Essential Italian 101: 20 Italian Words & Phrases (That Will Have You Sounding Like a Local)

You’re planning a trip to Italy, but you don’t know a single Italian word. You’d like to have some basic greetings and vocabulary for your visit, but you don’t know where to start.

Well, you’re in the right place to learn some essential Italian words and phrases (so you can order all the geleto and vino your heart desires)

Functional Italian 101

Below is a list of  the most useful Italian phrases to get you through your Italian holiday or move. Bear in mind, if you’re travelling to touristy areas, it is highly likely people will speak English. However, this is not always the case, and Italians appreciate it very much if you simply try to speak their language. They are very friendly and willing to help you, even if they don’t understand you.

The below phrases, paired with smiles and gestures, are sure to benefit you during your stay in Italy!

Hello/Goodbye – Ciao (Chow)
Good day (appropriate any time before 5 PM) – Buongiorno (Bwahn jore-noh)
Good evening (use after 5 PM) – Buonasera (Bwahn-uh-Sarah)
Thank you – Grazie (Grat-see-eh)
You’re welcome/go ahead – Prego (just how it sounds)
*Can I have ....? – Posso avere…? (Posso uh-vare-eh)
*Questo – This (Kwes-toe)
How much (in reference to cost)? – Quanto costa? (kwan-toe cose-tuh)
**One coffee, please. – Un caffe, per favore. (Oon kaff-eh, pea- fuh-vore-eh)
Where is the bathroom? – Dov'è il bagno? (Dove-eh eel banyo?)
What is your name? – Come ti chiami? (comb-eh tee kee-ahm-ee?)
My name is _____. – Il mio nome è _______. (Eel mee-oh nome-eh eh ______)
Nice to meet you – Piacere (pee-uh-chair-eh)
Excuse me (formal) – Scusi (Skoo-zee)
I’m sorry – Mi dispiace (Mee dee-spee-ach-eh)
Have a good day! – Buona giornata! (Bwahn-uh jore-not-uh)
Have a good evening! – Buona Serata! (Bwahn-uh sare-awe-tuh)
I don’t understand – Non capisco (Non kuh-pee-skoh)
I don’t speak Italian – Non parlo Italiano (Just like it sounds)
Do you speak English? – Parla Inglese? (Parla Een-gleh-zay?)

*Pair these two phrases together to make a full sentence: Can I have this? I typically use this phrase to order food at a restaurant if I can’t pronounce the name of the dish. “Posso avere questo?” paired with pointing can get you many things!

**Remember, a “caffe” in Italy refers to a shot of espresso. If you want a long coffee, asked for “un caffe Americano”. If you want a cappuccino, asked for “un cappuccino”. If you want an espresso with some milk, as for “un caffe macchiato”.

Well, there you have it! These 20 phrases will have you sounding like an Italian in no time.  Remember, Italians are very friendly and they appreciate the simple gesture of attempting to speak Italian. 


This post was from expat Cammy Romanuck Murphy, a Canadian blogger living in Italy. She came to Italy with virtually no Italian language skills. To begin with her Italian could be  described as “slightly painful” but “absolutely functional”.  

Learning a new language can be a very rewarding experience and can help to immerse you in a country’s culture. Also important when travelling? THE FOOD (especially in Italy)! Our favourite Italian dishes are Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina, Tuscan Porcini and White Truffle Risotto, and Tiramisu (click the links for authentic recipes and the history of each dish). For more travel tips, “locals-only” city guides, and delicious European recipes, head over to Cammy's blog, The Traveling Cook Abroad or on Instagram @thetravelingcookabroad

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