If you want to come to Italy, learn a little bit of our language. You should start from the fundamentals. We wrote a tips-post on that argument (we will give you the link below). Anyway, it is not enough if you want to really understand people talking. Italian is a language full of shades and undertones. Italians use many figures of speech and also idiomatic expressions, sayings, unique words. This is why we want to suggest you the most interesting or useful Italian phrases you will use during your next trip to Italy.

Read also: Top Italian language tips

Our favorite and most useful Italian phrases, words and sayings

You will notice an indisputable fact: many aspects of our culture are food-related. Language is often food-related. These phrases don’t make an exception. Anyway, once in Italy, you will understand why food seems to be so relevant to us.

Time to learn, here’s the most common and useful Italian phrases for travelers, according to us.

1 – Buono come il pane

Literally: He’s good like bread. English equivalent: To be a good person.

Here we go, first example and first food involved! This is a comparison between food and a person. If a man is “buono come il pane”, he is a really good person. You want to underline the fact that he is not bad.

Bread is a very common food in Italy and you will find bakery (panetterie) in every city. Particularly appreciated is bread from Apulia and Campania.

2 – Magari

The exact meaning of magari depends on how you say it.

It roughly translates to “maybe” in English, but there’s a lot behind the intonation. As an exclamation, the word is closer to “If only!” or “I wish!”. Basically, it means that you don’t think something is likely to happen but you hope it will.

3 – Conosco i miei polli

Literally: I know my chickens. English equivalent: To know like the back of your hand.

Another food, another expression. Knowing your chicken, means you know what you’re talking about. Usually, who you are talking about. If you want to say that you know what’s is going to happen (because you know how people involved will behave) so just say: conosco i miei polli!

4 – Che figata

useful italian phrases, dragonfly tours

It means cool! But literally it is… What a fig!

5 – Non avere peli sulla lingua

Literally: To have no hair on your tongue. English equivalent: To make no bones about something.

People without hair on their tongue are not afraid to be too honest, even if they run the risk of offending someone; no filters between brain and tongue. Just someone who speaks frankly about something.

6 – Cavolo!

Literally: Cabbage! English equivalent: Heck! Hell! Damn!

“Cavolo” is a more polite way of saying the more offensive “cazzo”, comparable to the English-language’s sh*t and f**k.

For example: “Che cavolo vuoi?” translates to “What the hell do you want?”. Col cavolo (literally with the cabbage) means “No way!”

7 – Figurati!

Literally:… English equivalent: oh yes of course… OR Just think OR It’s nothing!.

“Don’t worry about it!”, “no problem”. Just like in English, use it when you really don’t care: “Thank you so much for the great dinner!” “Figurati!” 

8 – Che schifo!

“How disgusting!”

You really don’t like that food (yes, that cow’s stomach sandwich). A bird poops on your jacket. One thing to say: “Che schifo!”

9 – Dai!

Literally: Give! English equivalent: Come on!

With a pronunciation not unlike a drawn out English “die,” it may sound initially off-putting as you hear it shouted between sweet Italian children and little old ladies. But “dai” just means “Come on!” as in, “Please, oblige me.” Use it when someone refuses: “Let’s go to Sicily.” “No.” “Dai!” Or to push someone to do something: “One more shot of limoncello, dai!“ It can also be similar to “stop it!” Someone’s stealing bites of your gelato? Knock them in line with a “dai!”

10 – Meno male

Literally: Less bad. English equivalent: Thank God

“I passed the exam? Meno male!”


External resources

On Fluentu: 117 Essential Italian Travel Phrases and Words