A Cheater’s Guide to the Italian Language

When traveling it can be helpful to at least know some of the language in any country you visit. I believe that this is respectful and shows a willingness to engage and accept others’ cultures. However, in most of Europe you can get away with speaking English. Yet, Italy is a bit behind other countries with their English education and therefore, it may be a country that if you are not in the heart of the touristic cities (i.e. Rome, Venice, Florence), you will need to know some Italian (and personally, I think it is presumptuous to expect others to speak my language when I chose to live in their county). Plus, if you choose to live in Italy, there is no better way to get to know locals than by speaking to them in their language. Below, Emily and I put together a short list of Italian words and phrases that we believe are helpful to know.


An Italian Lesson for Beginners:

The Basics it’s good to know when living or traveling in Italy

*Italian, like French or Spanish, has a formal way to address others and informal. The formal form is used with adults who are not close friends or your elders.



Ciao: an informal way to say hi or bye

Salve: a formal greeting (hello/goodbye)

Buongiorno: good morning

Buonasera: good evening

Arrivederci: good-bye (formal)



Grazie: Thank you

Per favore: Please

Prego: you’re welcome
-This is also used as a polite way to say “go ahead” or “here you go” ex. When a waiter sets down your food, they will say “prego”

Per piacere: please

Piacere di conoscerti (short form: piacere): nice to meet you

Scusi: sorry or excuse me (formal)

Scusa: sorry or excuse me (informal)

Buon appetito: Have a good meal
-This is said before your first bite at every meal.


Basic Conversation/Small Talk:

Mi chiamo….: My name is……

Come ti chiami?: What is your name?

Come stai?: How are you? (Informal)

Come sta?: How are you? (Formal)

Come va?: How’s it going?

Io parlo inglese: I speak English

Non capisco: I don’t understand

Tutto bene: everything is good

Sto bene: I’m good.

Sto male: I’m bad

Così così: I’m ok

Da dove vieni?: Where are you from?

Vengo da …..: I’m from…

Sono “americana”: I am American


Asking for help/ information:

Che ore sono?: What time is it?

Dove…?: Where is….?

Il bagno: the bathroom

La stazione: the station

Il bar: the bar/cafe

L’albergo: the hotel

L’ostello: the hostel

Aiutomi!: Help me!

Mi sono persa/o: I’m lost

Quanto costa?: How much?


Ordering Food or drink:

Vorrei… : I would like…

Un caffè: coffee

Un tè: tea

Una birra: beer

Del vino: wine

Questo/a: this
-Always works and then you can point to something on a menu or on display.

Un panino: a sandwich

Una brioche/un cornetto: croissant/pastry
Brioche is used in northern Italy, cornetto in the south.


As a North American, I had always had the luxury of traveling from coast to coast and for thousands of miles without worrying about language barriers. I was confident knowing that I could communicate, regardless of where I ended up inside the States and Canada. Moving to Europe brought an added challenge: languages. Learning Italian has been so rewarding and helped me grow so much (check out my post Living In Another Language for more details). I hope this mini lesson can help you learn enough to get by in Italy, or kick start a more in depth study!

Good luck and buon viaggio!



P.S. We would love your feedback seeing as this is a new type of post, please feel free to comment!


  1. Ryan H.

    April 5, 2017 at 9:21 AM

    A very creative and fun post. Great job!

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