Ah, Italy! Home to perfect pasta, awe-inspiring antiquities, and one of the most romantic languages on the planet. Although Italy has one of the highest numbers of tourists visit their country every year, you’d be surprised to find that many people don’t speak English well outside of the major cities (if at all), especially if they don’t work in tourism.
In any case, it never hurts to have a few things in your linguistic pocket to use before leaving home, and it’s always a good idea to know a few Italian phrases, including how to say “please” and “thank you” in the local language. And don’t forget: a smile is universal!
A note about spelling and pronunciation:
Italian is very forgiving in that it’s more or less spelled phonetically. Vowel sounds remain pretty consistent (a “ahh” e “ehh” i “eee” o “oh” u “oo”) and there are only a few times when the letters will mislead you (for example: ci=”chee” ce=”cheh” BUT che=keh as in bruschetta “broosKETtah”).
If you can flip your “R”s, go wild! When there are 2 in a row—roll ‘em!
Note: In the verbs below, we’ve used the formal phrasing rather than the informal “tu” form.
Hello! Ciao! Chow
Goodbye! Ciao! Chow
Please Per favore Pair fa-VOR-eh
Thank you Grazie GRAHT-see-eh
My name is… Mi chiamo… Mee kee-AM-oh
What is your name? Come si chiama? KOH-may see kee-AH-mah?
I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano. Mee dees-pee-AH-chay, non PAR-low ee-tal-ee-AN-oh
Do you speak English? Parla inglese? PAR-Ia een-GLEH-zeh?
Yes Si See
No No No
Excuse Me Scusi SKOOZ-ee
See you later! A dopo! Ah DOPE-oh
I need… Ho bisogno di… Oh beeSON-yo dee
Tampon Tampone Tam-POHN-ay
Birth control Contraccezione KON-tra-chet-zyon-ay
Condom Preservativo Pre-SERV-ah-tee-vo
I have… Ho Oh
Yeast infection Candida Can-DEED-ah
Urinary tract infection Infezione del tratto urinario een-fet-zyon-ay del TRAH-toe oor-een- AHR-ee-oh
Help! Aiuto! Ay-OO-toe!
Stop it! Smettila! SMET-ee-lah!
Leave me alone! Lasciame in pace LAH-sha-meh in PAH-chay
I need a doctor Ho bisogno di un dottore Oh beeSON-yo dee oon dot-TOR-ay
Ordering food/Shopping (very important in Italy)
I would like… Vorrei… VORray
More, please Ancora, per favore anKOR-uh, pair fa-VOR-eh
The bill, please Il conto, per favore eel KONT-oh, pair fa-VOR-eh
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COAST-ah?
That’s too much E’ troppo Eh TROH-po
1 uno OOno
2 due DOOay
3 tre TRAY
4 quattro KWATroh
5 cinque CHEENkway
6 sei SAY
7 sette SETTeh
8 otto OHtoh
9 nove NOVeh
10 dieci deeEHchee
20 venti VENTee
50 cinquanta cheenKWANTah
100 cento CHENtoh
Where is? Dov’è DOHV-eh
Bathroom il bagno Eel BAHN-yo
Pharmacy farmacia Farm-ah-CHEE-ah
Train station la stazione Lah stat-zee-YON-eh
Ticket biglietto Bill-YET-oh
Right destra DESS-trah
Left sinistra see-NEES-trah
Straight dritto DREET-oh
And last, but not least: Romancing
Hey, beautiful Ciao, bella Chow, bella
Hey, handsome Ciao, bello Chow, bello
I like you Mi piaci Mee pee-AH-chee
I love you Ti voglio bene Tee VOHL-yo BEH-nay
Do you want to go out with me? Vuoi uscire con me Voy oo-SHEE-ray con may
Let’s make love!* Facciamo l’amore! Fah-CHA-mo la-MOR-ay
*This phrase is used completely unironically in Italy. Often.
Of course, learning a language to a conversational level is optimal. Check out these handy websites (a great BBC one here and another decent one here) to practice your Italian, or order a pocket phrasebook like this one before your trip.
And don’t forget–half of communication in Italy is nonverbal. If you don’t know what to say, just use your hands!