25 Essential Phrases you Desperately Need for your Italy Trip

Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations. From the canals of Venice to the streets of Rome, there is a lot opportunity to get lost in translation. While English is spoken pretty consistently in the main tourist centres, like Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence, and Naples, it never hurts to learn some Italian. At the very most, it will help you when communicating with a non-English speaker. At the very least, you will get kudos for trying and gain some appreciation or respect from locals.

Before we begin, you likely already know a lot of Italian words and don’t realize it. Unsurprisingly, most words used in Italian cuisine come from Italian. Think words like spaghetti, lasagna, mozzarella, pizza. These words will be very useful.

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1. Ciao

Ciao is an informal way to say “hi”, but it also means “bye”. This word has become international, and you’ll hear speakers of English, French, and German even use this word in normal conversation.

2. Buongiorno

Buongiorno is another word which has multiple meaning. In Italian, buongiorno means good morning. Buongiorno also means good morning or have a good day. It’s a very common expression to use in Italy.

3. Salve

For those of us who studied Latin, you may recognize salveSalve, in Italian, means “hello”. It is more formal than ciao (informal) and buongiorno (neutral). It is most common to hear salve when you first walk into a store or restaurant. You can respond with salve.

4. Buonasera

You can use buongiorno until just after noon. Depending on the region, you can use buonasera in the afternoon. All throughout Italy, you can use buonasera beginning around aperitivo time (5PM or 6PM). Buonasera means good evening or hello.

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5. Grazie

If you have a bad memory, mark this one down. It will score you some points with the locals, for sure. Grazie is how to say “thanks” in Italian. A small word that certainly goes a long way. Sometimes you’ll also hear grazie a te, grazie a Lei, or grazie a voi all of which mean “thank you”.

6. Niente

Niente is a common way to say no worries or no problem in Italian after someone says thank youNiente literally translates as nothing.

7. Prego

Prego, different than the English word prego (meaning pregnant), is quite a versatile word. In response to grazieprego means you’re welcome. When someone is holding the door open for you and wants you to go first, they say prego which means “please (go ahead/after you)”. It’s common for server to also say prego when bringing your meal and it means here you go.

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8. Tutto bene?

Tutto bene? is an informal way to say how’s it going? (Canadian and American English) or you alright(British English). It literally means everything good? It’s really common to hear in public (more common than come stai?).

9. Come stai?

Although tutto bene is more common to use (and more informal). Come stai? means how are you?

10. Bene, grazie e Lei?

Bene, grazie, e Lei? means good, thanks, and you? It is an excellent way to reply to tutto bene? or come stai? You can also reply with male which means bad. But I wouldn’t recommend saying bad. If you say bad, normally people ask follow up questions like oh, why? And you may not necessarily know how to say this in Italian.

11. Come si chiama?

If you ever need to ask someone’s name, ask Come si chiama? Literally this means How do you call yourself? in Italian.

12. Mi chiamo {Your Name}

To respond with my name is …, you can say mi chiamo … Be careful with this expression (especially if you know a little bit of Italian). Mi chiamo literally means I call myself. So no need to say mi chiamo è … 

13. Piacere

When you meet a new person, in English, we say nice to meet you. In Italian, the equivalent is piacere. When someone tells you their name (mi chiamo Marco), a common response is piacere.

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14. Sì

You likely already know this word;  is the word for yes in Italian.

15. No

Very similar to the English word, no in Italian is no. Although the spelling is the same, the pronunciation is a bit different. The English pronunciation is [no] where as the Italian pronunciation is [nɔ] (kind of like naw in English).

16. Come no

Despite how it looks, come no actually means of course in Italian. It’s a colloquially way to say yes.

17. Certo

Certo is the word for certainly in Italian. It’s another common way to say yes.

18. Scusi

When you’re in Italy, if you need to get someone’s attention, scusi is the way to do it. Scusi means excuse me.

19. Permesso

In Italian, they have two words for excuse meScusi is the word to use if you want to say excuse me to get someone’s attention. If you need to say excuse me because you are passing by someone (in a crowd, for instance), then you can say permessoPermesso literally means permitted or permission.

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20. Non parlo italiano

This expression is another really useful one. I would definitely add this to your cheat sheet. Non parlo italiano means I don’t speak Italian. This is a great way to tell someone (who doesn’t speak English) that you need help understanding.

21. Parlo inglese

Parlo inglese means I speak English. It’s a simple way to say that you speak English (and not Italian).

22. Qualcuno parla inglese?

Qualcuno parla inglese? means Does anyone speak English? This is another useful way to identify in Italy that you need help communicating and that you don’t speak Italian.

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23. ArrivederLa

ArrivederLa is a formal way to say goodbye to someone.

24. Arrivederci

Just like arrivederLa, arrivederci is a way to say goodbye to someone. Arrivederci is less formal than arrivederLa. Both are used when it is a definitive goodbye and it is unlikely you will see the other person again.

25. Ci vediamo

Ci vediamo is how you say see you later in Italian. Ci vediamo is used when you think you may see the other person again.

There you have it! There’s 25 essential phrases for your trip to Italy. Hope you enjoy your trip. Let me what your favourite part of Italy is. Buona vacanza! Have a good vacation!

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