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Written by Bhavika G on September 9, 2016 Share on

Your 5 minute guide to speaking Italian like a local

There is an Italian proverb that goes ‘Belle parole non pascon i gatti’. It means ‘fine words don’t feed cats’. And Italians don’t waste words – one word says it all in this country. A fine sounding word can translate to a stream of expletives, spoken with a ready smile. Italian is spoken with words, hands and the face. Incredible isn’t it? Welcome to Italy.

Speak Italian
Image credit – udemy

Phrases ~

Here are some you should know to get through an Italian sojourn

1. Meriggiare

It must be Italy’s favourite word, for Meriggiare is something that Italians do all the time. If you think the word itself has a dreamy feel to it, you are right. Meriggiare means ‘escaping the midday heat into the shade’. Doesn’t that sum up your idea of a vacation ideally?

2. Abbiocco

How would one describe that peaceful, languid state of mind after the best lunch you can have in Italy? Still searching for the right word? The Italians have it spot on – Abbiocco. Who else but the Italians to have the perfect word. After all who wouldn’t fall into this dreamy state after the perfect Italian lunch!

Representative image for after lunch relaxation
Image credit – cryanjackson

3. Magari

‘Hmm, well, maybe’. That is roughly what Magari would translate to. But if you say it the way the Italians would, then it could mean a lot more. Raise your eyebrows and exclaim Magari! – and it would mean ‘If only!’ or ‘I wish’. This one word throws in a world of hope!

4. Che Figata

Look this one up in the dictionary. It will translate to ‘what a fig’. Don’t use this word to describe yummy figs. Knowing Italians, it means more than that. Translated for the common man, Che Figata would mean ‘Cool’!

5. Boh

Now this is one wonderful Italian word. Three little letters that take up so little tongue space but says a whole lot of things – that is Boh. When an Italian says ‘Boh’, it could mean ‘I don’t know’ or ‘No idea’. But watch his face as he says this. An irritated expression along with the word Boh could loosely mean ‘What an idiot you are’ or ‘How the hell am I to know that’!!

Confused woman representative image
Image credit – simpleandclean

6. Pantofolaio

Translated to english, Pantofolaio would mean ‘slippers’.  But Italians, creatively enough use this to describe a lazy couch potato. Someone who sits around home and rarely moves out is called Pantofolaio.

7. Rocambole

The Italians take the cake when it comes to dramatic expressions. While mostly original, this Italian word – Rocambole is a term that the French also use to describe a daring adventurer. If you have had an adventure of a lifetime trying to bungee jump, that you could describe this to your Italian friend as a Rocambolesco.

Looking for adventure - representative image
Image credit – todaysmama

8. Gibigianna

You are watching the sunset as you cruise around a Venetian canal on a gondola. An awesome sight, and you are lost for words. Allow us to help you. Say Gibigianna and say it softly. Your gondolier would nod in understanding. But remember, the word also is used to describe a dazzling or elegant woman.

Sunset over the river Arno

9. Vero Viaggiatore

That is a phrase for the traveller in you. Very simply put, you are a ‘True Traveller’. That is what Vero Viaggiatore means. Here is what takes to be a vero viaggiatore.

10. Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco

This is life in a phrase for you, Italian style. The classic expression translates to ‘Not all doughnuts come with a hole’. Well, things don’t always turn out as planned. But that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy life. So eat your doughnut and be Italian at heart, at least while you are in Italy.

Being content - representative image
Image credit – servingjoy

More about phrases ~

Now that you have pocketed the phrases, here’s a hands down on get your words right!

Words beginning with C –

When c is followed by i or e, it is pronounced like the c in church. At other times it is pronounced like the c in cook.

Words beginning with G –

When g is followed by i or e, it is pronounced like the g in Georgia. On all other occasions it is pronounced like g in goal.

Words beginning with GN –

When pronouncing words like gnocchi or fillet mignon, the letters must spun together with the sound n-y.


No this isn’t the pirate’s call. This is how Rs are spelt by the Italian tongue. Roll that r, you travellerrr!


Don’t question it. These letters are spoken together.

In fact, Italians ensure that all letters in a word are pronounced. In every word. What do you mean f is silent in sfida, pssh.

Body language ~

“Actions speak louder than words,” Nothing summarises the Italian language better. From poking at the cheek to indicate a delicious meal to shaking your hands infront of you to indicate you are bored – the non-verbal dictionary of Italians seems to be endless. Here are some of them –

“It’s crowded”

” I don’t care”

“I am hungry”

“Nothing, nobody”

“What do you want?”

Prepared with your conversation with the locals? Just one more thing on how to get started – after a chat with us, you might as well pack your bags and get going!

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