Wise Up! 20 Inspirational Italian Proverbs About Life, Love and Friendship
The snow-laden beauty of the Italian Alps.
The warm, cheesy texture of pizza in Naples.
The smooth, glossy marble of the statues in Rome.
Italy is one of those glorious countries that has tons of character. It’s a vivid, exhilarating destination.
Visitors are in for more than museums, food and endless vistas, though.
They not only see all the jewels of Italy itself but are entertained by the wise words offered by its people.
Proverbs can enter nearly any Italian conversation and add dimension to your traveling adventure!
For every situation, occasion or feeling, there’s an Italian proverb seemingly designed to cover the exact issue.
Italian proverbs touch upon subjects like marriage, business, religion, animals and relationships. They’re a staple of communication in this special place.
So whether you’re thinking of traveling to the Boot, forming a friendship with an Italian or embarking on an Italian business opportunity, you’d be wise to familiarize yourself with a few Italian proverbs.
If you do, you’re guaranteed to be a hit with your new Italian friends.
Plus, Italian proverbs are so wonderfully colorful that they add depth and flavor to any conversation.
What are you waiting for? Let’s grab some fabulous Italian proverbs now!
Wise Up! 20 Inspirational Italian Proverbs About Life, Love and Friendship
Religious Italian Proverbs
1. Dagli amici mi guardi Dio, dai nemici mi guardo io.
Translation: “God guards me from my friends; I guard myself from my enemies.”
This is a very old declaration of both faith and self-reliance.
A reminder to beware of both friend and foe, this proverb conveys the certainty that a higher power offers all the necessary protection when dealing with friends.
It’s also a call to protect oneself from any enemies, rather than relying on God or someone else to do it for you.
2. Aiutati che Dio t’aiuta.
Translation: “Help yourself so that God will help you.”
Self-sufficiency is a good thing and can pave the way for added assistance from a higher power!
Italian Proverbs That Reference Human Foibles
3. Vecchi peccati hanno le ombre lunghe.
Translation: “Old sins have long shadows.”
This is one I first heard from an elderly family friend. He observed two children who were considering raiding a candy dish on the table, so he gave them this proverb to consider.
He explained that what we do today—both good and bad—is remembered tomorrow, too.
That day, the contents of the candy dish went undisturbed!
4. Quando il diavolo ti accarezza, vuole l’anima.
Translation: “When the devil caresses you, he wants your soul.”
When temptation seems extra sweet, the price to be paid may also be very dear. This one is a warning to be aware of what something may truly cost you.
Italian Proverbs That Apply to Everyday Life
5. In bocca chiusa non entra mosca.
Translation: “No flies enter a closed mouth.”
The literal translation is vivid—every time I hear this one, I quickly close my mouth! This proverb cautions one to refrain from speaking unwisely or without cause.
In other words, if you can’t say something nice or necessary, don’t say anything at all.
6. Meglio solo che male accompagnato.
Translation: “Better alone than in bad company.”
Italian culture embraces time spent with friends and family. It’s a lifestyle that’s filled with long, leisurely dinners, festive parties and celebrations.
This proverb shows that while many are welcome to join in the fun, bad company need not show up at the door. Rather than spend time with unsavory influences or negative people, it’s best to remain alone—and rest assured that tempo da solo (time alone) is superior to languishing in a less-than-fabulous group!
Italian Proverbs That Use the Weather to Teach a Lesson
7. Dopo la pioggia, arriva il sole.
Translation: “After the rain comes sunshine.”
This is a gentle cue to weather life’s tough times. Skies inevitably clear, and things are bound to improve.
8. Una bella giornata non fa estate.
Translation: “One beautiful day doesn’t make a summer.”
This proverb is similar to a quote from Aristotle: “One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly, one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”
The ancient Greek philosopher postulated that one wonderful incident (a beautiful day or a swallow) doesn’t indicate a trend. One positive occurrence might be nice, but it’ll take more than one to ensure that something (like summer) is here to stay.
Italian wisdom has abbreviated the original a bit, but the meaning remains timeless.
Italian Proverbs That Are Similar to English Proverbs
9. Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca.
Translation: “The early bird catches the worm.”
In Italian or English, this one tells us to act early in order to get ahead of others, which will probably ensure some measure of success.
10. A chi dai il dito si prende anche il braccio.
Translation: “Give them a finger and they’ll take an arm.”
Both this proverb and its English equivalent, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile,” comments on how people can or may take advantage of someone.
Italian Proverbs About Marriage
11. Una casa senza donna è come una lanterna senza lume.
Translation: “A house without a woman is like a lantern without the light.”
My father-in-law explained this to me when he welcomed me into the family.
It means that a woman elevates the character, space and value of a house. She makes a house a home, something that’s highly valued.
12. Tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito.
Translation: “Don’t put a finger between a husband and wife.”
This one means that the bond linking spouses is a tight one, so don’t even attempt to come between them.
Italian Proverbs Involving Food
13. Il pane apre tutte le bocche.
Translation: “Bread opens all mouths.”
Italians are big on sharing meals, even with people who might be naturally quiet or tight-lipped. So if you want to learn something from someone, why not invite that person to dine? Along with food, ideas and secrets are often exchanged.
Good food is sure to invite interesting conversation!
14. Come il cacio sui maccheroni.
Translation: “Like the cheese on macaroni.”
Macaroni is good, but adding cheese on top makes it even better. When you say you’re making a thing or situation like cheese on macaroni, it means that you’re making it perfect.
Italian Proverbs Involving Wine
15. Non puoi avere sia una botte piena, che la moglie ubriaca.
Translation: “You can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.”
Meaning? You can’t have it all!
16. Vino rosso fa buon sangue.
Translation: “Red wine makes good blood.”
Italian proverbs cover all areas of existence, even health, and Italy is famous for its fabulous wine. This proverb suggests that wine is so healthy that it even makes good blood!
Italian Proverbs About Business
17. È facile far paura al toro dalla finestra.
Translation: “It’s easy to scare a bull from a window.”
This proverb makes it plain that courage comes swiftly when the danger is at a distance.
It applies to business associates who might present a bold front when, in actuality, they’re not quite as confident as they appear.
18. La gallina che canta ha fatto l’uovo.
Translation: “The singing hen laid the egg.”
Sometimes, proverbs require a bit of interpretation. That’s the case with this one, which advises one to look for the noisy person if you want to know who’s responsible for an act.
This is often heard in offices or shops when someone doesn’t want to own up to their action.
Italian Proverbs About Time
19. Il tempo passa e non ritorna.
Translation: “Time passes and does not return.”
This Italian adage advises listeners to recognize that time is passing and isn’t infinite. So, use whatever time you have wisely.
20. Quando finisce la partita il re ed il pedone finiscono nella stessa scatola.
Translation: “When the game ends, the king and pawn end up in the same box.”
This proverb levels the playing field and makes all people equal by showing that no one is superior to another.
We all end up in the same place no matter how we play the game of life.
Italian life revolves around close family ties, excellent food and endless fun—and each of these facets has a colorful collection of proverbs associated with it.
Sometimes, these sage bits of wisdom are open to interpretation, but they all add depth to Italian conversations. They offer a chance for language learners to catch a glimpse of cultural ideas and societal nuances.
When used in day-to-day exchanges, they can make even beginner speakers sound like locals.
Proverbs have universal appeal, so use them often.
Have fun and good luck!