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Guide to Improving Your Italian Conversation Skills!


How many times have you found yourself at a loss for words when speaking Italian, or a little shy when starting a conversation in Italian with people you have just met? Or, after the person you were talking to is gone, you think to yourself… “I could have said this… I could have answered that…”

This is normal, but it is especially true for conversations in another language, where not all words, sentences, or structures might come to mind immediately.

This is why it makes sense to prepare a little “helper”, a “conversation kit,” to help get the communication going and to help improve your conversation in Italian.

In this guide, you will find conversation starters, appropriate reactions to specific questions, filler words and phrases, and everything else to improve your Italian conversation skills!

Four Young People at a Table Taking Notes

Get your cheat sheet ready and start a conversation!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet
  2. Italian Reactions Words and Expressions
  3. Learn Italian Filler Words
  4. Questions and Answers
  5. Italian Conversation Starters
  6. How to Improve your Conversation Skills
  7. Conclusion

1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet

1- What’s a cheat sheet?

To improve your conversation in Italian, a conversation cheat sheet is the best way to quickly improve your skills by making a set of Italian words and phrases, lines, or expressions that you can learn and easily access when you need to start a conversation. It is a way to feel more secure and to be sure to always have topics and arguments that are interesting to you.

In this guide, we will give you some hints and suggestions (and many more you can find online), but ultimately, you are the one that will have to put together this list based on your profile, personality, and interests. And, of course, the type of Italian people you will have to interact with.

2- Why would I need one?

A conversation cheat sheet is very useful if you are a bit shy, a little insecure, and if you want to be sure you don’t get stuck without things to say and topics to tackle.

In fact, you can always start a conversation in Italian by introducing yourself and talking about the things you do and like. But this will only take you so far. You better be prepared to ask and answer questions about different topics in order to build relationships and friendships.

3- How do I make one?

A good way to start making your own conversation sheet is to make a brief description of who you are and what you like. Maybe mentioning what you did in your recent past and what you like and hope for the future.

Here is an example of a possible personal introduction to include in your conversation starter. Make sure you mention any particular or unusual event or hobby in your life. Those make great conversation starters!

Ciao, mi chiamo Jessica, sono americana e ho 28 anni. Da due anni, studio letteratura italiana all’Università di Bologna. Prima di venire in Italia, ho viaggiato molto e ho vissuto in diversi paesi. Sono fidanzata con un ragazzo brasiliano e mi piace molto leggere, cucinare e coltivare un orto in casa.
“Hi, my name is Jessica, I am American and I’m 28. I have been studying Italian literature at the University of Bologna for two years. Before coming to Italy, I traveled a lot and lived in different countries. I am engaged to a Brazilian guy and I really enjoy reading, cooking and growing a vegetable garden at home.”

Someone Writing on a Notebook

Start by writing a small introduction

Then, you can elaborate on individual parts and imagine how you would answer specific questions by gathering phrases and words specifically tailored to your needs.

  • Vivo in Italia da sei mesi. (“I’ve been living in Italy for six months.”)
  • È la prima volta che vengo a Roma. (“It is my first time in Rome.”)
  • Mi piace molto viaggiare. (“I really like travelling.”)

  • Vado spesso al cinema.  (“I often go to the movies”)
  • La mia attrice preferita è Anna Magnani. (“My favorite actress is Anna Magnani.”)
  • Ho molti hobby.  (“I have many hobbies.”)

  • Studio piano da quando ero piccolo/a. (“I study piano since I was a child.”)
  • Ho comprato una chitarra. (“I bought a guitar.”)
  • Adoro l’opera lirica. (“I adore opera.”)

4- Getting off to a good start

Don’t worry if you think it’s too hard for a beginner! There are plenty of resources you can use, depending on your level:

  1. Online translators are great tools to get fast translations into the target language. Make sure you translate simple sentences, and the translations will be mostly correct. Google translate is the most popular option, but you can also find other good tools.

  2. Other online tools such as Reverso context can help you with idioms and expressions, and they give a very good idea of how certain words or expressions are used in context. 
  1. ItalianPod101 has tons of free content, blog articles, and vocabulary lists you can use. The lists are especially useful if you’re looking for a specific topic, as they’ll provide sentences and vocabulary that suit your specific needs.

  2. A personal teacher is the perfect strategy for learning fast and hard. Your teacher can guide you through the process of writing your conversation cheat sheet and fix any tiny mistakes. Be sure to check our private coaching service from our Premium PLUS offer.

2. Italian Reactions Words and Expressions

Have you ever talked to someone who remained completely silent until it got really awkward and you couldn’t tell if they were still paying attention? This is what reaction words and expressions are meant to prevent.

In this chapter, let’s see how to react to a statement by expressing excitement, curiosity, annoyance, or disbelief. It will help make your conversations smoother and more lively, as well avoiding awkward silences that would make the other person uncomfortable.

That’s Great! – Bene! / Bravo!

Q: Nel tempo libero gioco a basket.  (“In my free time I play basketball.”)

A: Bravo/a! Lo sport è importante.  (“That’s great, sport is important!”)
A: Bene! Possiamo giocare insieme qualche volta? (“Cool! Can we play together some time?”) 

Really? – Davvero?

Q: Non sono mai stato/a in Spagna. (“I’ve never been to Spain.”)

A: Davvero? È bellissima, dovresti andarci. (“Really? It’s beautiful, you should go.”)

I’m sorry…  – Mi dispiace…

Q: Purtroppo non ho passato l’esame. (“Unfortunately I didn’t pass the test.”)

A: Mi dispiace, quando potrai riprovare? (“I’m sorry. When will you able to try the test again?”)

Unbelievable! – Incredibile!

Q: Non mi piace la pizza. (“I don’t like pizza.”)

A: Incredibile! (“Unbelievable!”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Seriamente? (“Seriously?”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Non ci credo! (“No way!”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Scherzi? (“Are you kidding?”) [Casual]
A: Scherza? (“Are you kidding?”) [Formal]

That’s too bad! – Peccato!

Q: Non posso venire al cinema. Devo studiare. (“I can’t come to the movie. I have to study.”)

A: Peccato! Questo film è molto bello. (“Oh, that’s too bad! The movie is very good.”) [Formal or Casual]
A: Che peccato! (“Oh, what a pity!) [Formal or Casual]

Keep me updated! – Fammi sapere!

Q: Forse riesco a raggiungervi più tardi. (“I think I’ll be able to catch up with you later.”)

A: OK, fammi sapere! (“Alright, let me know!”) [Casual]
A: OK, tienimi al corrente! (“Alright, keep me posted!”) [Casual]
A: Va bene, mi tenga aggiornato! (“Alright, keep me posted!”) [Formal]

    ➜ This is just a quick list of common reaction words and phrases, but you can find a few more in our blog article on Intermediate Italian Phrases on ItalianPod101.

3. Learn Italian Filler Words

Now that you have the foundations of your conversation sheet let’s change the tempo and talk about something slightly weirder. Academic studies can prepare you for many things, but when you start a real conversation, you’ll hear a lot of strange sounds and words that don’t ring any bells.

Italian Filler words are these short useless sounds and words that locals use to fill the gaps. They exist in every language I know, and you don’t necessarily have to use them unless you want to sound genuinely local. However, learning about them so you can filter them out is very important.

Young Man Can’t Decide Between and Apple and a Cake

Eh… la mela o la torta? (“Uh, apple or cake?”)

Here are some of the most common Italian filler words:

Italian: Eh…English equivalent: “Uh…”
Vorrei un cornetto e, eh… un cappuccino. (“I would like a cornetto and, uh… a cappuccino.”)
Eh… non so proprio cosa scegliere. (“Uh… I don’t know what to choose.”)

Italian: Beh – Be’ – BeneEnglish equivalent: “Well”
Q: Vuoi ancora del vino? (“Will you have more wine?”)

A: Be’, perché no? (“Well, why not?”)
A: Vino? Be’ … non credo proprio. Devo guidare. (“Wine? Well… I don’t think so. I have to drive.”)

Italian: CioèEnglish equivalent: “Actually”
Vengo domani, cioè, forse vengo. (“I’ll come tomorrow, actually, I’ll probably come.”)
Ti telefonerò, cioè, ti manderò un messaggio. (“I’ll call you, actually, I’ll text you.”)

Italian: AlloraEnglish equivalent: “Well” or “So”
Allora, cosa ne pensi? (“Well, what do you think?”)
Allora, ci andiamo? (“So, shall we go?”)

Do you want to know exactly how Italians use this filler word? Watch this hilarious scene from a popular series:

Italian: Vedi – Guarda (informal)
          Veda – Guardi (formal)
English equivalent: “You know” or “You see”
Vedi, non è una scelta facile. (“It’s not an easy choice, you know.”)
Guardi, vorrei solo parlarle cinque minuti. (“I just want to talk to you, you see.”) [Formal]

Italian: Mah – BohEnglish equivalent: “Who knows…” or “Well”
Mah, non so proprio cosa fare. (“Well, I really don’t know what do do.”)
Chi verrà alla festa? Boh! (“Who is coming to the party? Who knows!”)

4. Questions and Answers

Conversation is often made of a sequence of questions and answers. Like a ping pong match: you ask something, get an answer and another question, you answer and ask something else, and so on. Asking questions is the fundamental brick to getting to know someone, establishing a common ground, finding out something new or interesting, and simply getting the flow of the conversation going.

And formulating a question in Italian is particularly easy compared to other languages, as there is no particular pattern: no word order inversion, no adding of extra words. You simply change your intonation and make it sound like a question. Easy, right?

And then, of course, you can always add some typical Italian gestures if you really want to sound and look like an Italian!

And now, let’s get back to your conversation cheat sheet and to fill it with questions (and answers) relevant to your personal story and interests.

A Young Woman with Question Marks Above Her Head

Questions… questions… questions…

“Where are you from?”

Q: Di dove sei? [Casual]
Q: Di dov’è lei? [Formal]

A: Sono italiana, ma sono nata in Cile. (“I’m Italian, but I was born in Chile.”)
A: Vengo dal Brasile. (“I come from Brazil.”)

“Do you speak English?”

Q: Parli inglese? [Casual]
Q: Lei parla inglese? [Formal]

A: Non parlo inglese. (“I don’t speak English.”)
A: Sono fluente/madre lingua in inglese. (“I am fluent/native in English.”)

“What do you study?”

Q: Cosa studi? [Casual]
Q: Che cosa studia? [Formal]

A: Studio linguistica e letteratura. (“I study linguistics and literature.”)
A: Sto facendo un dottorato in relazioni internazionali. (“I’m doing a PhD in international relations.”)

“What kind of music do you like?”

Q: Che tipo di musica ti piace? [Casual]
Q: Che tipo di musica le piace? [Formal] 

A: Mi piace il jazz e la musica classica. (“I love jazz and classical music.”)
A: Ascolto soprattutto musica napoletana. (“I mostly listen to Neapolitan music.”)

“What’s your job?”

Q: Che lavoro fai? [Casual]
Q: Di cosa si occupa? [Formal] (literally: “What do you occupy yourself in?”)

A: Sono idraulico. (“I’m a plumber.”)
A: Lavoro nel marketing digitale. (“I work in digital marketing.”)

“Why do you study Italian?”

Q: Perché studi l’italiano? [Casual]
Q: Per quale motivo studia l’italiano? [Formal] 

A: Perché adoro il suono dell’italiano. (“Because I love the sound of Italian.”)
A: Per motivi di lavoro. (“For work-related reasons.”)

5. Italian Conversation Starters

Starting a conversation could be a difficult part of communicating. And doing it in another language makes it just a bit more challenging. And also, you may have noticed that while talking to some people is very easy, with someone else, you almost have to get the words out of their mouth.

But don’t worry! Just have some sentences ready in your sheet, and follow our examples, and you will be prepared for every situation.

Here are a few examples that you can use with different people and in various situations:

  • Ti piace la cucina messicana?
    “Do you like Mexican cuisine?”

  • Cosa fai nel fine settimana?
    “What do you do on the weekend?”

  • Come hai conosciuto il tuo ragazzo / la tua ragazza?
    “How did you meet your boyfriend / girlfriend?”

  • Puoi consigliarmi un bel film o serie da vedere?
    (“Can you recommend a good movie or series to see?”)

  • Come ti trovi in questa città?
    (“How do you like this city?”)
    ➜ There are countless conversation starters for every situation: strangers, people you already know, colleagues, schoolmates, romantic dates. For many more examples, you could stop by our full guide on Conversation Starters, on ItalianPod101.

Young Woman Asleep on a Bad while Doing Homework

Cosa fai nel fine settimana? (“What do you do on the weekend?”)

6- How to Improve your Conversation Skills

1- Use every opportunity to practice

Yes, practice makes perfect. Or at least, it helps to gain confidence, rehearse different scenarios, and to learn what strategies keep the conversation flow going. So, don’t be shy and use every opportunity you have to talk to people. Strangers at the bus station, friends of your friends, and even online chats are good places to start a conversation.

And don’t worry if you make a few mistakes or if you can’t find the right word. Just keep practicing and improving your conversation cheat sheet and keep building on that.

2- Exposure to real content

Did you know that when you are exposed to a lot of spoken Italian, you will learn vocabulary, idioms, and even grammatical structures much faster and in a more pleasant way than just working on grammar books and courses?

And since speaking Italian to real people is not always an option (you might want to stay home, or you are not in Italy, or your friends are not available), a very good alternative is to immerse yourself in real content. You will have lots of options: from Italian music, to podcasts, to movies. There are tons of resources to learn Italian online, and, of course, one of the very best is! 🙂

Reading is also a very good strategy to get familiar with a foreign language and to find interesting topics of conversation. Whether it’s the news, a novel, or the latest sport events, it’ll give you good material to discuss and, without even noticing, you will be learning new Italian words and phrases.

3- Find available partners to chat 

If you are serious about improving your conversation in Italian, it is a good idea to find a partner to chat with in a consistent way. It could be another learner of Italian who is more or less at your same level, it could be someone interested in a conversation exchange. 

What is that? You find a native Italian who would like to practice conversation to improve his/her English, for example. And when you meet in person, you can have a conversation half of the time in English and the other half in Italian. You can easily find lots of people interested in exchanging conversation. And you can probably find it also online!

Another way to go is by hiring a private teacher to make fast progress in your conversation skills, especially if you want to also improve grammar and pronunciation. You can likely find a private teacher or classroom-based sessions in your area, or subscribe to an online service such as our Premium PLUS coaching on ItalianPod101.

7. Conclusion

In this guide, you have learned how to improve your skills in speaking Italian. It all starts with making your own cheat sheet, then learning about various types of words and expressions specific to conversations: filler words, reaction phrases, questions, and answers. Do you want to share your thoughts about conversation skills? Do you want to know more Italian language learning resources? Let us know in the comments below!

On top of our bonus tips to improve your conversation skills, ItalianPod101 has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and Free resources to boost your studies and keep your Italian learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your own private teacher to practice with BLEP words and more. 

Along with assignments, personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. And keep having fun with ItalianPod101!

About the Author: Jessica Barbagallo grew up on the sunny island of Sicily, in the south of Italy. She has lived in Florence, Milan, New York, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. After a career in digital marketing, she went back to what is most fun to her: teaching languages! 

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

Countries and Nationalities in Italian


Possibly one of the first things you will be asked as a foreigner traveling or living in Italy, it will be: “Sei straniero? Da dove vieni?” (“Are you a foreigner? Where do you come from?”). That is why it is important to be able to answer with the appropriate vocabulary. And while it is certainly easy to learn and remember the vocabulary related to your nationality, you should be prepared to sustain a conversation about other countries and nationalities, of which there are quite a lot! But don’t worry, once you learn the names of the countries and the name of the nationalities in Italian, you will automatically also know the name of the language and the general adjective for anything related to that country.

Parlo francese ma non amo la cucina francese.  (“I speak French but I don’t like french cooking.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Italian Citizenship
  2. Countries & Continents
  3. Conversations About Nationalities
  4. Country, City, Nationality & Language
  5. Conclusion

1. Italian Citizenship

Even if we often use it to mean the same thing, nationality and citizenship are not necessarily the same. Nationality mainly indicates the cultural, religious, and traditions that link us to a country or to a state. On the other hand, citizenship represents your socio-political belonging to the country that issues your passport. So, if you have Italian citizenship, you can legally obtain an Italian passport, vote in the Italian elections, apply to public service, etc. In other words, you have full civil and political rights

If you have at least one Italian parent, you are immediately recognized as an Italian citizen whether you were born in Italy or a foreign country. This rule is called the “ius sanguinis“, which in Latin means, rather dramatically, “law of the blood.” This law also applies to adopted children.

But there are other ways to become Italian citizens. In fact, in the last few years in Italy there has been an increasing number of people applying for Italian citizenship

So, what are the requirements to apply for citizenship in Italy?

  • Citizenship by marriage (after two years of marriage)
  • Citizenship by residence (after five years of uninterrupted residence)
  • Citizenship by descent (by demonstrating that you descent from an Italian ancestor)

Over a million people have acquired Italian citizenship in the last decade, of which nearly 800,000 in the last five years. The most represented citizenships of origin are Albanian (26,000 acquisitions, 20.5% of the total), Moroccan (12.5%), Brazilian (8.4%), and Romanian (8%). 

2. Countries & Continents

1- Gender and Agreement

In Italian, most countries are singular feminine (l’Italia, la Francia, la Tunisia, l’Irlanda, la Cina, etc. (“Italy, France, Tunisia, Ireland, China,”), but there are exceptions. Some countries are singular masculine, like il Canada (Canada) or il Giappone (Japan), while others are plural, like gli Stati Uniti (The USA) or i Paesi Bassi (The Netherlands).

As you can see from the examples, when talking about a country you always use the article in front of the country name. In fact, if you learn the countries vocabulary together with the article, it will help you remember the gender and use the right agreement.

La Francia è bellissima. (“France is beautiful.”)
La verde Irlanda è molto piovosa in autunno. (“The green Ireland is very rainy in autumn.”)
Gli Stati Uniti sono entrati in guerra nel 1941. (“The United States entered the war in 1941”)

View of the Sicilian Coast on a Cloudy Day.

La Sicilia è bellissima! (“Sicily is very beautiful!”)

 2- Names and Adjectives

Once you know the country’s name, you could try and guess how to say the word for the people living there and the language spoken there. In fact, the name of the inhabitants and the language spoken in any specific country are the same. 

And don’t forget, if you are talking about the people of a specific country, you should use the initial capital letter (gli Italiani, i Canadesi). At the same time, if it’s simply an adjective, there is no need to capitalize, even if you are talking about people (un ragazzo italiano, un ristorante cinese, etc. “an Italian guy, a Chinese restaurant”). 

Here are a few examples:

Country’s nameNounAdjective
Un italiano, Un’italiana
(An Italian)
Un inglese, Un’inglese
(An Englishman/woman or a British person)
La Cina
Un cinese, Una cinese
(A Chinese)

Did you notice how, to make an adjective out of the name of the country, you sometimes add the suffix -ano/ana (italiano, americana, etc.), other times you add -ese (inglese, cinese, giapponese). These are by far the most common, but you can find other (and sometimes bizarre) ways to for the adjective, such as spagnolo, austriaco, guatemalteco, yemenita

And in some cases, the adjective has absolutely nothing to do with the root of the country’s name, as in the case of la Germania >> il tedesco… (“Germany >> German”).

There is no rule there, so, unfortunately, you will have to memorize them…

3- Who Comes to Italy, How, and Why?

The majority of the tourists visiting Italy come from neighboring countries. Lately, because of Covid, the number and the proportion of nationalities have changed. In this study prepared by Banca d’Italia, we see the ranking of nationalities visiting Italy in 2019:

17.2%GermanyLa Germania (F)Tedesco/a
12.5%United StatesGli Stati Uniti (M, PL)Americano/a
9.9%FranceLa Francia (F)Francese
8.6%United KingdomIl Regno Unito (M)Britannico/a
5.7%SwitzerlandLa Svizzera (F)Svizzero/a
4.8%Austria L’ Austria (F)Austriaco/a
4.2%Canada Il Canada (M)Canadese
3.8%SpainLa Spagna (F)Spagnolo/a
3%NederlandI Paesi Bassi (M, PL)
Incorrectly called: L’Olanda (M)
2.5%Australia L’Australia (F)Australiano/a

The study made by the Bank of Italy also mentions what are the main reasons for foreigners to travel to Italy, how they travel and how and other information that may not be so interesting to you… but they are a good way to increase the Italian vocabulary needed to hold a conversation about your trip and visit to Italy. Or maybe to be more comfortable when you go through customs at the airport or at any Italian borders.

An Officer Checking a Traveler’s Passport at the Airport Custom.

Motivo del viaggio? (“Reason to travel?”)

Motivo del viaggio? (“Reasons to travel?”)

    Vacanza. (“Vacation.”)
    Visita a parenti o amici. (“Visit to friends or relatives.”)
    Motivi personali. (“Personal reasons.”)

Dove alloggi? (“Where do you stay?”)

    Albergo. (“Hotel.”) 
    Ospite da parenti o amici. (“With relatives and friends.”)
    Casa in affitto. (“Rental house.”)
    Bed & breakfast.

Che tipo di destinazione preferisci? (“What type of destination do you prefer?”)

    Culturale, città d’arte. (“City, art, culture.”) 
    Al mare.  (“At the beach.”)
    Al lago. (“At the lake.”)
    In montagna. (“In the mountains.”)

Come sei arrivato in Italia? (“How did you arrive to Italy?”)

    In aereo. (“Flying.”)
    In macchina. (“By car.”)
    In treno. (“By train.”)
    In nave. (By ship.”)

4- Continents in Italian

EuropeL’Europa (F)Europeo/a
AsiaL’Asia (F)Asiatico/a
AfricaL’Africa (F)Africano/a
AmericaL’America (F)Americano/a
AntarcticaL’AntartideDo people live there?

*This noun or adjective is rarely used, and Italians tend to call people from Oceania -improperly- Australiani (“Australians”) even when they are Neozelandesi (“New Zealanders”).

A Family of Penguins Walking on the Snow.

Vengo dall’Antartide. (“I come from Antarctica.”)

Especially when talking about great geographical areas, you might need a bit more geographical references such as points and their use:

NorthIl nord
SouthIl sud

For example:

Il nord Africa. (“North Africa.”)
Il sud America. (“South America.”)
L’Europa dell’est. (“Eastern Europe.”)
Il Polo nord e il Polo sud. (“North and South Pole.”)

but also

NorthIl settentrione / settentrionale
SouthIl meridione / meridionale
EastL’oriente / orientale
WestL’occidente / occidentale

For example:

Milano si trova nell’Italia settentrionale. (“Milan is in northern Italy”)
Il meridione comprende le regioni italiane a sud di Roma. (“Southern Italy includes all regions below Rome.”)
Il muro di Berlino separava la Germania orientale e occidentale. (“The Berlin Wall used to separate East and West Germany.”)

3. Conversations About Nationalities

When you meet someone new in a foreign country, one of the first topics of conversation that comes up is countries and nationalities. People will ask you where you’re from and possibly how and why you are traveling.

As always with Italian, depending if you are talking to friends or people your age, you will use the casual form of address, or the formal mode, if you are talking with older people or if you are in a very formal setting.

Two Young Women Talking at a Coffee Shop.

Conversations about nationalities are great icebreakers.

1- Questions & Answers

How to Ask Someone Their Nationality
In this part, introduce a few common ways to ask about nationality. You can briefly explain the differences.

English[Casual >> tu][Formal >> Lei]
Where are you from?Da dove vieni? or Di dove sei?Da dove viene? or Di dov’è?
What country are you from?Da quale paese vieni?Da quale paese viene?
What is your nationality?Qual è la tua nazionalità?Qual è la sua nazionalità?
Are you from France?Vieni dalla Francia?Viene dalla Francia?
Are you French?Sei francese?È francese?

Here are some examples on how to answer questions about nationalities:

  • Sei inglese? No, sono Giapponese. (“Are you British? No, I’m Japanese.”)
  • Sono americana, ma i miei genitori vengono dalla Cina. (“I am American, but my parents come from China.”)
  • Da dove vieni?  Vengo dall’Austria, sono austriaca. (“Where do you come from? I come from Austria, I am Austrian.”)
  • Sei tedesco? Sì, sono tedesco, di Berlino. (“You are German? Yes, I’m German, from Berlin.”)

And a few more advanced ones:

  • Sono nata in Cile ma sono cresciuta in Italia. (“I was born in Chile, but I grew up in Italy.”)
  • Sono brasiliano e italiano. Ho la doppia cittadinanza. (“I’m Brazilian and Italian. I have dual citizenship.”)
  • Sono cinese ma vivo in Svizzera. (“I’m Chinese, but I live in Switzerland.”)
  • Sono cinese ma abito in Svizzera. (“I’m Chinese, but I live in Switzerland.”)
  • Sono italiana ma vivo in Francia da tre anni. (“I’m Italian, but I’ve been living in France for three years.”)
  • Mi trasferisco in Inghilterra l’anno prossimo.  (“I am moving to England next year.”)

2- Prepositions

One thing you definitely need to pay attention to when you talk about places, countries, and cities is the choice of the preposition you need to use.

The general rule is that 

  • when you are, or when you go to a country, a continent, or an island, you use in;
  • When you are, or when you go to a city, you use a;

Vado in vacanza a Roma, in Italia. ​​(“I’m going on vacation to Rome, Italy.”)
Abito in Francia, a Parigi. (“I live in France, in Paris.”)
Sono cresciuta in Sicilia, a Palermo. (“I grew up in Sicily, in Palermo.”)

But notice that when you come back, then the preposition changes into:

  • Da when you are coming back from a city;
  • Da + article when you are coming back from a country, a continent, an island;

Mario è tornato dall’Italia, da Roma. (“Mario has returned from Italy, from Rome.”)
Quando partirai dalla Sardegna? (“When will you leave Sardinia?”)
Molti sono emigrati dall’Europa in America. (“Many have emigrated from Europe to America.”)

4. Country, City, Nationality & Language

Now, let’s go back to a list of countries and expand with what we’ve learned: Name of the country, name of the nationality and language, and name of the major city. You will notice that some of the city’s names are translated… does it happen in your native language too?

 Pile of Different Language Dictionaries.

How many of these languages do you speak?

Let’s start with the same table we saw earlier, adding more countries and nationalities.

CountryItalianNationality/LanguageMajor City
GermanyLa Germania (F)Tedesco/aFrancoforte (Frankfurt)
United StatesGli Stati Uniti (M, PL)Americano/aNew York
FranceLa Francia (F)FranceseParigi (Paris)
United KingdomIl Regno Unito (M)Britannico/aLondra (London)
SwitzerlandLa Svizzera (F)Svizzero/aZurigo (Zurich)
AustriaL’ Austria (F)Austriaco/aVienna
CanadaIl Canada (M)CanadeseToronto 
SpainLa Spagna (F)Spagnolo/aBarcellona (Barcelona)
NederlandI Paesi Bassi (M, PL)OlandeseAmsterdam
AustraliaL’Australia (F)Australiano/aSidney
BrazilIl Brasile(M)Brasiliano/aRio de Janeiro
RussiaLa Russia (F)Russo/aMosca (Moscow)
IndiaL’India (F)Indiano/aNuova Delhi (New Delhi)
JapanIl Giappone (M)GiapponeseTokyo
Peruil Peru (M)Peruviano/aLima
PortugalIl Portogallo (M)PortogheseLisbona (Lisbon)
TunisiaLa Tunisia (F)Tunisino/aTunisi (Tunis)
ChinaLa Cina (F)CinesePechino (Beijing)
KeniaIl Kenia (F)KenianoNairobi
TurkeyLa Turchia (F)Turco/aIstanbul

Now you have all you need to use the vocabulary about nationalities, countries, languages, and cities, and you are ready to combine them all to introduce yourself and start a conversation.

Here are some examples:

  • Sono tedesca. Sono nata a Francoforte, ma adesso vivo a Ginevra, in Svizzera.
    (“I’m German. I was born in Frankfurt, but now I live in Geneva, Switzerland.”)

  • Sono americano, ma sono cresciuto nel Nord Africa.
    (“I’m American, but I grew up in Northern Africa.”)

  • Siamo brasiliani, ma abitiamo a Londra da qualche anno con la nostra famiglia.
    (“We are Brazilians but we’ve been living in London for a few years with our family.”)

  • Sono francese e vivo a Montreal, in Canada. Sapevi che in Quebec si parla francese?
    (“I’m French and I live in Montreal, Canada. Did you know that in Quebec they speak French?”)

  • Mi sono trasferita in Brasile tre mesi fa. Non parlo ancora bene il portoghese.
    (“I moved to Brazil three months ago. I still don’t speak Portuguese well.”)
  • Sono italiano e brasiliano. Sono cresciuto e Rio de Janeiro e ha la doppia cittadinanza.
    (“I am Italian and Brazilian. I grew up in Rio de Janeiro and have dual citizenship.”)

  • È spagnola, ma parla benissimo il francese e fa un corso di cucina francese.
    (“She is Spanish, but speaks French very well and takes a French cooking class..”)

    ➜ Telling where you’re from and what language you speak is a great starting point. To go a bit further, you can check out our vocabulary list with ten lines to introduce yourself in Italian on ItalianPod101.

5. Conclusion

In this guide, you have learned everything about nationalities, from the names of countries and cities to adjectives and languages, capitalization rules, gender agreement, and prepositions. You also learned about the countries that are often visiting Italy, and how they spend their stay.

You should now be ready to break the ice in any situation, introduce yourself at your arrival, and even form some complex sentences with all these new words.

Did I forget any important topic on nationalities or country names you’re interested in? Feel free to share it with your fellow students in the comments below!

A good exercise to practice nationality vocabulary is to create fictional introductions where you combine the name of countries and cities, languages, and adjectives, using the right genders and prepositions. You can start simple and gradually add more complexity when you feel comfortable enough.

ItalianPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to boost your studies and keep your Italian learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher so that you can practice these new words and much more.

Along with assignments, personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. Have fun with ItalianPod101!

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Useful Italian Phrases for the Intermediate Level


Now is the time to step up in your Italian studies. As you get ready to surpass the beginner level, you’ll need to practice using more tenses (past, future, conditional) and memorize several ready-to-use intermediate Italian phrases. To help you level up with confidence, we have prepared a list of the 50+ most common (and useful) intermediate Italian phrases for a variety of contexts. This guide will bring to your disposal all the must-know phrases for telling stories about the recent past, asking for advice, recommending a restaurant to someone, and more.

If you ever want to go deeper with your learning or have any questions, take a look at all the available Italian lessons, free resources, and interactive material on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Talking About Past Events
  2. Making and Changing Plans
  3. Explaining and Listing Reasons
  4. Making Recommendations and Complaints
  5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations
  6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings
  7. Conclusion

1. Talking About Past Events

So, you have already mastered simple sentences in the present. You can introduce yourself, describe yourself, ask for simple things, and give simple instructions. 

It’s time now to venture into more complex sentence structures, such as those for talking about stories or memorable experiences from the past. It could be talking about a recent night out or giving information about your family or your childhood. And if you want to learn even more conversational phrases, here you go!

When you talk about the past in Italian, you cannot avoid needing to decide between passato prossimo and imperfetto. If you need a little help with this, make sure you check out this lesson to see a good example and explanation of their use. 

Ready? Here are some intermediate Italian phrases for discussing the past.

People Dancing at a Club with a DJ

Che bella serata! (“What a nice night!”)

È stata una bella serata!
It was a beautiful evening!
Another way of saying the same thing: Che bella serata! (“What a beautiful evening!”)

Ci siamo divertiti moltissimo ieri sera.
We had a lot of fun last night.

Ho iniziato a lavorare nel 2017.
I started working in 2017.

Sono stato a Roma 3 anni fa.
I was in Rome three years ago.

Da piccolo/a avevo tanti amici.
As a child, I had many friends.
Literally: “As little, I had many friends.” 

You find the same construction with da ragazzo/a (“as a young boy/young girl”) and da giovane (“as a young man/woman”).

Mia nonna era pugliese.
My grandmother was from Puglia.

L’anno scorso sono stata in vacanza al mare.
Last year, I went on vacation at the beach.

Siamo stati sposati per 7 anni.
We’ve been married for seven years.

2. Making and Changing Plans

Making and changing plans in the immediate future is something that you’ll often need to do when interacting with friends and colleagues, organizing an event or meeting, or putting together a fun party. 

Are things getting complicated? Don’t worry. Just learn these simple intermediate Italian phrases, and they’ll help get you out of any trouble. Notice that even though we’re talking about the immediate future, in Italian, we don’t always need to use the future tense. Using the present tense with the appropriate temporal adverb is usually enough to convey that we’re talking about the future.

A Group of Five Friends Goofing Around Together

Posso portare qualche amico? (“Can I bring a few friends?”)

Sei pronta per uscire? 
Are you ready to go out?

Sei disponibile per una riunione domani?
Are you available for a meeting tomorrow?

Ne parliamo dopo. 
Let’s talk about it later.
Notice the use of ne, meaning “of it” or “about it.”

Possiamo rinviare l’appuntamento alla settimana prossima? 
Can we postpone the appointment until next week?

Posso portare qualche amico? 
Can I bring some friends?
Notice that the indefinite adjective qualche, even though it means “some,” is always followed by a noun in the singular.

Facciamo una videochiamata per entrare nei dettagli. 
Let’s have a video call to get into the details.

3. Explaining and Listing Reasons

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in situations where you will have to explain what happened or give reasons for your actions. Once you reach an intermediate level of proficiency in Italian, it’s important that you’re able to do this with relative ease. But don’t worry about it! We’re here to help you with some ready-to-use intermediate Italian phrases for giving reasons and explanations.

If you need more intermediate Italian vocabulary, check out our free dictionary on, where you can search for specific words and listen to their perfect pronunciation!

An Upset Businessman Pointing to His Wristwatch

Sei di nuovo in ritardo! (“You’re late again!”)

Sono in ritardo perché non ho sentito la sveglia. 
I’m late because I didn’t hear the alarm.

Questo è il motivo per cui non mi piace. 
This is why I don’t like it.
Literally: “This is the reason for which I don’t like it.”

Note that cui is the relative pronoun (just like che “that”) that we use together with prepositions such as di, a, da, in, con, su, per, tra, fra (“of, to, from, on, in, with, for, by, among”).

Ti do tre buone ragioni per non uscire stasera: primo, sta piovendo tantissimo; secondo, ho preparato una buonissima lasagna; infine… non ne ho voglia! 
I’ll give you three good reasons not to go out tonight: First, it’s raining a lot; then, I prepared a very good lasagna; finally…I don’t feel like it!

Piove troppo, quindi resto a casa.
It’s raining too much, so I’m staying at home.

Devi assolutamente venire alla mia festa, altrimenti mi arrabbio! 
You absolutely must come to my party; otherwise, I will get mad!

Visto che non hai capito, te lo spiego di nuovo. 
Since you didn’t understand, I’ll explain it again.

4. Making Recommendations and Complaints

How do we know if something is good or not so good? We usually rely on friends’ recommendations or, now that we’re in the era of social media, opinions and comments left by users on internet platforms.

So, let’s get ready to give five stars or to voice our complaints!

A Man in a Restaurant Complaining about the Salad He Received

Posso reclamare col cuoco? (“Can I complain to the chef?”)

È un piatto fantastico. Dovresti provarlo.
It’s a wonderful dish. You should try it.

Te lo consiglio vivamente.
I strongly recommend it.

È il miglior ristorante della città.
It’s the best restaurant in town.

È la miglior pizza di Napoli.
It’s Napoli’s best pizza.

È un hotel bello ed economico. Sicuramente ci tornerò. 
It’s a nice and cheap hotel. I’ll definitely go back.

Il servizio in quel locale non è un granchè. 
The service in that place is not that great.

Mi sono lamentato con il servizio clienti. 
I complained to the customer service.

5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations

In any conversation, it’s important to have the right reaction to what we’re being told. This helps us better empathize with the other party, and it makes them feel that we care or that we’re impressed.

As a beginner, you might often find yourself struggling to find the appropriate words. And that’s okay. But once you reach an intermediate level, you’ll want to be able to say the right thing at the right time. In fact, learning natural reaction phrases is one of the best ways to improve your Italian at this stage! 

Here are some sample conversations to help with that. And don’t forget that body language and intonation also play important roles in establishing empathy in a conversation. Especially in Italy!

A: È stata una bella serata! (“It was a beautiful evening!”)
B: È vero! Anch’io mi sono divertito/a! (“True! I had fun too.”)

A: Ci siamo divertiti moltissimo ieri sera! (“We had a lot of fun last night!”)
B: Davvero moltissimo! (“Really a lot!”)

A: Ho iniziato a lavorare nel 2017. (“I started working in 2017.”)
B: Complimenti! E dove lavoravi? (“Congratulations! And where were you working?”)

A: Sono stato a Roma tre anni fa. (“I was in Rome three years ago.”)
B: Fantastico! Anche a me piacerebbe visitare l’Italia. (“Fantastic! I would also like to visit Italy.”)

A: Da piccolo avevo tanti amici. (“As a child, I had many friends.”)
B: Che bello! Eri un bambino felice? (“How nice! Were you a happy kid?”)

A: Mia nonna era pugliese. (“My grandmother was from Puglia.”)
B: Come si chiamava tua nonna? (“What was your grandma’s name?”)

    ➜ Notice how nonna/o translates both as “grandmother”/“grandfather” and as “grandma”/“grandpa.”

A: L’anno scorso sono stata in vacanza al mare. (“Last year, I went on vacation at the beach.”)
B: Io invece sono stato in montagna. (“On the other hand, I went to the mountains.”)

A: Siamo stati sposati per 7 anni. (“We had been married for seven years.”)
B: Avete divorziato? Mi dispiace.  (“Did you get divorced? Sorry to hear that.”)

A: Vorremmo adottare un cane. (“We would like to adopt a dog.”)
B: Buona idea! (“Good idea!”)

A Black Dog Barking

Che bello! Ho adottato un cane… (“How wonderful! I adopted a dog…”)

6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings

And last but not least, here are some intermediate-level Italian phrases for being polite in a variety of social and business contexts. Learning them will give you a leg up in your personal and professional life while in Italy, because good etiquette is always appreciated.

Do you want to know more? Check out our article on everything you should know about Italian etiquette.

Buon appetito.
Bon appetit.
To this, you can reply: Grazie, e altrettanto! (“Thanks, and to you too!”)

Buongiorno, (come) posso aiutarla? 
Hello, (how) can I help you?

Benvenuto/a nel nostro negozio. 
Welcome to our store.

Please, come in.
Literally: Get comfortable. 

Notice how it changes when we use the formal: Si accomodi.

Fa’ come se fossi a casa tua. 
Make yourself at home.
Literally: Do as if you were at your house.

Fammi sapere se hai domande.
Let me know if you have questions.
Some variants include: 
  • Fammi sapere se hai dubbi. (“Let me know if you have doubts.”)
  • Fammi sapere se hai bisogno di aiuto. (“Let me know if you need help.”)
  • Fammi sapere se hai bisogno di altro. (“Let me know if you need anything else.”)

Mi fai sapere cosa ne pensi? 
Will you let me know your thoughts?
Literally: Will you make me know what you think about it?

Resto in attesa di una tua risposta.
I look forward to your response.
Literally: I remain waiting for an answer of yours.

Buon lavoro!
Have a good workday!
Literally: Have a good work. 

This phrase shouldn’t be confused with Bel lavoro! (“Good job!”)

Buon viaggio!
Have a nice trip!

Buone vacanze! 
Have a nice vacation!

Two People Relaxing in Chairs at the Beach

Buone vacanze! (“Have a nice vacation!”)

7. Conclusion

I hope you liked this guide and that you found it useful for increasing your arsenal of intermediate Italian phrases. Do you know what else you might find useful and interesting? All the incredible learning tools you’ll find on, such as the vocabulary lists and other free resources

Have fun learning Italian with our podcasts, videos, and YouTube channel. And if you upgrade to Premium PLUS, you can check out MyTeacher to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher. They can help you practice the intermediate phrases from this list and aid you in creating your own. In addition to providing you with personalized assignments and exercises, your teacher can record audio samples just for you and review all your work.

Keep having fun with ItalianPod101!

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The 10 Best Italian Podcasts to Improve Your Italian


Listening is one of the four skills you need to master when learning a language (the others are speaking, writing, and reading). These are the skills that you’ll have to keep training as you study Italian or any other language. But if you’re not planning to travel in order to get an immersive experience or don’t have a bunch of Italians living with you, listening to authentic Italian might not be the easiest thing to do. Luckily, the internet is replete with a variety of Italian podcasts that, as it turns out, are great for learning the language.

A Woman Lying in the Grass with Headphones On and Her Eyes Closed

You can listen to podcasts literally anywhere!

In this article, we’ll present and analyze a list of the ten best podcasts to help you learn Italian and improve your learning experience. And we’ll also talk about tools, strategies, and tricks for making the most out of them.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Benefits of Using Podcasts to Learn Italian
  2. The Top 10 Italian Podcasts
  3. Tricks to Help You Learn Italian More Effectively with Podcasts
  4. Conclusion

1. Benefits of Using Podcasts to Learn Italian

Listening to podcasts in Italian is the next best thing to visiting Italy. 

Once you find the perfect fit, you can subscribe to the podcast so that you’ll always be updated when a new episode comes out. Podcasts are usually updated on a weekly basis, or sometimes even once every two or three days. But don’t worry! They stay online forever (or at least for a few years), and you can listen to them at your own pace. 

So, what do podcasts have to offer? 

  • They are fun and interesting, therefore boosting your motivation.
  • They provide authentic listening material produced (mostly) by Italians.
  • They’re always available (online, downloaded, any way you prefer).
  • You can listen to an episode as many times as you want; you can also pause it, rewind it, fast-forward it, and even slow it down.
  • You can listen in the car, on the bus, on your bike, or even in bed with your eyes closed right before you go to sleep!

And since podcasts have become really popular in recent years, you’ll be able to find a number of different podcasts that suit your needs and preferences. There are those specifically devoted to learners of Italian (just like you!), those that provide the latest Italian news, and even those that focus on culture, music, sports, and cooking. Oh, yes! Especially cooking.

A Guy Listening to a Podcast while Walking Alongside a Busy Street

How about a little Italian on your way to work?

2. The Top 10 Italian Podcasts

1 – Italiano Automatico

  • Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • PDF and YouTube channel

This is a great and fun podcast that will help you learn Italian and improve your listening skills with weekly 10-minute episodes. The podcast covers many different topics: grammar and vocabulary, gestures and culture, Romeo and Juliet, rude Italian expressions…the list goes on. 

The course is intended for students who already have some basic knowledge of Italian but can’t speak well yet or have difficulty following the spoken language. Alberto (sometimes joined by his nonna) gives you tips and suggestions for making quick progress. The podcast is entirely in Italian but comes with a PDF transcript. 

Italiano Automatico is also on YouTube, so you’ll be able to watch extra material.

2 – Coffee Break Italian

  • Level: Absolute Beginner to Advanced
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • Free content with ads + Premium paid content

This is a very interesting one because it offers something for learners at every level. It starts in English—making it ideal for absolute beginners—and as the seasons and episodes progress, the amount of Italian used increases alongside your progress in the language. 

In each episode, the hosts explain the use of the language, introduce specific vocabulary for a variety of occasions, and help listeners make sense of Italian grammar. They also go around Italy and talk with different people, which will give you the chance to listen to a number of native speakers. 

CoffeeBreak Italian is updated with great frequency, so you’ll always have some new content to enjoy. 

3 – ItalianPod101

  • Level: Absolute Beginner to Advanced
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • Free content + Premium and Premium PLUS subscriptions

Well…of course I’m a bit biased here, but ItalianPod101 is a truly complete Italian course with many different podcast series. Just choose your level and the topic you want to learn about, and you’ll find everything you need, whether you’re an absolute beginner, an intermediate learner, or an advanced student.

You’ll find dialogues depicting common daily situations, cultural insights, and lots of first-hand information about Italy and the Italian lifestyle. You can complement this with the grammar points, exercises, quizzes, and vocabulary lists we provide. You could even get personal coaching by upgrading to Premium PLUS—perfect if you wish to have personalized lessons and a 1-to-1 learning experience.

4 – News in Slow Italian

  • Level: Beginner to Advanced
  • Theme: News
  • Free 3-minute episodes or Premium content (full episodes)

Do you want to keep up with current events while improving your listening skills? Try the News in Slow Italian podcast. It offers weekly updates on everything that happened during the week, presented at a very slow pace so that you’ll be able to catch every single word.

A 3-minute summary of every episode is free, and it even comes with a written summary that will definitely help you get the main concepts, even if you’re a beginner.

5 – Coffee Break Italian – Travel Diaries

  • Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • Free content with ads + Premium paid content

Even though Coffee Break Italian is already on the list, the Travel Diaries season deserves a special mention. Traveling has been complicated lately, right? So what could be better than a podcast that allows you to travel through the amazing Tuscany region and discover its history, gastronomy, and culture while practicing your Italian? 

In its ten episodes, you will accompany Giulia and her friend Paolo on a train ride through Tuscany. If you’re willing to subscribe to the paid content, you can also get videos and lesson notes.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

Let’s travel with a podcast and “listen” to the Torre di Pisa!

6 – L’italiano Vero

  • Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • Free content with ads + Premium content with a small donation

As the title of this podcast (literally: “The Real Italian”) suggests, its more than 60 episodes feature real conversations about real topics with a group of true Italians.

One of the great things about this podcast is that it gives you the ability to read the transcript as you follow along with the audio (if you’re listening on the computer). Most of the content is free, though you can opt to give a small donation or pay a small fee for specific episodes.

7 – RaiPlay

  • Level: Advanced
  • Theme: Everything!
  • Free 

RAI is the public Italian radio and television service, and RaiPlay is its online platform. Here, advanced students can find every type of podcast and radio recording, literally from A to Z!

Music, news, cooking, travel, culture, you name it. My personal favorites are: 

  • Il rifugio (“The shelter”), which follows a high-altitude trek to the best Italian mountain shelters and covers the stories of those who live there
  • Italia a tavola: pari o dispari? (“Italy at the table: even or odd?”), which is a lively discussion of what the best foods are and where to find them

8 – Mangia come Parli

  • Level: Advanced
  • Theme: Food and Good Living
  • Free 

A star chef. A sports journalist with a passion for la dolce vita. These two characters make up the strange couple hosting Mangia come Parli, a great cooking and food culture podcast. 

If you’re an advanced learner with a strong grasp of the language (and a love of good food), this is the perfect Italian podcast for learning simple recipes while honing your language skills. Discussions focus on things like seasonal products, Italian culinary traditions, and everything that makes life more pleasant. You might even hear little secrets from the chef on how to make your dishes perfect! 

All this is seasoned with clever dialogue and irony from the hosts, starting with the title. Mangia come parli (“Eat like you speak”) is a take on the popular saying Parla come mangi (“Speak like you eat”), a piece of advice suggesting that we speak in a simple way (just as we eat in a simple way). 

9 – La mia Storia

  • Level: Advanced
  • Theme: Fiction
  • Free 

An intriguing podcast, La mia storia (“My Story”) is a series of over thirty 30-minute episodes. It’s a mix of history and stories, reality and fantasy, covering the lives of ordinary men and women in the context of the great events that made history.

Even though the theme might seem complex, the narration is so smooth and—naturally—slow that it will please even intermediate learners. And you’re free to listen to each episode as many times as you wish!

10 – Learn Italian with Lucrezia

  • Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Theme: Teaching Podcast
  • YouTube channel

To finish our list of the ten best Italian podcasts, let’s look at one more podcast specifically aimed at students of Italian. Lucrezia is a vlogger and YouTuber who specializes in cultural topics as well as essential grammar and vocabulary. Each of her podcast episodes is 5 to 7 minutes long, and you can listen to them anywhere.

She has published a lot of material, and you’ll definitely find everything you need in addition to answers to any doubts or questions you might have. And she also has a popular YouTube channel you can check out! 

3. Tricks to Help You Learn Italian More Effectively with Podcasts

Now that you’ve seen some of the best podcasts for learning Italian, let’s go over a few tips and tricks you can use to make the most of your listening time. 

Picking the Perfect Podcast

  • Find a podcast that meets you at your current level. If it’s too easy or too fast to follow, it’s probably not the right podcast for you. You would get bored or frustrated.
  • Make sure it focuses on topics that really interest you. The topic of the podcast should be familiar to you or associated with something you’re interested in. The exception is if it’s a podcast aimed at Italian learners. But even in that case, different podcasts tackle different topics, so you always have the opportunity to pick the most appropriate one for you.
  • Consider listening to many podcasts. This will help you find the one that’s right for you, even if it takes some time. So be it! This will actually be a good challenge, and it will “force” you to pay more attention. Listening to podcasts on different topics will also help enrich your vocabulary. 

Making the Most of Podcasts for Language Learning

Have you already chosen your favorite podcast? Or two or three? Then get your headphones, grab a piece of paper, and make sure your pencil’s sharpened. Below, we’ll give you our top tips on how to improve your Italian listening skills with podcasts. 

  • Listen with headphones. This will allow you to better concentrate on the conversation without distractions. 
  • Catch the keywords. Don’t worry if you don’t get every single word. No problem at all! What’s important is that you get a sense of the topic by catching the keywords and main sentences. You will soon notice that the word denoting the topic is usually stressed more; that is, it is pronounced more clearly, maybe with a pause before or after it. For example, a host might say:

    Oggi siamo qui per parlarvi di melanzane. (“Today we’re here to talk to you about eggplants.”)

    But you’ll probably hear: Oggi siamo qui per parlarvi di MELANZANE. Or even: bla … bla … bla … bla …  melanzane. 

    Yes, that’s right. Melanzane is the keyword here, and as long as you hear that clearly, you’ll know what they’re talking about.
An Eggplant Against a White Background

Melanzane / Eggplant

  • Feel free to pause, rewind, slow down the audio, and use the transcripts. One of the great advantages of podcasts is that, unlike real people and conversations, they offer you the chance to listen to the same content many times over. You can pause and take notes while you listen, and in some cases, you can even download the transcript and read it as they speak.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Try and listen to at least one podcast episode every day, and repeat any words or expressions that catch your attention. This will help you learn and get used to the pronunciation. Some podcasts (like ItalianPod101) even provide a pause in the dialogue so you can repeat after the hosts. 
  • Mix the listening practice with other material. As we mentioned at the beginning, listening is one of the four skills you’ll need to work on throughout your Italian learning journey. So we recommend keeping things fresh and mixing it up a little. The best place to do just that is, where you can take advantage of all the resources we have to offer.
  • Be consistent. This will provide you with a more natural learning experience, so you can acquire the Italian language just like children do! When you read or listen to a language, you’re memorizing the grammatical structures of the language without even noticing. Kids learn all the basic grammar rules and are able to apply them correctly, way before they study any of it at school. If you listen many times to certain simple constructions—such as those using avere (“to have”) or essere (“to be”)—they will eventually become so natural that you’ll start using them correctly without thinking too much about it.

4. Conclusion

A Woman Lying on Her Stomach in the Grass while Listening to a Podcast

In this guide, we have presented the top ten Italian podcasts and discussed how you could benefit from them to improve your Italian skills. Are there other podcasts you would like to suggest? Please let us know in the comments below; we always love to hear from our readers.

If you’re looking for something to help you keep practicing all of your other communication skills, make sure you take a look at Here, you can find tons of free resources, grammar lessons, and vocabulary lists to review words and practice their pronunciation.

And if you need customized lessons, remember that you can subscribe to our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a private teacher. Have a question about a podcast episode you just listened to? Your teacher has answers! In addition to providing you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Keep learning Italian and having fun with ItalianPod101!

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Simple Italian Phrases for Beginners


Are you just starting out with Italian? In this guide, you’ll find all the Italian phrases for beginners that you will need in order to meet and greet people, get around cities and regions, ask for directions, and even order food or go shopping. All the basic sentences to get you going in your first Italian conversations!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Italian Table of Contents
  1. Greetings and Self-introductions
  2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions
  3. Dining
  4. Shopping Phrases
  5. Asking for Help
  6. Conclusion

1. Greetings and Self-introductions

Hello. Good morning. How are you? Nice to meet you. 

The first thing to know is that, in Italian, we have two ways of addressing people: with formal speech and with informal speech. Habits are slowly changing, and informality is becoming increasingly common and accepted in contexts where it previously would have been unheard of (in the workplace, between people of different age groups, etc.). 

Especially in the case of new Italian learners, using informal speech is completely acceptable. But here, we have included phrases for both formality levels.

Two Women Having a Pleasant Chat Over Coffee or Tea

L’italiano è facile! (“Italian is easy!”)

Let’s start with some basic Italian phrases that you could use when meeting people in Italy. 

Hi. / Bye.
The word ciao is the most common greeting in the Italian language for friendly and informal encounters. You can use it when first meeting someone and when saying goodbye; you can also use it when addressing either one person or a group of people. The word is of Latin origin, and it was once used primarily in Northern Italy, though it is now used internationally. 

[Formal or casual]
Literally: “Health to you.” 

This is another common Italian word derived from Latin. It is considered neutral, and it can be used in both formal and casual contexts.

[Formal or casual]
Literally: “Good day.”

[Formal or casual]
Good evening.
So, what time of day do we start saying buonasera? It might vary from region to region, but typically it’s correct to greet with buonasera when it starts getting dark. Obvious, right?

Now that you’ve greeted everyone, it’s time for some polite questions and answers:

Come va? 
[Formal or casual]
How is it going?

Come stai? 
Come sta? 
How are you?

Tutto bene. 
Bene, grazie, e lei? 
All good.Fine, thanks, and you?

Once you’ve gone over the basic greetings, you’ll want to find out a bit more about the people you’re meeting. This is the perfect time to start asking and answering more personal questions.

Come ti chiami? 
Come si chiama? 
What’s your name?
Literally: “How do you call yourself?”

Mi chiamo Maria.
My name is Maria.
Literally: “I call myself Maria.”

[Formal or casual]
Nice to meet you.
Literally: “Pleasure.”

Di dove sei? 
Di dov’è? 
Where are you from?

Sono Italiano/a.
I’m Italian.

Sono di Roma.
I am from Rome.

Abito a Roma.
I live in Rome.

Quanti anni hai? 
Quanti anni ha? 
How old are you?
Literally: “How many years do you have?”

Ho 27 anni.
I’m 27 years old.
Literally: “I have 27 years.”

Are you ready for some in-depth practice? We recommend checking out our video lessons on how to say hello and how to introduce yourself in Italian. 

A Businesswoman Receiving a Business Card from a Japanese Businessman

Piacere, mi chiamo Maria. (“Nice to meet you; I am Maria.”)

2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions

Grazie! Nothing expresses courtesy, pleasantry, and kindness better than this word—also of Latin origin—which literally means “graces.”

Why is it important to master courtesy phrases and expressions? Because they help you navigate new environments, elicit sympathy from other people, and make it easier to communicate with others. 

Below are several simple Italian phrases for beginners that will help you put your best foot forward in any situation. 

Thank you.
Literally: “Graces.”
Despite being the most basic Italian word, grazie can be a bit tricky to pronounce, especially the final -zie. Here is a little phonetic help for you: Pronounce this word as if it were written graTSeeAY. If the phonetic transcription looks strange, just listen to the audio recording… 😉

You’re welcome.
Literally: “I pray.”

You can also express this concept using one of these phrases:

Di nulla. / Di niente.
Literally: “Of nothing.”

Scusa. / Scusami. 
Scusi. / Mi scusi. 
Excuse me. / I am sorry.
This word works both for apologizing and for catching someone’s attention before asking a question. 

For example: 

Scusa, mi puoi dire dov’è la stazione? (“Excuse me, can you tell me where the station is?”)

Per favore. / Per piacere. 
[Casual or formal]
Literally: “As a favor.” / “As a pleasure.”

A Man Scratching His Head and Grimacing in Uncertainty

Mi dispiace… (“I’m sorry…”)

Another way to apologize:

Mi dispiace.
Literally: “It displeases me.”

Non c’è problema.
That’s okay.
Literally: “There is no problem.”

This is a good way to end the forgiveness topic. Better to forget and move on. But if this still isn’t enough, check out our guide on how to say sorry in Italian

And now, it’s time to say goodbye!

Literally: “Let’s see ourselves again.”

Remember that you can also use the ever-useful ciao when you’re leaving an informal setting.

[Formal or casual]
Buonanotte is generally the departure phrase we use at the very end of the day. Basically, right before we go to sleep. Would you like to serenade your Italian with a nice romantic lullaby? Here’s Buonanotte fiorellino (“Goodnight, Little Flower”) for you. 

A più tardi. A dopo!
See you later.See you!
Literally: “Until later.”Literally: “Until after.”

A presto.
See you soon.

A domani.
See you tomorrow.

Buona fortuna.
Good luck.

3. Dining 

Whether you’re studying Italian or just traveling around, at some point you’ll find yourself sitting down in a restaurant or a trattoria. When this happens, you’ll get the best experience if you know a few basic Italian phrases for ordering food, getting your waiter’s attention, and more.

A Kid Holding a Fork and a Knife while Waiting for Food

Ho fame…! (“I’m hungry…!”)

Andiamo a pranzo?
Shall we go to lunch?

Andiamo a cena?
Shall we go to dinner?

Ho fame.
I’m hungry.
Literally: “I have hunger.”

Posso vedere il menù?
Can I see the menu?

Qual è il piatto del giorno?
What is today’s special?
Literally: “What is the dish of the day?”

C’è un menu turistico?
Is there a tourist menu?

Per me una pizza margherita e una birra, grazie.
I would like a pizza margherita and a beer, thanks.
Probably the most renowned type of pizza, it’s very simple and traditional with an interesting story behind it.

Da asporto / Da portare via
To go
Literally: “To remove” / “To take away”

Il conto, per favore.
The bill, please.

4. Shopping Phrases 

What fun is traveling if you don’t stop to shop for souvenirs, local foods, and other fun stuff to bring home or give as a present? 

So, here is a list of phrases to help you have the best (and easiest) shopping experience, whether you’re in an open-air mercatino or in a centro commerciale (shopping mall).

Very important! The first thing you’ll want to do is get the attention of the seller. Do you remember how? Yes! Scusi! And you might also lift your index finger for increased effect.

Scusi, posso avere…?
Excuse me, can I get…?

Scusi, posso vedere…?
Excuse me, can I see…?

If you want to be just a little more polite, try and use the conditional form. Don’t worry too much about learning the tense; just use this simple formula…

Scusi, potrei avere…? 
Excuse me, could I have…?

Scusi, vorrei
Excuse me, I would like…

And, especially if you’re going to local neighborhood markets, make sure to review your fruit and vegetable vocabulary with one of our fun lists. And then, you’ll really be ready to shop!

When it’s time to pay, you have a few options, depending on whether you plan to pay with cash or card. Here are some useful Italian phrases to get you started:

Quanto costa?
How much does it cost?

How much is it?

Quanto viene?
How much is it?
Literally: “How much does it come (for)?”

Quanto le devo?
What do I owe you?
Literally: “How much do I owe you?”

Posso pagare con la carta? 
Can I pay by credit card?
Literally: “Can I pay with the card?”

Pago con la carta.
I will pay by credit card.
Literally: “I will pay with the card.”

Ecco la carta.
Here is my credit card.
Literally: “Here is the card.”

But actually, right before paying, it’s a good habit to ask to try on (or taste) the merchandise, right?

Posso provarlo?
Can I try it on?

Posso assaggiarlo?
Can I try/taste it?

If you need more shopping words, take a look at this free vocabulary list on

Women Tasting Different Ice Cream Flavors

Posso assaggiare il pistacchio? (“Can I taste the pistachio?”)

5. Asking for Help

There is no shame in asking for help, especially if you’ve just started learning Italian. Asking for help is a great way to talk to people, find out information, establish contact, and even make new friends along the way. 

You’ll find that most Italians, especially those not in the middle of the most touristic cities, will be more than happy to help you. Some will even go out of their way to show you special attention and give extra help! And if you’re very lucky, you might even get an invitation to lunch or to a homemade cappuccino!

1 – Help with Directions

Below are a few beginner phrases in Italian you can use to ask for directions. Just remember: 

  • Address the person with scusa if you want to be casual.
  • Address the person with scusi if you need to be a bit more formal. For example, when speaking to older people or to a poliziotto/a (“policeman” / “policewoman”) or a vigile urbano (“traffic policeman”).

Where is…?

Dove si trova?
Where is…?
Literally: “Where can it be found?”

Scusa, dov’è il bagno? 
Scusi, dov’è il bagno?
Excuse me, where is the bathroom?
While traveling through Italy, you might often hear la toilette. Maybe it just sounds more elegant if you give it a French name!

Scusa, cerco la fermata dell’autobus. 
Scusi, cerco la fermata dell’autobus.
Excuse me, I’m looking for the bus stop.

Come arrivo a…?
How do I get to…?

Vorrei andare a…
I would like to go…

Mi sono perso/a.
I got lost.

    → Do you need more help when it comes to getting around and asking for directions? Here is a more exhaustive vocabulary list with lots of practical direction-related words and samples of their pronunciation.

An Explorer Looking through a Spyglass while Out at Sea

Mmm… Mi sono perso? (“Mmm… Am I lost?”)

2 – Overcoming Language Barriers

We all know the feeling: As beginner learners, listening and speaking can be challenging and even terrifying… 

What if I don’t understand? What if they speak too fast? What if they don’t understand me? What… what… what? 

Don’t worry. Here are some useful phrases to ease your communication with native speakers, even if you’re an absolute beginner.

Parli inglese? 
Parla inglese? 
Do you speak English?

Non parlo bene l’italiano.
I don’t speak Italian very well.

Non capisco.
I don’t understand.

Non ho capito.
I didn’t understand.

Come si chiama questo in italiano?
What do you call this in Italian?

Come si traduce questa parola in italiano?
How do you translate this word in Italian?

Puoi ripetere? 
Può ripetere? 
Can you repeat?

Puoi parlare più lentamente? 
Può parlare più lentamente? 
Can you speak slowly?

Someone Trying to Understand Complex Drawings and Symbols on a Blackboard

Aiuto… Non capisco! (“Help… I don’t understand!”)

3 – A Little Help from a Friend!

For those situations where nothing makes much sense and you just need a little help understanding what’s going on, here are some good beginner sentences to help you get out of trouble. You actually saw one of these earlier in the article.

Cosa è successo?
What happened?

Che cos’è?
What is it?

A che serve?
What is it for?
Literally: “What does it serve?”

Non so.
I don’t know.

Non lo so.
I don’t know.
Literally: “I don’t know it.”

Ho bisogno di aiuto!
I need help!

Non preoccuparti. 
Non si preoccupi. 
Don’t worry about it.

Non c’è problema.
There is no problem.

Non fa niente.
There’s nothing to it.
Literally: “It doesn’t do anything.”

And remember, when the situation gets really confusing, you can always resort to the most useful word in the whole Italian vocabulary: Boh! A great little word that’s wonderful for expressing uncertainty, disbelief, and contempt all at once.

6. Conclusion

We hope that this simple guide has helped you acquire the most common Italian phrases for beginners. You can now face simple situations such as first meetings, greetings, asking and answering basic questions, and finding your way out of different everyday situations.

Are there other situations that you think we should have covered? Please let us know in the comments below, and we’d be glad to help you with those too.

And if you still haven’t had enough, you can practice some more with our Can-Do Italian for Absolute Beginners course! It features 105 lessons for a total of 5.5 hours of lesson material covering basic words and phrases you should know when first starting out. 

Don’t forget to explore to start taking advantage of our free resources, useful vocabulary lists with audio recordings, and a variety of fun lessons designed to make learning Italian easy.

Remember that you can also upgrade your account to use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher. Your tutor will help you practice, provide personalized assignments and exercises, and even record audio samples of pronunciation just for you. In addition, they can review your work to help you improve faster.

Keep it up with ItalianPod101!

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Advanced Italian Words to Spice Up Your Vocabulary


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!

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Italian Words for Animals


Time to study Italian animal words!


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”
(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

(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”
(Il) rinoceronte“Rhino”
(Il) gorilla“Gorilla”
(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”
(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”
(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”
(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”
(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! 

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 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.

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


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, 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.


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?


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.


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.”


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…!


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.


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”).


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!”)


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.


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.


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! 


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”). 


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!


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.


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!


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!”)


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?


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. 


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.


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! 


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.”)


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!”)


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.


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! 


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!”)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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…


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.


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?


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.


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.


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—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 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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Itanglish: A Guide to English Words Used in Italian


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


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?”) 


  • 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?”)

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.”)

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?”)

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.”)

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.”)

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.”)
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…


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, where you can find tons of vocabulary lists, free resources, and even mobile apps

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An Overview of the Italian Culture


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 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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