Learning local slang is fun and, at times, a rewarding part of traveling. It provides insight into the culture and personality of a place, and it allows you to connect with local people. Even if you're not fluent in a language, learning a few words and phrases can open the door to conversation, and native speakers will always appreciate your effort to traverse the language barrier.
20 Everyday Italian Expressions to Learn
These Italian colloquialisms are come il cacio sui maccheroni. Try incorporating some into your daily life and on your trips to Italy!
Pronunciation: "Ah-ooo" (The "o" is sometimes drawn out for emphasis)
Interpretation: "Hey, hi" when used to get someone's attention.
In use: "Ahó amici!" An informal greeting between friends
Interpretation: A filler word, similar to "so" or "well," when pausing to think. When used by itself, it can express impatience.
In use: "Allora, vediamo" Well then, let’s see. Or "Allora!" Hey! Come on!
3. Alito puzzolente
Pronounced: "Ah-leeto poot-zo-lente"
Interpretation: Translates to "stinky breath" in English but is used to denote disgust in Italian. "Ew!"
In use: "Alito puzzolente, David" "Ew, David."
4. Amore a prima vista
Pronunciation: "Ah-more-eh ah pre-mah veez-ta"
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Interpretation: Love at first sight
In use: A phrase that describes the passion of Romeo and Juliet in Verona or how you'll feel when you catch your first glimpse of a Tuscan vineyard.
In use: Can be repeated "Basta, basta" to say "stop" or "enough." You can use this phrase when you've had your fill of Italian wine, Renaissance art, shopping, or delicious food (if you ever hit that point).
In use: You'll probably hear it combined with Ahó more often than not - "Ahó bella!"
Interpretation: "I don't know" or "meh."
In use: "Boh," he said shrugging. It can express indecision, lack of knowledge, or disinterest.
8. Che figata!
Pronunciation: "Chay Fee-gah-tah"
Interpretation: "How cool!"
In use: What you'll probably say the first time you see the towering Statue of David or the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
9. Come il cacio sui maccheroni
Pronunciation: "Comb-eh eel cah-tchio swee mah-che-roh-ni"
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Interpretation: "Perfect solution!" This phrase literally translates to "like sheep's milk for the macaroni" and is similar to the English phrase "Just what the doctor ordered."
In use: Try it out when you take your first bite of pizza every time you order one.
Interpretation: "Come on!" "Come with!"
In use: When you want someone to join in or tag along. For example, when you meet a friendly local, ask them to join your group for dinner or drinks. Or when you're eager to get to the Colosseum and your travel partner keeps getting distracted by the sights and sounds of Rome.
Interpretation: "No big deal" or "don't worry about it."
In use: If you accidentally drop your gelato on the ground, just say "figurati" and head back to the gelateria.
12. Fuori come un balcone
Pronunciation: "Fwoo-ah-ri comb-eh oo-n bal-cone-eh"
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Interpretation: This phrase means someone is crazy, "out of their mind," or even drunk. It literally translates to "out like a balcony." It's the Italian equivalent of saying someone has "lost their marbles."
In use: You might use it to say you were "fuori come un balcone" for not picking up those leather gloves in Florence.
Interpretation: "Maybe" or "If only!"
In use: "Are you planning on moving to Italy?" "Magari!"
14. Meno male
Pronunciation: "Men-oh mall-eh"
Interpretation: "That's good" used like "Phew" or "Thank God!"
In use: If you think the shop has run out of sfogliatella, but then you see them pull a fresh tray out of the oven, you could use this phrase to express your relief.
15. Na cifra
Pronunciation: "Nah cheif-i-rah"
Interpretation: "A lot," especially in the context of price.
In use: If someone asks how much a piece of jewelry costs, you could say "na cifra" (but the purchase was definitely worth it).
16. Non fai scumbari
Pronunciation: "No-en fie scoom-bar-ee"
Interpretation: "Stop embarrassing me."
In use: You might overhear this phrase said by a local child to their parents.
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Interpretation: An afternoon nap.
In use: When you're laying on the beach in Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast after a hearty lunch, you might want to catch a quick "pisolino."
Interpretation: "Are you getting off (the train or bus)?"
In use: Someone might ask this question if you're standing near the exit on public transportation.
19. Tutto sale e pepe
Pronunciation: "Too-toh sal-eh ee peh-peh"
Interpretation: Translates to "All salt & pepper"
In use: If someone is described as "tutto sale e pepe," they're sunny, happy, and generally fun to be around.
20. Vivere alla giornata
Pronunciation: "Vee-veh ah-lah joor-nah-tah"
Interpretation: This phrase translates to "live for the day" and is equivalent to the English phrase "live in the moment."
In use: You might say this to a friend who's rushing to check tourist sites off their Italy bucket list, "vivere alla giornata, you're in Italy!"