Please sign in to post.

Best phrases to learn in Italian

Italian/English dictionaries are usually vast and learning a new language is a challenge. Are there specific phrases people have found helpful in getting around Italy? We are going to Rome, Assisi, the Riviera, Venice and some smaller towns. Thank you!

Posted by
32053 posts


You might want to have a look at a copy of Rick's Italian Phrasebook. There's a lot of very useful information there, including details on foods and some "unconventional" phrases (ie: "if you don't slow down, I'm going to vomit")

On that note, happy travels!

Posted by
276 posts

I have a real talent for getting lost, so I got a lot of use from: "Dov'e...?"(Where is...), "Cerco...".(I'm looking for...), and the invaluable, "Dov'e siamo adesso? Puo mostrarmi sulla carta?" (Where are we now? Can you show me on the map?). Of course only after saying, "Scusi, mi puo aiutare per favore?" ( Excuse me, can you help me please?)


Posted by
8293 posts

Of course, the problem with learning to ask questions in Italian such as "dove siamo adesso?" is that you will not understand the answer, which will be in Italian. Probably the first thing one should say is "Scuse, parla Inglese?"

Posted by
7737 posts

Grazie (not "grazi") = thank you

Per favore = please

Salve (pr. SAHL-vay) = all purpose greeting that doesn't depend on what time of day it is, unlike buongiorno and buona sera.

Permesso (not permisso) = means "May I?" usually when asking if you can sit somewhere or if you need to cut through a crowd.

Dov'e' il bagno? = where is the bathroom?

Carta di credito? = That's how you can ask if they accept credit cards

Scusi (not scuse) = Excuse me

And, my favorite: C'e' uno sconto se paghiamo in contanti? = Is there a discount if we pay cash?


Posted by
13821 posts

The number one most important phrase/question to learn in any language is:


Posted by
15448 posts

Excuse me - there are 2 phrases:

Permisso - when you want to pass someone in the street

Scusi - when you step on their foot while passing them

Posted by
1170 posts

Scott, when are you going to Italy? I have used the Rosetta Stone software to learn Italian. It's very easy and intuitive as advertised, but will take a while to use the program. It is also quite expensive. The only places where I really had a language problem was on public transportion (buses, trains, metro...) The drivers do not know any English. In the touristed areas, you will not have much of a problem communicating at shops, restaurants, hotels, etc...

Posted by
112 posts

So many people in Italy speak English that you can get by without learning any Italian BUT it is fun to try. On a side note I started studying Italian for my first trip 3 years ago and I'm still studying. I found Rick phrase book to be excellent, it breaks the words down in how they should be pronounced which is different than how they look to us English speakers. Another good book and CD is the Foders Italian for travelers this is what I used for my first trip. Rosetta Stone is good but it expensive and if you just want the basics on how to get around and how to order at a restaurant it might not be worth it.

Posted by
39 posts

You can also check with your local libary to see what learning tools they have. Also, Byki has a free limited audio that you can download to your computer.

Posted by
4555 posts

Radio Lingua offers free downloadable podcast language lessons...they're a good start, and if you wish to pursue the language, their additional educational materials are relatively inexpensive.
The BBC also offers a simpler set of language lessons aimed at the traveller.

Posted by
3112 posts

A very handy phase is "Vorrei questo." It's pronounced vor-ray kwes-to, and means "I would like that" in the polite tense. Just point to what you want to use the phrase. You can also use Vorrei with words you know, such as in "Vorrei una pizza." Other handy phases are 2 common responses to Grazie: Prego (you're welcome) and Grazie Lei (used to thank the person back).

Posted by
891 posts

Learn to say and pronounce your favorite foods, so that you can order. For me it's scalopinne al vitello and carciofi (veal & artichoke)

Get Rick's phrase book and read beyond thank you and things like that. First of all, you'll get some laughs, and there will be some phrases that get you smiles and maybe make some friends.
Have Fun!

Posted by
11503 posts

In any country the main things you really need to know are :

Excuse me

Sorry I do not speak...(what ever language you need to be speaking, LOL )


Thank you

Where is ..(insert bathroom here,, or name of any site)

With those five phrases you can survive( with lots of smiling, nodding and hand gestures,, LOL ),, and every extra word or phrase you learn will only make everything easier and better.

I am a bit of a freak as I found Italian difficult( many claim it easier then french) , but I do know how to ask for the bathroom,, and say thank you anyways.

Posted by
213 posts

Good suggestions all! But in Italia, these are survival questions: a) "dove e gelato?" b) dove e bar?" c) "dove e enoteca?" That is, Where is ice cream? Where is a coffee shop? Where is a wine bar? ;-)

Posted by
276 posts


The problem with relying on finding someone who speaks English is that in less touristy areas, you may have to ask several people before you find one. If you have your map handy, you can follow "Dov'e siamo adesso?", as I said above, with "Puo mostrarmi sulla carta?" No big deal, it worked for me several times - no ability to understand Italian required - and the people I asked seemed to appreciate my admittedly clumsy attempt to speak Italian:-)

Posted by
8293 posts

Penny, I wasn't suggesting that you go around looking for someone who speaks English, but that before launching into your well-rehearsed Italian phrases, to inquire if that person speaks English. I can speak enough Italian now to always muddle through but the first time we went to Italy I had no Italian at all. I found that very frustrating, especially as we had just been in France and we both speak pretty good French, so, suddenly we could not communicate and it was as if a wall had gone up. As soon as we got home I registered for Italian lessons.

Posted by
571 posts

Remember that what we call a latte in the USA is really a "caffe latte." Latte just means milk.

A few years ago, my wife and I were enjoying a fine caffe latte in Venice in a small local hangout. We were chatting nicely with the owner using our tourist Italian. Meanwhile a true Ugly American was at another table, screaming "I want a LATTE [darn it]!" and the owner brought him milk. I said to the owner in Italian that the man really wanted a caffe latte, and the owner said to me IN PERFECT ENGLISH: "Oh, I know, but until he learns some manners, I speak no English." Civility and kindness overcome many language barriers. Rudeness just raises more walls.

Posted by
2193 posts

I find the common pleasantries and some of the key phrases already mentioned to be enough in most circumstances, although I will admit that I had to quickly cobble some “complete” sentences together using nothing but a phrase book a time or two in Italy…challenging but workable. Rick’s phrase books work pretty well for me. And, it is true that you can bite off more than you can chew by trying to use too much of a language you don’t understand. I’ve been caught thinking…”I have no idea what you just said” more than once. Maybe I get credit for trying.

If you can figure out which locals prefer AS Roma and which prefer SS Lazio when you’re in Rome, you might have some fun (or not) trying to say one or the other is the best team in Italy. Or, you might get roughed up...who knows. Have fun!

Posted by
1003 posts

I think a very useful phrase is how to ask for the check in a restaurant because they won't automatically bring it to you like in the US. I was sitting next to this American pair in Rome and I asked for the check this way and the waiter brought it to me. They'd been waiting for a while and they were like HOWD YOU DO THAT?

"il conto per favore"