Got everything you need for that Italian trip of a lifetime?
Passport? Check! Cool sunglasses? Check!
That appetite for pasta? Oh, yeah. Check!
Now, how’s your Italian?
Don’t forget to take some Italian travel phrases with you before you set off on your adventure!
- Greetings and Goodbyes
- Essential Vocabulary
- Making Small Talk
- Asking for Directions in Italian
- Vocabulary for Your Shopping Trip
- Phrases for Eating Out in Italy
- Vocabulary for Emergency Situations
Greetings and Goodbyes
It’s always polite to say hello and goodbye, no matter where in the world you are! Remember these useful ways to say everything from “hi there” to “see you later!”
Buon giorno / buongiorno — Hello and good morning
Though this means “good morning,” it’s the standard hello, and you’ll hear it throughout the day, not just in the morning.
Note that you can write both “buongiorno” and “buon giorno” when you use it as a greeting! (Though when you talk about it as a noun, only “buongiorno” is correct.)
Buon pomeriggio — Good afternoon
You use this one around lunch time until about three or four in the afternoon.
Buona sera / buonasera — Good evening
Use this phrase after the “riposo” (afternoon nap/rest), which is around four in the afternoon.
Salve — Hello (formal)
Ciao — Hi/Hello (can also mean bye)
Buona notte — Good night
This is what you say right before you retire for the night, or when you believe the other person is about to go to sleep.
Arrivederci — Until we see each other again (informal)
Arrivederla — Until we see each other again (formal)
A più tardi — See you later
A presto — See you soon
Riguardati — Take care
Ci vediamo — See you
A dopo — See you later
Use this when you intend to see someone later in the day.
Alla prossima — ‘Til next time
Una buona giornata — Have a good day
Buona serata — Have a good/nice evening (to be used when you’re leaving)
There are some basic words every Italian learner should learn as soon as possible. Here are some Italian essentials to remember!
Sì — Yes
No — No
Forse — Maybe
Può darsi — Maybe
Non lo so — I’m not sure
Penso di no — I don’t think so
Ma certo — Definitely/Of course
Per favore — Please
“Per favore” is often used to wrap up sentences especially involving favors, requests or demands like, “Aiutami, per favore” (Please help me).
Grazie — Thank you
Molte grazie — Many thanks
Grazie mille — Thanks a lot
“Mille” means “thousand.” So literally you’re saying “a thousand graces.”
Prego — You’re welcome
“Prego” has quite a number of other uses. For example, a shop attendant could utter, “Prego?” to mean “How can I help you?”
Or if somebody asks if a seat is taken, a “prego” response would be taken to mean “be my guest.” The word can also mean “After you,” used to allow an older lady, for example, to enter a room first.
If someone talks in Italian too fast, simply declare, “Prego.” This would mean, “I beg your pardon?” or “Please talk louder/slower.”
Scusa — Excuse me (informal)
Mi scusi — Excuse me (formal)
Mi dispiace — I’m sorry
Non parlo italiano. — I don’t speak Italian.
Parla inglese? — Do you speak English?
Non capisco. — I don’t understand.
Parli piano/lentamente, per favore. — Please speak slowly.
Ripeta, per favore. — Please repeat.
Making Small Talk
It’s always good to have some small talk phrases under your belt. Here are some phrases that’ll help you carry on a simple, casual conversation when you meet someone new.
Come ti chiami? — What’s your name?
Literally, you’re being asked what you call yourself or what other people call you.
Mi chiamo, ___. — My name is ____.
Piacere di conoscerti. — Nice to meet you.
Come va? / Come sta? — How are you?
If you’re doing well, respond with a “bene” (fine) or “molto bene, grazie” (very well, thank you). If you’re so-so, you can say, “Così così.”
Dove abiti? — Where do you live?
A response to this question might look like this:
Abito a London. — I live in London.
Sono di Chicago. — I’m from Chicago.
Sono americano. — I’m American.
Che lavoro fai? — What’s your job?
A response might look like this:
“Sono dottore.” (I’m a doctor.)
“Sono insegnante.” (I’m a teacher.)
Asking for Directions in Italian
No matter how long you prepare for your trip—poring over guidebooks and plotting every twist and turn of your precious few days—there’s really nothing like being in the middle of a city like Florence, for example, and feeling like you might as well be in Buenos Aires.
Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself asking for directions.
Asking for directions starts with you approaching the other person with a “Mi scusi,” asking your question, then hearing the directions to your destination.
Travel tip: Know the exact names of your destination. Don’t just ask where the nearest train station is. Instead of just asking about a train station, ask for the “Stazione di Santa Maria Novella” (Santa Maria Novella Station). This would make it easier for you, as well as for the person you’re asking.
In the planning stage of your trip, as you develop your itinerary, get the exact names of the places, streets, museums, beaches that you want to hit.
Here are some phrases that could help you navigate this conversation:
Mi sono perso. — I’m lost.
Dove? — Where?
Dov’è il bagno? — Where’s the bathroom?
Dov’è il museo? — Where is the museum?
Il teatro — Theater
Il supermercato — Supermarket
La stazione — Train station
L’aeroporto — Airport
La stazione di polizia — Police station
Il parco — Park
Il centro — Town center
Gira a destra — Turn right
Gira a sinistra — Turn left
Vai diritto — Go straight ahead
Vai in quella direzione — Go that way
Va/torna indietro — Go back
Vicino — Near
Lontano — Far
If you hear “Lontano” from the other person, that may mean your destination is not walking distance and you should consider getting a cab.
Fermi qui, per favore. — Please stop here.
If you do find yourself in a cab, tell the driver to pull over with this line.
Vocabulary for Your Shopping Trip
Shopaholics! You’ll be forgiven for forgetting the words “destra” (right) or “sinistra” (left), but you should never ever forget the words and phrases in this section.
The beauty of travel is that you could be totally lost one second, not knowing where to go, then out of the corner of your eye a shop bursting with trinkets and baubles suddenly appears. In that fateful moment, you realize you’re exactly where you needed to be.
The opening number of this intricate dance is when the owner or one of the shop’s attendants comes to you and says any of the following:
Cerca qualcosa? — What would you like? (spoken by the seller)
Posso aiutarla?/Mi dica? — Can I help you? (spoken by the seller)
Cosa sta cercando? — What are you looking for? (spoken by the seller)
Posso guardare? — May I just look?
Dove sono i camerini? — Where are the changing rooms?
Quanto mi fa pagare? — How much do you want for this?
Quanto costa? — How much does it cost?
È troppo caro! — That’s too expensive!
È così economico! — That’s cheap!
C’è uno sconto? — Is there a discount?
Lo compro! — I’ll take it!
Posso pagare con la carta? — Can I pay with a card?
Altro? — Anything else? (spoken by the seller)
Nient’altro, grazie. — Nothing else, thank you.
Phrases for Eating Out in Italy
You’ve probably dreamed of Italian food even before you finalized those travel dates. Italy is a land of good food and wine, and it would be the tragedy of all tragedies if the wait staff continued to bring you the wrong order just because they thought you meant something else.
If you don’t have a place in mind, start with asking a local, “Dove si mangia bene?” (Where is a good restaurant?).
Generally, a restaurant near touristy areas is more expensive and less authentic. Get off the beaten path and go to a restaurant where the locals eat.
Quanti? — How many? (spoken by the greeter / waiter)
Posso prenotare un tavolo per due? — Can I book a table for two?
Che facciamo? — What do you want us to make? (spoken by the waiter)
Once seated, the waiter could ask you this, which is a friendly way of asking for your order.
Antipasto — Appetizers
Primo — Main course
Secondo — Second course
Contorno — Side dish
Insalata — Salad
Il dolce — Dessert
Posso ordinare _____? — Can I order the [menu item]?
Da bere? — Drinks? (spoken by the waiter)
C’è una specialità locale? — Is there a specialty of the area?
Vorrei ordinare un dolce. — I would like to order a dessert.
Preferisco la bistecca [al sangue / cotta al punto giusto / ben cotta]. — I like my steak [rare/medium/well-done].
Un altro, per favore. — Another one, please.
È delizioso. — It’s delicious.
Il conto, per favore. — The check, please.
Possiamo avere il conto, per favore? — Can we please have the bill? (More formal)
Vocabulary for Emergency Situations
Vacations are days when you have a minimum amount of control. They’re unpredictable in both good and not so good ways. A day may turn out to be more awesome than imagined, but it can also go south faster than you could say, “Oddio!” (Oh my God!)
Uncertainty. That’s just the last thing you need when you’re in a foreign country and have no friend or relative to hold your hand.
Be ready to ask for help. Italians are always ready to extend guests a helping hand, but you have to let them know what’s wrong and how they can assist you.
Aiuto! — Help!
C’è stato un incidente. — There’s been an accident.
Chiamate un’ambulanza! — Call an ambulance!
Ospedale — Hospital
Farmacia — Pharmacy
Danno — Injury
Dolore — Pain
Chiamate il pronto soccorso, per favore! — Call for first aid, please!
Chiama Uno, Uno, Otto! — Call 1-1-8!
For medical emergencies, Italy’s equivalent of 911 is 118.
Chiamate la polizia! — Call the police!
The number for the Italian police is 112.
Ladro! — Thief!
Sono stato assalito. — I’ve been mugged.
Ho perso il mio passaporto. — I lost my passport.
Hopefully this won’t happen, but just in case, read up on what to do if when you lose your passport abroad.
Dov’è l’ambasciata americana? — Where is the American embassy?
There you go! You’re now set for your adventure thanks to all these Italian travel phrases and words! Hope you enjoy your vacation because you definitely deserve it.
Take lots of pictures, and send me some!