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Useful Italian Words and Phrases that are not Curse Words

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Taking a trip to visit a country where your native tongue is not the primary spoken language can be intimidating. But there are a number of easy things you can do to make sure you are understood in Italy.

Speaking louder is not one of them; and neither is the commonplace gesticulation cliché. Italians use their hands, sure, but no less than any other expressive, passionate culture.

Knowing a few Italian curse words may help, but when it comes to conversing in a foreign land, Travel Belles often prefer taking the lesser traveled, more subtle and sophisticated route.

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When visiting Italy, it’s best to learn some basic Italian words and phrases will make your timeeven more enjoyable. Here are a few key (tongue in cheek) expressions.

Ciao {chow}
Hi/Bye (informal)

Come ti chiami? {KOHmeh·teeKYAHmee}
What’s your name? (informal)

Mi piace viaggiare da sola. {mee·PYAtche·vyaJAReh·dah·SOWlah}
I like traveling alone.

Perché {pehrKEH}

Un cappuccino doppio, per favore. {OONkapooCHEEnoh dawPYO·pehrFAHvoreh}
A double cappuccino, please.

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Sempre {SEHMpreh}

Mai {my}

Buon appetito! {bwonahpehTEEtoh}
Have a nice meal! (bon appetit)

Forse {FORseh}

Non so guidare con le marce. {known·SOH·gweeDAHRey·COHN·leh·MARchey}
I can’t drive a stick shift.

Mi dispiace. {mee·deeSPYAHcheh}
I’m sorry.

Amici {ahMEEchee}

Mi fa lo sconto? {mee·FAH·loh·SCONEtoh}
Will you give me a discount?

Aperitivo {ahpehreeTEEvoh}
Aperitif/Happy hour

Passami il vino, per favore. {PAHSsahmee eel VEEnohpehrFAHvoreh}
Pass the wine, please.

Ti amo. {tee·AHmow}
I love you.

Mi manchi. {mee·MAHNkey}
I miss you.

Tre carati, a goccia. {treh·cahRAHtee·ah·GOtcha}
Three carat, pear cut.

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Non capisco. {knownkahPEESkoh}
I don’t understand.

Non ti preoccupare. {KNOWN·teeprehOHKkooPAHreh}
Don’t worry.

Quanto costa? {KWANtoh·KOHsta}
How much does it cost?

Paga tutto lui. {PAH gah·TOOtoh·LOUIE}
This gentleman will pay for everything.

Tenga le mani a posto. {TENgah·leh·MAHnee· ah·POSToh}
Keep your hands to yourself.

Ho una pistola. {OH·oona·PEEstohlah}
I have a gun.

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Capisco benissimo l’Italiano. {capISKoh·benEES simoh·LEEtahleeanoh}
I understand Italian very well.

Sei bellissimo! {say·bellEESseemoh}
You’re very handsome!

Silenzio {seaLEHNtzeeoh}

Baciami. {BAHchahmee}
Kiss me.

Buon viaggio! {bwonVYAjoe}
Happy travels (bon voyage)


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About the author

American-born and Roman-bred Eleonora Baldwin is an active writer, blogger, journalist, gourmet vacation entrepreneur and photographer living in the Eternal City. Her writing appears regularly in several online food and travel columns that focus on Italian lifestyle, culinary customs and recipes, as well as her soon-to-be released cookbook-memoir, due for publication in 2016. Her blogs illustrate dishes, restaurant reviews, and useful tools for parents travelling with kids in Rome. On Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, her most popular blog, Eleonora shared her insider knowledge about the depth of Italian cuisine. She can be spotted in and around the Eternal City guiding epicure travelers to secret food and wine locations, interviewing celebrity chefs, and capturing with her camera the essence, beauty and life that surrounds her.

11 thoughts on “Useful Italian Words and Phrases that are not Curse Words”

  1. Eleonora!
    I am laughing! I am coming to Rome in September and I am looking forward to using the phrase “Baciami, ho una pistola….”
    Fantastic! Thank you!

  2. Great list. My favorite is “Baciami.” 😉

    What I loved about Italy is that the Italians did not make me feel dumb when I tried to speak their language. They were always encouraging and patient with me. 😉

    Luckily, I didn’t have to use the phrase “Ho una pistola.” Umm…I’m curious to know: How do you say, “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me.” LOL! Just joking… No, seriously…. Just joking. 😉


  3. Paz, Italians really appreciate when foreigners try to speak the language because they are proud of it! A communicative culture like this one will treasure the effort considering it like a personal compliment.

    Mae West Italian style:
    “Hai una pistola in tasca, o sei felice di vedermi?”

  4. Wish I’d had this phrase list when I traveled through Italy. My phrase book missed some of your best self-defense phrases. Perhaps pepper spray could replace a few of them. Hopefully, I can go back someday and tell you which works better. By then, perhaps I’ll be too old to worry about it. My husband and I sometimes dream of retiring there.

  5. Loved your list! With a few exceptions (like eliminating “Mi piace viaggiare da sola” — you don’t want to get into that conversation with a Greek) I’m tempted to hijack/transribe your list for travelers to Greece.
    Thank you!

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