On a train into Italy from Switzerland, you’d likely pass gorgeous lakes, mountains, farms and vineyards.
You might roll into a small town and decide to stay there for a few days. You might eat simple but carefully crafted food, drink dark, spectacular wines and have passionately animated conversations with your hosts.
I recently went to stay with a friend in a tiny country house in the north of the country, and took careful note of the phrases that are most useful for train and plane travel in Italy, for making small talk while in transport and for staying with Italian hosts.
I also thought over my very first adventures in Italy, and some of the phrases that I wished I’d known back then.
This article is a compilation of the best of all of these.
I’ve tried to foresee the phrases that’ll lead you to the smoothest and most fun adventures in the country, in the hopes that yours will be as lovely as mine have been.
Learn These Italian Travel Phrases for a Raucous Adventure in the Country
Beginners would do well to memorize the simpler phrases here that they feel could be useful for their next adventures, and may also want to first check out some of the more foundational travel vocabulary (such as phrases for greetings or emergencies) that can be found here.
More advanced learners might want to make sure they understand the underlying structures and vocabulary and then practice making use of these in different contexts.
Train and Plane Vocabulary
Don’t be afraid to open your mouth and ask for directions or verify that you’re getting into the right train or seat. You may also need to say things to be polite to fellow travelers or to encourage others to be more polite to you. The following phrases should help.
È il treno giusto, vero? — Is it the correct train?
La mia amica/il mio amico vuol sedersi dal mio lato. Possiamo cambiare posto, per favore? — My (female/male) friend would like to sit down next to me. Can we change places please?
Potrebbe usare le cuffie, per favore? — Would you be able to use headphones, please?
Potrebbe abbassare il volume, per favore? — Could you lower the volume, please?
Permesso. — Excuse me.
As in, when someone is standing in your way.
Permesso, posso passare? — Excuse me, can I pass through?
Questo è il treno per Milano? — Is this the train to Milan?
A che ora passa il prossimo treno? — What time does the next train pass?
Il controllore — The ticket inspector (male/female).
È già passato il controllore? — Has the ticket inspector already come through?
Ha bisogno di aiuto? — Do you need help?
For instance, to help a less-capable person with bags.
Ci penso io. — I’ll take care of it.
This could refer to handling bags, travel reservations, etc. Literally, it means, “I’m thinking of it.”
Come mi consiglia di andare all’aeroporto? — How do you advise me to get to the airport?
A che ora apre/chiude il gate? — At what time does the gate open/close?
Vorrei un ultimo caffè italiano prima di lasciare questo bel Paese. — I would like a last Italian coffee before leaving this beautiful country.
Non voglio un caffè americano! Voglio un caffè espresso normale. — I don’t want an American (watery, big) coffee. I want a normal espresso.
If your accent sounds too Anglo, you may have to say this to ensure that you get a proper espresso, especially at airports.
Making Small Talk in Transport
Transport in Italy is about so much more than getting on the correct vessel and finding your seat. It’s hardly Italian travel if you’re not chatting up those around you.
Assolutamente sì! Sono d’accordo. — Absolutely yes! I agree.
If your Italian is limited, you can even say this in response to anything not understood to keep the conversation going.
Oggi fa troppo caldo! — Today it’s too hot!
L’umidità è troppo alta. — The humidity is too high.
Non tanto come ieri! — Not as much as yesterday.
Nel treno fa troppo freddo. — In the train it’s too cold.
This is often a problem on Italian fast trains.
L’aria condizionata è troppo forte. — The air conditioning is on too strong.
Ieri si moriva dal caldo! — Yesterday one was dying of heat.
Sono di Roma. — I am from Rome.
You can lie with this phrase when asked where you’re from, or else insert your own actual city in place of Roma.
I miei genitori parlano dialetto, quindi ho un accento un po’ strano. — My parents speak a dialect, so my accent is a bit strange.
If you have a high level of Italian and someone comments that you do still seem to have a bit of an accent, you can jokingly (attempt) to explain that accent away with this.
Speaking with Your Italian Hosts
If you’re staying with Italians it’s nice to have a few phrases ready to thank them for their hospitality, as well as to navigate the living situation and even deal with complicated or delicate home life.
Grazie per l’ospitalità. — Thanks for the hospitality.
È molto gentile da parte vostra/sua. — It’s very nice of you.
Vostra is for more than one person; sua is for one person addressed formally.
Forse è meglio che io esca un attimo. — Perhaps it’s better that I go out for a moment.
For example, if your hosts are fighting with each other.
Voi fate uso di troppe droghe. Forse è meglio che io chiami la polizia. — You (plural) use too many drugs. Maybe it’s better that I call the police.
This shouldn’t often be a problem of course, but I once had to say this to a very sketchy person who’d rented me a room, to express that I would no longer tolerate a particularly obnoxious situation.
Potrei avere un’asciugamano/delle lenzuola? — Could I have a towel/sheets?
Sono una persona che sente freddo facilmente. Potrei avere una coperta? — I am a person who feels cold easily. Could I have a blanket?
Posso preparare un caffè? — May I prepare a coffee?
Posso aiutare con la spesa? — Can I help with the shopping?
This could mean going shopping, or else paying for the shopping.
La benzina la pago io. — I’m paying for the gas.
Putting the pronoun io after the verbal phrase like this is very useful for emphasizing that you really do want to pay and won’t accept otherwise. The non-emphasized phrase with the same meaning is simply Pago la benzina.
Posso andare io al supermercato, oggi! — I will go to the supermarket today!
Same principle as above.
Dove tenete la carta igienica? — Where do you keep the toilet paper?
C’è un’altra presa libera per mettere in càrica il cellulare? — Is there another outlet available to charge the (my) cell phone?
Preferite che li lavi io i piatti? — Would you prefer that I wash the dishes?
Posso chiudere la finestra? Entra troppo vento/freddo/caldo! — Can I close the window? There is too much wind/cold/heat coming in!
Il cane morde? — Does the dog bite?
Il tuo coinquilino/la tua coinquilina cucina bene! — Your (male/female) roommate cooks well!
Il cibo era delizioso. — The food was delicious.
Sto andando al supermercato, vi serve qualcosa? — I’m going to the supermarket, do you (plural) need anything?
Dove metto la valigia? — Where should I put the suitcase?
Dormo in quale lato del letto? — Which side of the bed do I sleep on?
Dove dormo? — Where do I sleep?
As a foreigner in Italy you can’t of course be ready to flawlessly communicate your way through absolutely any situation that could come up—otherwise what would even be the fun of travel?
That said, studying a bit before you go and even memorizing a few set phrases that you’re likely to use can make a big difference toward increasing your enjoyment and smoothing over trouble spots.
And even if you don’t remember the phrases exactly correctly when you’re put on the spot, the Italians that you meet are more likely to be intrigued (or at least amused) with any clear efforts that you make to speak to them in their language.
Mose Hayward travels Italy and the rest of the world constantly with his favorite ultra-light travel gear.
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