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Learn Basic Italian Before You Travel To Italy

Updated on August 16, 2017
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is an Italian artist who now lives in the US. She loves to share useful vacation tips and first-hand knowledge about Italy.

Italy is one of the most popular destinations for many tourists, and the Italian language is often associated with love, good food, and Opera.

Many Italians are able to speak foreign languages, especially English. However if you are traveling to Italy, it is a good idea to know some basic vocabulary, and add to your vacation some fun trying to communicate with the locals.

Let’s look at some basic Italian terms and simple sentences that you need in order to have a minimum of a conversation with Italians, from greetings, to conversational words, to the weather.

Italian Greetings = Saluti

When you meet a friend you say ciao, same thing when you leave, you can still say ciao. This is an informal way of greeting, as is salve. Ciao and salve both mean hello, but ciao means also good bye.

In a more formal situation you say buongiorno, that means good morning, to be used up to early afternoon. After that you say buonasera, which means good evening.

To wish Good Night you say buonanotte, but that’s usually when you go to sleep, you don’t say Buonanotte when you meet somebody at night. It’s more like: “Bye, have a Good Night, let’s go to bed”.

When you are leaving and you want to say “See you later” you say arrivederci. If it’s a friend you can say “ci vediamo”, it’s like “see ya”.

Cafe' in Venice
Cafe' in Venice | Source

Italian Numbers


Italian Food Words

Knowing some food words in Italian can be very useful if you travel to Italy and want to eat, or in an Italian restaurant anywhere in the world.

Some Foods in Italian

If you want bread you ask for pane, a very important food on any Italian table.

Pizza, everybody knows that.

Pasta, it’s a given.

Bistecca means steak, it’s a generic word to describe a slice of meat, even if usually is beef.

Insalata means salad.

Panino is a sandwich, panini is the plural form.

To order meat you ask for carne.

Pesce means seafood.

Verdure are vegetables.

Formaggio is cheese – by the way Italians don’t say formaggio when the take pictures, they still say cheese.

Dolce means dessert, literally dolce means “sweet” so you can use the word as adjective as well.

Oil = Olio

Aceto = vine­gar

Sale e pepe = Salt and pepper

Water is acqua

Wine is vino


Thank you = Grazie

You’re welcome = Prego

I’m sorry = Mi dispiace

Escuse me = Scusa

When you meet someone, usually the first question is “What’s your name?” = Come ti chiami?

The answer to that is “My name is…” = “Mi chiamo… “

“It’s a pleasure to meet you” = “Piacere di conoscerti”, or “Piacere” for short.

“What a beautiful name!” = “Che bel nome!”

Of course when you meet someone, especially if you know them already, you ask “How are you?” = “Come stai?”

If everything is fine they would answer Tutto bene, grazie. E tu? (and you?).

Weather Words in Italian

Most conversation move to talking about the weather, so let’s see the main weather related words in Italian.

What’s the weather like? = Che tempo fa?

It’s nice weather = E’ bel tempo

It’s sunny = C’e’ sole

It rains = Piove

It’s snowing = Nevica

It’s cloudy = E’ nuvoloso

Learn basic Italian can be useful in many occasions, but especially if you are planning a trip to Italy.
Learn basic Italian can be useful in many occasions, but especially if you are planning a trip to Italy. | Source

Italian Colors = Colori

White = Bianco

Black = Nero

Blue = Blu

Pink = Rosa

Yellow = Giallo

Brown = Marrone

Green = Verde

Purple = Viola

© 2012 Robie Benve


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    • lizmalay profile image


      12 months ago from USA

      I had a great time learning the Italian language at the university. I have used the knowledge whilst I was traveling in Italy. I miss speaking Italian. However, I still communicate with people that I've met whilst I was studying there. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Robie.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      In Italian, when you want to express that you are sorry, you can say either "mi dispiace" or "mi spiace". To use the verb tense spiacente, as you suggested, you have to say "Sono spiacente", also correct - it literally means that you are in a state in which you feel sorry.

      "Mi piacente" is not correct, though they would understand what you are trying to say.

      I hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Maylee Larkin 

      2 years ago

      The way I learnt I'm sorry was Mi spiacente, are there multiple ways of saying different things?

    • ziyena profile image


      7 years ago from the Somewhere Out There

      Lived in Italy for 4 years ... good work on sharing the basics! ciao

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for stopping by Summerberrie! :)

      Ciao! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Sorry about those typos. The Kindle seemed to eat my words.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Horatio sent me this way. Great hub. No sure how it earlier

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Paul, you are so right, and Marcy said the same thing: Italian and Spanish have a lot in common, of course they both are neo-latin languages, so you have definitely an advantage there. Ciao e grazie. :)

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      8 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very interesting and useful hub for anyone travelling to Italy or interested in learning Italian. In looking at the samples of the language you have introduced in this hub, I think Italian would be easy for me to learn because I have studied Latin and Spanish before. Voted up and sharing.

    • Robie Benve profile imageAUTHOR

      Robie Benve 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      I had to gather up all my courage to publish this video. Do you know my voice does not have an accent in my head?? Thanks a lot Marcy, Nettlemere, and JThomp42 for all the support and encouragement!

    • Nettlemere profile image


      8 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      It's so helpful having the pronunciations to listen to in the video. Great hub.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      8 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is so great! I love the way you added the printed words to your video, to help us understand what the work looks like visually and augment the audio. You covered some important basics, and I was impressed at how many of the words are quite similar to Spanish.

      Want a good laugh? Years ago, I lived in Spain briefly (and I loved it). But I knew no Spanish before I got there. A few days after I arrived, I wrote to my mother, praising the great food there. "They have some wonderful bread here," I wrote, "It's called 'pan' !!"

      Loved this hub, and I am so ready to go back to Europe now! Voted up and up!


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