Italian Words and Phrases: The Most Useful Italian for Travelers

April 22, 2020

Learn just a handful of Italian words and phrases… and you can transform your trip to Italy! That’s because, while English is common in Italy’s larger cities and tourist destinations (including hotspots like Florence, Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi coast), it’s not as widely spoken in Italy’s smaller towns and countryside.

So to experience off-the-beaten-path Italy, a little Italian goes a long way! (And don’t worry about practicing on locals; Italians tend to be friendly and patient with foreigners).

Have no idea where to start? Here’s help, including some of the most useful Italian words and phrases you’ll love having on hand!

A quick word on Italian pronunciations

Even if you don’t learn a single Italian phrase, knowing how to pronounce the language can be a big help – if only to, say, order items off a menu, tell a taxi driver your hotel address or ask a local what the next metro stop is… and be understood!

In more off-the-beaten-path towns, it's useful to know some Italian words and phrases before visiting.

In more off-the-beaten-path towns, it’s useful to know some Italian words and phrases before visiting.

Italian words can be rather long (and poetic!), but here’s a helpful tip for pronouncing them: most of the time, stress falls on the second-to-last syllable. (So “Venezia” is “Ve-NE-zia”; “castello” is “cas-TELL-o”).

Vowels show up a lot in lyrical Italian. So just remember that “a” is pronounced like the a in father, “i” like the “ee” in greet, and “u” like the u in rule. The vowels “e” and “o” can be open or closed, depending on the word.

Meanwhile, many consonants sound like their English equivalent. The most important exceptions: the letter “c” before “i” or “e” is pronounced like a “ch,” “g” before an “i” or “e” is pronounced like the g in “general,” “h” is always silent, “r” is almost always rolled and “z” is pronounced like the “ds” in “lads” at the beginning of the sentence, and like the “ts” in sets in all other cases.

Double consonants can be a bit tricky, but here are some rules to remember: “ch” sounds like the “c” in “car,” “gli” sounds like the “ll” in million, “gn” sounds like the “ny” in “canyon,” and “sc” sounds like the “sh” in “shush” before i and e, and like “sk” in “skip” in all other cases.

Got that? Great! Now, here’s a quick starter guide to essential Italian words and phrases… and, of course, you’ll now be able to pronounce them!

Common Italian greetings

Buongiorno: Good morning. Usually said until 4pm.
Buona sera: Good evening. Usually said after 4pm.
Buona notte: Good night. Only used to say goodbye, it is usually said before parting ways after 10pm, or before going to sleep.
Ciao: Hello or goodbye. A very informal greeting.
Salve: A way to say hello, used especially in Rome (it’s Latin!) and, in formality, in between “ciao” and “buongiorno.”
Arrivederci: A formal way to say goodbye. Literally means “until we see each other again.”

Other common Italian phrases

Per favore: Please
Grazie: Thank you. You may also hear “grazie mille” (literally “a thousand thanks”) to mean many thanks.
Prego: You’re welcome
Mi chiamo…: My name is… You may also say “Sono….”
Non parlo italiano: I don’t speak Italian
Parla inglese?: Do you speak English? This is the formal version, but you can also ask parli inglese? if you’d like to be informal.
: Yes. Other popular affirmations: va bene (fine), okay. 
No: No
Dove: Where. You may ask “Dov’è (street or landmark)…?” for directions.
Chi: Who
Quando: When
Cosa: What
Perché: Why

Helpful words for getting around Italy

Metropolitana: Subway
Treno: Train
Macchina: Car. Also known as auto
Autobus: Bus. A coach bus is sometimes referred to as pullman
Aeroporto: Airport
Taxi: Taxi
Ristorante: Restaurant
Albergo: Hotel
Banca: Bank. Be sure to ask for a bancomat if you’re looking for an ATM
Aiuto!: Help!
Dov’è il bagno?: Where is the bathroom?
Quanto costa?: How much does it cost?
Che ore sono?: What time is it?
Destra (right), sinistra (left), dritto (straight)
Vicino (close), lontano (far)


Uno (1), due (2), tre (3), quattro (4), cinque (5), sei (6), sette (7), otto (8), nove (9), dieci (10)

Days of the week

lunedì (Monday), martedì (Tuesday), mercoledì (Wednesday), giovedì (Thursday), venerdì (Friday), sabato (Saturday), domenica (Sunday).

Other popular Italian phrases

Allora: Perhaps one of the most popular Italian words, allora is a great way to transition between sentences. It can also be used to start a sentence or question like “so…”, “well…” or “therefore…” and as a reference to a time in the past.
Dai: This exclamation is short, but packs a lot of meaning. Can be used for exclamations like “come on!” or disbelief, like “really?!”.
Bello: Literally means “beautiful”, but can also be used to say something is nice, like a dress for example. Bello (for males) and bella (for females) is commonly used as a salutation between friends and acquaintances.
Buon appetito: Enjoy your meal. Almost always said when a meal is served.
Buon viaggio: Have a nice trip
Put these wonderful phrases to use when ordering in cafes and bars around Italy. You’ll also want to check out our guide to Drinking Coffee Like an Italian.
Ordering in Italian in a Venetian cicchetti bar is easy, and also an amazing way to enjoy the city. Find out the most useful Italian phrases for travelers in the Walks of Italy blog.

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