They give us a clear vision of people’s philosophy, mindset, history, and popular culture. This means that by studying Italian quotes, you’ll not only be able to better understand the people around you and better express yourself, but you’ll also be able to explore Italian culture at a deeper level.

In this article, we’ll go through the most commonly used Italian quotes, from sayings about love to words of traditional wisdom.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life and Wisdom
  3. Quotes About Love
  4. Quotes About Family and Friends
  5. Quotes About Food
  6. Dante’s Quotes
  7. L’importante è finire!

1. Quotes About Success

We’ll start our list with a few Italian quotes of strength and success. How can you apply these to your everyday life?

1. Veni, vidi, vici. 


(“I came, I saw, I conquered.”)

In Italian, it’s: Venni, vidi, vinsi

This is probably the oldest and most memorable of all the popular Italian quotes, and it comes from ancient Italian times (and more precisely, from ancient Rome). The original quote is in Latin, coined by Julius Caesar to describe one of his many quick and easy military victories. Today, this quote has—fortunately—lost its military connotation, but it continues to be commonly quoted in its original Latin form to describe great personal achievements that were accomplished quickly and without much effort. Does it sound like bragging? Well, yeah! After all, it is Julius Caesar we’re talking about!

Veni, Vidi, Vici Written on a Blackboard

I came, I saw, I conquered.

2. Il fine giustifica i mezzi. 


(“The end justifies the means.”)

Success, particularly in the political realm, was what Machiavelli had in mind when he wrote this famous and oft-quoted phrase. This sentence has been used since the Renaissance to depict a type of political system that would resort to every evil means in order to reach its goals, no matter the costs. This isn’t exactly what Machiavelli meant, but it doesn’t matter much anymore since it’s such a widely known concept. There was even an adjective created to illustrate this very idea: machiavellico (“Machiavellian”).

3. La calma è la virtù dei forti. 


(“Calm is the virtue of the strong.”)

But success is not derived from military strength or political ability alone. On the contrary, a very old saying (the origin of which is now lost) tells us the secret to being strong and successful: be calm, be sure of yourself, and face any situation. It’s basically another way of saying “Keep calm and carry on,” the famous phrase from a 1939 poster made by the British government before World War II.

2. Quotes About Life and Wisdom

Now let’s look at some Italian quotes about life from some of Italy’s greatest minds and artists. 

4. La semplicità è l’ultima sofisticazione. 


(“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”)

When talking about life and wisdom, it just makes sense that we quote one of the wisest, most intelligent, creative, and brilliant minds of all times! Have you guessed? Of course, we’re talking about Leonardo da Vinci! He loved to say that la semplicità è l’ultima sofisticazione (“simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”), or in other words, “keep it simple” or “less is more.” This seems like very good advice for anybody in any situation—and in any case, anything that good old Leonardo said will make you look good!

A Sketch of Vitruvian Man

Keep it simple, says Leo Da Vinci!

5. Dietro ogni problema c’è un’opportunità. 


(“Behind any problem, there is an opportunity.”)

Galileo Galilei, another great scientific and philosophical mind of the Renaissance, brought us this very modern-sounding quote. He probably had no idea that this concept would be used five centuries later by managers and marketers all over the world, all agreeing with the advantage of turning problems into opportunities.

6. La libertà è come l’aria: ci si accorge di quanto vale quando comincia a mancare. 


(“Freedom is like air: you realize its value only when you miss it.”)

Next is the jurist Piero Calamandrei, one of the most prominent protagonists of la Resistenza (“the Resistance”). His quote is true of many things: you miss them when they’re gone. But the quote gains significance when we talk about freedom, one of the vital elements of life, just like air. 

7. Se comprendere è impossibile, conoscere è necessario. 


(“If understanding is impossible, knowing is necessary.”)

And from the same historic time—the aftermath of WWII—comes another memorable quote, this time from the novel Se questo è un uomo (“If This is a Man”) by Primo Levi. Talking about his experience as a survivor of a concentration camp, he underlines the importance of remembering and studying the absurd tragedies of the past.

8. Se non hai mai pianto, i tuoi occhi non possono essere belli. 


(“If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful.”)

Wisdom can come from many different sources. You don’t need to be a scientist or a philosopher to say something so beautiful and meaningful that people cite it for years to come. For example, this quote of simple popular wisdom is from the mouth of the beautiful Italian actress Sophia Loren. It entails the notion that real beauty has the depth of life, and suffering is a part of living.

A Tear Streaming Down a Woman’s Face

Did you know that crying can make you beautiful?

3. Quotes About Love

Italian quotes about love… We can’t talk about this without making a reference to the delicious Baci Perugina. These are chocolate and hazelnut pralines that, since the 1920s, have made the perfect romantic present. They’re individually wrapped in popular literary love quotes that are translated into four languages. In Italy, they’re synonymous with romanticism (or cheesy pickup lines, depending on who you ask…).

But no love quote is more famous than this one:

9. Amor ch’a nullo amato amar perdona. 


(“Love that exempts no one loved from loving in return.”)

Considering that Dante wrote this quote in his Divina Commedia in 1320, it’s not very easy to understand. But it basically means that love has a powerful way of attracting love. The rhythm of this verse is so beautiful that people like to quote it just to hear the sound. Give it a try!

10. Siamo angeli con un’ala sola: possiamo volare solo se abbracciati. 


(“We are one-wing angels: we can only fly together.”)

Not as old as Dante’s quote but just as poetic, is this quote from the Neapolitan actor, director, and writer Luciano De Crescenzo, in his film Così Parlò Bellavista. It’s a beautiful metaphor of the force of true love.

11. L’amore è cieco. 


(“Love is blind.”)

Italians often quote this universal concept of love to justify an improbable relationship. Lately, people have added another small pearl of wisdom to the sentence: L’amore è cieco…ma la sfiga (la sfortuna) ci vede benissimo! (“Love is blind…but bad luck sees perfectly well!”). This addition actually comes from one of the Murphy’s Law books by Arthur Bloch.

4. Quotes About Family and Friends

You all know how important family is to Italians—especially the family members that gather around a table on special occasions! Family isn’t limited to our immediate relatives, but includes all of its members, close or distant. Nowadays, Italian families have a tendency to be more and more extended. The bottom line is that every family is different and none of them are “normal.” 

There are many Italian quotes about family (and several proverbs) that discuss the sweet and sour dynamics of family life.

12. Si può fare tutto, ma la famiglia non si può lasciare. 


(“You can do anything, except leaving your family.”)

This may be another way of saying that we don’t choose our family and that family ties are stronger than anything. Or so believed Gianni Agnelli, whose family owned the Italian automotive giant Fiat (which is today Fiat-Chrysler). And it’s no wonder he would say that, since his family allowed him to be the richest man in Italy for decades!

13. Gli faremo un’offerta che non potrà rifiutare. 


(“We will make him an offer he cannot refuse.”)

When talking about famous and powerful families, how could we forget the—fictitious, but quite realistic—Corleone family from The Godfather? This is by far the most memorable citation from the movie, and one that people quote all the time as a joke about making a very good offer of any kind. It goes without saying that Cosa Nostra is not something to joke about, but this quote has entered Italy’s everyday language.

14. Dagli amici mi guardi Iddio che dai parenti mi guardo io. 


(“Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my relatives.”)

We choose our friends, and we inherit our families. In the end, they are both very important to us—but they can be dangerous, too! Or at least that’s what the famous comedian Totò thought. You don’t know Totò? Well, he was “just” the most popular Italian performer of all time. He said this quote in a movie, paraphrasing an old proverb. If you want to learn all about crazy family and friend dynamics, just watch any of his old movies!

A Family Eating a Large Dinner Together

Nessuna famiglia è “normale.” (“No family is “normal.”)

15. Sai cos’è l’amico? Un uomo che ti conosce a fondo e nonostante ciò ti vuole bene. 


(“Do you know what a friend is? Someone who knows you deeply and still loves you.”)

Vittorio Gassman gave us this quote about friendship in his movie Profumo di Donna (“Scent of a Woman”). It depicts the quintessential and bittersweet quality of the movie.

5. Quotes About Food 

Considering the prominent food culture in Italy, it should come as no surprise that Italian food quotes are very common. Here are some of the best Italian quotes about food!

16. Buono come il pane. 


(“Good as bread.”)

Italian food is the celebration of simple flavors, and this concept is best illustrated through this quote. Simpler things are the best, and bread is the greatest example of honest, traditional, and good qualities. This saying can apply to people as well!

17. Non si vive di solo pane. 


(“We do not live by bread alone.”)

Bread is great, but according to this traditional saying, it’s just not enough…

18. La vita è una combinazione di pasta e magia. 


(“Life is a combination of pasta and magic.”)

Nobody can describe the beauty of life better than the Maestro Federico Fellini, who summed it all up in this quote. What else is there to say? Genius!

19. Altro il vino non è se non la luce del sole mescolata con l’umido della vite. 


(“Wine is nothing but sunlight mixed with the humidity of the vine.”)

Or maybe we can just add another element to Fellini’s formula with Galileo Galilei’s definition of wine. It just reminds us how important nature is in all aspects of our life.

20. L’uomo passa la prima metà della sua vita a rovinarsi la salute e la seconda metà alla ricerca di guarire. 


(“Men spend the first half of their life ruining their health and the second half trying to fix it.”)

Pasta and wine are great, but better not overdo it. So it’s Leonardo Da Vinci to the rescue, reminding us to keep our future in view while we enjoy ourselves in the present! I bet we can all relate to this quote…

A Table Laid Out with Italian Pasta Dishes, Wine Bottles, and Fresh Ingredients

Is it pasta or is it magic?

6. Dante’s Quotes

Before wrapping up, we can’t forget to introduce the most common and widespread citations by Italians. When it comes to Italian quotes, Dante’s Divina Commedia is a major source of modern-day quips. Maybe it’s because it was the first literary work written in Italian, or maybe because Italians have to study it inside and out for school. Perhaps it’s because he really was the greatest Italian poet.

Dante’s quotes can sometimes be obscure. They’re written in archaic Italian, and they’ll definitely make more sense if you read the book…but we’ll provide you with the most popular quotes so you can show off to your Italian friends!

21. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura. 


(“In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark forest.”)

Let’s start with the very first sentence of his Divina Commedia. You’ll hear this citation quoted all the time in reference to any difficult situation (the dark forest) that a person has experienced at some point in life (in the middle of my life).

22. Galeotto fu il libro e chi lo scrisse. 


(“Guilty was the book and who wrote it.”)

This quote is used to refer to a person, an object, or an event that made a relationship possible.

23. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate


(“Leave all hope, you who are entering.”)

This grim phrase was written on the door of hell, making it clear that there was no coming out once you went through that door. But today, it’s a favorite quote for students who are about to enter their classroom, used as a joke about the desperation of being in school-hell! 🙂

24. Non ti curar di lor, ma guarda e passa


(“Don’t pay attention to them, but observe and move on.”)

This quote is used to mean that one should be superior and not worry about what others do, think, or say.

25. L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle. 


(“Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”)

Let’s conclude with a cosmic love citation, giving us the feeling of just how important love is. Love is all we need! And, from the Middle Ages to today, that hasn’t changed!

The Immortal Dante Aliguieri

7. L’importante è finire!

“The important thing is the end” sang the famous Italian singer Mina in the 60s. We hope you enjoyed learning the most important and common Italian quotes on success, wisdom, love, family, and much more. 

Do you want to learn more quotes and citations? Do you have something specific in mind? Make sure to share them with us in the comments below!

ItalianPod101.com also has tons of free vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to improve your Italian in a fast and fun way!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching, personalized assignments and exercises, and tailored materials to help you dramatically improve your language skills. Check it out!

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Italian Business Language for Doing Business in Italy

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Did you land the perfect job in an Italian design firm? Do you want to start expanding your business in Italy? Are you applying for a job in Rome and need to update your CV and interviewing skills with the proper Italian business language?

We know that workplaces, job interviews, and starting a new job can be stressful. And what about talking on the phone with a client or boss? Not to mention the art of writing the perfect email or a convincing CV. Now imagine having to manage all of this in Italian… 

If you want to succeed in any of these activities, you’ll need to master the basic Italian business phrases and vocabulary.

A Woman in a Red Jacket Standing in the Center of Several People in Black Suits

Let’s do business with style!

But don’t worry! We’ve put together this practical guide on how to succeed in the Italian business world. We’ll guide you through all you need to know to be at your best in the most common business situations.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Italian Table of Contents
  1. First Things First
  2. Business Words and Phrases
  3. Nail a Job Interview
  4. Interacting with Coworkers
  5. Sound Smart in a Meeting
  6. How to Handle Emails and Business Phone Calls
  7. Go on a Business Trip
  8. Conclusion

1. First Things First

In any social situation, the first code that you have to learn is how to greet and address others. In a work or business situation, this is even more important. So let’s start by going over the correct way to meet and greet in Italian.

1 – Greetings

First of all, you’ll need to say hello. The best Italian business greetings for this are:

  • Buongiorno (“Hello,” but literally “Good day”) 
    • This can be used in formal and informal settings, and it’s the appropriate greeting to use until the early afternoon.
  • Buonasera (“Good evening”) 
    • This is the greeting that you start using in the late afternoon.
  • Ciao (“Hello”) 
    • This is a very informal way of greeting, and it can be used only in situations where everybody is very informal, or if you know everybody very well.

Now, if you’re in a business meeting and need to introduce yourself for the first time, here are the most common formulas:

  • Piacere (“Nice to meet you,” but literally “Pleasure”)
    • It’s actually the shorter version of the next phrase.
  • Piacere di conoscerla (“It’s a pleasure to meet you”)
  • Molto piacere (“Really nice to meet you”)
    • This is just another version of the same formula.

In professional settings, you’re expected to use the appropriate title to address professionals. Some examples include: 

  • Dottore / Dottoressa (“Doctor”) – This one is also used for anybody with a university degree.
  • Avvocato (“Lawyer”)
  • Ingegnere (“Engineer”)
  • Architetto (“Architect”)

When it’s time to leave the office, just use the most common goodbye phrases:

  • Arrivederci (“Goodbye”) is the best way to bid farewell in Italian, since it can be used in both formal and informal situations. Additionally, it can be used to address a single person or a crowd, as it literally means “We’ll see each other.”
  • If you want to be more formal, use Arrivederla, which is the same formula, but using the Lei form (which we’ll review below).
  • Ciao (“Bye”) is a good option if you’re very familiar with your coworkers. In Italian, it means both “hello” and “bye.”

Two Businesswomen Shaking Hands

Arrivederci!

2 – “Tu” or “Lei”?

Like other Romance languages, Italian has two different forms for addressing people in the second person, depending on the degree of familiarity or informality of the situation.

In professional settings, it’s normally expected for you to address everybody with the formal “you” (lei). Notice that while it looks like the pronoun for “she,” lei agrees with the gender of the person.

  • Signor Rossi, Lei è mai andato in barca a vela? (“Mr. Rossi, have you ever sailed?”)

The rule of thumb is that you formally address all people that are older than you, those who are hierarchically higher than you, and unfamiliar people in formal settings.

Nowadays, especially in typically younger workplaces (startups, design firms, new-economy, etc.), it’s becoming more and more common to address everybody informally. But just to be sure:

  • See if the people around you use tu or lei and do the same.
  • Wait for your interlocutor to ask: Possiamo darci del tu? (“Can we switch to informal you?”).

2. Business Words and Phrases

Business Phrases

Here is the most basic Italian business vocabulary you should know.

1 – The Company

Depending on your line of business, you probably work in one of these places:

  • Una società / Un’azienda / Un’impresa (“Company”)
  • Un’agenzia (“Agency”) – usually refers to marketing, advertising, or a generally creative workplace
  • Un ufficio (generic “Office”)
  • Una fabbrica (“Factory”) – not to be confused with fattoria, which means “farm”
  • Un laboratorio (“Laboratory”)

Because there are many different types of companies, you’ll probably hear the following definitions to describe a specific Italian business:

  • Società per Azioni (Spa) is a company with shares in the stock market.
  • Società a Responsabilità Limitata (Srl) is a company with limited responsibility.
  • Cooperativa (“Cooperative”)
  • Multinazionale ( “Multinational”)
  • Azienda familiare (“Family business”)
  • Un’associazione (senza fini lucrativi) (“A non-profit organization”)

2 – Let’s Talk About Work

Here’s a basic Italian business vocabulary list with the basic words and expressions for talking about work.

  • Lavorare (“To work”)
  • Lavoro / Mestiere / Occupazione (“Job”)
  • Professione (“Profession”)
  • Cercare lavoro (“To look for a job”)
  • Annuncio di lavoro (“Job listing”)
  • Assumere (“To hire”)
  • Assunzione (“Recruitment”)
  • Lavoretto [Casual] (“Job”)
  • Posizione  (“Position”)
  • Carriera (“Career”)
  • Contratto di lavoro (“Contract”)
  • Licenziare (“To fire”)
  • Licenziamento (“Dismissal”)

A Man Carrying a Box of His Office Things

Sono stato licenziato… (“I was fired…”)

3 – The Workplace

Here are some business Italian words and phrases regarding various elements in a typical workplace. For example, different positions and responsibilities, management, and the place of work itself.

  • Il personale (“The staff”)
  • Impiegato/a (“Employee”)
  • Funzionario/a (“Employee of a public service”)
  • Stagista (“Intern”)
  • Il capo (“The boss”)
  • Amministratore delegato (“CEO”) 
  • Direttore / Direttrice (“Director”)
  • Datore di lavoro (“Employer”)
  • Consiglio di amministrazione (“Board of Directors”)
  • Risorse umane (“Human Resources”)
  • Il capo del personale (“Chief of Staff”)
  • Area di marketing (“The marketing department”)
  • Area di vendita (“The sales department”)
  • Area tecnica (“The technical department”)
  • Ufficio contabilità (“The accounting department”)

4 – Talking About Money

Talking about money is inevitable when discussing jobs or business, so here’s the essential vocabulary for money talk:

  • Lo stipendio (“The salary”)
  • L’aumento di stipendio (“The salary increase”)
  • La busta paga (“The payslip”)
  • Un anticipo (“An advance payment”)
  • Detrazioni sullo stipendio (“Payroll deductions”)
A Photo Representing the Gender Pay Gap

Let’s talk about money, shall we?

  • Le tasse (“The taxes”)
  • Il budget (“The budget”)
  • Il bilancio (“The financial statement”)
  • I ricavi (“The revenues”)
  • Il costo (“The cost”)
  • Il margine (“The margin”)
  • Il profitto (“The profit”)
  • Il volume d’affari (“The turnover”)
  • Gli affari (“Business,” as in doing business)
  • Un affare (“A deal,” as in closing a deal)
  • Le azioni (“The stocks”)
  • Il mercato azionario (“The stock market”)
  • Le azioni salgono (“Stocks are rising”)
  • Le azioni scendono (“Stocks are declining”)
  • Le azioni sono crollate! (“Shares have collapsed!”)

3. Nail a Job Interview

Job Interview

So, you’ve sent your curriculum (“CV”) and have made it to a colloquio di lavoro (“job interview”) for your lavoro ideale (“dream job”) in Italy. And now? Well, you already know how to greet, introduce yourself, and properly address your interlocutor. Now it’s time to prepare for typical job interview questions and start talking about you and your past experiences!

  • Mi parli di lei. (“Tell me about yourself.”)
  • Quali sono le sue esperienze lavorative? (“What are your work experiences?”)
  • Ha esperienza professionale in questo campo? (“Do you have professional experience in this field?”)

Be prepared to answer questions about your good qualities and shortcomings:

  • Quali sono le sue migliori qualità? (“What are your best qualities?”)
  • Faccia la lista di tre suoi difetti. (“List three shortcomings.”)
  • Racconti un suo successo professionale. (“Tell me about a professional achievement.”)
  • Parli di un problema lavorativo e come lo ha superato. (“Talk about a professional problem and how you got over it.”)
  • Qual è il suo punto forte/debole? (“What is your strength/weakness?”)

Another important factor in job interviews is to show your motivation and willingness to be a team player!

  • Perché ha deciso di cambiare lavoro? (“Why have you decided to change jobs?”)
  • Perché pensa di essere la persona giusta per questa posizione? (“Why do you think you are a good fit for this position?”)
  • È abituata al lavoro di squadra? (“Are you used to teamwork?”)

An Older Woman Knitting Something

What are your hobbies?

But none of this matters if you don’t leave a good impression on your interviewer. So, be prepared to have something fun to say when you’re asked:

  • Come passa il tempo libero? (“What do you do in your free time?”)
  • Mi parli dei suoi hobby. (“Tell me about your hobbies.”)

And last but not least, don’t forget to show decisiveness in your stretta di mano (“handshake”).

4. Interacting with Coworkers

Ottimo lavoro! (“Good job!”) 

Now you’re the neo-assunto (“newly hired”) at an Italian company and it’s time to meet your colleghi (“coworkers”). 

Like in many offices around the world, it’s probable that your scrivania (“desk”) will be in an open space, with no walls (and no privacy!). This means that fare amicizia (“making friends”) with the other employees will happen a lot faster than in closed office environments, and you can help out (and ask for help) more often. 

Here’s some useful Italian for business conversations with coworkers:

  • Possiamo darci del tu? (“Can we switch to informal you?”)
  • Posso chiedere un favore? (“Can I ask you a favor?”)
  • Hai bisogno di aiuto? (“Do you need help?”)
  • Ho un problema con la stampante. (“I have a problem with the printer.”)
  • È finita la carta della fotocopiatrice. (“We are out of photocopy paper.”)
  • Facciamo una pausa caffè? (“How about a coffee break?”)
  • Ti va un’apericena dopo il lavoro? (“Are you up for a drink after work?”)

5. Sound Smart in a Meeting

Riunioni (“Meetings”) are an important part of every job. Sometimes they are brief and to the point (called briefing in Italian, too), and sometimes they are endless and pointless… But still, you need to prepare yourself for them, right?

Here are some useful phrases to help you out in Italian business meetings:

  • A che ora comincia la riunione? (“What time is the meeting?”)
  • È pronta la presentazione / il powerpoint? (“Is the slideshow ready?”)
  • In questa slide presento il grafico del 2019. (“In this slide, I show a 2019 graph.”)
  • Vorrei suggerire una modifica. (“I would like to suggest a change.”)
  • Vorrei sentire la vostra opinione. (“I would like to hear your opinion.”)
  • La riunione si farà in video-conferenza. (“The meeting will be on a video conference.”)
  • Puoi condividere lo schermo? (“Can you share your screen?”)
  • Sono d’accordo. / Non sono d’accordo. (“I agree.” / “I disagree.”)

And of course, you’ll need to talk about projects and deadlines, as well as negotiate with your supervisors:

  • Le diverse fasi del progetto (“The different stages of the project”)
  • Quando è la scadenza? [Leri!] (“When is the deadline?” [“Yesterday!”])
  • La scadenza è dietro l’angolo. (“The deadline is around the corner.”)
  • Il progetto sta andando benissimo. (“The project is going very well.”)
  • Qual è la mia funzione / il mio compito nel progetto? (“What is my role / my task in the project?”)

Sometimes it’s necessary to raise concerns:

  • Non c’è abbastanza tempo. (“There is not enough time.”)
  • Non abbiamo il budget per ___. (“We don’t have the budget for ___.”)
  • Non abbiamo le risorse per ___. (“We don’t have the resources for ___.”)
  • L’obiettivo non è realistico. (“This goal is not realistic.”)
  • C’è un errore in questi dati. (“There is a mistake in this data.”)
  • Chi prepara la documentazione? (“Who is in charge of the documentation?”)

Business People Asleep in a Meeting

Thank you for your attention…

You might even need to apologize from time to time. Don’t be afraid of it! 

  • Mi dispiace. (“I’m sorry.”)
  • Non si ripeterà. (“It won’t happen again.”)
  • Scusate il ritardo. (“Sorry I am late.”)

And at the end of the business meeting, thank and congratulate everybody:

  • Grazie della partecipazione. (“Thanks for the attendance.”)
  • Ottimo lavoro! (“Great work!”)
  • Bel lavoro di squadra! (“Good team work!”)

6. How to Handle Emails and Business Phone Calls

Among the most useful Italian business phrases are those for business phone conversations and letters/emails.

First, once and for all, let’s clear a doubt that most Italians still have: The Italian dictionary considers the forms e-mail or mail to be correct (though many people also write email…). And, in case you were wondering, it’s a feminine noun: un’e-mail / la mail. Note that some people still call it la posta elettronica. Very retro, isn’t it?

Here are a few Italian business email phrases that are sure to come in handy:

  • Devo rispondere a un mare di e-mail. (“I have to answer a ton of emails.”)
  • Mi dai la tua e-mail? (“Can you give me your email address?”)
  • Il destinatario (“The recipient”)
  • Il mittente (“The sender”)
  • L’oggetto (“The object”) 
  • il corpo della mail (“The body of the email”)
  • Ho dimenticato l’allegato… (“I forgot the attachment…”)

Emails and formal letters tend to use many of the same formulas for addressing the recipient: 

  • Spettabile (“Esteemed”) is used when we are addressing a company or firm.
  • Gentile (“Dear,” but literally “Kind”) is used when we are addressing a woman. It can be followed by her title and name.
    • Gentile Sig.ra Maria Rossi
    • Gentile Dott.ssa Anna Verdi
    • Gentile Arch. Carla Bianchi
  • Egregio (“Dear,” but literally “Egregious”) is used when we are addressing a man. It can be followed by his title and name.
    • Egregio Sig. Mario Rossi
    • Egregio Prof. Luca Verdi
    • Egregio Avv. Gino Bianchi

You can write whatever you want in your letter or email, but make sure the closing follows the conventions of Italian business correspondence. Here are some formulas for a proper Italian business email sign off or letter closure that you can copy-paste (copia e incolla) in your emails/letters. We’ll start with the most formal and end with the most relaxed and friendly:

  • In attesa di un Suo riscontro, voglia gradire i miei più cordiali saluti. (“Pending your feedback, please accept my best regards.”)
  • La ringrazio per l’attenzione e La saluto cordialmente. (“Thank you for your attention and best wishes.”)
  • Distinti saluti. (“Yours sincerely.”)
  • Cordiali saluti. (“Best regards.”)
  • Grazie e a presto. (“Thank you, see you soon.”)

When using formal language, you’re supposed to capitalize the initial letter of the personal pronoun (Suo, La, etc.). But nowadays, some people consider it to be very archaic and prefer not to. (Like me, for example!) 😉

The good thing about writing an email is that you have time to think about what you want to say and to make corrections before sending it. Not so for phone calls, where you have to be on your toes and prepared to improvise. 

To help you out, here are the essential phrases for handling any phone call with no stress at all!

  • Pronto? (“Hello?”) – Literally, it means “ready,” and you better be ready for what comes next…
  • Con chi parlo? (“Whom am I talking to?”)
  • In cosa posso aiutarla? (“How can I help you?”)
  • Posso parlare con ___, per favore? (“May I please talk to ___?”)
  • Può/puoi passarmi ___, per favore? (“Can you please pass me [to]  ___?”)
  • Un attimo. / Resti in linea. (“One moment.” / “Hold on.”)
  • Al momento non è al suo posto / alla scrivania. (“At the moment, he/she is not at his/her desk.”)
  • Vuole lasciare un messaggio? (“Do you want to leave a message?”)
  • Disturbo? / È occupato/a? (“Am I bothering you?” / “Are you busy?”)

A Woman Working Late at Night

Just one more email…

7. Go on a Business Trip

Many job descriptions include the need for traveling (disponibilità a viaggiare). Business trips can be a lot of fun, but let’s face it: sometimes they turn out to be nightmares. But let’s stay positive and prepare for a really nice viaggio di lavoro (“business trip”).

When you go on a business trip, you might go to visit other offices of your company:

  • La sede (“The head office”)
  • La succursale (“The branch”)
  • La filiale (“The subsidiary”)

You might go to an event:

  • La conferenza (“The conference”)
  • Il convegno (“The convention”)
  • Un corso di aggiornamento (“A refresher course”)
  • Una fiera internazionale (“An international fair”)

No matter the reason or location, you’ll need to get organized and make a few arrangements:

  • Prenotare il volo / l’albergo (“Book the flight / the hotel”)
    • Hai prenotato il volo per Roma? (“Did you book your flight to Rome?”)
    • Ho prenotato l’albergo a nome Rossi. (“I booked the hotel on behalf of Rossi.”)
  • Il check-in (“Check-in”)
    • A che ora apre il check-in? (“What time does the check-in open?”)
  • Un pranzo di lavoro (“A business lunch”)
    • Ho incontrato il cliente ad un pranzo di lavoro. (“I met the client at a business lunch.”)
  • Incontrare all’aeroporto (“Meet at the airport”)
    • Possiamo incontrarci all’aeroporto e prendere un taxi insieme? (“Can we meet at the airport and share a taxi?”)

And then it’s time to go back home:

  • Comprare un souvenir all’ultimo minuto (“Buy a last-minute souvenir”)
  • Conservare gli scontrini (“Saving the receipts”)
  • Chiedere il rimborso spese (“Ask for reimbursement”)

8. Conclusion

How do you feel about Italian business language now? Are you ready to plunge into business letters and emails, phone calls, and coffee breaks? In this guide, you’ve learned the most common and useful business phrases in Italian, and you’re now ready to go to work and get down to business in Italian!

Are there other phrases or expressions that we missed? If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave us a comment below!

And don’t forget to take advantage of all the free resources on ItalianPod101.com. Here, you’ll find grammar lessons, vocabulary lists, and tons of audio and video material to get you ready to spend the time of your life in Italy.

Do you need more? With our Premium PLUS service, you can have unlimited access to a teacher and one-on-one coaching. With MyTeacher, you’ll learn at your own pace with fast, fun, and easy lessons, and at the same time get personalized feedback and advice.

Keep up the good work!

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