learn-italian-with-tv-shows

15 Best Shows to Learn Italian With TV in 2022

Perhaps you’ve just finished binge-watching your favorite Italian series and are on the prowl for the next great show.

Or maybe you’re a newcomer to the world of Italian television and don’t know where to start.

Look no further! I’ve compiled a list of some of the best TV shows that any Italian learner can enjoy for free.

Contents

Italian Shows for Beginner Learners

1. “Un medico in famiglia” (A Doctor in the Family)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: In this dramedy, a widowed doctor (Lele) moves with his three children and father to a small Italian town. As they start a new life, Lele is often conflicted between his work and being there for his family.

For a show that you can watch for hours on end, “Un medico in famiglia” has 10 seasons with about 26 episodes each! There are a lot of characters that come and go over the years. But if you can follow along with the character changes, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most famous Italian shows out there!

What you’ll get from it: As you might expect, you’ll learn a lot of vocab related to medicine and family life, as those are the two main topics of the show.

2. “Reazione a catena” (Chain Reaction)

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: Reazione a catena” is a word-guessing game show that runs every night all summer. Contestants have to figure out which word ties in with two other given words, though getting it right takes nothing short of a divine intervention!

Unfortunately, the full episodes can only be seen in Italy, but Rai always posts the last segment, L’ultima catena (The last chain), on their YouTube channel.

What you’ll get from it: I can’t stress enough what a great tool this show is when you’re learning Italian. It’ll get you churning through your Italian vocabulary and teach you some new terms to boot.

You can also find L’ultima catena segments on FluentU, an online program that comes with language tools to boost Italian learning.

While you can trawl through YouTube and online Italian dictionaries, it can be time-consuming to learn from these clips on your own. Conversely, FluentU provides a seamless learning experience with interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards and follow-up quizzes (which include speaking practice).
fluentu-italian-lesson-reazione-a-catena

Other than L’ultima catena clips, the program also has tons of other short, authentic Italian videos that are presented as immersive language lessons.

From news reports and commercials to music videos and inspiring talks, the content is curated by language experts and exposes you to Italian as it’s really spoken. By watching native language content, you can observe nuances of the language and adopt more natural speech as a result. 

When you come across a word that you don’t know while watching these shows, interactive subtitles supply instant definitions and usage examples. The program works as a video dictionary—search for any word and you will find related words, pronunciation guides and videos where that term is used in different contexts.

While you can access it as a website, it’s also available as iOS and Android apps for watching videos on the go. 

3. “Non dirlo al mio capo” (Don’t Tell My Boss)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: When Lisa Marcelli (Vanessa Incontrada) struggles to find a job after her husband’s death, she’s forced to break her mantra of sincerità, serenità e sicurezza (honesty, tranquility and security) and lie to a prospective employer about having children. A series of complications follow, and her situation isn’t made any easier when sparks fly between Lisa and her new boss.

“Non dirlo al mio capo” will win over beginners and beyond with its charming cast and lighthearted tone.

What you’ll get from it: One of our more upbeat shows, you’ll be exposed to lots of day-to-day Italian while finding it pretty easy to chill and watch. 

4. “Un posto al sole” (A Place in the Sun)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: Italy may not be as famed for its soap operas as it is for its gritty dramas, but you shouldn’t underestimate the Italians’ flair for passion and intrigue. Italy’s longest-running soap opera “Un posto al sole” offers boatloads of drama, mysterious murders and tense love stories, along with lush panoramas of the Neapolitan coastline.

With hundreds of episodes to choose from, you’ll have plenty of viewing content!

What you’ll get from it: The way they speak is often clearer than in other shows due to the over-the-top acting. Plus, the storylines are easy to follow and you’ll pick up lots of common vocabulary. 

5. “Geronimo Stilton”

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: Do you like animated shows like “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Rugrats?” Then check out “Geronimo Stilton,” a cartoon about the mouse journalist Geronimo Stilton that chases stories around New Mouse City.

What you’ll get from it: You’ll hear Italian vocab about animals and family. But because each episode tells a vastly different story, you’ll pick up different types of Italian vocabulary depending on which episode you watch.

For example, in the episode “The Great Jellybean Adventure,” the Stilton family travels to Egypt, so you’ll learn words such as cammello (camel) and faraone (pharaoh). But when you watch “The Creepy Cowboy of Cactus Gulch,” you learn words like fantasma (ghost) and ferro di cavallo (horseshoe).

“Geronimo Stilton” may be a children’s series, but the script is super clever and funny. Plus, the concepts aren’t too complex, so beginners shouldn’t be too overwhelmed.

Italian Shows for Intermediate Learners

6. “Camera Café” (Camera Café)

Where to watch: YouTube

What it’s about: “Camera Café” is an office sitcom made up of 10-minute episodes that capture conflicts and mix-ups among company employees in the office break room. Before heading off to the office tomorrow, check out the episode Nemiche per la pelle (close enemies) for some over-the-top workplace rivalry to keep you company as you sip your morning espresso.

What you’ll get from it: The dialogue-driven episodes best fit intermediate and above learners looking to improve their professional repertoire.

7. “Omnibus” (For All)

Where to watch: La7

What it’s about: Get an Italian take on Trump or watch the latest vaccine debate on this morning talk show famous for its studio debates.

What you’ll get from it: “Omnibus” (meaning “For All” in Latin) is the perfect viewing choice for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of the Italian political spectrum and learn some political terms. Talk shows can nevertheless be a little hard to follow if you’re just starting out, but they probably offer the biggest takeaway for intermediate to advanced language learners.

8. “Raccontami” (Tell Me)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: As seen through the eyes of their youngest son, the show follows a Roman family and their television set through the first half of the 1960s. Make sure to check out the episode La notte del Piper—a colorful ode to the era’s bustling nightlife.

What you’ll get from it: If you’re interested in learning about Italian pop culture history or simply feeling sentimental, “Raccontami” provides a series of throwback moments and nostalgic reflection. It will suit any language learner who is ready to watch without subtitles.

9. “Baciati dall’amore” (Only You)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: If some of the shows on this list seem too dramatic for your liking, watch “Baciati dall’amore” on Amazon Prime to get your fill of romance and comedy. 

Carlo and Valentino are two people with completely different (but equally chaotic) lives who fall in love. He’s a florist and single dad, and she’s a biologist whose father is a lawyer prosecuting the mafia.

What you’ll get from it: You’ll hear Italian phrases about floristry, biology, law, family and, of course, love. Because this show is less dramatic than most of the others, a lot of the dialogue is slower, clearer and even more theatrical than in the other series. 

The limited content makes this ideal for any Italian student that has trouble committing to an Italian show with multiple seasons. You can stick with six episodes, right?

10. “Chi l’ha visto?” (Who Has Seen Him?)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: Something of a cultural institution, Chi l’ha visto?” reports on missing persons and la cronaca nera (crime news). With 2-hour-long episodes, you better get your snacks out for this one.

What you’ll get from it: If you want to find out the latest about the famous case of Emanuela Orlandi, ogle at some colorful characters or hear riveting stories of disappearance and despair, Chi l’ha visto?” has got you covered.

Italian Shows for Advanced Learners

11. “Gomorra: La Serie” (Gomorrah: The Series)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: Ready for another crime drama? Watch “Gomorrah” to learn about members of a crime organization in Naples, specifically the leader Pietro Savastano and the loyal member Ciro Di Marzio. It actually sets itself apart from similar series out there because, well, it’s just plain scary.

What you’ll get from it: You’ll learn vocabulary related to crime and the mafia. However, the plot heavily centers around family, so you’ll also pick up terms for family members and become familiar with family topics in the dialogue.

There’s plenty of dialogue in “Gomorrah,” but there are silent stretches that keep the show from becoming too overwhelming for someone learning Italian. There are no Italian subtitles, so it’s good for advanced students who feel comfortable turning off subtitles and relying only on their ears.

12. “Le Iene” (The Hyenas)

Where to watch: Mediaset

What it’s about: Loosely inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” Le Iene” is an edgy talk show that dives deep into national and international issues. “Le Iene” is known for its agenda-setting investigative reporting and for having one of the strongest online presences of all Italian shows. Do as the Romans do and add it to your weekly must-watch list.

What you’ll get from it: You’ll learn lots of vocabulary relating to topical issues, which you may not otherwise be exposed to during your studies. Plus, you’ll be more prepared for debates or discussions with native speakers!

13. “Suburra: Blood on Rome”

Where to watch: Netflix

What it’s about: “Suburra: Blood on Rome” is perfect for Italian language students who like crime thrillers. Follow rival gang members, mobsters, politicians and members of the clergy as they all fight over land in Ostia, a commune outside of Rome. 

What you’ll get from it: It’s actually based on real political scandals, so watching the show could give you insight into the history and details of the Italian mafia. You’ll also learn vocabulary related to politics and crime—specifically, terms that refer to acquiring access to the land. Get ready to hear terms you never thought you’d have to know in Italian, such as il piano regolatore (zoning plan).

This Netflix drama is filled with emotion, so you’ll benefit from hearing characters yell, whisper or speak quickly. Once you start to understand Italian spoken at natural rates and volumes, you’ll become all the more proficient.

14. “Romanzo Criminale” (Criminal Novel)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

What it’s about: That’s right, yet another Italian TV show about crime! The Italian mafia is pretty well known, so are you really that surprised? This show tells the tale of Banda della Magliana, a real crime organization in the 1970s. Magliana is a neighborhood in Rome, which is where the story takes place.

What you’ll get from it: If you prefer a little history with your drama, you might enjoy this show. You’ll hear a lot of words related to crime, politics and law, similar to what you’d learn watching “Suburra” or “Gomorrah.”

The Italian vocabulary is a bit unique here because there are a lot of slang and curse words in the “Romanzo Criminale” script. The actors also speak fairly quickly, so if you can learn to follow the fast dialogue, slang and swearing, you just might be fluent by the end of season two!

15. “L’allieva” (The Student)

Where to watch: Rai Play

What it’s about: Alice Allevi is finishing up med school when she has a life-changing realization—she doesn’t want to be a doctor. She can’t stand watching her patients suffer, and she knows she doesn’t want to deal with these emotions for the rest of her life. A shocking turn of events in her personal life makes her realize that she wants to go into forensic medicine instead.

What you’ll get from it: If you like English-language shows like “Private Practice,” “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” this show could motivate you to learn Italian. Watching two seasons of “L’allieva” will introduce you to a wide range of vocab, from words related to medicine and crime to school and family.

How Watching Italian TV Will Improve Your Language Skills

Watching Italian TV is like taking a cultural excursion from the comfort of your own home. TV shows give insight into new areas of the language and efficiently teach viewers unfamiliar terms by putting them into a visual context that’s easy to follow.

So if you’re looking for new ways to bolster your vocabulary, getting absorbed in an Italian TV show is the way to go. You might think that tuning in to one of your top shows is nothing more than a guilty pleasure, but there are plenty of benefits to learning a language through the nation’s favorite pastime.

Here are a few of the benefits of learning Italian by watching TV.

You’ll hear the same words repeated over and over

There’s no getting around the importance of drumming new words into your vocabulary when you’re learning a language.

Expanding your word bank can be a tedious task, but catching some TV all’italiana (the Italian way) is a fun way to help you practice. Television shows contextualize words you’re unfamiliar with and tend to repeat them over and over, which makes them exceptional tools for getting those elusive phrases to stick in your head.

You’ll expand specific areas of your vocabulary

Whether you’re following a storia d’amore (love story) on a daytime soap or watching the interrogation of a spacciatore (drug dealer) on a crime show, TV shows are usually centered in a very distinct environment. Exploring different settings is a great way to expand specific areas of your vocabulary and create frameworks for the new words you learn.

You might have already picked up some medical and legal terms from watching Italian melodramas, so apply the suggestions above to help strengthen your conversational skills and build up your vocabulary about other areas.

You’ll keep up to date on hot topics

Italians get a lot of their news from the small screen, which means that if you’re taking in the same shows they are, you’ll pretty much be up to speed on the latest Italian issues.

Keeping up with current events will give you a strong linguistic foothold for following what’s being discussed in big national media outlets, which in turn will expand your vocabulary even further.

You’ll pick up on current terms and concepts

From femminicidio (the murder of a woman or a girl) to instagrammare (instagramming), Italians love coming up with new terms to describe what’s going on in the world. Italian TV is ripe with talk shows that are ceaselessly taking the pulse of the latest fad, making them the ideal place for snapping up some newly-coined expressions.

Tips for Learning Italian While You Watch TV

You’re firmly planted on the couch, freshly popped popcorn within reach—everything is in place for a night of Italian viewing, right?

Hold on!

There are still a few language learning hacks to remember before you set off on a streaming spree:

  • Find your favorites. Don’t waste time on shows you don’t like. Maintaining focus is key when you’re learning a new language, so if you’re having a hard time getting into a show, just switch to something else. Learning a language through TV should be fun—don’t grind your way through something that essentially bores you.
  • Hit rewind. Odd colloquialisms and loquacious dialogues are no match for the good ol’ rewind button. With today’s streaming services, it’s remarkably easy to rewatch the parts you missed as many times as you like. Pro tip: Looking up that one curious word often makes sense of everything, so make sure to have your translator on hand.
  • Take structured notes. If you push yourself, watching a TV show can be like taking an Italian class. You can make a goal of how many vocabulary words you want to learn per episode, then keep a vocab list to study later. Jotting down new words and phrases helps you remember both how they’re pronounced and how they’re written.

    Along with your personal glossary of useful and interesting words and terms, create a separate set of notes for pronunciation and grammar notes. By developing a notetaking strategy, you can develop your listening, speaking, grammar and vocabulary skills by watching Italian TV shows.

  • Repeat out loud. Understanding is great, but your ability to communicate is the cornerstone of learning a new language. Practicing unfamiliar pronunciations on your own will give you that extra bit of confidence to strike up a conversation the next time you stumble upon an Italian in the wild.
  • Play around with subtitles. Use subtitles to your advantage. If you’re a beginner, watching with English subtitles is beneficial. As you progress, try switching from English to Italian subtitles. Or attempt to watch a scene without subtitles to see if you can follow along, then re-watch it with subtitles to see how much you really understood.

To see an example of how you can learn with Italian TV, this video outlines tips for this interview with Valentino Rossi.

 

Now that you know what Italian TV has to offer, it’s time to start streaming! Get out your notebook, cuddle up and don’t forget to have some fun along the way. Happy viewing!

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