Ok, so now you’ve made it to Italy! You have your tours booked, your days planned, your camera on hand, and your taste buds ready to tuck into that famous Italian food. Good! You didn’t forget anything this time. Except for … LEARNING ITALIAN!
Lucky for you, most travelers that visit Italy don’t actually know Italian, and you will find that the locals are not as terrible as one might think at speaking English. However, you want want to fit in and try speak a little bit of Italian right? Also, you will run into people that don’t speak a lick of anything BUT Italian, so you will want to have a few key sentences in your pocket that you can show off when the time is right.
Common Italian words that you need to know:
#1 – Prego- means You’re Welcome. Also, it can mean Please as in “be my guest/go ahead/help yourself”
This is one of the phrases that you’ll hear a lot throughout your stay in Italy. Italians use this phrase every day while speaking to friends, family members or anyone so don’t be surprised if you hear it used in different ways.
Example: You are on the train and sitting in the aisle seat. The person who booked the window seat arrives. You stand up to let them sit, with a smile and a big “Prego!”
It does NOT mean Excuse me!
#2 – Permesso – means Excuse me.
Now if you’re visiting Italy while it’s busy or you plan on traveling around at all, this is what you need to know. Say you’re trying to get through a crowd, this is the word you would use to get past people. It is a very common word that you will hear a lot if you visit in the high season and you’re trying to get around the city.
Example: If you’re trying to get past people on a busy street you would use ‘Permesso’.
If you are trying to get someone’s attention, you won’t say Permesso, you will say….
#3 Scusi, which also means Excuse me.
This is the second way to say excuse me, confusing right? but it’s one you need to know. Although in English there is only one way to say ‘excuse me’ but with different meanings, in Italian they use two words.
Example: You are at a restaurant and need the waiter. You politely catch their attention with a “scusi”
#4 Grazie means Thank you. Do not forget to enunciate that last “E” –> Grah-tzee-ae
This is one of the most common phrases that you will need throughout your stay in Italy so make sure you remember this one!
Example: You want to say thank you to your waiter for giving you your meal, say ‘Grazie’
#5 Per Favore means Please
This is of course another necessary word to know when you’re traveling.
Key Italian phrases to know when in transit :
If you plan to get around Italy and don’t want to get stuck then it’s best to know a few phrases that can help you out while you’re in transit. These phrases are necessary when you’re taking any public transport:
#1 Un biglietto dell’autobus per favore! meaning ‘A bus ticket please’.
If you need to get around Rome by public transport or around Italy, then it is necessary to buy a ticket or a pass. You can switch the word ‘dell’autobus’ for any mode of transport that you will be using to make it useful in all situations.
Example: If you’re trying to buy a bus ticket from a newsstand or Tabacchi store then you can ask for ‘un biglietto dell’autobus per favore’ which will get you 1 bus ticket.
#2 Scendi? (are you getting off?)
If you’re using public transport in Italy then it is common for you to hear this phrase. Whenever you want to get off public transport you can use this phrase. If you’re waiting by the door people may ask you this too.
Example: If you’re waiting at the bus stop door and want to get off you can ask the people in front of you ‘Scendi?’ and you will know if they are also getting off at the next stop.
#3 Permesso, scendo alla prossima (excuse me, I am getting off at the next stop).
Example: If you’re waiting to get off the metro then you pay say ‘Permesso, scendo alla prossima’ and this will help clear the way for you.
Top phrases you need at a restaurant:
Now everyone knows that when they come to Italy they need to try the amazing pizza, pasta and gelato! But once you’ve gotten over the hardest decision of picking the restaurant, your next task comes – trying to order in Italian. Although some restaursnts do speak English and you can point at the menu, to feel like a local it’s always a good idea to try and order in Italian.
#1 Vorrei / Vorrei Ordinare (I would like / I would like to order)
This is of course a necessary phrase that everyone needs to know to be able to order that Italian Carbonara that you’ve been dreaming of since you started planning your holiday.
Example: If you want to order your meal simply say ‘ Vorrei …’ and your order.
#2 Scusi, potrei avere del sale? (Excuse me, may I have some salt?)
Now you’ve got your meal and it’s everything you hoped for but you want to add a little bit of salt to make it just that extra bit better.
Example: Simply ask the waiter ‘Scusi, potrei avere del sale?’ and you’ll be given the salt that you want! If you want to change this to pepper (Pepe) or anything else you just remove ‘sale’ and add the word you want.
#3 Dove’è il bagno? (where’s the bathroom?)
After walking around the city all day and taking tours you’re definitely going to want to wash your hands or go to the bathroom.
Example: When you see your waiter just ask ‘Dove’è il bagno?‘ and they will be able to show you where the bathroom is.
#4 Un’altra bottiglia di vino per favore! (another bottle of wine please!)
Italy is famous for their wine and after finishing one amazing bottle you will probably want another bottle.
Example: You can put together two key phrases here: ‘Scusi’ (Excuse me) and ‘Un’altra Bottiglia di vino per favore’. If you want to change this to water (aqua) or anything else then just remove the ‘di vino’ with whatever you want.
#5 Potrei avere il conto per favore? (Can I get the bill please?)
When your meal is done and you’re ready to head back to your hotel or back to see the beautiful Italian city then you need to order your bill. You could do the typical hand gesture for the bill but that isn’t as fun as using your new Italian phrases.
Example: This is where you’ll be adding together your key phrases again, ‘Potrei avere il conto’ and ‘per favore’ to get your bill.
Key Italian phrases for shopping:
Everyone knows that Italy is famous for their shopping, especially in Milan! But if you’re planning to go to some authentic Italian shops you will need to know some key phrases as not everywhere will speak English.
#1 Dove si trova il camerino? (Where is the dressing room?)
After you’ve found all of the beautiful Italian clothes that you just can’t go home without, you will need to try them on. Instead of going round and round the shop to try find a dressing room or leaving without trying anything on, easily just ask for the dressing room with our key phrase.
Example: Find someone who works in the shop and ask ‘Dove si trova il camerino?’.
#2 C’è una taglia più piccola/grande? (is there a smaller/bigger size?)
Once you’ve tried on the item you want and you can’t find the right size, it’s time to ask.
Example: When you see someone who works in the shop ask ‘C’è una taglia più piccola/grande?’ and they should be able to help you get your ideal size.
#3 Che prezzi? (what is the price?)
What is the big question that everyone needs to know when they’re buying their clothes or gifts? The price!
Example: When you want to buy some new clothes and you can’t find the price, take it up to the desk and ask ‘Che prezzi?’
#4 Prendo questi (I will take these)
Now you’ve tried on your clothes, got the right size and know exactly what the price is, it’s time to buy it!
Example: When you’re at the desk say ‘Prendo questi’ and they will process your order!
Key Italian phrases you need for taking a taxi:
When you’re visiting Italy and you don’t want to take public transport, your other option is to take a taxi. In Italy there are a lot of taxi drivers who may not speak fluent English so if you don’t want to get lost, it’s better if you know your key phrases.
#1 Devo andare alla stazione centrale (I have to go the central station)
If you don’t want to get lost then you need to know this phrase. You can use this for everywhere that you need to go and it will help you get to your destination without any confusion.
Example: If you want to go to the central station then say to your driver ‘Devo andare alla stazione centrale’ but if you want to change this to your hotel or anywhere else just use ‘Devo andare alla…’ and add in where you need to go.
#2 Quanto le devo? (how much do I owe you?)
Once your ride is over and you’re ready to pay then you need to know how much you need to give the driver.
Example: When you’re at your destination ask your driver ‘Quanto le devo?’
#3 Accettate la carta di credito? Do you take credit cards?
If you happened to not bring cash and there isn’t any cash machines around then you will have to pay by your credit or debit card!
Example: Simply ask your driver ‘Accettate la certa di credito?’ and you’ll be able to find out straight away if they do.
Top Tip: In other countries it may be more common for taxi drivers to take credit cards but in Italy it isn’t as common.
Now you know all of our top Italian phrases to help you with your stay in Italy and to deal with common scenarios you’re ready for your holiday! And remember to always say Arrivederci!