And words you are pronouncing incorrectly! Italians really appreciate it if you know a few basic Italian phrases for travel while in Italy.
Most non-Italian speakers pronounce Grazie like this, “grahts-ee” but you’re missing an entire letter at the end. The actual pronunciation is “grahts-ee-ay.”
Another very commonly mispronounced word is something you have likely eaten a hundred times at your favorite Italian restaurant, and hopefully next time you can order it with the correct pronunciation! The word? Bruschetta. Are you getting nervous to find out if you’ve said this one wrong your entire life as well? Ok, well here is how NOT to pronounce it “broo-shetta”. No, no! The “ch” together in Italian make a hard “k” sound and the “e” makes an “ay” sound; so you will want to pronounce it, “broo-skay-tta”
For other words like spaghetti, Versace, biscotti, and more watch this video!
Now that you know how to pronounce some of the more common words, we will go over some of words and phrases that can help you on your travels in Italy. You may be thinking, “I bet most people there speak English, I don’t have to learn any Italian.”
Well, let me tell you a couple little stories…
Italians are very proud of their country, their culture, their food (obviously) and their language. Although many Italians can speak some Italian do not expect ALL to know English and expect even fewer to be willing to speak it. Some won’t speak it because they are nervous and might not trust their ability to truly communicate in English, while others may give tourists a bit a the cold shoulder because they are tired of all the tourists just expecting them to speak English. And, can you blame them?
In 2003, I date myself a bit here, I studied abroad in Rome and although I studied Italian and could hold a basic conversation (especially after a few glasses of wine), I was always very shy and nervous to actually use my Italian for fear of mixing up words or not being able to understand the response. Well, one day I had taken the train down to Naples and then a ferry to the stunning island of Capri and when my friend and I were attempting to make our way back to the train station from the ferry we felt a bit turned around and although we knew we needed bus #225 we didn’t know which side of the street we needed to catch the bus. So, I got in line at the ferry ticket window and asked the man in Italian if he spoke English, “parla inglese?” The man quickly looked past me at the next customer while scoffing a “no” in my direction.” I paused and collected my thoughts, during this time nobody around me offered any assistance either although I know all eyes were on me. I then addressed the man again and this time fully in Italian I explained to him that we needed to take bus #225 from there to the train station and we didn’t know which side of the street to be on or where exactly the bus stop was.
Immediately two other gentleman jumped in and responded to me in English. My friend said that as soon as I started speaking all the people around me got wide eyed and big surprised grins on their faces. One of the gentleman that helped was a police officer and he ended up actually walking us to the bus stop.
Had I not spoken any Italian we may still be wondering around trying to find the bus stop for bus #225! Kidding, obviously, but they respect you will receive for knowing some Italian can truly take you a long way.
When I traveled with someone else throughout Tuscany they told me that they felt we definitely got some “street cred” because I spoke Italian and I will say it made making reservations for restaurants, soccer games, and trains a lot easier. Again, you don’t have to be fluent, but showing them you learned a few words can help you to get the help you might need while traveling.
So, without further ado, here are some key words and phrases for you to master before your next trip to Italy:
- Yes – Si – See
- No – No – Noh
- Please – Per favore – Pehr fah-voh-reh
- Thank you – Grazie – Grah-tsee-eh
- You’re welcome – Prego – Preh-goh
- Cheers! (To your health) – Salute! – Sah-loo-tay
- Excuse me (for attention) – Scusi – Skooh–zee
- Excuse me (to pass by) – Permesso – Pehr-mehs-soh
- Do you speak English? – Parla Inglese? – Parh-la een-glay-zeh
- I don’t understand – Non capisco – Non kah-pee-skoh
- I’m sorry – Mi dispiace – Mee dees-pyah-cheh-eh
- Good morning (formal) – Buon giorno – Bwohn-johr-noh
- Good afternoon (formal) – Buona sera – Bwoh-nah-seh-rah
- Good night (formal) – Buona notte – Bwoh–nah–noh–teh
- Hi / Bye (informal) – Ciao! – Chow
- Good bye (formal) – Arrivederci – Ahr-ree-veh-dehr-chee
- My name is … – Mi chiamo – Mee kyah-moh
- What is your name? – Come si chiama? – Koh-meh see kyah-mah?
- Pleased to meet you – Piacere – Pyah-cheh-reh
- How are you? (formal) – Come sta? – Koh-meh stah?
- Good thank you – Bene grazie – Beh-neh grah-tsee
Telling the time and days of the week
- In the morning – Di Mattina – Dee mah-teen-ah
- In the afternoon – Di pomeriggio – Dee poh-meh-reed-joh
- In the evening – Di Sera – Dee seh–rah
- Noon – Mezzogiorno – Mehd-dzoh-johr-noh
- At what time? – A che ora? – Ah kay oar-ah?
- Nine o’clock in the morning – Le nove – Le noh-vay
- Eight o’clock in the evening – Le otto di sera / – Le ot-to dee seh-rah
- Monday – Lunedì – Loo-neh-dee
- Tuesday – Martedì – Mahr-teh-dee
- Wednesday – Mercoledì – Mehr-koh-leh-dee
- Thursday – Giovedì – Joh-veh-dee
- Friday – Venerdì – Veh-nehr-dee
- Saturday – Sabato – Sah-bah-toh
- Sunday – Domenica – Doh-meh-nee-kah
- Today – Oggi – Ohd-jee
- Yesterday – Ieri – Yeh-ree
- Tomorrow – Domani – Doh-mah-nee
Useful phrases at restaurants
- Can I see the menu please? – Il menu, per favore – Eel men-oo, pehr fah-voh-reh
- What do you recommend? – Che cosa ci consiglia? – Kay koh-za chee kon-seel-ya?
- I’m allergic to… – Sono allergica/o a... – Son-oh ah-ler-gee-koh / kah ah
- Gluten / Dairy / Fish – Glutine / Lattecini / Pesce – Gloo-teen-ay / Lah-tay-cheen-ee / Pesh-ay
- House wine – Vino della casa – Vee-noh del-lah car-sah
- Red / white wine – Vino rosso / bianco – Vee–noh ross-oh / bee-ahn-koh
- A glass / bottle – Una bicchiere / una bottiglia – OO-nah beek-kyeh-reh / boht-tee-lyah
- Appetizer – Antipasto – Ahn-tee-pah-stoh
- First course – Primo – Pree-moh
- Second course – Secondo – Sek-kon-doh
- Dessert – Dolci – Doll-chee
- Two flavors please – Due gusti, per favore – Doo-eh goo-stee, pehr fah-voh-reh
- Where’s the bathroom? – Dov’è il bagno? – Doh-veh eel bahn-yoh?
- The check (bill) please – Il conto, per favore – Eel kon-toh, pehr fah-voh-reh
- Can I pay by card? – Posso pagare con la carta? – Pohs-soh pah-gah-reh kon la cahr-tah?
Asking for directions in Italian
- Where is… ? – Dov’è…? – Doh-veh … ?
- Entrance – Entrata – En-trah-tah
- Exit – Uscita – Ooh-shee-tah
- Left – Sinistra – See–nee-stra
- Right – Destra – Deh-stra
- Straight ahead – Dritto – Dree-toh
- Forward – Avanti – Ah-vahn-tee
- Back – Dietro – De
Useful words for transport and getting around
- Where is the train station? – Dov’è la stazione? – Doh-veh lah stah-tzee-oh-neh?
- Where is the bus stop? – Dov’è la fermata – Doh-veh lah fur-mah-tah?
- One / two ticket/s – Un / due biglietto/i – Oon beel-yet-toh / tee
- One way – Andata – Ahn–dah-tah
- Return – Ritorno – Ree-torn-oh
- What platform for Rome? – Da quale binario per Roma? – Dah kwah-lay bin-ah-rio pehr Roh-mah?
- Newstand (for bus tickets) – Tabacchi – Tah-back-kee
Shopping words in Italian
- I would like… – Vorrei… – Vor-ray…
- How much is this? – Quanto costa questo?– Kwahn-toh kohs-tah kwehs-toh??
- OK I’ll take it – Va bene, lo prendo – Vah beh-neh, loh prehn-doh
- I don’t want it – Non lo voglio – Nohn loh voh-lyoh
- Can you ship to…? – Puoi spedire a?– Pwoy sped-ear-eh ah?
What to say if you need help in Italian
- Help! – Aiuto! – Ay-oo-toh!
- I need a doctor – Ho bisogno di un dottore– Ho biz-ohn-nyo dee oon dot-tor-reh
- Call the police – Chiami la polizia – Kee-ya-mee la po-lee-zee-ah
- Look out! – Attento! – At–ten-toh
- Go away! – Vai via! – Vy vee-ah!