How Much Italian do I Really Need to Enjoy Italy?

As I was planning a trip to Rome, I asked Tiziano, one of our dearest Italian teachers from Florence: “How much Italian do I really need to know to enjoy Italy?”

He thought for a moment, looked at me with his big brown eyes and then said: “Per cavarsela, solo le basis. Se vuoi vivere un’esperienza meravigliosa, più è meglio è.”

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Once he stopped laughing at my confused expression, he translated: “To get by, just the basics. If you want to have a wonderful experience, the more the better”.

According to Tiziano, Italians are so friendly and welcoming towards tourists, that as long as you show that you’re making an effort to use the Italian language, everyone will be happy to help you out and make sure you enjoy your stay –though, of course, if you really want to have a meaningful, rewarding experience, becoming fluent in the Italian language will give you a huge advantage.

Since we have to start somewhere, why not learn some essential Italian words and phrases before your trip?

Here are a few key Italian phrases for all occasions.

Basic Italian Greetings

Using Italian greetings appropriately is the best way to break the ice with Italians, as it shows that you are willing to overcome the difficulties involved in speaking this beautiful language and start an interaction on their own terms rather than assume they should be able to understand your language.

So make sure you memorize these Italian greetings before you land in this amazing country:

Hello – Ciao

How are you? – Come stai?

Good morning – Buongiorno

Good afternoon – Buon pomeriggio

Good evening – Buona sera

See you later – A presto/A dopo

Bye – Ciao/Arrivederci

If you are a parent, you must have told your children a thousand times about the importance of saying “please” and “thank you”, especially when talking to strangers.

Italians may seem laidback and informal, but they do value kindness and gratitude.

Here are a few Italian magical words and expressions that will help you sound polite and well-mannered at all times.

Please – Per favore

Thank you – Grazie

You’re welcome – Prego

Excuse me – Mi scusi

Sorry – Mi dispiace

Asking for directions in Italy

One of the most common reasons why tourists need to interact with locals is when they get lost. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, Italians are more than happy to help you find your way.

If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you have to rely “on the kindness of strangers” (as Vivien Leigh would say), these phrases might just save your life.

Can you help me, please? – Mi può aiutare, per favore?

I’m looking for… – Sto cercando…

Where is the… ? – Dov’è il/la… ?

Is it far from here? – È lontano da qui?

Can you show me on the map? – Mi può indicare sulla mappa?

Eating out in Italy

According to Tiziano, if there’s one thing Italians know how to do well, it’s how to enjoy a good meal. If you’re planning on doing some serious eating while you’re in Italy, here are a few expressions you might need:

I would like… – Vorrei

Can I have…, please? – Posso avere…, per favore?

I’m allergic to… – Sono allergico/a a…

Is this vegetarian/vegan? – È vegetariano/vegano questo piatto?

Can I see the menu, please? – Posso vedere il menu, per favore?

I’m full, thank you – Ho finito, grazie

The bill, please – Il conto, per favore

Speaking about family

Italian families are close-knit and supportive, and everyone takes their role seriously. This strong sense of community is one of the things that makes Italian culture so special.

The importance of family in Italy can be seen in many aspects of life. For example, Italians often live near their parents and grandparents, and it is not unusual for three or four generations to live under one roof! This allows for plenty of opportunities for family members to spend time together and share meals, stories, and traditions.

If you are staying with a friend during your time in Italy, it’s very likely that you are staying with their family as well! And, even if that’s not the case, they will surely want to tell you about their loved ones and ask you about yours.

So, how much Italian do you need to know to talk to Italians about families?According to Tiziano, “let’s just say these phrases are a good starting point”.

Speaking about your family

I have two brothers and one sister – Ho due fratelli e una sorella

My brother/sister is… years old – Il mio fratello/sorella ha…anni

This is my husband/wife – Questo è il mio marito/moglie

Do you have any children? – Ha dei figli?

My parents are… years old – I miei genitori hanno…anni

My grandparents are… years old – I miei nonni hanno…anni

I’m the youngest/oldest child – Sono il/la più piccolo/a dei figli o l’ultimo/a dei figli

This is my son/daughter – Questo è mio figlio/a

I’m married – Sono sposato(a)

I have a girlfriend/boyfriend – Ho una fidanzata/fidanzato

Asking about another person’s family

How many children do you have? – Quanti figli ha?

Do you have any brothers or sisters? – Ha fratelli o sorelle?

Who is this man/woman in the photo? – Chi è quest’uomo/donna nella foto?

Is this your husband/wife? – Questo è suo marito/moglie?

Do you live with your parents? – Vive con i suoi genitori?

When is your son/daughter’s birthday? – Quando è il compleanno di suo figlio/a?

How old are your grandparents? – Quanti anni hanno i suoi nonni?

Shopping in Italy

If you love to shop, then Italy is the perfect place for you! From high-end fashion boutiques to quaint local markets, there’s something for everyone.

Here are a few key phrases that will come in handy when you’re out and about:

I’m looking for… – Sto cercando…

Where can I find…? – Dov’è…?

How much does this cost? – Quanto costa questo?

Do you have this in a different size/color? – Ha questo in un’altra taglia/colore?

I’ll take this one – Prendo questo

Can I try it on? – Posso provarlo?

Where is the changing room? – Dov’è il spogliatoio?

I love it! – Mi piace tantissimo!

I don’t like it – Non mi piace

I’ll take it – Lo prendo

Can I have a bag, please? – Mi può dare una borsa, per favore?

Going Beyond Italian Phrases

When I asked Tiziano how much Italian a person needs to learn before traveling to Italy, he was unequivocal: the more, the better. While Italians are incredibly warm and charismatic, they do not generally go out of their way to switch to English for non-native speakers, as many people do in other countries. So, if you really want to connect with the locals and get to have genuine conversations with Italian people, you’ll need to put in the effort to improve your Italian speaking skills.

At Language Trainers, we offer customized classes in Italian (as well as other languages from Italy!) that are designed specifically for your needs and goals. Whether you’re a complete beginner or you just want to brush up on your conversational abilities, we can help you reach your goals.

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Vroni, a client who is taking an online Italian course from her house in London, says: “I am thoroughly enjoying my lessons. Enrico is a very patient, engaging, and flexible teacher. I rate our sessions really highly, and I look forward to them every week”.

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